Monday, December 29, 2014

Building Competitive Pitches #EvangelistGuide

In my previous post in the #EvangelistGuide series, I discussed writing competitive pitches, but covered quite a bit of ground as well.

As promised, we now move on to the way one builds a competitive pitch. This may take many forms, and formats, with the idea being the same throughout, namely helping the customer say what they need and why they need it.

If you start a conversation with an attack, you put people on the defensive, which is not always in your favor. However, there are times when it not only makes sense, but would be the most direct way to accomplish your task.

Know your audience
If you are speaking to tech people or executives, you need to understand their pain, their business, and their thought process. Many of these people will have logic and minutiae to help them ward off any attack. Your ability to speak their language and work with their fears/loves is key.

Never lose sight of the business aspects, present information in ways that you can say "we provide the option for you to pick which way to implement this solution in house or in the Cloud" instead of "we made this work only in the Cloud" if you are facing companies that cannot go to the Cloud today.

Explain your words 
Do your best not to talk down to the audience, but also not talk above them either. It is not an easy line to walk. Please keep in mind, words and terms which the US may use, or think are normal, may not work outside of the US.

Speak so any person in the room, or their company, can understand your intentions and your solution.

Do not use acronyms, unless the audience has already.

Invest your time
Be there at the moment, no distractions, no phone, no Twitter, just you and them. You may use the same ploys every time, but you need to have many ploys in your bag of improvisational responses. Practice other angles, read more, watch more, write more. You also need to relax and take the time to debrief yourself after you are finished each time.

Test new ideas
If you are on a path of evangelism you should have already read or watched or listened to as much as you can on the subjects of sales, overcoming objections, persuasive techniques, hypnotism, poker, body language, non-fiction business biographies, The Godfather, the Bible, The Art of War and The Prince.

If you are still interested in going into the discussions that make sales people cower, now the hard work begins. Just like you need to push people beyond the law of 3 (3 no's, 3 excuses, 3 yes's) you need to be ready with so many more methods for your attack in case you are thwarted early on. It will happen to you, especially in the earlier days, but even later on, you need more ploys.

You can try to reason with the person on the other side, just remember if you are one on one, they will LIE to your face. Never have these discussions one on one, you want their people in there to listen to you and hear their own management make a case for themselves. You can be on your own, in fact, I advocate it should always be one on many. I like them to feel they can gang up on me, I like those odds.

When reason fails, resort to other tactics that match up with your opponent. They may say they want openness, yet are a closed company. They may be happy with their incumbent, but is that because they fear the new, the unknown or just are afraid to MAKE MORE MONEY. Never be afraid to point out the obvious. Push them to think, push them to visualize the problem through a story of your own. If you cannot reference other companies, or provide a good enough story, you need to practice this further and do more research.

Sometimes the simplest method is the easiest. I like to listen to people tell me why they don't like our solution or a specific vendor while I take notes and wait and listen. You then have them telling you what is wrong, what is important to them, and what the largest issue they face is on this topic. If there is a team of people at the meeting, they may all have input, but the executive is the only one we really care about, so watch the executive as the underlings toss out red herrings.

Help them make a decision
The hardest part is having the customer say what you want to hear, without you saying it first. Just like in salary negotiations, the one that mentions a figure first loses, if you or I suggest an outcome, prior to the customer stating it, we will lose all of the time and effort we put into the pitch.

Walk along with them as they explain themselves. Check in with them while they are speaking by verifying what they have stated in their terms. Lead them if you need to, but work on helping them solve their problem, not on you providing the solution. They will love you all the more, and never look back at the competition.

Coming up in this series, why executives lie, why one on many is important and the differences between Enterprise customers and Family owned business/startups.

If your sales or marketing teams are in need of training on this topic please contact me now as Q1 is getting busy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Few New 2015 IBM Champions I want To Thank

Oh the stories we could tell...

Many of us know each other, if not in person, then online and usually we found each other through blogs and sessions we gave at various events. Or at a User Group event or Lotusphere, IBM Connect, now IBM ConnectED. But sometimes we never meet which is a shame and some people, myself included, never know just how much we helped or are helped by others until they come up and tell us.

I was named a 2015 IBM Champion for ICS for the 3rd year in a row. I don't know what I did to deserve it, but I do know a few new people and why they deserve it from my view. I nominated some, and they were accepted, which is always nice to hear. First and only IBM Champion for ICS based in Israel, I now have some serious evangelizing to do to get ICS a bigger push here.

There are a few people I want to mention that I am really happy to see today including:

Daniel Nashed probably has done the most for me from his blogs and especially his AIX perspective over the years with his scripts. I can't thank him enough and very happy to hear he is an IBM Champion. Thank You!

Richard Moy who has tirelessly made MWLUG the great user event that is each year. Very happy to see him, and many other LUG founders/leaders named IBM Champions. My only regret is I did not make it this year, we were moving country at the time. If you are in the Midwest you should go to the next event held in Atlanta in August 2015, it is in a different city every year. Richard also works with me on some client applications and has never let me down.

Kim Greene whom I have worked with in the past, I greatly respect not just for her iSeries knowledge but her excellent sessions on troubleshooting and maintaining Domino servers. If you have an iSeries or Power and do not have her working on your servers, shame on you.

Mark Myers who puts all he has into his work and his presentations to provide some absolute genius development code. And reminds me why I should not code. Ever. A great man that probably has no idea how much we all love him and appreciate him. Let him know next time you see him.

Thank you to the review board and to our chief cat herders Oliver and Amanda who somehow keep sane while dealing with all of the things we manage to raise awareness about over the year.

Congratulations to all 96 of us who made it this year. You can read the full list and official announcement here. Oliver published this post about the process IBM made to find the new IBM Champions after my post went out.