Simple is better—Best Practices from the Software Industry
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci
“Making the complex simple” is a promise built into the ethos of companies in just about every industry and business imaginable. What are these companies trying to tell us?
Oracle taught me the benefit of making the complex simple some 20 years ago through their successful vendor financing program. Oracle Financing had many Fortune 500 clients, who absolutely did not need “financing” from Oracle, however, these clients routinely used Oracle payment plans to enable their transactions. Why? Because they were simple. (more…)
We’ve all heard or even say in jest “Have I got a deal for you” with a wink and a smirk. In today’s commoditized and competitive environment, most of us are conditioned to compare raw product prices instantaneously on the internet, from high-end technology products, to designer clothing and shoes, to toothpaste and tissue paper.
We often default to focusing on discounts right off the bat when we talk to our clients about our product and services because it seems to be the key priority for the customer and a short cut to a quick close.
How many times have you thought you had nabbed the deal of the day, complete with the lowest price and 5-star ratings, only to find that what you got when you open the box does not resemble anything you saw in the little picture, the pieces don’t fit together, or the product does not work as advertised.
Ultimately, as intelligent buyers, we should be looking for “value,” of which price is only one of the components. (more…)
In retrospect, as a result of working in tandem with many enterprise software vendors (large & small, private & public) across a tenure of more than twenty years, I have found certain unmissable similarities among my clients. These trends, whether intentional or unintentional, can have a direct effect on bottom line results and specifically on an organization’s ability to be effective. Often it takes the perspective of an outsider or third party consultant to point out such trends that sometimes become corporate culture. I find that a company’s ability to quickly identify which trends are accretive to corporate goals as well as trending activities that can break down effectiveness often can be the difference between success and complacency.
For example, how does a silo mentality affect an organization’s ability to execute in a sales capacity? (more…)
On a recent tour of Alcatraz, I learned the story of the famous Alcatraz escapee, Frank Morris. Despite all odds and having limited resources, he and two others managed to escape the island and were never seen again. In some ways, the story of his research, planning and determination reminded me of a good account manager. Veteran sales reps know that focused research and thorough planning are critical to executing a professional proposal.
This can be a time consuming but exciting step–determine what is important to your customer. Do you know your customer’s business initiatives? Do you know how your customer’s sales are trending? Have you read the CEO’s Letter to the Shareholders? You should!
How many of us have lost a deal and felt this way? You spent months working on the deal and didn’t get it. You felt like the time you poured into the negotiation should account for something, right? WRONG!
I recently was on a business trip. I was traveling with two women who also work in financial sales.
One of our group members, we will call her Mary, was knee deep in a transaction. She still needed several items from her client including a statement from his accountant and a credit card number for the bank appraisal fee. Mary thought the deal was in the bag. She was already counting her commission dollars. Thursday, Friday and Saturday she spoke to the customer reminding him repeatedly of the documents she needed; however, he was dragging his feet.
On Sunday night Mary received a call from her client. While on speakerphone, she rattled off the information she needed to submit his application. By this time, we all knew what he needed to send. The client interrupted her and said “STOP.” Now, Felicia and I knew from experience what was about to happen. Mary’s client told her he was going with another lender who already approved him. (more…)
Oh, the stuff you don’t know….
The son of a close family friend graduated from college this past weekend. I was fortunate to be part of their celebration which included a smorgasbord, liquid refreshments, tears of joy, and lots of laughs. It was a great time. When walking by the table of the congratulatory gifts, cards and stuff, I noticed that one of the gifts was a book called “Oh, the S*** You Don’t Know!” by Antonio Carter.
I picked up the book and started to read it and giggled along with all the words of wisdom. It covered a few of the more typical daily life lessons like taxes, work and relationships. After a good laugh, I put the book down and went back to mingling and catching up with old friends. As the day went on my mind kept drifting back to the title of the book, “Oh, the S*** You Don’t Know!” The book ended as expected with the life lesson that you are not done learning as long as you are open to it.
The next day was a wet and rainy day. A good day to stay inside and get caught up on work. I started to going through some of my unread work emails and got caught up on reading some of the trade magazines that have been piling up on my desk. One of the articles that caught my eye was in the Funding Source Issue of the Monitor Daily, a trade magazine focused on the equipment finance industry. The article was called “Blockchain: The Next Big Thing For Equipment Finance?” by Keith B. Letourneau and Stephen T. Whelan. I had never of heard blockchain or maybe it just wasn’t registering. I quickly realized that I was a couple years behind the learning curve. Oh, the stuff I don’t know…. (more…)
In the course of our performing ROI work on behalf of our clients, we often run across financial models produced by other analysts. Sometimes they are done by our competitors who previously delivered value selling support for our clients. Sometimes they are done by internal value analysts employed by our clients or by reps who produce cost justifications on their own.
The quality of these ROI deliverables can really vary—occasionally they are pretty good: clear, clean and persuasive. And often they are less successful—they lack credibility or are visually distressing. Yes, we are triggered by ugly financial models.
We can spend hours talking about best practices in producing and delivering effective ROI analyses to support sales opportunities (and sometimes we do!). But today I want to focus on one ROI best practice that value selling deliverables like “black box” online calculators lack: transparency.
“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.
Negotiating 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.
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.
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…)
“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!).
I’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…)