Archive for the ‘ Presales ’ Category

The Pre-Sales Diary:Great but Too Expensive Dear!

Thwack!

The apparent feeling of being dumped by a potential customer can be materialized by a host of many available options for such potential customers. Although there is no harm (apparently) for being rude to the sales team but just for the sake of better euphemism, these no longer ‘potential’ customers can simply blame their distaste of your products/services or whatever you do to being overpriced!

Although a fashion statement in some novelty industries and an admired trait, most enterprise business software taboo out the pricy tagging.

First of all, we all know it, IT notoriously sucks the money out of a business, especially when there is no enterprise strategy around, IT is definitely a pure cost center. That is why they invited you to sell them business performance management and intelligence software to get share of the corporate ‘strategy’ cake.

But you don’t like to understand any of this, you spent a lot of resources in time and people to execute a sales cycle, raised expectations, probably gave a proof of concept with purpose, all to listen to the once potential customer spit out the devilish decree. It all starts with ‘But…….‘ and follows a variation of ‘Your solution is too expensive‘ or ‘we can’t allocate the budget for it‘, ‘we don’t make the final purchasing decisions’, etc etc.

In reality, this is just a polite way of saying that you didn’t meet the expectations or weren’t able to create the right value of your products/services.

How do you cater to this catch-22 situation?

Many  survivors tell us some common strategies, including:

  1. Price Justifications (e.g. Our product works in zero gravity, our costs are only upfront heavy, incremental upgrades are very cheap)
  2. Price Distractions (e.g, we have overall very low TCO)
  3. Competitor Demeaning (e.g. The competitors have lousy products and are thus cheap) (Pun Intended)
  4. Bargaining (e.g. whats your budget, let us fit something for you, else we will definitely, ultimately come down to your level)
  5. Reinventing the Sales Wheel (e.g. Lets try again, lets talk again, let us repeat our efforts to emphasize why we are not so affordable)
  6. Reassess our own Assumptions about the Expectations and Value Offered (e.g. Does the customer really know what they can get as true ROI, is our product redundant, can they solve pain point using other lesser expensive solutions)

The reality is, most of these techniques are pretty frequently used, some of them are quite demeaning (e.g. 3), but in most cases, the bottom line is, you need to set the Expectations straight, and such an objection raised only indicates the lack of effectiveness to do the same.

Once the objection is raised, ask the prospect what should the product/service have more for him to rethink the budget?

He would either give you the points for mending the gaps or acknowledge your product fitness to be good.

For the former case, if the points mentioned are offered in your products/services with a workaround or a doable approach, go ahead, you have nearly resolved the objective.

If the prospect is unable to provide any missing points, then you need to re-emphasize on the need, figure out the real decision makers (if he/she sites others for budget approval), or figure out the true ‘champions’ and ‘villians’ in your deal. Most likely, you will find out that your current assessment is different from your initial assessment.

Apply the changes only, this will set new Expectations and hopefully hopefully you will have the objection resolved, your product/services will be valued the way you wanted or pretty close to that.

Happy Selling!

The Pre-Sales Diary: Data Profiling before Proof of Concepts

The Raison D’Etre for many Pre-Sales Engineers is to carry out Proof of Concepts. Although for most of the potential leads, Proof of Concepts are to be avoided because they incur greater costs in the sales cycle, increase the sales closing time, increases chances of failure but there are certain cases where proof of concepts are really much more helpful for the Sales cycle then anything else.

Some of these cases include when there are competitors involved touting the same lingo/features/capabilities etc, others include a genuine customer scenario which needs addressing in a proof of concept either because the scenario is pretty unique, it is part of their due diligence, or your product hasn’t been tested on those waters before.

Pre-Sales folks are pretty comfortable on their technology which they like to showcase to such customers but they are totally new to the customer’s scenario. There are always chances of failure and there are many failures abound.

Before embarking on a scope for a proof of concept and promising deliverables, it is more than required, infact mandatory not just to analyze the customer organization, but also processes, metrics and ofcourse data.

The last part is where I find most proof of concepts depending on. Everything is set, you took extensive interviews with the stakeholders and know what needs to be ‘proved’, you scoped out a business process or two, figured out some metrics and one or two KPIs and they gave access to their data pertaining to it. Now the ball is in your court, but before you know it, your doomed!

The data is incomplete, inaccurate, and have tons of issues which data governance and MDM were meant to solve but didn’t, they don’t exist yet. In most likelihood, the customer is quite unaware of such issues, that is why you are offering them a Business Intelligence solution in the first place, to tap into their data assets. They have never done so before themselves or done so quite limited way to be able to uncover such obstacles. In other scenario when they are aware of these issues, they either are unable to tap it or it is a trick question for you, they want to check whether you cover this aspect or not.

You can either proof the ‘time’ challenge by jumping right into the proof of concept and ignoring all standard practices which are pretty standard during project implementations but then you ignore all of them (or most of them) simply because ‘its just a demo’!

Kaput!!!!

I always carry out a small data survey activity before promising any value to be shown in the proof of concept to make sure what we have in store before we can do anything. Simple rule, GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out. If you want to have a good quality, successful demo, profile your data first, understand the strengths and weaknesses and above all let the customer know fully about the limitations, if possible, get enrichments in your data based on your profile to make your demo successful.

This one single step can lead to drastically different outcomes if it is performed or not.

Data Profiling:

Data Profiling is defined as the set of activities performed on datasets to identify the structure, content behavior and quality of data. The structure will guide you towards what links, what is missing, do you all have the required master data, do you have data with good domain representation (possible list of values), what granularity you can work with. Content Behavior guides you on what are the customer’s NORMS in terms of KPI and metric values. e.g. if the dataset contains age groups of 40+, then there is no need to showcase cross selling market basket targeted to toddlers. You can simply skim it out, or ask for data enrichment. if you dont data pertaining to more than one year, then you can’t have year’ as a grain level which for certain metrics and analysis might be critical. Data Quality assessment, albeit a general one, can save you many hours ahead. Most notable of quality issues are data formats, mixed units of measurements, spell checks. e.g. you have RIAD, RIYADH, RIYAD, RYAD all indicating the same city, mixed bilingual datasets like names and addresses etc.

There are many tools available out there which can aid in Data Profiling, including the ubiquitous SQL and Excel. However, Data Profiling, being a means to an end and not the end in itself does not warrant more time and energy than required, there fore a purpose built RAD enabled data Profiler is one of your most critical investments in your toolbox.

One which I have come across recently and which fits the bill very nicely is Talend OpenProfiler, a GPL-ed, Open Source and FREE software which is engineered with great capabilities and power. You can carry out structure analysis, content analysis, column or fields analysis, pattern based analysis on most source systems including many DBMS, flat files, excels etc with readily available results in both numerical and visual representations to make you get a better sense of your data.

I believe all Data Quality tools are (or should be) equipped with good data profiling capabilities, most ETL vendors have data profiling capabilities and some data analysis packages like QlikView can also be used albeit in limited ways to profile data in limited time.

The Data Profile can also be later shared with the customer as a value deliverable.

 

Happy Demoing!

The Pre-Sales Diary: Don’t Sell, Set Expectations!

Yep, that’s true, salesmen and selling is a turnoff for many corporate customers. There is nothing worse than having the feel that you are being sold something, the ego kicks in, nearly all the time.

The biggest secret of successful selling is to not ‘sell’ your product/services/concepts or whatever it is that you sell do.

What we need to do instead is to create a NEED of our products/services/concepts or whatever it is that we do.

That need comes from understanding what the business does, you have to ‘feel’ the pain. Really, you have to have real customer intimacy built into you. And that happens with good sessions where you don’t talk, but just listen!

The advantages you get are:

1. The customer does not feel threatened (by your sales attitude). When you set the right expectations (with scopes and limitations), you appear not to be ‘over-selling’.

2. She/He finds at least someone who is really ready to listen to their pain points before proposing their offerings (or at least pretends*)

3. You have a better idea of what is the environment like, let the customer give you insights into their experiences, sometimes they even share your competitors’ info with you.

4. You have a better idea of knowing their expectations. This will lead you to carry out a proper gap analysis of what is needed and what you can offer.

5. This way, you will propose them a solution which is much more customized for their unique needs rather than propose them a generic (sub par) solution.

6. You can set the expectations right from the beginning, this way, they don’t think you will deliver them a rocket ship while you are only offering them a bicycle.

7. Setting the right expectations also means that you set the right value as well. Do you ever get those concerns like ‘You’re offering is expensive?’ Yes, to a point, being cost competitive is always nice but by setting right expectations, you can negotiate to something close to what you might like.
8. Setting right expectations lead to better success in deliveries.

9. Setting right expectations let you gain trust and that brings repeat business and you get good referrals.

10. Setting the right expectations also allows you to understand the right product/marketing gap and enables to feedback the two divisions on how to close this gap.

11. By learning how to say NO and pass out possible business tasks, by drawing lines, having those tough talks (with high risks of losing deals) earlier on, head on, you will be able to gain the right trust immediately.

* its all about Business, nothing personal.

The Pre-Sales Diary: The emerging role of the presales and its infinite landscape.

I must admit, thinking of a professional which has anything to do with ‘Sales’ at first seemed quite demeaning, especially for an IT guy. No offense meant to my fellow Sales professionals whose career I respect a lot but one which is quite plagued by stereotypes.

Let me get this straight, Sales professionals are kool, dynamic and at times quite creative people. They are experts of deals, know how to conquer the social network within companies, markets, industries and regions. They represent a driving force in business development. Yet when it comes to technology and professional services, not many sales professionals get it!

That is why we have Presales. People who bridge the gap, the chasm so to speak between Sales and technology acquisition. Presales are subject matter experts who romantically guide the potential customer with the right solution and solve their business problems. They are not driven by Sales targets nor have quotas (usually). What they do have (again, very ideally speaking) is a knack to solve business problems using their technical skill set and prior vast experience in delivering solutions and consultancy.

Frankly speaking, the first time I heard the term ‘Pre-Sales’, I felt the connotations like a Preview of Sales, or what is to come. Something felt Premature.  I also got the feel that this bunch is not comfortable implementing solutions. All my misconceptions are getting cleared now as I see this as a role made for those who like to tread on unchartered territories all the time, who like to be paratroopers and land into new environments, understand the patterns, recommend the best solutions all in a competitive, game like environment where most of the time, you are dealing with a staunch nemesis.

Pre-Sales is an infinite landscape because you get (and represent) a breadth of knowledge both in business functions and technological environments. Most presales i’ve known are usually product specialists but the role demands a very good idea of enterprise software and how to really place your product with the right mix of configuration and services. AND YOU MUST WEAR THE BUSINESS HAT!

The role demands credibility, agility, and competency, more so than anyone else as this role is the brand ambassador for the company and product(s) he/she represents. Most of the times, the potential customer trusts the pre-sale to give the right advice which is devoid of commercial interests. This puts the pre-sales into a position which demands authority and responsibility.

It is by no means a job for everyone but for those who live it, enjoy it by the lead…