31
May

Complex Sales Usually Include Multiple Contacts Who Contribute to a Decision to Buy

Multiple conversations with multiple decision-makers is a usual feature of complex sales campaigns. There are many reasons for this phenomenon. For one, simply consider that an individual who presents an opportunity for an initial conversation will not prove, finally, to be a participant in a decision to buy. This first point of contact can be referred to as a gatekeeper, literally an individual who has the power to open an organization for contact by an enterprise sales team. It makes perfect sense to speak with a gatekeeper in place of a more relevant contact as long as the objective of the discussion is to:

  1. Identify roles, or
  2. Confirm assumptions about the prospect

Sales teams should maintain low expectations of the productivity of these conversations if a gatekeeper has not solicited the contact. Often prospect organizations will prohibit employees from sharing the answers to either or both of the above questions. In our experience many of these telephone calls end up with a transfer to a designated contact in the purchasing department who usually knows nothing, whatsoever, about the problem that has been identified.

Earlier in this blog we presented an approach to unsolicited contact that we think is much more productive than the short sketch we have included above. An integrated approach that includes, for example, an email message in advance of a telephone call is usually much more productive. Unsolicited calls to gatekeepers should be placed within 1 – 3 days of an email message. Of course, the text of the email message must include a basis for an unsolicited telephone call or else the campaign will not produce attractive results. There is little point placing unsolicited telephone calls following a position statement, or press release that has been sent to a group of contacts.

Better to use the email message as an invitation to a public presentation of a position statement, or other announcement directly related to one’s software solution. It is usually entirely acceptable to place unsolicited telephone calls to recipients following an email invitation. These calls are expected as a means of simply determining whether or not recipients will choose to accept the invitation or as an opportunity to answer any questions that recipients may have about an offer.

If you are interested in how these unsolicited conversations should be structured to produce useful information, then please contact us. You may telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

30
May

The importance of a decision to change to enterprise software purchases

One can argue that enterprise software sales prospects almost always decide to buy a solution as the result of a need to change something. Further, it can be argued that the final selection that this type of prospect will choose will constitute the most likely selection to facilitate the change(s) that must be made. In other words, the prospect will choose the option that inspires the most confidence among the stakeholders in the decision.

We subscribe to this argument. In fact, we think it makes sense to architect entire sales strategies for complex enterprise software solutions around change. As we see it, the best prospects for enterprise software are companies with related publicized problems that, in all likelihood, ought to be changed as quickly as possible. It makes little sense to waste precious sales development time on discovery conversations with companies that fail to display any of the earmarks of probable change, especially when, based upon a very clear picture of one’s prospect profile, many companies can be identified as better opportunities for sales prospecting.

For publicly traded companies, published problems can often be found in quarterly reports (webcasts are an even richer resource for this type of information. Lots of useful sales planning material can be gleaned from specifically noting the business areas chosen for further detail as well as the inflection of a speaker’s voice), or other SEC filings. Trade articles are also a rich resource for this type of information. Finally, public announcements of changes in senior management personnel are quite often a very good indicator of changes in procedures that will likely be forthcoming.

We should note that we do not find sales success stories or case studies to be very helpful as they are often about changes that have already been made by prospects. However, where the subject of a sales success story or case study is a complementary product to one’s own solution, or an indicator that a prospect is considering further changes that likely will produce directly relevant requirements, then, of course it makes sense to pursue contacts mentioned in the sales success story or case study.

Once prospects who are likely to change relevant computer procedures have been identified, it makes further sense to find out who “owns” the problematic procedures. An offer to engage should be extended first to the problem owner who has the most to gain should your solution lead to a remedy. The more confidence, at first pass, that this contact has that your solution might help, the greater the likelihood that he/she will provide the most useful and realistic set of contacts who should be included in your discussions as early into the opportunity as possible.

We deal with opportunities like the above on a daily basis. If you are looking for a method of better addressing market opportunities, please contact us. You may telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

29
May

Customer inaction can be a major impediment to complex sales

Very often the outcome of enterprise software sales campaigns is simply customer inertia. In these cases there is no outcome. Customers may profess an interest in learning further about a solution, but fail to move on one, regardless of how well the complex sales campaign has been put together. In our experience, selling efforts for new products, services and/or integrated solutions can, very often, produce this type of “let’s go on with the status quo” result. Of course, offerings that are new to enterprise markets are largely unproven; therefore, it is particularly difficult for enterprise prospects to muster much confidence that a new solution will solve an important problem.

Inactivity is also a frequent result of sales campaigns for solutions to problems that have not fully coalesced in the marketplace for enterprise software. In these cases prospects are incapable of clearly identifying what they need. There is a probable problem (for example the recent Bring Your Own Device, BYOD, phenomenon as a type of activity that can expose an organization’s data to malicious attack), but the specific, quantified cost of the problem is not yet clear. Prospects are still determining the impact of the problem on the bottom line. They are not ready to take action, yet, on a solution.

Finally, customer inaction can result from internal organizational issues. Often, in these cases, teams of contacts (ostensible owners of a process as well as any/all related problems) are finally found to lack the authority to act on a remedy. In fact, decision-making at enterprise businesses with this type organizational issue is proven to be the province of someone else at the organization, someone who the sales team has neglected to contact. Once authority has been properly determined (but at a very late stage in a developing opportunity) to reside elsewhere, the prospect, typically, decides to table any discussion and simply proceed as usual.

IMB Enterprises, Inc. has considerable experience addressing the need for enterprise software sales teams to learn to quickly determine the likelihood of prospect inactivity. Let’s face it, time is an irreplaceable commodity. Therefore, it behooves these software sales teams to spend as little time as possible on opportunities where intertia is the most likely outcome.

If you would like to hear how we generally address each of the above examples of prospect inertia, then please contact us. You may telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

25
May

Look for Sales Personnel who Engage with Hesitance but Plan Methodically

Innovative technology businesses marketing software to enterprise organizations will do well to hire sales personnel with specific personality traits that have been shown to be conducive to selling complex solutions. Earlier in this blog we spent sometime discussing one of these personality traits — an ability to facilitate information gathering through conversations with contacts. Here we’d like to expand on this personality profile with two other character traits:

  • an ability to research and plan activities thoroughly prior to engaging with prospects
  • an aversion for reactive engagement with prospects

Selling Complex Solutions Requires Preliminary Research and Planning

Candidates with extensive educational experience in academic research make good candidates for complex sales jobs. These people understand how to utilize resources like the Internet to locate information about specific sales prospects. As well, these people have experience planning complex presentations — written and oral — that will likely be required throughout an engagement with a prospect. Finally, well educated candidates are generally comfortable with all types of communication and, therefore, can be counted upon to further promising conversations with contacts. We recommend keeping a lookout for candidates with an academic background in the Humanities who also present a strong understanding of computer science.

We worked with one client in the early 1990s who successfully recruited highly valuable personnel from MIT who, interestingly enough, spent most of their academic careers working with theater. These personnel were perfect for our client’s products which, back then, including Remedy’s Action Request System, Autosys, and, later, CheckPoint FireWall 1.

A Tendency to Engage Slowly with Contacts is Preferred

While reactive personality types are highly useful in entrepeneurial environments where decisions have to be made “on the fly,” they are not very useful for selling complex solutions. Of course, stumbling upon a rare person who can combine quick problem solving with a methodical, calculated approach to engaging with prospects should not be passed up. However, in our experience such a combination is very much a “blue rhino” type of find and far from the norm. We think businesses will do better to sacrifice quick problem solving for a tendency to slowly and carefully enter into interpersonal engagement. Complex selling is definitely the type of activity where it is far better to be the last to the party than the first.

If you are staffing your business with sales personnel and require a strong ability with complex sales, we’d like to hear from you. Please telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

24
May

Successfully using search engine marketing for brand promotion is a difficult task and not presently worth the effort

In our opinion Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a low return, high effort undertaking that should be avoided by tech innovators selling software to enterprise markets. We have direct first hand experience in this space. Placing at the number 5 slot for a targeted keyword with Google does not necessarily produce any outreach whatsoever from the marketplace. Further, Google’s “free” online tool for visitor activity analysis, Google Analytics, has grown so arcane as to be useless for anyone without a certificate in the ins and outs related to this software.

We think it makes more sense to simply maintain an underlying understanding that web pages, Twitter pages, etc must all be ongoing activities for a Marketing Communications team. Keep expectations as low as possible as regards a return on investment from electronic media promotion. However, unless your business is operating under the radar, we strongly admonish against simply putting up a brochure as a web site and simply “forgetting about it.” Stale online content does not produce any useful results. Better to periodically post to a blog than to pay for a custom web site that does not lend itself to periodic updates to content.

Nevertheless, if recent research from IDC, the University of Dayton, and SiriusDecisions is to be believed (we think the research is entirely credible), then one should assume that enterprise buyers are making even greater use of electronic media to research purchases than ever before. As we see it, SEM has simply become irrelevant. Further, all the blabber about social media marketing via public venues like FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc is also irrelevant. Bottom line, the activities of enterprise prospects online still require further analysis before useful predictions can be made about online behavior. We counsel clients to continue promoting online, but with substantially lowered expectations.

Online promotion ought to lead to some engagement with prospects. Perhaps many more impressions are required to produce targeted levels of engagement. Our jury is still out on this point. We think some companies are onto an effective approach, such as Alinean (http://www NULL.alinean NULL.com). A visit to the Alinean web site should be useful. We recommend reviewing their promotional materials, which are available at no charge. Further, we welcome opportunities to engage with businesses that have felt the impact of electronic media on their promotional efforts, but are still skeptical as to how best to capitalize on them while successfully managing their online market message.

Please telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

23
May

Dell first quarter 2013 conference call shows importance of complex sales experts to successful execution of business strategy

First, we need to acknowledge that we own stock in Dell. We need, as well, to notify our readers that the purpose of this post is not to influence opinion about Dell as an investment; rather, the purpose of the post is to illustrate the importance of complex sales experts to this publicly traded business. Clearly, anyone listening to the Dell first quarter conference call for fiscal year 2013 cannot help but note the comments that part of the poor quarterly results can be attributed to poor sales performance. Listening further, it is clearly apparent that the challenges of focusing on integrated solutions, rather than individual products, together with a need to engage with a complex set of contacts within a prospect business were beyond the scope of a portion of the sales team at this global, public business. As the Dell spokespersons on the call acknowledged, the identified remedy was to add, specifically, sales “experts” who represented a better likelihood of delivering on the business strategy.

As Dell apparently sees it, the carrot at the end of the stick is the enterprise market for integrated computing solutions. It should be noted that, as we see it, the piece of the enterprise market that Dell is after is differentiated from the typical turf sought after by IBM Services, Accenture or the like. Dell is after the Small to Mid Size Business (SMB) market for enterprise integrated solutions. Nevertheless, management makes no attempt to deny the fact that sales teams could not successfully deliver the volume of business from this market that had been forecasted and, therefore, the quarter included a substantial miss.

Once again, our purpose here is merely to illustrate with the above example the growing importance of specific expertise with complex sales for integrated solutions to technology businesses after the enterprise market. We don’t think that it is possible to sell integrated solutions to enterprise customers without a complete dedication to the type of complex sales method that we have illustrated elsewhere in this blog. Only through an extensive series of engagements with contacts that produces meaningful information that points to areas of need for specialized, highly integrated technology solutions can sales volume be confidently forecasted, not to mention delivered.

Of course, we are particularly interested in early stage technology businesses looking to enter enterprise markets. If you understand the imperative of including personnel with deep levels of expertise with complex sales into your team, then we would like to speak with you. Please telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

22
May

Customers Benefit from a Detailed Qualification Process for a Complex Sale

A customer stands to benefit the most from a qualification process for a complex purchase. This claim makes sense when one considers that the purpose of qualifying a complex purchase is to verify the assumed benefits of moving forward on it and, further, to actually establish the metrics (typically in cost savings) that will result from the purchase in advance of proceeding on it. Therefore, at worst, this process provides the customer with an insurance policy that a considered purchase is justified. At best, it affords the customer an ample opportunity to plan the most profitable approach possible to implementing the contemplated solution, an approach that very often exceeds the customer’s earlier expectations.

Gaining the participation of customers in this analytical process should be a given, correct? In contrast, in our experience it is rarely, if ever, a given. Rather, customers with whom we have interacted through this type of activity are usually engaged at an inopportune time. Generally, the customer is either contacted late in a complex process to purchase a product, or a sales person permits the conversation with the customer to go off track, into a ditch of price quotes, presentations and competitive comparisons with little to no understanding of a customer’s unique environment, needs and intentions. No wonder the return on time invested in these sales campaigns is generally low and unprofitable.

The missing piece, as we see it, is hopping over the first step, which ought to be a successful campaign to gain the agreement of a decision-maker that there is a high probability that one’s product constitutes an attractive opportunity for the business to capture an important sought after value that can be quantified. In order not to hop over this step, a sales team must identify several pieces in the puzzle, including

  1. A prospect with a verified need for the type of solution they offer, and
  2. A key decision-maker within the prospect with the influence to collect any/all of the individuals within the business who will play a role in either purchasing the solution or implementing it

The reality is that the decision-maker identified in step (2), above, will actually provide all of the motivation required to ensure that other contacts will genuinely participate in the qualification process.

Sales teams that try to skip over these steps will, more often than not, come up high and dry, without a sale and lots of wasted time. If you need your organization to move more progressively on sales opportunities we welcome your contact. Please telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

21
May

Use the process of qualifying a complex sales prospect to weed out low probability opportunities

We recently had an opportunity to participate in 2 conversations with a contact for a prospect for one of our clients’ products. These conversations were intended to provide us with at least the basis for composing a picture of any quantifiable value that our products might deliver to this prospect. We were surprised to determine that the process, itself, provided us with a means of qualifying the low likelihood of making a sale for this prospect, at least through the contact who partcipated in the conversations with us.

The telltale indicators that we ought to be moving on to higher probability opportunities were found in the contact’s candid assessments of the conversations themselves. Based upon the questions and process of our conversation (entirely composed of a set of questions designed to facilitate free disclosure of any aspects of the prospect’s operations that would impact on the usefulness — or lack thereof — of our client’s offer) it had become clear that our offer would be “expensive” (?!) The sole reason that we can identify for this assessment was the fact that we asked a lot of questions. Evidently this contact had concluded from prior experiences that sales people who ask a lot of questions sell expensive products. When we digested this information we made two key decisions:

  1. These prior experiences with sales people who ask lots of questions had produced substantial projects
  2. Historically, our contact either failed to quantify the value of these projects, or had not participated in the final purchase decision

In retrospect, we need to note how valuable the qualification process had proven to be. After all, we had now determined that the contact involved in these 2 discussions constituted a low probability contact. In a mere 2 hours of our time we had collected enough information to support a decision to move on to other opportunities. Without our qualification process we may have spent 10 hours or more trying to run this contact down. The key for us, of course, was her statement that our qualification process indicated a high cost offer. In sum, she had let us know that she was after a commodity to satisfy an internal need, which our client does not offer. Any further momentum on this opportunity will have to be driven by this contact as our time will be better spent elsewhere.

If your company produces products that must be properly positioned for enterprise business customers it may well be that you, too, understand the need for a highly qualified sales process to produce the right type of opportunity from the market. We would like to hear from you.

You may telephone Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

18
May

Rethinking the Objectives of Lead Generation Programs for Complex Sales

Highly efficient complex selling operations require very high quality leads, not the high quantity that one might assume to be the case. What represents a high quality lead for a complex sales opportunity?

We think that a high quality lead for a complex sales opportunity must include some version of the following information:

  1. Comprehensive background information about a prospect business. For a public company this information should include current share price as well as the percentage difference in share price over the past calendar year. Further, a detailed list should be included of any publicly visible business process initiatives that are underway, or planned for the near future. Any problem areas that have been publicly identified as contributors to a degradation in profit margins or gross sales volume should be identified and detailed. Finally, a comprehensive list of the leadership in IT/MIS as well as important business units (Sales, for example) must be provided along with reliable contact information
  2. A completed comprehensive prospect profile that places the prospect somewhere above a 5 on a scale from 1 to 10 with regard to the probability that your complex solution can produce genuine value in the form of quantifiable cost savings. It is important to note that a number 5 prospect on this scale must not only represent a realistic opportunity for your product/service/integrated solution to produce quantifiable value, but further, the prospect must be looking for a solution to their need. This profile must be compiled from discussions with at least 2 individuals from the prospect business
  3. Identification of the most likely gatekeeper contact from the leadership identified in #1, above, for an initial contact with your complex sales team. The reasons for this likelihood can vary between “this guy is the ‘yoda’ for the group you’re trying to reach” to “this gal has egg all over her face as the result of poor performance quarter over quarter”. Bottom line, whomever is mentioned must welcome your contact to ensure that the first discussion stays on track and delivers the information that your team will require to dig deeper into the notion that there is a sales opportunity for your product/service/integrated solution for this prospect

A quick review of 1 – 3 above should reveal that filling in these 3 blanks will require a substantial amount of research as well as a number of preliminary discussions with contacts at prospect businesses. Definitely not the type of high output that you would expect to obtain from a direct marketing effort that is high on telemarketing, low on teleprospecting and, potentially, no where to be found with regard to in person contact.

We have considerable current experience crafting effective lead generation methods for software products targeting the enterprise business market. Further, we welcome opportunities to discuss the specifics of why our approach will deliver successful results. You may telephone Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

17
May

Select Sales Professionals Who can Manage Prospects and Customers

It is essential that enterprise sales personnel keep early stage conversations with prospects on track. The cliche “the customer is always right” is, quite often, dead wrong. In fact, most prospects are unclear about what they are looking for. Further, prospects in the role of decision-makers are usually very comfortable engaging with other personnel from a position of authority. These people almost always assume an authoritative posture when dealing with sales people. Therefore, sales personnel selected by an innovative tech business to lead enterprise sales efforts must have the type of personality to normally engage with decision-makers, regardless of any authoritative stance that the other party in the conversation may appear to assume.

Further, the best enterprise sales personnel will avoid any type of reactive posturing when engaging with decision-makers. For these personalities, it is strictly SOP to keep on track despite efforts on the part of the other party in the conversation to veer dangerously off the road to, for example, obtain merely a price quote, or to simply jump to a proposal without any useful information about needs or solutions that may or may not be relevant. The fact is that the personality type of these sales personnel lends itself to this type of engagement with prospects. When a bullying prospect acts like wrecking ball these sales personalities mysteriously vaporize, which lets the wrecking ball, harmlessly, swing wildly in empty air.

It is important to understand that permitting conversations to go off track at a very early stage in the prospect development process almost always leads to very low probability opportunities. As these low probability opportunities stack up, sales personnel may be very hard at work, but the work they are expending will almost always fall into very early stage prospect qualification.

In order to move forward prospect engagements must be kept strictly on track. Without meaningful information that your product/service/integrated solution can satisfy some important need there is absolutely no point whatsoever jumping into presentations or, worse, pricing and proposals. Prospects who refuse to participate in an information gathering process that affords all parties an opportunity to determine whether or not it makes sense to continue a discussion are simply not worth the time. Very often it makes sense to prune closed up prospects from sales campaigns. But some of the time analysis will show that a lack of information supporting prospect engagement must be directly attributed to sales personnel who can’t keep discussions on track. In these cases businesses must make a change if revenue targets are to be hit.

We welcome opportunities to engage with companies looking to add the right sales personnel to handle their selling needs. You may telephone Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved