March 29, 2018

Negotiating the Complex Sale

“We’ve got your son.  Give us one million dollars, or he dies.” This is how Chris Voss author of Never Split The Difference starts his negotiation training class. He pulls a student up from the classroom and tells them they have one minute to negotiate on behalf of their son.

Chris is an former hostage negotiator for the FBI. Most of us will never have to hear these words (thank goodness), but it does demonstrate the seriousness of negotiation skills. In business, like in life, you are constantly negotiating. And the impact of negotiating effectively (or failing to negotiate effectively) can be enormous to your deal, your company, and your career.

negotiatingNegotiating a business deal is very different from negotiating for someone’s life. We negotiate every day without even knowing it. Let’s say you want to wear black shoes to a party, and your spouse wants you to wear brown. Do you split the difference? Of course not. You would not wear one black shoe and one brown shoe would you? This exchange usually results in a negotiation. Just as you are trying to sell a million dollars worth of software to a company and they offer you $250,000 for it. Do you split the difference? Maybe or maybe not.

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February 28, 2018

Aligning Technology Solutions to Business Initiatives and Financial Performance

I’ve developed this unusual habit of getting up early on weekend mornings to review financial statements (or as we refer to them in the US, 10-Ks and 10-Qs).  I grab my backpack and sneak out of the bedroom, doing what I can to not wake up my wife who often has a cat on either side of her.  One of both of the cats usually take notice and then do what cats are known to do…nothing.  I walk past my freshman daughter’s room (she rarely awakens as she is typically doing her art until two or three in the morning) and then past my man-child’s room (he’s only 12 but nearly six feet tall).  I make it to the coffee pot to turn it on, checking the time to estimate whether my wife will wake up before it shuts off in a couple of hours or if I should plan to bring her coffee in bed that morning.Coffee cup and laptop

I’m not a stock broker, though a number of my friends can never quite remember what I do for a living and assume it has something to do with investing.  I am a consultant in the enterprise software industry and among the many roles I play, I am a business value analyst—pretty exciting, eh?  In this role, my job is to connect technology solutions to business value.  Ten to fifteen years ago, that mostly meant delivering a return on investment (ROI) analysis based on current state data for the prospect and forecasted future state based on the proposed solution—quantifying how it was going to reduce costs, increase labor productivity and/or drive revenue. (more…)

February 21, 2018

Always Be Learning

“I never lose—I either win or learn.”  That’s one of my favorite mantras and something I remind myself of when things feel like they are about to crash and burn. There is a lesson in everything. When I don’t get the outcome I wanted either personally or professionally, I don’t dwell on not “winning” but take a step back, think through the situation and focus on what I could have done better. I make note of the lesson and carry it with me.

For example, when I started out on my career path in financial sales (gulp, many, many years ago), sales reps would typically engage my colleagues and me when a customer requested some type of financing option. These conversations typically took place near the end of the sale cycle after pricing had been formalized and the deal was close to or completely committed. Inevitably the customer would wait until the last minute to inform the rep of their lack of budget. Typically the customer required  a zero percent payment plan because incurring interest costs was not likely to be approved. The end result was an additional discount offered (bad!) or no deal reached (even worse!).

Man on MountainI’ve been involved in many of these scenarios and although it sometimes works out in the end, there is another approach I’ve learned over time. This approach focuses on incorporating financial selling throughout the sales cycle. I promise you don’t need to be a wizard at Excel or in reading financial statements either (although it doesn’t hurt!). I’ll break this approach down into five key inflection points within the sales cycle. (more…)

February 8, 2018

New Sales Hurdles, New Sales Opportunities: The Path to Club May Be a Little Less Steep This Year

Your technology sale to a Fortune 1000 customer has been on the forecast for several quarters. The solution is expected to be an on-premises perpetual license (capital budget), including maintenance and professional services (usually operating budget items).

The opportunity has been moving steadily through your sales forecast internally from lead to qualified lead toward close. It has also been making its way through the customer’s approval processes.

You’ve forecasted the deal to close, and the end user has budgeted a reasonable amount in the current year’s capital budget to make the acquisition. Enough budget to get you to Club.  Hello Cancun!

What could go wrong? (more…)

November 28, 2017

Value Selling in the Subscriptions World

We’ve been talking a lot about the rapid transition of enterprise software selling from perpetual licenses to subscription models.  We’ve written about the availability of operating budgets and why offering payment terms is critical for vendors who intend to sell subscriptions.

What we haven’t discussed to date is the impact of subscription pricing on value selling.  Should you be adjusting your value selling methodology and practices when you sell subscriptions?  What changes and what stays the same? And what should I do differently if I want to be successful?

buttefly
Change is beautiful

We’re glad you asked! (more…)

November 1, 2017

What is Your Canyon to Cross?

Are you ever in the middle of a sales opportunity with your client and frustration hits an all-time high?  No matter which way you slice it or how much you thought you had prepared, you just can’t get the customer to see the value in the solution?  We are on opposite sides of a large canyon – how do I get them over to the other side?  My goal is always to resolve a customer’s problem.  Now, how do I get there?

Recently a CEO I know, Jessica, spoke at an event I attended.  She was telling the story about a girls trip she took for her friend’s birthday.  This wasn’t a spa trip by any means.  Most people would be happy heading to their favorite Mexican spot for tacos and fresh lime margaritas, but not Jessica’s friend.  Nope!  Her friend wanted to take a hike.  But, it wasn’t just any hike–she wanted to hike rim to rim at the Grand Canyon – in one day.  For those of you who don’t know about rim to rim, hikers have been known to die on this journey.  There are warning signs prior to entering the Grand Canyon that you should not do the hike in one day.

Warning

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October 16, 2017

You Can Help Your Customer’s CIO Shine (Again)

The traditional Chief Information Officer role is under threat. You may think this statement is an exaggeration, but consider this: CIOs used to strategically manage and deploy the IT assets of the company, making data accessible only to specified employees and not to others, according to predetermined, and often inflexible, business rules.

Today, digital opportunities like building multi-channel customer experiences, harnessing social data, and enabling super-fast decisions powered by real-time data have become critical. CIOs are finding it harder to exert as much influence as they had in the past.  Other line-of-business heads like sales management, marketing officers, and newly- created roles like digital business and data officers are all taking a hands-on attitude in purchasing tools relevant to them, often helped by developments like cloud, subscription, and bring-your-own-device. The CIO is increasingly finding that she is losing part of her relevance. (more…)

September 18, 2017

Selling Technology Keeps Getting Harder

The Move to Usage vs. Ownership of Technology & the Impact on Sales Cycles

Piggybacking on Nora Yam’s recent blog: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Subscription Pricing, I’m taking a look at how the move to the cloud and changing accounting rules are impacting the sales cycle:

As software vendors continue their shift to the cloud, looking for higher stock valuations and lower costs, the shift can lead to delayed sales cycles and unintended outcomes.

Here are some of the reasons cited for sales delays:What really happens

Budgets: Most enterprise software sales have long sales cycles. Customers have planned for on-premises solutions which were budgeted for in the prior fiscal year. In the world of perpetual licenses, capital budgets may have been already allocated.

When selling hosted solutions in the cloud, operating budgets–generally larger and more flexible than capital budgets–are being tapped.  What’s the issue then?  Most customers’ operating budgets are being hit with unexpected costs during the transition. Without a strong business case the sale may be delayed until the next budget year. The cloud is putting pressure on operating budget availability. (more…)

August 17, 2017

Customer Finance in the World of Software Subscriptions

As technology vendors move to software subscriptions as their primary pricing model, it presents new challenges as they attempt to meet customer demands while also managing company objectives. Historically customer finance programs have been used as strategic sales tools for many reasons, not the least of which was reducing the need for large, upfront payments. So is customer finance still relevant in today’s world of subscription-based, pay-as-you-go pricing models?

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August 2, 2017

Do Multi-Year Subscriptions Increase Profit?

You’ve decided to offer annual subscriptions to your software solutions. Great!  You’re on track to maximizing recurring revenue, not to mention increasing your liquidity multiplier if you’re planning for an IPO or acquisition.

But, of course, the next big question is, “Do you offer incented multi-year subscriptions?”

Possibly not for the rest of this year. You are already grieving over a large sum of deferred revenue that is going to disappear into retained earnings come January 1, 2018 (thank you ASC 606).  Moreover, once 2018 hits, multi-year subscriptions won’t be fully ratable, so it’s probably best to only offer annuals, right?

Well, let’s first consider a few key factors:

  • If you were to offer multi-year subscriptions, how much would you need to incent your customers?
  • What is your expected annual subscription renewal rate?
  • How do you plan to compensate your sales team to keep your top performers?
  • What is the expected operational cost to obtain those renewals?

Your answers to these questions and associated analysis (as outlined below) should help you determine the profitability of offering multi-year subscriptions. (more…)