Friday, November 21, 2014

Writing Competitive Pitches #EvangelistGuide

Once upon a time, people would have discussions with one another and argue the finer points of The Beatles Vs. The Rolling Stones, beer vs. wine, blended vs. single malt scotch, or is Eric Clapton really God? Should we be in Vietnam or Korea, or do we colonize Mars? iPhone vs. Android, Jobs vs. Ford, 72' Dolphins vs. anyone.

But the fun and good times eventually give way to serious business discussions at work when you are in sales, and now you not only need to have a good argument, you also need to know information, not the type your Google search, but real data and details. As much as you can recite every word in your favorite song or poem or The Princess Bride movie, that is how prepared you need to be when you get into these discussions.

Except when you won't. Then you may freeze up and do what I try to train every salesperson in the world NOT to do, which is lie to the customer. You make up stuff that even Vizzini would call BS on, but you get away with it because you think the customer knows less than you.

Your customer is not so stupid. You might be, though.

If you can't say, "I don't know the answer to that question, but I know someone who does, and I will get an answer for you by ..." you are not a great salesperson.

What does this have to do with writing competitive pitches? Evidently, quite a lot based on some I have been reading lately. They are the equivalent of lying. Not Competitive pitches.

I will admit, if you are in a strong and dominant position in your market, you probably do little competitive work because you do not need to. Yet. You will because:

"The thing I worry about is some guy in his garage
inventing something I haven’t thought of."

Bill Gates, Microsoft

For everyone else that is in second, third, fourth, or tenth place in their market, you need to do competitive position papers and research. Salespeople will think of it as handling objections, but it is more than that and less at the same time.

What do you need to be in the competitive space? You need to...
  • Be a strong improviser. You never know what will be thrown at you.
  • Have international or at least regional knowledge to understand the nuances of culture and other influences on people.
  • Know about your products/solutions and the competitions inside and out. Like Sun Tzo (Vito Corleone for you nonreaders) said, "keep your friends close but your enemies closer."
  • Read, listen, and watch as many things as you can on topic and off-topic, so you have more angles to work with when involved in different industries. (Your examples should be just as relevant and helpful as your knowledge)
  • Be fearless.
  • Not be arrogant.
  • Have friends in weird, odd, far out, and local places that you can reach out to at random times and days.
  • Have a sense of humor.
  • Think like an executive or an assistant or a CFO or the person on the 4AM support shift.
  • Know you will not win every discussion, and that is okay. Really. It is.
  • Think out of the box, especially when revisiting clients you already saw. No one likes repeats.
  • Wear a black suit. ( Just kidding)
If you have all of this, you can start to work on your first pitch or presentation for a product or solution...or against one. 

Once you get the slides and presentation done, then you can move up to writing white papers or bigger efforts.

Finally, you can get to the big leagues and go speak to people in person and do battle. It is a battle, of wits, just like in The Princess Bride. The stakes, not a princess, but potentially millions of dollars on the line.

Wits, not geek-speak. If you are involved in development competitive situations, you may have no other way to do this, but geek speak, but since I am not a developer, I will let others who know this field better provide some details or links.

Wits mean you do not go pointing out "we have a one-click interface" or an "open status bar" unless that is all you created. 

You want to aim higher.

Set your goals in alignment with the executive you are meeting with and what they need. CRM, project management, payroll, whatever it is, there are numerous ways to point out the benefits of your solutions without reverting to geek speak. 

You must speak the executive's language, finance to finance, marketing to marketing, sales to sales. Meet them on their terms, not yours. Don't sit in their seat, but if you walk into a conference room, do try to take the seat at the top of the table. Mind games are fun, even if meaningless to you at the time.

Take time to think about your answers, especially when presented with unknown data. Ask more probing questions, find the nugget they hide and let them know it is okay to let you see and hear about it from them, in their own words.

Never put down your competition, Microsoft likes to use the term "legacy" on every other company's products, yet mysteriously they never say that about their own, which are now quite old as well. You can say our competitors do this or that, but we take a different approach. I know, I sound like the startups pitching to VCs, but they learned fast the need to differentiate themselves from the competition. Which is what you should be doing as well.

If you are the only person writing these types of documents, you MUST, I cannot stress this enough, you MUST get input from people inside and outside your organization in order to provide well thought out documents. The last thing you want is for someone to rip your doc apart and start something like FUD Buster Friday posts to show how bad your work was on the topic.

A follow-up post in this #EvangelistGuide series will look at various ways to build a competitive pitch. Until then, if you need someone to help you with your competition, my consulting fees are reasonable, and my time is flexible.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Don't Ship Shit! And Other Things learned from the #IBM #NewWayToWork LiveStream

Don't Ship Shit

If you spent the two hours online watching the video and speakers (link to watch the replay) during the IBM event today, you found yourself going back and forth across a spectrum from amazement to amusement.

The new name of the Mail.Next product is IBM Verse, no mention, that I recall, of the server name being changed. I am not going to try to explain the name, Alan Lepofsky did it quite well here.

This mobile/browser based communication portal unleashes the power of Watson to help you automate and analyze your communications. New and expanded UI to include easier file attaching and locations that used to be difficult are now a click away.

The IBM team did a nice job making sure the UX on mobile and browsers are complementary, instead of exclusionary.

When discussing writing and shipping code, the graphic above appeared on screen and it was probably a first, for IBM US at least, of cursing in public live. This is not your parents IBM, rather it is one which is recognizing the need to go beyond us old folks and find a new way with new voices. They brought in college students, designers, researchers, in short everyone they thought might have some ideas for now and the future. The plan is not to ship code that works, but instead serves a purpose by helping people work better, faster and more intelligently while still providing the utilitarian aspects that are required from communications, like accountability.

It is not available yet, beta coming soon, and will most likely first show up as part of the IBM Connections Cloud offering.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Questions are Free, Answers Cost Money

I had some discussions around presenting and training and my blog style over the last few days.

When preparing presentations, and blog posts, that are of a technical nature, there a few steps involved. The premise of the problem, some investigation work to solving it, testing the solutions then providing details around the one that worked. Many times I provide the question, and the answer, in order to help make other techies lives easier for them, when they run into the same problems.

When I write posts that are more business or marketing related, they tend not to have a definitive answer, although they do have specific questions or premises. It is my way of encouraging people to think about a topic and where possible provide some comments for discussion.

When I am with customers, or reply to email or Twitter queries, I try to provide more questions, in addition to more possible routes to conclusions. Perhaps this limits my monetary gains at times, however, over time, it has provided me with many opportunities to guest blog, write a book, speak at new conferences and more importantly bring me new clients.

Every company you work with is a different experience. Every country you are doing business in is not like your home country. Not everyone will come up and talk to you directly, or ask questions, or even let you know you were any good. You need to make yourself more available, more approachable, more vulnerable perhaps, in order to reach the next stage of your business discussions.

People do not change, we can't really turn you into a collaborative or social person, especially if you do not want to do so. However, we can broaden your horizons, if you are open enough to the ideas we are sharing, to find a better way to work and interact with your employees, your customers and your boss.

There is no perfect way, no silver bullet, or magic dust to help companies become more social and collaborative. Each person, team, group needs to be prepared through discussions and training. There are serious compliance and security issues to be addressed and these can not be answered simply. Our efforts to work with clients to expand their horizons and plan for a better way to work takes months of effort and we are here to help you.... if you are ready for it.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I Finally Experiencd the Social Connections Conference

If you have been living outside of the collaboration or social space you probably have no idea what conference I am discussing.

The Social Connections Conference, which has just completed their 7th conference in 3.5 years, is an impressive effort that you should experience too.

Having been a part of or attended so many conferences over the years I had been unable to get to any of the Social Connections events until this one in Stockholm, Sweden and what makes it so impressive? I have a 10 11 12 item list for you:

  1. it is run by normal people like you and I, they also have day jobs too
  2. not run or owned by a specific vendor
  3. always in a different country
  4. has a consistent change of audience for each event 
  5. limited number of any vendors people so it truly is customer filled
  6. sponsors that are known and appreciated by the audience
  7. sponsors get to do speed sponsoring and a speaking session
  8. great speakers and thinkers present both technical and business sessions
  9. some cool event venues for dinner
  10. some extremely social interactions of digital and in person kinds
  11. All sessions were streamed and recorded for later usage
  12. beer, as in free beer
OK the last one is available most events, but it is a serious part of connecting with people. I even had a Moo card made that said Collaborate Better with Beer.

While I did spend quite a bit of time on some client work, I also got to spend time with many friends I rarely get to see in person, some I have never met in person, and some I only heard about through others. The connections I made, and the few companies I discussed how I can help them with training and adoption was worth the price of their admission and my efforts.

The team had asked everyone to pay a nominal amount to ensure fewer no shows and it worked as they announced they had 100% attendance! Long may they have that record now. 

While the majority of the attendees are using IBM products, like IBM Connections, IBM Domino, IBM Notes, IBM Sametime there were some people who also used other products and were equally interested in what works and does not work when discussing adoption.

I can't speak for the technical sessions (I did not attend any) but the business side was heavily based on the do's and don'ts for adoption, customer cases both great and tragic, hurdles of jumping from email to an ESN(see my bridge slide) and even an Ask IBM session with prizes given to the best questions and/or most challenging ones that received a "we don't know" answer.

As a surprise to everyone, the next event they run was announced and it will not be in Europe!
It will be in Boston, Massachusetts in the US, April 16-17, 2015.

I hope to see you there!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Didn't you see my Updates?! Slides posted

On Slideshare are my slides from today's Social Connections VII session from Stockholm.

Off the cuff speaking and the ONLY session at #soccnx that was done in Lotus Yellow.

If you need help with adoption, please let me know, I am in Europe and happy to help your organization.

Friday, November 7, 2014

SnTT - In Which Port Settings Don't Quite Work

Been a long time since I wrote a Show n Tell Thursday so let's get on with it.

Building an IBM Domino cluster is not as difficult as it was years ago and I was done with the basic parts and wanted to test the fail over.

I figured easiest way to do this was to enter at a server console "stop port tcpip" while connected via rdp to the server.

I tested mail clients could fall over to the 2nd server and mail routed. Great.

Back to the server and server console and tell it to "start port tcpip".

I didn't think much about it and since there were some server updates to add to the box, I decided to shut it down after the updates were done.

It came back up and was running and I was working on another server in the domain when the client let me know no one could connect to the server. Odd, I was there and it "looked" ok. On closer inspection, it was not ok.

Errors that said databases could not be found, no route found, no network could be found, trace connections and some other fine error messages that mean nothing to the average person.

After poking around a bit, I figured the notes.ini needs to be edited. I checked with Rob Kirkland, of this book fame on Domino System Administration, and followed it to solve the problem.

I found the TCPIP port listed under disabled ports. Deleted it form there.
Found TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,45088 was missing which is for compression and encryption (see below).
Also missing was Ports=TCPIP

After putting it all back together, rebooted and all is good again. Still not sure why the commands failed and did not help this 8.5.3FixPack6 server but at least someone else out there will not have to waste an hour or 2 tying to figure it out.
Selection NOTES.INI parameter
          Nothing TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,12288,
Compression only TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,12320,
Encryption only TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,45056,
Both TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,45088,

EDITED: October 20, 2020 The below is pulled from the most awesome list of ini settings ever.

Configuration for a TCPIP port.

Examples: TCPIP1=TCP,0,15,0,,12288

TCPIP=TCP, 0, 15, 0 [,,x] <----------- This is the setup for your TCP Port
.......|...|..|... Application Data buffer size (0 is default which = 8000)
.......|...|..Placeholder not used by TCP
.......|...Placeholder not used by TCP
.......This is the port driver name

The last parameter x ([,,x] above) can be decoded as follows:
0 X 8000 Encryption is enabled

0 X 0020 Compression is requested
0 X 4000 driver is internal
0 X 2000 no-op
0 X 1000 always for V2 and V3
0 X 0002 set to log modem I/O
0 X 0004 set to enable RTS/CTS

8020 which would be Encryption plus Compression is in hexadecimal code 45088

Selection NOTES.INI parameter
Nothing TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,12288,
Compression only TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,12320,
Encryption only TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,45056,
Both TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,45088,

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hey Politicians, There is this thing called the Internet

Where we live there is a newspaper, in print, that is free and is very pro the current government.

I say good for them if they can keep it going on dwindling advertising revenue, or the owner is some wealthy patron who feels the need to lose some money, either way, what is the problem?

The problem is some government officials think this is propaganda with the aim of helping the existing government officials stay in office and should be treated accordingly. They are trying to pass a law that newspapers must charge money. Huh? And the cheapest one can be no less than 70% of the cost of the 2nd largest newspaper. Double huh? One article about it.

Not sure how they expect to also close the thousands of websites or blogs or whatever Twitter accounts that do the exact same thing.

There is nothing more important, education? nope. Military? Nope. Diseases? Nope. Drugs? Nope. A newspaper.

Evidently these government officials all went to the same school, the one from 30+ years ago and have not bothered to come out and see how the world has evolved.
“This creates a difficult precedent. A parliament can never close a media source in a democracy –  only the market can close them. This (law) is playing with fire”
Very sad that in an age of transparency and openness, they lack the vision to see what is in front of them, namely an opportunity, on a grander scale, to work differently, act differently and provide new courses of action.

Social media here, oddly enough, has had little to discuss about this and it makes me wonder if at some point when the government or your boss, has had enough of your blog posts, they will come for you too.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Curious Reading from 2007 About Collaborative Networks and Conflict

“A Manager’s Guide to Resolving Conflicts in Collaborative Networks” (Washington, D.C.: IBM Center for The Business of Government, 2007)

While researching my upcoming session at Social Connections VII in Stockholm, Sweden in 2 weeks I came across this article from 2007, naturally backed by IBM, on collaboration, conflict and accountability.

The authors:
Lisa Blomgren BinghamProfessor and Keller-Runden Chair in Public Service, Indiana University and Rosemary O'Leary, Edwin O. Stene Distinguished Professor of Public Administration, University of Kansas
wrote about governments and had much to say about networks, collaborative networks, in general.

The article that they reference from 2006 is titled, A Manager’s Guide to Choosing and Using 
Collaborative Networks from Brinton Milward and Keith Provan.

Their slide deck is well worth a read, especially page 4, titled: Contrasting Approaches to Conflict:
Position vs. Interest Based Negotiations, or as we may think of it, silos vs collaboration.

" They conclude that although network organizations generally commit to achieving network-level goals, conflict among network participants is inevitable."  - From a synopsis of the article found here.