What Impact Will Microsoft’s ‘One’ Reorganization Have on Brands?

Steve Ballmer’s “One” press release and memo of Thursday, July 11, 2013 is entirely focused on the realignment of business units within Microsoft®. But we think this reorganization will have a substantial impact on market perception of important Microsoft products, including SharePoint®.

One of our clients offers sets of video training content for SharePoint 2007, 2010 and 2013. We have been working with this client for nearly 2 years, so we can speak with some authority on how we see the “One” reorganization impacting the product brand. When customers purchase Office 365 they are also purchasing SharePoint Online. Therefore, the growth in the Office 365 customer base reflects a changed market perception for the product.

We think on premises SharePoint was usually implemented by IT organizations to provide businesses with a Microsoft friendly version of an Intranet. The enterprise edition components of the product were added, in our opinion, more to encourage user adoption for the SharePoint computing platform, than anything else.

But with SharePoint Online the product has been completely recast into a different role. The web over Ethernet piece of the usual implementation is now handled by the Internet, itself. There is no need to use SharePoint Online in its old role as a familiar platform for IT to roll out and support for end users clamoring for web pages and Ethernet data communications.

As a component of Office 365, SharePoint Online is positioned as a solution to market needs for a collaboration platform. Yammer, once a competitor to SharePoint, and now a separate product line within the same business unit, can be implemented for its new feeds as a replacement for the out of the box news feeds feature of SharePoint Online.

Recasting sprawling on premises SharePoint into the tight form-fitting constraints of Office 365 merely as a collaboration solution doesn’t look to us to be the final chapter in this story. The initial reactions from partners and some highly visible commentators on the product bear out our view. This is certainly an unfolding story, so stay tuned.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


Best Practices: Outbound Teleprospecting for Complex Products for Enterprise Business

As I have written earlier in this blog, a teleprospecting campaign can yield substantial results for sales of complex products targeted at enterprise business prospects. These substantial results can amount to high quality sales leads, depending on how successfully the campaign is managed. The key to quality, of course, is the level to which leads are correctly qualified for the specific product offering and the targeted market. But how to run such a campaign?

The best method of running a teleprospecting campaign as an outbound lead generator for complex products targeted to the enterprise business market is in some variation of a survey. Taking a survey is rarely perceived by participants as a sales effort. But if the survey questionnaire is crafted correctly, the information gathered can be very useful as the sales force “fills in the blanks” about the enterprise prospect. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the enterprise prospect is actually a complicated organization with a system for purchasing products and services that includes many individual participants and a set of required procedural milestones that must be properly completed or else there will be no sale.

For the subset of complex products targeted to enterprise business that will require a reorganization of processes across a customer’s business (should a decision to purchase be forthcoming), the need to compile information about important individuals, recent business history, etc is especially important in advance of a sale or even the overture of a sales effort. The fact is that the core purchase process may be broken and dysfunctional. Further, the participants may not play the perceived role and the agenda of priorities may be deceiving.

This latter characteristic of some complex products for enterprise business, that a reorganization of business processes will be required as the product is implemented by the customer, plays a powerful role within the sales effort. Janus-like this aspect of the product, as implemented, can be either a smile or a forlorn frown as the sales effort wends its way to success or failure. The way is especially volatile where the perceived value of the product within the marketplace is ambiguous. Truly intangibles, sometimes these products deliver substantial benefits and sometimes not. Examples of this type of product include solutions for Operational Risk Management, and Enterprise Risk Management. What is most vexing for the market is that such a product, within heavily regulated businesses like Financial Services (including Banks, Asset Managers, Brokers & Dealers, Insurers, etc), is required and mandated by regulators, but the “how to succeed” directions are no where to be found.

In the best of all worlds for the firm offering such a complex product (with unclear perceived value in the enterprise business market), formulating an outbound teleprospecting campaign within the shape of a survey is mandatory. The firms that can follow this script typically have lots of time and, generally, lots of capital to slowly and carefully sell into the market.

But what about other firms with less time and, typically, less capital to build a market? Is there a way to use teleprospecting to advantage in a less than perfect world? I will provide an answer in my next post.

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


I’ll have an address book, make it fancy . . .

It’s well known in the intangibles business (including executive searchstaff augmentationadvisorymanagement consulting, etc) that a sales person with an address book is a valuable commodity.  No rocket science about it.  But why? The reasoning is inherent to understanding intangibles as commodities. Intangibles have no material value; rather, these commodities often (but not always) take on value from recommendations, referrals, and, generally, opinions about them voiced by a trusted colleague, or other confidant to a prospect or customer. No “trust,” no value and no sale.

Of course, there can be other factors that influence a customer to purchase an intangible (for example, to repay a favor, or to act on some other obligation), but for our purposes let’s just consider the value of trust as a component of a purchase decision by larger businesses in the market for organizational solutions that require change. The task of realigning organizations within larger businesses can be difficult, time consuming, revenue threatening and expensive. The sum of these factors add up to big ticket sales, almost always hundreds of thousands of dollars and, quite often, millions of dollars in cost. Advisory firms focus on selling organizational solutions that bring together several different stakeholders within a larger business precisely for the revenue that will be produced by these sales. Colleagues trusted by a circle of well placed prospects make excellent candidates for sales roles within these advisory firms, precisely for the authority that they can leverage to lead members of their circle to a purchase.

Salespeople with address books are often referred to as farmers. Referring to a sales person as a farmer is an apt title. After all, successful sales farming, or relationship selling emerges naturally from a substantial amount of time (often many years) spent nurturing contacts into a palpable level of confidence in the views of the sales person. These farmers are great candidates for complex sales. John Thull, in his book Mastering the Complex Sale notes that “[i]n the complex sale, the most successful sales professionals are seen by customers as valued business advisors and key contributors to their businesses.” (p.123, 2nd Edition, Wiley) Our sales farmers have established this value with their contacts through years of trusted collaboration. Furthermore, they have earned a position of authority which helps them immensely to “align their questions with the critical perspective of their customers” (p.127, ibid).

Look to published authors, industry spokespersons, academics, and other notable members of targeted communities for sales candidates. Each of these types of individuals will have a circle of contacts and an authoritative reputation. But can he sell? Now that is another question.

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