By Marcus Cauchi of Sandler Training
I have a colleague who is prospecting with a company selling AS400 PaaS solutions to financial institutions. They are about go into a meeting with over 15 of the prospect’s team from CIO to ‘Chief Pointy Head’ in charge of paperclips to do a presentation.
They will present on the company, it’s technology, it’s points of difference. They will answer a series of technical, personnel and business questions and then they will trial close. They will handle objections and then trial close again. They will then be asked for a proposal and walk away satisfied that they have done a good day’s work.
Sack the lot of them! Fire them! None of them are selling. You would do better with a trainee from a YTS scheme and a checklist of questions for them to ask the prospect for all the good this ‘show up and throw up’ dog and pony show will do.
Gone are the days when CIOs could focus on efficiency and driving down costs. You can’t save your way to growth and success. Eventually you will cut out the fun, the life and the opportunity, your bets and most creative people will leave and you will be left with the deadwood and the middle layer of mush (people who say, “At least I still have a job” or “at least we didn’t shrink that account by as much as we might have” or “At least I got 80% of my number”).
It’s not about the technology. CIOs don’t sit there thinking about the next shiny bit of technology. They are deeply involved in the business and how it runs, what makes it succeed or they are headed for the dole queue. IT is a business enabler nowadays not a bunch of technologies burning electricity and eating a hole in the FD’s pocket. CIOs who are worth their salt have to educate vendors on how to present their solution to the business decision makers in their company because the vendors are doing it all wrong. You are doing it all wrong!
Vendors (you) who can’t make the knowledge accessible enough so even business executives can understand it, are doomed. Businesses want to know how they can manage overtime costs, find people with specific skills in their company, apply the right resources in real time to where they are needed so buyers can buy them. Everyone in IT (vendors and IT departments) need to understand what the business needs and why they need to solve real business problems. Vendors in the Cloud need to understand the pain the buyer organisation has so you can offer real solutions to real life obstacles to growth, top line sales, expansion of market share.
IT IS NOT ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY.
Vendors can help buyers drive innovation in the Front Office and the Back Office. Vendors can help speed up the R&D cycle at no risk just for the cost of rental of a couple of thousand server hours without driving up their CapEx. Vendors can solve the problems CIOs are facing with business users exepcting the same ease and convenience they get from their consumer devices. You have shifted form being a technology provider to a business or customer enabler. You are no longer just innovating for IT but for the whole business and its supply chain.
You can save your way to mediocrity by driving down costs and driving up efficiency or you can create products and services that people want to buy. Think about it for a moment. Banks aren’t banks any more. They’re IT services companies that happen to package their solutions in financial products. Banks without IT are dead. If you can’t respond quickly to your customers’ demands and preempt their needs, you will lose to nimbler competitors.
You want to be able to come up with ideas in the business, apply and test them quickly and cheaply… Saas allows you to compress time without paying a premium.
The smart money isn’t writing off the data centre or server farm either. If you have a situation that requires unvarying, regular use of a particular platform or service, it’s probably a good idea to have this in house. But variable or unpredictable use of a service favours a rental model. In Mergers & Acquisitions the Cloud can help drive the decisions the merging companies make on which systems to keep and which to ditch. The cloud can help you rapidly prototype solutions and changes at ultra low cost. You no longer have to bet your shirt on projects because the costs and risks are now so low.
But such projects only work when the CIO, his team, executives in other departments all share a common picture of the future, where they’re headed and why it’s important. This means CIOs need to have close working relationships with the CEO, CFO, COO, Sales & Marketing Directors, Director of Customer Service, Supply Chain Director, HR Director etc. without it, how can s/he know what the business wants and needs. The CIO has a place on the Board and can only maintain it if s/he understands that the success of the business depends on the success of IT.
If you sell Cloud services (SaaS, Paas or Iaas) you have a responsibility to understand where the CIO is in his career, in this job lifecycle and the pressures s/he faces to serve the business. Their continued survival depends on them being able to provide rapid service enablement using technology but not being tied to tradition.
Avon had to produce a solution to a series of business needs that served their 6m reps worldwide. They considered building the application in house; partnering with a traditional software vendor and having them host it, or using Salesforce.com. They picked the latter because they could begin testing the application within weeks without adding extra strain to their IT organisation. This meant they could focus their attention and resources on the application itself. Bravissima have used Big Data to drive sales of certain products up by as much as 600% just by responding to weather forecasts and adjusting their banner advertising online and their window displays in-store.
In every case, from Flextronics to Avon, Bravissima to Toyota, Cloud vendors responded to the prospects’ pain whether it be from social media habits, BYOD, sales force pressures or a need to provide services demanded by customers and enabled by IT.
But showing up and throwing up is not the way to do this. The company I wrote about at the start is going to end up in a long, protracted sales cycle that results in “no decision” while they shop around, try and develop it in house, go to their preferred supplier and see if they can do it for them for less. They will waste time kissing frogs thinking they are selling. They aren’t.
CIOs need vendors who know how to get to the heart of a business problem and happen to solve that problem through technology using the platform, infrastructure or software that serves the business’s needs best. It may not be the lowest cost per unit, it may not be the most efficient, but if they are sold right, Cloud solutions will provide businesses with real competitive advantages and tear them away from the addiction to the traditional pains that are holding them back today. Vendors who turn up trying to sell technology will be robbed of their knowledge and buyers will buy despite how they were sold not because of it.
Remember bad generals usually fight the last war!
Marcus Cauchi runs Sandler Training in London. He lacks the milk of human kindness you’d associate with nice trainers because no one hires him to be their friend. They hire him to drive up sales and eliminate ineffective and bad selling and sales management habits. Working with him is rarely a pleasant experience, it’s tough and it’s expensive. Call him and you’ll know why. 0203 427 5133 or 07515 937221.