2
Nov

It is All a Matter of Return on Investment when Enterprise Business Considers Implementing IT Software

As the result of a long history of poor to mediocre return on efforts to implement IT software solutions, enterprise businesses and other large organizations in the public and not for profit sectors are much more reluctant to consider IT software purchases. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that sales personnel managing prospects and accounts pay very close attention to customer expectations of the probable results of IT software purposes.

Paying attention goes much further than simply attending to the task of setting reasonable, realistic expectations of purchase benefits by prospects and even customers. Paying attention means participating, where ever possible, along with prospects in the formation of the true value of enterprise IT software implementations under consideration. We have written on this topic earlier in this blog.

We highly recommended several books authored by Jeff Thull on this topic, and still do so. From our unique perspective, we can attest to the truth of the value imperative for our customers. For example, we are presently selling training systems for IT software to enterprise customers. Lately, we are learning with increasing frequency that our prospects must demonstrate for management the actual value of IT projects that have been implemented. Like any other successful selling organization we have no other option than to support our customers and prospects as they proceed through this process. Indeed, we welcome opportunities to do so. Further, we think it makes sense for other enterprise IT ISVs after the same markets to do the same.

We need to note that not all enterprise IT organizations will welcome the participation of vendors in the formation of specific value propositions. We think that part of this reluctance amounts to a “once burned twice shy” attitude. Another driver is so-called “commoditized IT”, which we now find to be a realistic position. Some purchase are just too mundane for enterprise businesses to consider including a vendor in the formation of a value proposition. In fact, we think this makes perfect sense. When we encounter this position, our policy, as ever, is to accomodate.

Nevertheless, the larger enterprise IT ISVs, along with prominent consulting firms typically participate in this type of value formation on the part of customers and prospects. Therefore, whenever an opportunity for this type of role emerges we advocate moving forward and taking up the offer on a position in the decision-making.

Bottom line: it makes sense to maintain awareness of the importance of delivering value once enterprise IT software projects have been implemented. At all costs, it is essential for successful efforts in this area to monitor customer impressions to verify positive results.

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

31
Oct

The Profile of a Likely Successful Sales Person for Software has Evolved Substantially Over the Last Few Years

The profile of the type of sales person who will likely be successful selling software products, services and solutions to enterprise class businesses has evolved, substantially, over the last few years. In our opinion, sales people who are:

  • much better listeners than their peers
  • capable of facilitating decisions on the part of their customers
  • comfortable with the telephone as a primary engagement method for prospects and customers
  • able to exercise leadership, appropriately, via webinars, conference calls, and even conference and/or seminar appearances

bring to a selling opportunity the right combination of attributes to succeed in today’s enterprise market. Of course, three other components:

  • a substantial address book
  • technical skills
  • and, finally, a strong interest in money and a drive to make more of it

must be evident, as well, but these three final characteristics have always been the case, even when outside selling skills were of prime importance to sales success.

Missing from this profile is the type of dogged, obsessive, focus on countering prospect objections that was a very important feature of past profiles of likely successful sales personnel. Also not to be found is a penchant for assuming the position of an authority when engaging with prospects and customers. The days of the old “Feel, Felt, Found” approach to convincing prospects to move forward on a purchase are, here in 2012, long gone. The very long sales cycles that have become the norm for big ticket enterprise IT software sales, where decision-makers change, and even a process whereby decisions can becomfortably made are elusive, are no longer friendly turf for sales people selling snake oil. In 2012, prospects need to make their own purchase decisions, especially where a purchase must be made with a substantial financial impact on budgets and future planning.

It is precisely with regard to the complexity of decision-making and the various roles that will, ultimately, impact on final decisions, that the importance of facilitation should become clear within the profile of a successful sales person for these IT software products in 2012. In our experience, the ability to facilitate movement in others is very closely related to an ability to listen carefully to other people while engaged in a conversation. We think that successful enterprise IT ISVs will do well to choose sales staff carefully, based upon whether the individuals under consideration possess these skills, or not.

If your organization is on the lookout for top potential sales staff, but lack the internal resources to properly recruit these individuals, please consider contacting us. IMB Enterprises, Inc. maintains a strong interest in providing recruiting services to the enterprise IT ISV community. While we are not presently active with this type of requirement, we have considerable past successful experience in this area. Please contact us to discuss your requirements further.

Please either telephone us at +1 631-673-2929 or complete the contact us form on our web site. We will be happy to reach out to you to learn more about your needs.

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

30
Oct

Are Outside Sales Teams Still Necessary for Enterprise IT Software Sales?

We no longer think that successful enterprise IT software sales depends upon an outside sales component. We have come to this conclusion as the result of our direct experience over the last 3 years selling this type of commodity into enterprise business markets. We are not precluding our customers from establishing and maintaining this type of effort. Rather, we do not think that the market is requiring this type of representative, any longer.

If our position is correct, then enterprise IT ISVs can dispense with a lot of costs that, in the past, were considered mandatory. At a minimum, these costs include rent for remote offices, and some portion (likely significant) of regular travel and entertainment expenses. Once alleviated of these costs, enterprise IT ISVs should have some latitude to apply funds in other areas, for example:

  • online marketing, which should include lead development campaigns, customer support, and brand management
  • and wider attendance of industry events, conferences, seminars, etc

The return on investments in online marketing and a more extensive marketplace presence should be substantial, and, in all likelihood, far more than perpetuating out of date sales structures where outside sales personnel are located remotely, but, nevertheless, spend most of their time on the telephone, and, rarely, on the road visiting prospects and/or clients.

For enterprise IT ISVs that have not engaged in this shift in sales team architecture, we strongly advise implementing a reorganization as soon as possible. We think it makes sense to maintain a substantial inside sales effort. In fact, we have written extensively in this blog on many topics that reside at the core of inside sales best practices, not the least of which is teleprospecting. A coordinated, integrated direct marketing effort that looks, primarily, to online marketing communications opportunities to generate leads, with direct telephone follow up and efforts to engage with prospects is, in our opinion, a winning strategy in today’s enterprise business market in the United States.

Of course, it makes sense to reorient top producing sales personnel to new roles that emphasize making better use of the telephone as a method of engaging with the market, in conjunction with periodic attendance at market events, conferences, seminars, etc. Why lose top producers when, in all likelihood, they would rather stay on board and simply reorient to the new strategies?

Finally, the best location for inside sales teams is the head office. Obviously, for virtual ISVs without a bonafide headquarters location, remote home offices will have to serve, but for businesses with headquarters, it makes sense to centralize sales team efforts.

If you are thinking about your current cost of sales and would like to trim expenses sensibly, while preserving working components of your sales team, please consider IMB Enterprises, Inc. We have direct first hand experience delivering successful results in 2012 with this type of method (in other words, a very strong inside sales effort, with little or no outside sales component). Please either telephone us at +1 631-673-2929 or complete the contact us form on our web site. We will be happy to reach out to you to learn more about your needs.

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

29
Oct

Obsolescence of Outside Software Sales Teams has Resulted from a Combination of Factors

A combination of factors, which include a new role for computing software as a mere commodity requirement for enterprise businesses, and a marketplace that is now characterized by much leaner enterprise businesses, have combined to hasten the obsolescence of the traditional outside sales model. Enterprise IT ISVs, whether consciously, or not, have not only adjusted to these realities, but have, actually, contributed substantially to their emergence. In fact, as we have argued in a post to this blog, Enterprise IT ISVs are Driving Market Interest in Cloud Computing Options, cloud computing makes lots of sense for businesses manufacturing software commodities (ISVs) who are looking for the lowest possible cost for producing software, distributing it to customers, and then supporting customers over product life cycles.

With software delivered one time for many (which is essentially how we see the structure of cloud computing offers), little, if any, need to deliver hard products to customers, and, finally, no longer a need to deal with anymore than the range of web browser options when architects plan for likely clients for applications, there is little need for outside sales personnel.

From a marketplace perspective, enterprise businesses have become much leaner (the chronic high unemployment rate in the United States is symptomatic of enterprise businesses with far fewer personnel, who, in turn, work under a much larger workload and have, generally, much less time for the in-person engagement that was formerly the norm for outside sales teams), with little time for lunches with outside sales staff. Further, the market can now avail of a very rich resource of information about products, solutions, customer experiences, etc — the Internet. With the wealth of information available online, we do not see where prospects require the type of in person presentation that was the case as recently as 10 years ago.

Rather, customers are thoroughly researching requirements independent of vendors. As several leading businesses in the sales lead development space have made clear (these firms include Alinean and Marketo, both of which we have written about in past posts to this blog), the moment of engagement when prospects reach out to sales is, in fact, much later, which, in turn translates into a much longer sales cycle, but one that appears to “close itself”. Therefore, we think that enterprise IT ISVs can certainly work on an assumption that outside sales personnel are not the essential component to a winning market effort that was the case in the past.

If you would like to renovate your internal sales architecture to better address present day market opportunities, please consider IMB Enterprises, Inc. We have direct first hand experience delivering successful results in 2012. Please either telephone us at +1 631-673-2929 or complete the contact us form on our web site. We will be happy to reach out to you to learn more about your needs.

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

26
Sep

Selling Enterprise Computing Support Services is all About Commodities and Having a Very Low Cost of Delivery

On September 13, 2012, the All Things Digital web site published an interview, conducted by Mr. Arik Hesseldahl, with Mr. Stephen Schuckenbrock, Head of Services for Dell. The points of this interview that were most meaningful for us where:

  1. Mr. Schuckenbrock’s evident deep grasp of Michael Porter’s Five Forces of Competition
  2. and his understanding of selling realities of 2012 and the need to pick and choose opportunities carefully instead of legacy styles that called for an “anything you want” posture for customer facing sales in enterprise markets

When Mr. Schuckenbrock speaks of ” . . . put[ting] everything in services together as one team, and then we globalized everything, so when you a buy a notebook in the U.S. and you happen to be in India, we know where you are, and we can fix the machine. We couldn’t do that in the past.” (quoted from Mr. Hesseldahl’s article, for which a link has been provided, above) he’s actually talking about building a support system that is inherently less expensive for Dell to run, which makes them much more formidable as a competitor if one follows Porter’s prescriptions.

Looking further, when he goes on to note that the enterprise services and support businesses are actually rather similar, but points out that ” . . .customization worked in the old way, when margins were at 30 to 35 percent. When you start pushing margins into the teens and add in the capital intensity and then the risk profile of those contracts, it only takes a few bad deals to fundamentally break a good company. As x86 (systems based on chips from Intel and AMD) has become the dominant compute platform, services can start looking more like the machine that we have in the support business. Not identical, but more like.” (ibid) we can’t help concluding that Mr. Schuckenbrock understands, very well the fact that customizing solutions will result in a much higher cost of delivery, which, in 2012, will prove to be a fatal flaw. Once again, he’s keeping his attention fixed on maintaining the lowest cost of delivery that he can manage, to protect a highly competitive advantage.

In fact, the positive comments that he makes in this article about cloud computing, as well as about a set of forward-thinking set of customers who recently chose Dell over the competition, can be looked at the same way — in other words, that cloud delivery affords Dell a very low cost of provisioning services to customers. After all, with cloud, there is no on premise component, etc.

As regards his mastery of selling products to enterprise IT buyers, we detected his expertise in this area when he noted that ” . . . [c]ustomers who just want me to do it their way, but cheaper, I’m not so interested in.” (ibid). Here is a manager who is prepared to walk away from a deal — a breathe of fresh air.

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

23
Aug

In Late Summer, 2012, Dell and Hewlett Packard are on the Trail of Highly Capable Enterprise Sales Personnel

Dell reported their second quarter earnings for their 2013 fiscal year on August 22nd 2012. Hewlett Packard followed right behind on August 23rd, 2012 with their Q3 results. We found lots of consistency between the two reports:

  1. A common theme — 2012 presents a challenging “macro” environment where personal computers sales have declined steeply, year over year for both companies
  2. A second common theme — enterprise deals are moving at a substantially slower pace than was the case in the past
  3. A shared objective — improve the performance of enterprise IT sales teams

In the next post to this blog we will express some of our opinion on pt 1, above. For the remainder of this post we will focus on pt 3 and, to an extent, pt 2. As we have consistently voiced in this blog, since its inception in early 2011, the characteristics of effective, valuable sales personnel charged with selling products into enterprise-class (meaning very large) businesses, and comparable sized organizations in the public and not for profit sectors, have changed, radically, since the early days of the personal computer (late 1970s, early 1980s).

Back then, the winning mindset for top sales performers was much the clarion call of the wild hordes. The art of selling was as easy as “taking candy from a baby.” Finally, the optimum mindset that sales personnel needed to cultivate in order to “hit their numbers” was to think like a rabid dog driven to “go for the jugular” of the prospect. The environmental habitat that underpinned this selling environment was exclusivity — sales personnel who consistently exceeded quota mastered the technique of convincing prospects that they truly had something to offer that no one else could deliver.

Those days are gone in 2012, where entire categories of products overlap, groups of prospects must arrive at a consensus in order to purchase products/services/integrated solutions, etc and, of most importance, budgets are almost no where to be found when needs are at hand. Today’s most successful enterprise IT sales personnel must be masters of all of the steps required in a complicated process that can take, literally, several years to develop. Much of that work, as we have written about in this blog, is actually a matter of facilitating the natural evolution of the prospects purchase process, by no means does it have much to do, at all, with pointing their boat and forcing them to drive in your direction.

We were gratified to see that these two public businesses acknowledged, in their quarterly reports, the imperative they share to build more effective sales organizations. We are absolutely convinced they are after precisely the type of skills that we have delineated in this blog.

If you head up an early state enterprise IT ISV and need to staff up with sales personnel who can work, successfully with prospects in our 2012 enterprise business climate, please contact IMB Enterprises, Inc. We have a methodology that we can teach you to implement that will certainly shorten the time it takes to develop the sales team that you require. Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion about our services. You may also email Ira at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

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

15
Aug

Does HP’s Write Down of Its Enterprise Services Business Say Anything about the Condition of the Enterprise IT Software Market in 2012?

We noted with strong interest a press release from Hewlett Packard on Thursday, August 9, Hewlett-Packard’s Whitman Dismantles Hurd-Era Computing Empire. What caught our eye was the $8 billion line item produced by a complete write down of HP’s acquisition of EDS Corporation. After all, we are entirely immersed in sales and marketing activities, which we have undertaken on behalf of our clients, which are targeted to enterprise IT software buyers. This acquisition of EDS represented a strong effort, on the part of HP, to add considerable resources to its ongoing efforts as a vendor into these same markets. Therefore, what does HP’s write down of all of EDS have to say about the market for enterprise IT products/services/integrated solutions in 2012?

We do not think that this action says much more than the 2012 market is very challenging, which is really not much news to us. We look to recent public statements from IBM Corporation, Dell, Microsoft and Oracle as equally useful pieces of information. Each of these four vendors (and, most notably, Microsoft and IBM in particular) have reported tangible growth in enterprise IT software sales of products and services. The driver for both of these companies has been identified as an increasing number of sales of software products and services that hasten the production of meaningful analysis based upon business realities for customers. These products, services, and integrated solutions can be loosely categorized under the aegis of business intelligence (BI) solutions. It makes lots of sense that an economically challenging market, like the world of 2012 for many large enterprises, would exhibit a pervasive need for better intelligence about absolutely current business realities. We think that Microsoft, IBM, and Dell (and, likely, Oracle, as well) are particularly well positioned to provide the market with the BI solutions that it requires.

In sum, we think that the EDS write down by HP speaks more to HP’s own internal inability to assimilate a services business like EDS, than to some new crash in the market for enterprise IT products, etc. Therefore, we recommend that innovative technology start ups focused on this market keep at it. It makes sense, nevertheless, to keep at it with products well positioned to solve current market requirements. If your business is not equipped to put together the required information to support a decision as to whether or not it makes sense to proceed with an enterprise IT software offer, please contact IMB Enterprises, Inc. We can certainly provide you with useful information that can provide the basis of a decision as to your future business direction. Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Ira at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

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

9
Aug

Assumptions About Enterprise IT Sales Funnels Need to be Revisited in 2012

Traditional notions of how enterprise IT sales staff build so-called deal “funnels” no longer apply in markets like 2012. Today, product promotion campaigns must reach a much larger audience of enterprise IT prospects, than was the case 20 years ago. This extended reach is required to ensure that these campaigns produce an adequate number of sales leads, which, in turn, must be in place to support revenue forecasts in roughly the same proportion of sales leads to closed sales as was the case in 1992.

The substantial changes in the visibility requirement for product promotion campaigns result from the reality that the primary information-gathering medium for the majority of enterprise IT buyers, today, has shifted completely to the Internet from print media. In fact, many pundits are presently making the case that the real arena for enterprise IT product promotion has shifted even further, to mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets.

Regardless of the method used to produce sales leads, the leads, as we mentioned above, must be in place so that sales teams can hit their sales quotas. Therefore, in 2012 it is critically important to the success of online promotional campaigns for enterprise IT software that they achieve two broad objectives. These campaigns must produce

  1. A satisfactory volume of incoming messages, whether in the form of inquiries, in the form of online messages, email messages, or telephone calls and
  2. A satisfactory proportion of incoming messages from a truly promising set of prospects

Of course, the $64 million dollar question is how to define satsifactory for 1) and 2)? Further, what is the definition of promising for 2)?

Successful enterprise IT ISVs in 2012 will allocate the required resources to produce specific and highly useful definitions for these critically important terms. Further, once these businesses have defined these terms and, thereby, established their enterprise IT lead generation volume and quality targets, they will build out online promotional campaigns that use any and all available means, including, but not limited to:

  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Mobile Marketing

in conjunction with integrated direct marketing activities that utilize targeted electronic outbound product promotion campaigns along with teleprospecting to produce the levels of incoming engagement that they require and, thereby, to preserve the power of sales funnels as a predictive tool for revenue.

If your organization understands the need to re think funnel strategies you ought to consider IMB Enterprises, Inc. We welcome opportunities to collaborate with sales and marketing management to improve the success rate for both incoming and outbound prospect engagement. You can contact us online or telephone us at +1 631-673-2929. The first 15 mins of any consultation is always on us.

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

27
Jul

Buyer Skepticism must be an Underlying Assumption for Enterprise IT Sales in 2012

We read recently of a well publicized failure for a large scale ERP project for a publicly traded business that markets products to the United States Department of Defense. In fact, this failure was significant enough to negatively impact on the quarterly return, meaning profitability, for this business. As we read further about this misfortune, we noted the names of other publicly traded businesses that had sponsored similar failed projects.

We think this type of experience is quite common in the enterprise IT software market. Therefore, we advise that it is entirely mandatory that sales and marketing teams for innovative tech businesses looking to enter these markets assume that buyers will express, at some point during the sales cycle, a skepticism about products and related projects. Further, these same sales and marketing teams need to set reasonable expectations of product and project results. In 2012 we think it is much better to make a mistake by under estimating the final benefit to a customer than to over estimate in any way the end result of a purchase. Finally, any quantified ROI estimates need to be rigorously tested to ensure accuracy.

Maintaining a sales plan that assumes skepticism and related “environmental characteristics” ought to lead sales and marketing to look for opportunities to not only include purchase proponents, but likely opponents, as well, in a sales plan. It is far better to obtain advance notice of pending criticism than to be surprised after the fact. Of course, the question then becomes how to collect contrarian views on a purchase within a plan? We think it makes sense to either convince buyers of the necessity of gaining a preview of any objections (along with an identification of the source) or to work with contacts at competitors who may be privy to this information. The end result should be a much stronger sales plan, one that can withstand internal objections and scrutiny.

We hope that it is apparent that highly experienced sales and marketing staff need to be on hand to deliver a positive result for the type of sales activity that we have just sketched. Skeptical enterprise buyers who have experienced failed projects will be loathe to trust “just any” sales personnel. Rather, familiar personalities (potentially ex employees) will need to be included in the sales effort to provide a rationale for enterprise buyers to trust tech innovators enough to collaborate on designing a sales plan.

If your business can use the type of expertise required to put together a successful sales campaign for enterprise IT buyers, we would 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

6
Jul

Decision Making on IT Implementations at Enterprise Organizations is Often Dysfunctional

We’ve frequently characterized enterprise organizational planning for information technology as a “dysfunctional” process. There are many free resources which can be used to either affirm or refute our characterizations. Blogs that include interviews with IT planners from large organizations are an excellent resource for this type of information. For example, we read with interest Q&A: Jack Israel on FBI Sentinel and federal IT development shortcomings. We think that Mr. Israel’s comments lend substantial credibility to our characterization: “I’ve been in IT development in government for over 10 years. It started at NSA, then 5 years at the FBI, and I finished about a year at DHS. I grew very frustrated working on large IT programs. Because, by and large, I came to believe that these programs just don’t work.”

This type of candid assessment of marketplace realities provides invaluable data. Simply consider how useful these observations ought to be for innovative tech businesses focused on enterprise markets. After all, once Mr. Israel’s observations are carefully digested, these businesses ought to be able to create/modify/replace sales plans as required to better project the length of likely sales cycles. As well, these businesses will have important information on hand that can be used to forecast the number of quality leads that ought to be in process to ensure adequate revenue flow while deals slowly close over time. Further, this type of information should also prove to be very useful for product marketers who need to balance market pricing against sales and marketing costs.

The kind of major IT plan characterized by the FBI’s Sentinel program is usually included in a 5 year plan. As a public organization the FBI provides a Information Technology Strategic Plan FY 2010 – 2015. Obviously 5 years is a very long time to wait to close a deal, therefore, businesses looking to compete in this type of market ought to carefully plan the resources required to go the distance as these plans are conceptualized, break down, regroup and, ideally at some point, come to fruition.

We think Mr. Israel’s point that “. . . [i]t doesn’t matter who you are, because unless you can logically break them down into very small pieces . . .” failure is a likely scenario is quite accurate. As well, this points out an opportunity for businesses who want this type of market to look for opportunities to participate within the “very small pieces” that make up the overall IT plan for the enterprise. In fact, the IT implementations that take place within these pieces can deliver the level of revenue required to fuel a business for the long haul as the larger plan takes shape (or fails to do so).

If your business simply must have a seat at the enterprise IT table you ought to very carefully review the information included in Mr. Israel’s interview, along with the FBI 5 year plan. If you would like some advice on how to proceed, then please contact us. 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