Partnering with Core Application ISVs can Open Opportunities to Engage with Enterprise IT Decision Makers

ISVs offering what we refer to as peripheral solutions to enterprise businesses can experience substantial difficulties as they seek to engage directly with decision makers. Purchases of these solutions are usually invisible to decision makers as the result of two rather obvious factors:

  • the impact of the cost of acquiring these solutions is considered insignificant and
  • the requirements for these solutions often arise independently of requirements for corecomputing platforms

As we have argued in the last couple of posts to this blog, it is likely much easier for these ISVs of solutions on the periphery of enterprise IT computing to gain renewals on subscriptions where decision makers are aware of the solutions and engaged in the successful implementation of them as components of an enterprise-wide quest for value. Nevertheless, as we have just noted, most of the time engaging with decision makers is a very difficult challenge for ISVs of peripheral solutions. The end result is a difficult tone to year end where the sales team is out in the market with crossed fingers hoping that customers will opt to renew, despite a lack of support from decision makers.

A cure to this malaise is to joint market with ISVs of bigger solutions. If our readers need to be convinced on this point, then we recommend that they simply consider that the cost of these bigger solutions is always a matter with high impact on enterprise business decision makers. Further, implementing bigger solutions requires changes in operating procedures across an enterprise. Based on these two conditions it is safe to assume that decision makers will maintain focus on requirements for these bigger solutions.

The task for ISVs producing peripheral solutions is to identify likely partners who will require peripheral solutions to ensure that their customers can successfully implement their solutions. Success in this setting almost always amounts to implementing a solution that will produce a lower cost of business operation. Cost savings should be understood as largely synonymous with the concept of value for enterprise IT businesses.

We participated directly in the successful efforts of one ISV with a peripheral solution targeted to enterprise businesses. This ISV had a solution that permitted enterprise businesses to purchase very costly document production equipment. Specifically, enterprise businesses could use this ISV’s solution to spread the cost of this costly document production equipment across a wide range of computing systems, including a mainframe, work place computing and standalone personal computers. Our partner in this solution was a small company by the name of Xerox. If you care to hear further about this specific success story, then please use our contact form to submit your request.

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


Opportunities to Engage Directly with Decision-Makers Must be a Priority for Enterprise IT ISVs with Recurring Revenue Product Models

As we wrote in a prior post to this blog, enterprise IT ISVs with “razorblade” products built to produce a healthy recurring revenue from the periodic replenishment of the “non durable” component of the product (which is usually length of access via a cloud or software as a service, SaaS, subscription) must engage directly with decision makers. The reason for this imperative is that successfully capturing service renewals becomes a much easier task when decision makers are correctly engaged from the start of a sales plan. Lots of sales trainers have admonished their students to meet this imperative; therefore, we are not making our claim in a vacuum. The facts are that the perspective of operational personnel as regards costs, benefits, savings, etc. are very different from the perspective of decision makers who likely own budgets, and, therefore, manage capital outlays with utmost care.

We know of three different methods of producing this type of engagement very early in a sales plan. The first method is to implement what is often referred to as a “diagnostic” or “deeper dive” activity with a prospect. The purpose of this activity is to collect all relevant information about a prospect’s needs, ostensibly to determine not only the factors that a prospect is looking to change, but the severity of these factors, which most sales trainers agree will permit sales teams to estimate the likelihood of a sale. The general rule is that the more severe the factors, the greater the likelihood that a sale will be made.

Of course, the details that emerge from this “deeper dive” activity more often than not will include identification of decision makers as well as the roles of other important contacts in a purchase decision. Where factors are severe, in our experience, there is a greater likelihood that prospects will acquiesce to including decision makers in a discussion. But for products that sit on the periphery of larger applications, it is often very difficult for sales teams to get prospect commitment to engage in a deeper dive, especially in 2012 where prospects have generally accumulated all of the information they require about meeting their needs before they contact sales.

In these cases we highly recommend identifying other contacts within the same organizations. In other words, while an initial sale is in process, lead generation teams are using techniques like teleprospecting to engage with other contacts at the same business. It is much better for this process to be effective not to link the two activities. In other words, we recommend that sales teams continue to execute on their sales plan with immediate prospects independent of the activity of lead generation personnel. Over time, a map of decision making for the enterprise should emerge.

The last method is simply to use renewals as an opportunity to engage with decision makers. In our experience, prospects are much more open to identify decision makers post sale than is usually the case while the sales plan is in process. Of course, it is much more difficult to engage with decision makers after the sale has been made, but in some cases there is simply no alternative.

In the next post to this blog we will look further at how ISVs of peripheral products can leverage partners to get to the same aforementioned decision makers.

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


Any Opportunity to Include Decision-Makers in a Sales Plan for Enterprise Software should be Acted Upon

Sales teams representing enterprise IT ISVs need to act on any opportunity to include decision-makers in their sales plan. It is is easy to be lulled into skipping this critically important step. Here’s an example: sales receives an incoming inquiry from a user at an enterprise organization. This user, as it turns out, is looking to implement a specific solution like our ISV’s product. The user has gone through a preliminary step of gaining management approval to purchase some solution to meet his/her requirement. Therefore, from this user’s perspective, the next step is simply to gather all of the information required to make an informed decision as to which product will best meet the objectives of the requirement.

In 2012, the user depicted in our example usually doesn’t even need to reach out to sales at any point prior to placing an order. In fact, our ISV, like all of its competitors, has exposed lots and lots of informative content about its products, clients, testimonials, etc on its web site. Even more, pricing information is included in this material. The result is that our user knows just about everything, without any required contact with sales.

Once the inquiry finally comes in, the purpose is generally to shop the product, or, often, to place an order. Our sales team may try to slow down the process, in order to collect a lot of information about the user, his/her application, why the purchase was likely approved, etc., but our user may have very little tolerance for the efforts of the sales team to slow things down. After all, our user already has all the answers to the qualification questions he/she required to determine the set of products that would likely meet the requirement, which, in turn, needed further review. Our sales team will likely back off of its requests and assume the role of order taker.

If our ISVs product is a cloud offering with an annual subscription, it may be literally “up for grabs” as to whether or not our user will renew the enterprise subscription in year two, or not. When our sales team makes the attempt to secure an approval to send an invoice for the renewal charge, the response may be something like “I love your content, but I’ve moved onto another set of tasks and management has turned down a request to renew even though the team that took over for me would certainly benefit from a renewal”.

In fact, our sales team laid the groundwork for this problem way back when our user placed the order. It would have been much more fortuitous to push our user prior to accepting the original order. In the next post to this blog we will present some of the technique that we exercise to get the actual decision-maker included in the discussion.

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


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


Matrix Sales Organizations Foster Healthy Contention which can Only Help the Growth of Enterprise IT ISVs

Enterprise IT ISVs, in early stages of growth, should consider implementing matrix sales organizations. As per the web site of the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council a matrix organizational structure is “[a]n organizational structure in which two (or more) channels of command, budget responsibility and performance measurement exist simultaneously. For example, both product and functional forms of organization could be implemented simultaneously, that is, the product and functional managers have equal authority and employees report to both managers.” (quoted from the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council web site, for which a link has been provided, above).

In our experience, a matrix sales organization can be used, successfully, to add healthy contention to the activities pursued by, for example, inside and outside sales representatives managing the same geographical territory. When both sales representatives responsible for a revenue stream report into different management, they are more likely to pursue differing strategies which, nevertheless, may be more advantageous for the overall business than a unified plan that neglects to cover all necessary facets of territorial account management.

In sum, an early stage enterprise IT ISV should not neglect to explore a wide range of sales strategies that may make sense. After all, it is much harder to renovate deeply ingrained plans and activities than it is to explore opportunities that may seem tangential while plans are still in a formative stage, especially where senior management would like to explore the benefits of a “ready, fire, aim” operational strategy. The facts are that seemingly tangential activities sometimes pay off with unexpected benefits. When sales teams are restricted within a monolithic management structure, the opportunity to test new plans can be inadvertently stifled. Where possible, it is advised to implement a horizontal reporting structure where all staff members report into senior management. However, when business growth reaches a point where horizontal reporting lines are no longer feasible, a matrix organizational structure can, and should, be at least considered as a method of redesigning reporting lines.

If your organization includes a number of sales personnel, but actual performance is short of expectations, you may want to consider implementing a matrix organizational structure. IMB Enterprises, Inc. can assist you as you decide whether, or not, implementing a matrix structure is truly an option for your business. Further, where a matrix structure may work, we can certainly do the analysis required to pinpoint performance gaps and possible remedies. 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


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


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


To Connect or not to Connect Your Sales effort with Your Survey Lead Generation Program

We think it is mandatory to identify business sponsorship to any/all participants in a survey effort for lead generation. This point is simply a courteous example of professionalism. Further, once survey participants have made the connection between the firm conducting the survey and its sponsor any contact to any participant in the survey on the part of the sponsor will be, to some extent, expected and, perhaps (depending on how the survey has been conducted) welcome.

Of course, for optimum results a survey should be planned on a credible, entirely legitimate basis that makes sense for the sponsor and each contact who agrees to participate in the survey. If the sales history for your product, service, or integrated solution follows a pattern that is characteristic of a complex sale, meaning a sale that involves a number of individuals who contribute to purchase decision, a matching number of apparent needs for, perhaps, each of these contributors, and, perhaps, a matching set of assumptions about a solution for each of these needs, then it makes complete sense to stop selling and starting collecting as much information as possible about a prospect, the cast of contacts who will contribute to a decision about a solution for a problem that warrants fixing and your product. In fact, we don’t think that any interest in designing an efficient system to convert an attractive proportion of leads into sales will work if the activity of purely gathering information on known to be relevant operations, procedures, systems, etc. is not included as a preliminary to further engagement.

For their part, well chosen survey participants should see things in a similar fashion. Prospects worth the time of sales teams will have an understanding that decision-making is, perhaps, flawed. For these organizations your offer to conduct a survey (and to share with participants generalities gleaned from other participants in the survey) should be really good news.

Let’s face it, prospect who are unwilling to proceed through an information gathering phase as a necessary preliminary to any further engagement should be de-emphasized and, where possible, passed over for better opportunities. If you sense that the sales efforts of your business leave something to be desired (perhaps your team speaks with lots of contacts but closes only a small portion, thereby wasting time better spent on a different approach), please contact us to discuss your case. 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


Sales is still a numbers game and the phone is a great way to get those numbers

Talk to enough people and you will find someone with an interest in what you’ve got to sell. This adage has been true for ages and is still true today. Telemarketing provides a terrific method of reaching enough people to achieve sales objectives. When properly orchestrated and staffed with experienced practitioners, the telemarketing method is methodical, akin to a contact-friendly variant on carpet bombing. The turf upturned as the result of conversation upon conversation will ultimately prove fertile enough to feed even innovative emerging technology businesses with precious revenue.

It all comes down to a question of timing. Given enough time (together with an ongoing analysis of documented conversations and a complete dedication to changing whatever may turn up as needing change) presentations can be refined and focused to deliver objectives. We’ve written extensively in this blog about the present-day phenomenon of a broken down purchasing system for some types of technology, largely with regards to larger businesses (often referred to here as global businesses) and/or larger public sector groups. No matter. Focus telemarketing efforts on information gathering rather than persuading or pushing a market that is obstinately unwilling to be pushed to get positive, progressively healthier results.

A two pronged approach that combines persistent, flexible direct marketing over the telephone with interactive marketing that exploits online search portals and social media can produce very effective results with comparatively few personnel and leaner facilities. For products sufficiently branded as commodities in a marketplace inbound leads are generally more promising. Look to interactive marketing techniques to stimulate such inbound lead activity. At the same time, a constant rumble from telemarketing can and does motivate less mature aspects of markets to move forward, over time, to generally bigger deals that usually incorporate a combination of products and services.

Coordinating both efforts is a mandatory requirement. By no means does it make sense to entirely focus on simply one approach. We have recent experience with such efforts and can say, conclusively, that clients would have done much better had they availed of interactive and direct simultaneously. There is absolutely no reason that we can find why one approach necessarily precludes the other. Further, we have more recent evidence of the success of just this type of combination.

We have excellent recent experience working extensively with interactive and direct marketing media for software technology innovators committed to global business markets. We welcome opportunities to elaborate on our experience. Please call Ira Michael Blonder, IMB Enterprises, Inc at +1 631-673-2929 to discuss your product and your near term market plans.

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


Sometimes Ready Fire Aim makes sense

Sometimes it makes sense to implement a ready, fire, aim product development strategy. For example, to test out market interest in various product types, or to gauge the readiness of a market to purchase products and solutions for otherwise unqualified needs.

Maintaining product direction in an entirely pliable state, capable of moving any which way to meet market needs, while engaging with prospects on ostensibly clear sales discussions is a great posture to gather lots of useful information about product perception, first hand. This stage should be incorporated within any product marketing plan as it makes little if any sense to finalize product performance without some reliance on the perception and interest of representatives in the marketplace. Usually this type of information is gathered through prospect and customer interviews, but with ready, fire, aim it is possible to go even deeper with prospects and, thereby, gather the most credible response from the market. The fire stage, after all, is actually mustering selling efforts around products. A go to market strategy on the fly.

Notice that I stressed maintain products in an entirely pliable condition. If, on the other hand, products are rigid, then engaging with prospects in this fire stage prior to aiming sales efforts can provide little more than an excuse to either race into product development, or to abandon the business plan altogether. Therefore, but have your funding in place before entering into this type of marketing strategy to ensure that you realize the most benefit from this exercise.

With regard to using the fire stage to determine present buying interest in products and services, this technique can jump start revenue building–no doubt about it. Even more compelling, this stage does not require the support of a full complement of marketing communications tools, etc; therefore saving cash strapped technology innovators precious cash. Further, marketing communications materials can be assembled and published entirely on an as needed basis, which may make the most sense from a funding perspective.

Despite these advantages, I counsel caution with regard to implementing this approach. By no means should your firm look half baked as the result of proceeding in this direction. Be sure, as ever, to stay under the radar while you navigate these turbulent waters.

Call us for further information on the above points. IMB Enterprises, Inc. has considerable recent experience implementing lead generation programs for complex sales of IT products and services to global business. Please telephone us at +1 631-673-2929 to discuss your products and needs. We are particularly interested in technology products–software or hardware–as most of our experience has been garnered from working with software and computer hardware manufacturers.

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