Build Highly Successful Products to Deliver Palpable, Clear Cost Savings and Win Big

Jeff Thull, in his book “Mastering the Complex Sale” makes a strong case for delivering tangible, observable cost savings to customers as the foundation for successful complex selling to enterprise business customers. I agree completely with Mr. Thull’s point. In fact, I see clearly how products targeted to markets that require complex selling efforts should be designed entirely around cost savings. If you cannot deliver tangible cost savings to a customer with a conceptual product, then don’t waste your time.

Using this rule of thumb, that products must deliver tangible cost savings to justify a purchase at some planned price (I’ve italicized the word “some” to convey the importance of flexibly approaching the task of pricing products in a ratio to cost that delivers persuasive savings to customers to successfully build a market) or else move on to a better idea, it is easy to see why solutions like online website development have disintegrated into low price/low value offerings. After all, isn’t the market message for online website development some version of “everyone else has a website, why not you”? Where is the value proposition in this rationale? Where is the presentation of clear, measured cost savings for the customer? How different and how much more persuasive would be a market message that details the cost savings packed into an online store versus the expense represented by a brick and mortar store! Sadly, this type of cost savings centric market message is generally absent from the online website development marketplace.

Designing products to deliver measurable cost savings ensures maximum return on investment from selling efforts. After all, sales of these products should deliver long term relationships with satisfied customers, just the type of business that most business ought to crave. If you opt to follow this approach, then be fully prepared to truly deliver savings via your early customer engagements or else relegate your market message to the trash can. Therefore, delivery and after sales support must be completely aligned with marketing & sales to deliver success. Complete alignment means understanding the cost savings for the customer and taking whatever steps are necessary to deliver those savings in each and every engagement.

In the world of the complex sale, there are no purchases made without saving capturing some substantial saving against costs that would otherwise have to be incurred by the business. This is especially true for businesses in highly regulated industries where costs can result from improper policies and procedures. It is remarkable how open prospects with “external drivers” (meaning unfavorable regulatory reviews) are to discuss these drivers and to communicate the costs that they need to save. Successful marketers to highly regulated industries learn quickly to collect as much detail about these “external drivers” as they can to construct their custom, individualized presentation of tangible value to prospects. Don’t fail to do the same.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved


Maintain A Flexible Approach to Sales Forecasts & Go-to-Market Plans

As of late I have heard many allusions to “driving the car & changing the wheels at the same time” from clients and their prospects. This automotive metaphor depicts today’s business realities. Startup businesses & other hyper growth operations that feed off of some incoming revenue to fund operations while product branding coalesces and a market niche is attained must be managed with a high level of flexibility to avoid failure. As well, a high level of entrepeneurial expertise is required to successfully exercise that flexibility “in mid air” while the cash register is ringing.

Flexibility means changing the business plan and any of its components (including the sales plan), as required, to tune performance as the business chugs along. The key benefit of committing to this approach amounts to sequestering authority and business ownership with the CEO and any early stage investors. After all, the funding required to fuel hyper growth, at least in part, will be provided by the revenue resulting from sales. This self reliance obviates the need to look for substantial funds from outside sources who may have plans and intentions that run contrary to the plans of the CEO and founders.

However, this approach comes complete with substantial risks. For example, a change in the product plan can result in “orphaned” products that will remain removed from the broad product offering. These orphans, forever relegated to the periphery of the renovated product offering will, nevertheless, require complete support to ensure that early adopters (in the form of paying customers) are not disappointed by their purchase. Therefore, the burden on support staff will be increased should a substantial change in the product plan be required.

With regard to changes in the sales plan, realigning territories, changing commission structures, etc.can wreak havoc with the sales force and, therefore, threaten the reliability of forecasts and plans. These plans and forecasts typically provide the cornerstones of revenue assumptions; therefore great dexterity must be exercised by the CEO to ensure that required changes are successfully effected with minimal disruption.

In sum, a CEO should think long and hard about an early entry into targeted markets. A successful execution of radical renovation to product, sales & business plans while doors are kept open for customers to enter and place orders requires the careful dexterity of an open heart surgeon. One wrong move with the scalpel can result in the death of the business. CEOs do well to proceed with caution.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved


Use White Label or OEM Products to Turbo Charge Sales Into Enterprise Business Targets

Consider offering a white label or Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) version of your tangible or intangible product or solution to create an entirely separate dimension to your enterprise sales efforts for large corporate prospects.

With regard to intangibles, as long as your intangible product has been branded, and your product marketing strategy has been clearly defined, it is entirely appropriate to consider distribution via white label or OEM channels. It is also appropriate to avail of these channels for businesses with market visibility and, as well, for businesses that have opted to operate under the radar of the marketplace.

In fact, availing of White Label or OEM channels is especially useful when a business is operating under the radar. Indirect sales channels (inclusive of white label and OEM) equip a business with powerful tools to test the receptivity of markets in many ways; for just one example, to test market readiness to a scalable offering that presents different feature sets for different portions market segments. Further, if your white label or OEM customers are larger than you and speak with a more authoritative voice within the market (quite often this relationship will be the case as, in my experience, it is larger businesses with an established market position that will spend the time to reconnoiter the periphery and unearth companies, like your under the radar effort, to protect their market positions) then you can establish inroads to prospects that promise rich streams of repeat buy potential by riding on the backs of their success and established procurement relationships.

I have considerable experience working with a business that spent the necessary time building products into scalable offerings. Consider that the objective of building scalable products, in this case (specifically, a computer hardware solution for sharing computer peripherals), was not only to empower white label and OEM partners to penetrate different portions of the market, but also to open an opportunity to attack the same market via a direct sales force which was properly segmented (via features and discernable market segment strategy) to permit coexistence with healthy indirect channels, all addressing the same customers and prospects.

Of course, it is critically important that the boundaries of permitted activity for indirect white label and OEM partners be clearly defined through your partnership agreements. Better to carefully structure these agreements before commencing negotiations than to rudely discover loopholes after the fact.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved


The Importance of Track Record to Successful Repeat Business with Enterprise Class Businesses

It’s absolutely essential that your first successful sales into enterprise class business prospects are completely successful for your customers. Whether you’re placing a piece of computer hardware into Clorox, or you’ve just closed a complex sale of hardware, software and advisory, your level of satisfaction with the sale is rather irrelevant. Rather, as I have just noted, it’s the level of customer satisfaction with the purchase that truly matters. You will need to use that satisfied customer, either as a reference or much like a patron to make your next sale into your valuable and long sought prospective customer. It all boils down to this simple hint along the enterprise sales trail: “Your best customer is a customer”; in other words, there is no one easier to sell than someone to whom you have already sold something. Never lose sight of the truth of this time worn adage and you will have come along way along the path to successful enterprise selling.

With regard to the level of your satisfaction with the sale, make sure that you negotiate the right terms and pricing up front. If you handle the negotiation correctly, then your satisfaction is “baked into the cake.” But take every step that you can to ensure that the customer is completely satisfied or risk losing a very valuable prospect who is capable of subsidizing your business for several years to come, or, perhaps for your entire career.

An important preliminary to making initial sales into a top prospect is choosing the right opportunity. There are times when obscure and rather unimportant contacts at top prospects will constitute the right opportunity to pursue. For example, if you are operating under the radar and are tentative about your market position, then proceeding with a sale into a top enterprise class business prospect (albeit through contacts on the periphery of the business) makes sense. This type of opportunity will provide you with an excellent basis to test important characteristics of your brand within a typical target customer environment as, worst case, you will fail with a contact who lacks the authority and/or visibility to destroy your follow on potential.

Only choose a patron level contact when your brand is secure, your product positioning has been completed and your at least 70% certain of a successful implementation on the part of the prospect. More about what a patron level contact is all about later.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved


Two Diamonds in the Rough Field of Enterprise Sales — Centralized Purchasing & Repeat Buy Potential

Enterprise sales possesses at least two brilliant diamonds that rarely fail to attract marketers:

  1. Centralized, Bulk Purchasing, and
  2. Healthy Repeat Buy Potential

Let’s take a look at centralized, bulk purchasing:

As of year end, 2010, IBM Corporation employed 426,751 people. With a centralized Procurement organization and defined product approval processes, IBM can represent a wonderful revenue opportunity.

I, myself, dealt directly with IBM from 1994 to 2001, providing this great company with staff augmentation services for a nascent need that would shortly explode across the business–web development services and editorial content development. All told, I placed over 110 individuals at IBM in many key positions relative to the construction of IBM’s early efforts on the web starting in 1994 when “HTML” and “coders” were little known terms with little broad market demand.

I had the great good fortune of running ahead of the market with access to skills that would soon become indispensable for all peers of IBM–web systems and content management. My first set of placements for the creation of the original IBM homepage proved themselves over the first 90 days of my tenure. Soon thereafter, Procurement reached out to us and negotiated a Corporate wide agreement that facilitated “fast track” sales to other groups within the business who could hire quickly, meeting their needs with the right talent by availing of a corporate-wide agreement between my firm as a supplier and Corporate Procurement at IBM.

My experience is merely one of hundreds, if not millions of stories of successful enterprise sales professionals who mastered the technique of enterprise sales for top companies by teaming with the right contacts who possessed the authority and the vision to “buy and ensconce” a product or solution into a corporate standard. These individuals all capitalized on selling a central purchasing authority on their wares.

With regard to the second “diamond,” the repeat buy, I have already touched on it in the example I have just given. Once the corporate standard is in place, that standard will be procured for any/all users with the same need over the term of the purchasing contract. Each subsequent purchase is effectively a repeat buy. If a sales person has managed to achieve an approval on a corporate wide services agreement, then each implementation of the product is a repeat buy and then some as the price tag of implementation will often vary from group to group.

The above two points illustrate but two gems to be found in enterprise sales. Of course, the complex sale is simply a variant on enterprise sales and, therefore, as promising as the examples just given. Stay tuned . . .

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved