Glue Products Have An Advantage When Customers Determine Value for a Solution

“Glue products” connect sections of software solutions for customers. At the application layer examples include Tibco, IBM’s MQ Series and more. At the functional level, examples include software systems for training, networking, data collection, and many more. This post will discuss functional glue products.

A brief word on how these products tie together sections of functional solutions may be helpful:
I have current experience working with Microsoft’s SharePoint server product and related training solutions. So I will present what follows specifically on training as a glue product and how I think sales teams should address value with their customers.

SharePoint customers, on-premises, have objectives like “collaboration”, “compliance reporting”, internal communications (intranet), communications with partners (extranet), etc. Without training, personnel may not be able to successfully deliver on any of these objectives. So does the value proposition for the training component depend simply on the training itself, or should the calculation of value be based on how the system chosen for the training requirement optimizes the overall value of the SharePoint solution? Sales teams should help customers understand the most accurate value calculation will be based on the value of the overall SharePoint solution with the training component included as the optimum choice for the job. This tactic enables a favorable pricing discussion for the training component for the sales team while, at the same time, promising the best chance the customer will have to extract the highest possible value from investment in the overall solution.

If sales teams don’t do the work (in other words come up with a description of the solution the customer expects to build with SharePoint, and the expected role for training or one of the other glue solutions I mention above), then the value proposition will likely come down to an “apple vs orange” comparison where one training option is compared to another without any attention to the overall solution. The sales team will likely find itself haggling over price, while the customer struggles to get to the highest possible return on investment in the overall system.

Convincing customers to participate in a value calculation as I have just described depends on trust. So sales teams should also implement supporting tactics capable of elevating the relationship with the customer.

I am often surprised to see how few early stage ISVs marketing functional glue products demonstrate understanding of these tactics. Successful efforts to sell to enterprise software customers almost always include this type of value discussion, calculation and proposition.


Selling Enterprise Software in a Down Economy

June of 2012 has opened on a pronounced somber economic note. What impact, if any, does the general economic condition here in the United States have on the job of selling enterprise software.

The method of selling enterprise software, as we have alluded to it here in this blog, remains entirely the same in a down economy. The same principles apply to complex sales as have always applied. What has changed, and will continue to change should the economy continue to worsen (which looks to be the case at least through the remainder of this year) is that fewer prospects will pursue purchases. Prospects who have been proceeding on purchases without a strong foundation of conviction built on the results of a thorough analysis of why products should be purchased will likely drop the pursuit. Therefore, it is crucial for sales teams to identify questionable prospects as early as possible in order to ensure minimal lost time that should be devoted to better opportunities.

We think that an excellent way of accelerating prospect identification is to strictly adhere to the steps that we have identified earlier in this blog. With the first prospect conversation sales teams must be able to answer an important question:

Does this prospect broadly agree with us that our solution may produce significant cost savings or not?

A “maybe” answer to the above question should not be taken as an indicator of anything that would inspire optimism about a likely sale. The answer to this question must be either a “yes”, or a “no”. If the answer is no, then move onto the next prospect right away. There are no fewer prospects in a down economy than there are in a booming economy. In fact, as companies feel the pain of economic contraction, more companies will express an active interest in opportunities to save money and reduce costs. Therefore, down economies will produce more prospects for complex sales campaigns properly built upon specific, quantified financial metrics that demonstrate, irrefutably that substantial cost savings will be produced as the result of purchasing enterprise software.

Time is better spent in a down economy carefully researching prospects feeling the specific pain that a solution is designed to solve than pursuing further engagement with marginally interested prospects. We have considerable current experience in these markets. We welcome opportunities to discuss the needs of innovative technology businesses for better sales team performance. 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


Sales teams must carefully prepare for each contact in a complex sale

Once a gatekeeper has opened an organization for further contact by an enterprise sales team the most sensible approach is to quickly establish contact with the apparent owner of the problem. The reason for this is simple. Contacting the owner of the problem as early as possible within the sales campaign provides the sales team within an opportunity to accelerate the campaign pace, to expeditiously reach a decision as to whether it makes sense, or not, to further pursue the prospect. Why waste time where there is little if any interest in one’s solution to a problem?

On the other hand, if the apparent problem owner acknowledges the problem and, further, invites the sales team to subsequent discussions, then an effective method has been made available to collect as many of the stakeholders as possible in a discussion. By bringing the various stakeholders together in a discussion, it is then possible to deal with them as a group rather than as individual contacts for whom the sales team would otherwise have to individually research and prepare. Even if, at a later time, this group either dissolves or is rearranged, the whole process will be initially streamlined by the organization of these initial contacts into a group by none other than the actual problem owner.

The above scenario represents an ideal. Nevertheless, purely from the standpoint of time management, as well as from an effort to extract high returns from each precious sales opportunity, the same approach can and should be exercised with each additional contact identified in the sales process. Winning the affirmation of a contact that a problem is important, needs resolution, and is entirely worthy of his/her commitment is an activity that ought to take place throughout the sales campaign.

In fact, we argue that it is better to abandon campaigns where the above method of

  1. Obtaining Prospect Affirmation of Problems and
  2. Identifying Appropriate Contacts through Direct Internal Referrals

cannot be achieved. A failure to achieve these two milestones should be interpreted by the sales team as a very strong indicator that the prospect truly does not acknowledge presumed problems and, therefore, represents a waste of limited sales time and resources. Why research and prepare custom discussions with individual contacts within a prospect enterprise that does not “feel pain?”

We have extensive experience understanding these indicators. If your sales team is not producing the results that you need for your business to grow, 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


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


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


Implement Sales Methods that are Appropriate for Targeted Markets to Ensure Success

Software Sales teams targeting enterprise businesses and other large groups of users in the public or not-for-profit sectors can spend months, even years (if funding is available) wandering in a desert of low productivity that results in few, if any sales. Sales does not exist within a vacuum. Every other program with which a business is engaged impacts upon the success of sales efforts, especially marketing. Nevertheless, where marketing is working fine, then the actual sales method plays a dominant role in the success or failure of selling efforts. If this method is wrong there will be few if any sales. End of story.

We could use the remainder of this blog post to beat up on methodology that we think does not work for enterprise software sales. There are lots of these methods on the market today. Nevertheless, focusing on negatives delivers little value to anyone, least of all our precious readers. Rather, we need to focus on what works for us, from which, hopefully, the reader may extrapolate some value. We think that the Complex Sale methodology formulated by Jeff Thull of the Prime Resource Group provides the best method that we know of to deliver successful selling efforts for the type of markets that we are after.

The specific feature of this method that we would like to focus on for the remainder of this post is the “discover” stage of engagement with potential sales prospects. What catches us about this stage is the opportunity it presents to sales — as well as to a prospect — to fairly determine whether or not it makes sense to pursue a particular prospect or not. In the world of enterprise software sales the days of “any prospect represents a sales opportunity” are long gone. Time is in precious short supply; therefore, it makes complete sense to objectively study an opportunity presented by a prospect to determine appropriateness before committing more resources. Further, compiling a portrait of a prospect business in detail (which is, after all, the result of successful completion of this “discover” stage) will provide specific areas of opportunity, as Jeff Thull is careful to point out in his book, “Mastering the Complex Sale” where one’s solution can significantly lower costs for a prospect and, thereby, be worth a prospect’s consideration.

We have excellent recent experience dealing with enterprise markets for software products and services. We welcome opportunities to expand on discussions such as this one. Please contact 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