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Sales 101 – Planning the perfect crime

Dead of night (c) George Parapadakis

“In U.S. criminal law, means, motive, and opportunity, is a common summation of the three aspects of a crime that must be established before guilt can be determined in a criminal proceeding.” (Wikipedia)

I have been around Enterprise Software Sales & Marketing for over twenty years, both as a buyer and as a vendor. I’ve trained many new and experienced sellers and I’ve got to know both extremely successful ones and spectacularly unsuccessful ones. Selling is an art, not a science.

Over the years, I’ve collected a few nuggets about selling, that they don’t necessarily teach in Sales School. Things which seem to be pretty obvious when you think about them, but which tend to be forgotten in the mad rush to close the Quarter and to make the numbers. So, in the next few articles I’ll relay some of these nuggets and hopefully help some of the less experienced sellers in our industry.

Let’s start with the basics: Sales is not about selling

If you want to succeed as a seller, stop thinking about selling and start thinking about buying. What makes or breaks a sales deal is not your ambition to sell, it’s your buyer’s willingness to buy, so start thinking as a buyer. To get a corporate buyer to send you a Purchase Order, he needs to be committing the perfect crime, and your role is to help him set it up.

Why the perfect crime? Have you ever watched police dramas on TV? CSI, NCIS, Law & Order, that kind of thing? If you have, you’ll know that when detectives qualify someone as the suspect of a crime, they are looking for are means, motive and opportunity (and to commit a perfect crime and get away with it, you also need an alibi). When you are qualifying a corporate sale, you need to look for the same criteria for your buyer.

Motive: Why do something? What’s in it for them? In most cases, the purchase may have a business case that justifies the expense to further the company’s goals. But ultimately, the buyer needs to look good by doing the best for their company: lower costs, achieve compliance, enable growth, retain employees. Why? So that he can further his career: a pat on the back from his manager, a promotion, a better commission. There is no buyer that commits his company’s resources without risk and without an ulterior motive. Find your product’s personal benefit to your buyer and you have his attention.

Opportunity: Why do something now? Here is where you are looking for the compelling event. The biggest enemy you have as a seller, is their option to do nothing. What is it that will compel your buyer to act now, this quarter, this week? A new regulation? A new manufacturing plant? A round of redundancies? A change in strategy? An audit? Your job as a seller is to identify their urgency. What is it that will convince your buyer that they can no longer wait before making this decision. If buying now or in six months makes no difference to them, you don’t have a sale.

Means: It goes without saying that they need to have a budget. Or some other vehicle for releasing funding. No money, no sale! Again, as a seller, you need to understand their funding cycles, approval routes and budget constraints. Also their priorities – there may have been budget allocated for your solution, but an expensive plant failure, or a company acquisition or a legal dispute may take precedence and grab that money. Look for confirmation that the funding is approved and still available, when you expect it to be.

Finally, alibi: You have established that your prospect has a need for the solution, they have the funding and the urgency. Why would they buy your product? How do they justify their decision internally? Your USP, your differentiators, your Total Cost of Ownership, your customer support – what is it that will convince them that your proposal is more defensible to their peers and their manager, over your competitors? You may think that you product is the best in the market, but does your buyer think so too and do they believe it strongly enough to be able to sell their story internally? Your job is not only to convince them but to give them the tools and the confidence to become an advocate and a champion internally.

Buying enterprise solutions is the same as buying anything else: an emotional decision, on top of a rational one. Ultimately, you may not have control over your buyers emotions, but at least you can make sure that the rational part of the decision making – the premeditated part, to continue the crime metaphor – is secure.

I know that comparing a corporate purchase to a crime is a bit crude, but I believe that the analogy of the mental process behind it is accurate. I have found it a useful and quick mental check to qualify and validate new sales opportunities.

Remember: Good sellers don’t sell. They enable their buyers to buy.

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No more “On-premise vs SaaS”, please!

(c) George ParapadakisCall me OCD, if you want, or a pedant: Am I the only one annoyed by the “On-premise vs SaaS” question? It makes as much sense as asking “Indoors vs Credit card”

On-Premise is an architectural deployment decision (On-premise vs. Cloud). It defines where your software would physically be deployed, and the access and connectivity options available to you. It’s a decision that has to be taken in context of the rest of your enterprise architecture landscape and your long-term design strategies.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is a licensing model and, if you are comparing it with anything, it would be with Perpetual Licensing which has been the traditional IT licensing model for many years. This relates to how you are going to pay for using the solution: Pay a large sum (usually) up front as capital expense (Cap-Ex), and you own a perpetual license to access the solution forever. It is then your choice if you also pay and an annual support fee as an Operational Expense(Op-Ex). But the license to use the software is yours forever. Alternatively, in SaaS, you pay a much smaller amount per user/per month (all Op-Ex), which is flexible as your requirements change. In the SaaS model, you don’t actually own any licenses you are effectively “paying rent” only for as long as you are using the solution. This has nothing to do with where the solution is physically deployed.

And just to confuse the definitions even further, SaaS is also sometimes used to refer to the responsibility for administering the systems and supporting the solution. Typically, in a perpetually licensed environment, the license owner is responsible for the administration of the solution (or a third-party, if Application Management has been outsourced). In the SaaS model, the administration burden typically lies with the solution provider, not the organisation paying for the services.

The confusion has come about by the fact that, most commonly, perpetually licensed software tends to be deployed on-premise and managed by the license owner, whereas SaaS software tends to be deployed on cloud and administered by the service provider. But it does not have to be that way: Theoretically at least, there is nothing stopping you from deploying your perpetually licensed software on a private cloud, instead of on-premise. There is also nothing stopping you from negotiating a SaaS payment model with your software vendor, even if the software is deployed on-premise.

So the question of “On-Premise vs SaaS” usually implies: “On-Premise, perpetually licensed, self administered VS Cloud hosted, Pay-as-you-use, provider managed”.

And I’m not even going to start talking about what this implies for private vs public vs hybrid clouds and Single instance vs Multi-tenant architectures, which are also often lumped under the “SaaS” moniker, even though they have nothing to do with SaaS.

I know the differences are semantic but, as Information Management professionals, we have a duty to be clear about the terminology we use. Our clients have more than enough to be confused about, we don’t need to make it any worse.

P.S. As my good friend and fellow pedant, Chris Walker reminded me, the correct term is “On-Premises” not “On-Premise”. He is right of course. There is no excuse for bad English either! 🙂

What if Orson Welles used Twitter?

(Originally posted on InformationZen by George Parapadakis on July 10, 2009 )

A scary Friday thought, but with a hint or reality thrown in…

A lot of people will be familiar with the famous War of the Worlds radio hoax story: In 1938, Orson Welles presented a Halloween spoof alien invasion story on CBS radio. The story was so believable that widespread panic ensued.

“The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast was presented as a series of simulated news bulletins, which suggested to many listeners that an actual Martian invasion was in progress […] The program’s news-bulletin format was decried as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast” (Wikipedia)

In 1938, pre-TV era, radio was the most immediate medium for communicating information to people. People trusted the radio and in particular they trusted the News bulletins. In a way, Welles hijacked (abused, if you like) that trust. People reacted to snippets of unconfirmed information, because they implicitly trusted its source. The resulting panic was not the only effect. The trustworthiness of real news sources was questioned. A host of conspiracy theories followed. The same play was adapted and reused in other geographies, causing similar panic and even resulting in deaths.

Roll forward 70 years or so… The most immediate broadcast medium today, is Twitter. Based on 140-character snippets of unconfirmed information. Delivered straight to your mobile/cell phone, wherever you are. What if the BBC or Time or CNN (or anyone spoofing as them) were to broadcast an Orson Welles equivalent hoax. And the world re-tweets, seconds later…. What would today’s reaction be?

Would people panic? That means that people are trusting their social media sources as much as they trusted the radio in 1938. And twitter is a dangerous place to be!

Would they wait and double check their sources? If so, it means we are inherently NOT trusting the information we get from twitter. Which then questions the value of the medium.

Are we any more savvy today than people were in 1938? We would like to think so. But the thousands of people that daily fall victim to email and phone and get-rich-fast scams (and the proliferation of these scams) does not substantiate that belief… Fortunately or unfortunately, people are generally more naive than paranoid.

Have a good weekend! – George

Put that down! You don’t know where it’s been…

(Originally posted on InformationZen by George Parapadakis on June 29, 2009)

Sometimes, we take too much for granted. Twitter is a wonderful and dangerous thing! Recently I had three twitter experiences which made me sit back and think again:

1) I saw Michael Jackson’s death twittered, before there was an article about it on the BBC News page. The immediacy of twitter as a medium is phenomenal. But “caveat emptor”. This time the news checked out when verified – it was true. It could have just as well been completely false, which would have equally driven crowds into mild panic and depression. So while I appreciate hearing about it first, I prefer the slightly more reserved “verify your sources first” approach of the news. Especially now that the conspiracy theorists are having a field day.

2) Re-twitting is what drives twitter and spreads information around faster than wildfire. Brilliantly simple concept and it really gives me a buzz to see people that I’ve never heard of, re-twitting my comments or my links. Just prefix with RT and the name of the original twitter and off you go. The other day however, someone RT’d one of my comments (thanks) but decided to slightly change half of it. The quip was funny, I appreciated his point and there was no malice intended. But it made me realise how easy it is for someone to put words into my mouth, by allegedly re-twitting something I’ve never said. People inherently trust information if they trust the source. There is no control in twitter-land for verifying that what someone says I said, is actually true! Combine that with the speed that information spreads on Twitter and you have a potential recipe for disaster!

3) Spare me the drivel! I think a lot of you will recognise this symptom: I am being very selective on twitter. I have a personal account and a work account. With my work account I follow people that relate to my work or have information that may be relevant to me. Including people from my own company. Recently I also joined a couple of twitter “communities” (twibes or Comtweets) from work, which changed my Twitter experience dramatically – I want to know what’s going on in my company. I don’t want to know the football results or what someone in Venezuela had for breakfast! The signal-to-noise ratio on some of these communities is very low. There is so much irrelevant noise that I am forced to un-follow them. I’m sure I will miss some important information from there. But it’s a small price to pay for not losing all the value of the other people I carefully decided to follow, who have something relevant to say and are now lost in the alphabet soup I receive.

I’m sure that over time, some form of informal “etiquette” will develop on twitter that will allow me to filter out the noise, verify re-tweets and validate news gossip. But until then I have to protect myself by treating everything with a little bit more caution than I have done so far.

Have you had any similar experiences that made you think twice about the value of social networking tools? I’d love to hear them and compile some sort of “Beware” list…

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