Tom Levers

Build ROI to Create “Urgency”

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING, Sales by Tom Levers on May 28, 2010

ROI Creates Urgency

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, 1943

At some point IBM learned Computers delivered ROI. Even when you can show convincing functional data about the magnitude of a business problem, it is not enough. The good CEO, consultant, sales person,  product manager also lights a fire, figuratively,  to move on the issue…. of ROI urgency.

This is why a product is “Hot”.

If your sales efforts are in question, take a critical look at your value proposition, presentation proposal, the demonstration… where is the ROI? If it’s pro feature-centric, generic and functional only (with regard to value delivery), it rarely lights a fire.

Prospects today are sitting on their scarce cash reserves and won’t pry open their checkbooks unless they recognize the following:

  1. their customer has a real business problem;
  2. this problem is one of their  top 3 concerns;
  3. you absolutely understand this problem;
  4. you possess a solution that will solve the problem; and,
  5. you can deliver the promised ROI

According to Forrester Vice President Ray Wang, who specializes in software ROI, a new investment in software makes sense if it does one of the following:

  1. Provides efficiency gains that reduce overhead or allow you to do more without adding resources;
  2. Puts you in compliance with legal or contractual requirements, decreases security risk or makes your technology compatible with that of your clients or customers;
  3. Supports a new strategic initiative (such as a customer loyalty program);
  4. Provides increased capacity or functionality to allow your business to grow.

Ask yourself… does your business prospect indicate that they “like” or “need” your product or service?

Many of the projects that get green-lighted are those that solve break/fix matters. Discretionary (aka nice to have) projects are the opportunities that never move or don’t get back to you, they are the ones that get deferred or shot down altogether.

Sometimes all a good service or software firm has to do is better understand the prospect and review the materiality or “heat” of the project .

The more your proposed project is seen as a break/fix necessity, the more likely it will get approved.

To learn how to create more ROI around your service or software product, send me an email. tlevers@comcast.net

Low Friction Sales… the way Customers Buy

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING by Tom Levers on April 4, 2010

Sell the Way Customers Want to Buy

Smart companies are providing their prospects with much of the information they need to make a purchase decision when they need it… but true frictionless sales allows the customer to slide into using the product before they make a major investment. When we talk to businesses people they want to be communicated with, but on their own “just in time” terms. In general the business purchase process expects that a product need can be illustrated quickly, with no strings attached, and delivered through whatever best fits the least resistance for acquisition.

Low resistance can be free for now… but does not mean free forever!!!
The more you adapt and satisfy the way your customer wants to buy, the easier it is to close. The easier it is to close a sale, the easier to scale and the faster and more efficiently you can grow.

There are various grades and limitations of friction in different selling models… but there is always more than one methodology for success. So have you honestly evaluated if you are using the most efficient approach?

Don’t know? Well take a look internally. Are you insisting on touching the customer through the A to  Z steps. This often makes you over compensate with high upfront prices because you feel only a person can communicate value, like in the old non-internet methods of sales and marketing? Business selects products that are easy to learn about, easy to use, easy to evaluate… easy to sell. How does a heavy handed sales process make things easy?

The highest friction sale is very expensive upfront, and means you need to spend lots of money on marketing, trade shows, etc and large direct sales force of expensive reps pounding the pavement for months trying to close a large deal with an enterprise customer. Follow that with a 3 month implementation process to get the customer happy.

Here’s a better way to look down the frictionless funnel. Look at how others seemed to make sales frictionless.

No Barriers to Revenue
Remember… some of the largest telecommunications customers on earth, are prolific distributors of subsidized or free handsets, but they sell the services. And free or very inexpensive doesn’t mean no revenue, it means no barriers to revenue. Or how about Microsoft, selling Enterprise Licenses in the data center with an  “All You Can Eat” method of product availability. Need 500 new servers… no problem “we have an Enterprise Agreement ” , no barriers to revenue !

Limiting “Friction” can be applied throughout the selling process… just look at how your custmer buys, not how you learned to sell! This will reduce the pain for customers to adopt and use a product and consequently reduce the cost of sales and marketing to get a customer to generate revenue… then all is needed is to  leverage the product and your new found marketshare.

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Methods of Understanding in Sales

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, PUBLIC RELATIONS by Tom Levers on December 17, 2009

Selling is one of the classic and obvious domains where changing minds is a core skill.

The skills that are part of every rainmaker can be applied by the novice if they internalize methods of understanding…  where determining motivations and distinguishing the buying behaviours of individuals who hold the keys to selling services or product can facilitate building relationships and creating partnerships to become the vehicle for providing mutual value.

Techniques that are not genuine to your personality yet imply you must follow, like mirroring and matching techniques, body language, etc were considered progressive for connecting with prospects and customers twenty years ago. Now each person when using methods of understanding can be themselves, while improving the sales process with a new power to better understand the factors in your customers making a decision.

Methods of understanding…. is a collection  of tools for thinking.

In my previous article I covered that we all instinctively lean toward some approaches rather than others, but the key to applying the principles is to internalize the different constructs, so everyone can appreciate the influences on better communication. The first four types were:

  • Attribution – we need to attribute cause, that supports our ego.
  • Constructivism – we use constructs as perceptual categories.
  • Framing – mental combinations that affect perception.
  • Schema – structure to organize and interpret the world.

Now lets finish with the final four:

  • Personal Constructs – constructs represent understanding.
  • Symbolic Interaction  – we derive meaning around symbols.
  • Objectification –  we simplify complex things into concrete images.
  • Story Models – most marketers instinctively piece together complex situations into stories to build understanding.

 

Personal Constructs

People develop internal models of reality, called constructs in order to understand and explain the world around them in the same way that scientists develop theories. Like scientists, they develop these constructs based on observation and experimentation. Constructs thus start as unstable conjecture, changing and stabilizing as more experience and proof is gained.

Constructs are often defined by words, but can also be non-verbal and hard to explain, such as the feeling you get when your football team just won the championship.

When constructs are challenged or incomplete the result is emotional states such as anxiety, confusion, anger and fear.

Constructs are often polar in that they have opposites (and are hence dichotomous). Thus the construct of good implies another of bad. Polar constructs create one another: thus ‘good’ cannot exist without ‘bad’.

Although we share the idea of constructs through words (ie Good and Bad), the detail of constructs are particular to the individual and hence are called personal constructs.

Constructs that are important to the person are core constructs, while others are called peripheral constructs.

Constructs may be expanded to accommodate new ideas or constricted to become more. An example would be ownership of an idea. I look at how the executive talks about a business division that they originally came from and consider him more focused on improving that group. All of these are constructs that I have created or learned in order to explain the behaviour of those I have met.

Using it

Listen to people. Hear the constructs they use. They will be amazed at how much you understand them. You can also lead them in building new constructs.

Defending

When you are building new ideas, consider where these have come from. Was there a conversation with an influential other person involved?

 

Symbolic Interaction  

People act based on symbolic meanings they find within any given situation. Thus interact with the symbols, forming relationships around them. The goals of our interactions with one another are to create shared meaning.

Language, math, selling methodologies are itself a symbolic form, which is used to anchor meanings to the symbols.

Key aspects are:

  • We act toward others based on the meaning that those other people have for us.
  • Meaning is created in the interactions we have with other people in sharing our interpretations of symbols.
  • Meanings are modified through an interpretive process whereby we first internally create meaning, then check it externally and with other people.
  • We develop our self-concepts through interaction with others.
  • We are influenced by culture and social processes, such as social norms.
  • Our social structures are worked out through the social interactions with others.

Using it

Pay attention to the symbols within the persuasive context and utilize them. You can place the symbols there. How people interpret them includes how you interpret them. 

Defending

Pay attention to the symbols within the persuasive context and notice how they are affecting what happens.

 

Objectification

Complex ideas are, almost by definition, difficult to understand. To help us make sense of them, we turn them into concrete images. There are three processes by which objectification is done:

  • Ontologizing gives an idea physical properties, for example by using close metaphors like the ‘mind as a computer’.
  • Figuration turns the ideas into pictures or images, for example traffic ‘jams’.
  • Personification turns the idea into a person. For example, a genius as Einstein.

The term ‘objectification’ or depersonification is also used to describe the way we treat other people as objects, in particular the way men can treat women as sex ‘objects’. By reducing other people to things, it permits us to treat them with less care and human concern, bypassing our values around this subject.

This car is like a thoroughbred race-horse. Just imagine thundering up the roads, with trees and houses flying by. People will think you are Michael Schumacher.

In war, effort is often put into depersonifying the other side, thus legitimizing and even encouraging killing them.

Using it

Explain your ideas through analogous or metaphorical things, pictures or people.

Defending

Just because the other person can explain their ideas clearly, it does not mean they are good ideas.

Story Models

One way in which we explain the world around us is to create stories about it. In particular when we are face with complex situations, we will pick out what seems to be key elements and then turn these into a story.  

For example people were shown a movie of a trial. They found that in order to make sense of the wealth of detail, the participants constructed stories about what happened. 

In another experiment, they found that when evidence was given in an order which made the story easy to construct, the participants were more likely to construct the same story. When the evidence was in story order, 78% of participants found the defendant guilty. Yet when the evidence was out of order, only 31% voted for the guilty verdict.

A common technique for remembering a complex list of unrelated information is to weave them together into a story.

Using it

Help the other person understand your case by presenting it as a logical story, pausing to emphasize and repeat the key points you want them to remember and include in their remembered interpretation. 

Defending

Just because the other person presents a nice story, it does not mean it is true.

Conclusion

The trained sales person learns the process of selling from their training courses in Relationship or Consultive Selling, Strategic Selling, Customer Centered Selling, Spin Selling, Platform Selling, and Scientific Selling… but none will better educate you on understanding people, how they think, and their motivations.

These techniques, when internalized will allow you to objectively recognize a “No Decision” earlier in the selling process, as well as, allow you to better understand yourself and how you “make or react to decisions” in your every day business and personal life.

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Sales and Methods of Understanding

LightBulb“Methods of Understanding” will get what you need done in your business.

No matter if it is working to build a “Company Culture”, or becoming a sales “Rain Maker”, or “Marketing Positioner” of the next Widget… you will get further if you apply the toolkit of how individuals use “Methods to Understand”.

You may know Sales Methodologies, but the “Rain Maker” applies Systems of Understanding. Most natural “Rain Makers” unknowingly identify how others are using these various types of Understanding Methods, they just identify these throughout all aspects of their lives… without even knowing they are using them. By identifying what individuals use when they try to understand can enlighten the situation. 

WARNING! This is not for everyone. Some people are so locked into their individual method that if you are a “hammer” everything looks like a “nail”! The “Rain Maker”, the “Corporate Motivator”, and the  “Customer Requirement Aggregator” ” all must identify which “Methods of Understanding” is being used and how to adapt to it. 

We all instinctively lean toward some of these approaches rather than others, but the key to applying these principles  is to internalize the different constructs so we can better communicate. The different types are:

  • Attribution – we need to attribute cause, that supports our ego.
  • Constructivism – we use constructs as perceptual categories.
  • Framing – mental combinations that affect perception.
  • Schema – structure to organize and interpret the world.
  • Personal Constructs – constructs represent understanding.
  • Symbolic Interaction  – we derive meaning around symbols.
  • Objectification –  we simplify complex things into concrete images.
  • Story Models – We piece together complex situations into stories to build understanding.

Lets first cover the first four in this article and try to identify after reading how you and others are using them in your professional and personal life.

 

Attribution

We all have a need to explain the world, both to ourselves and to other people, attributing cause to the events around us. This gives us a greater sense of control. When explaining behaviour, it can affect the standing of people within a group (especially ourselves).

FaceWhen another person has erred, we will often use internal attribution, saying it is due to internal factors. When we have erred, we will more likely use external attribution, attributing causes to situational factors rather than blaming ourselves. We will take credit, due to the good business skills that were applied. And vice versa. We will attribute the successes of competitive rivals to external ‘advantages’. 

When a football team wins, supporters say ‘we won’. But when the team loses, the supporters say ‘they lost’. Our attributions are also significantly driven by our emotional and motivational drives. Blaming other people and avoiding personal recrimination is a very real self-serving attributions. We will also make attributions to defend what we perceive as attacks. We will point to injustice in an unfair world. 

In practice, we often tend to go through a two-step process, where we start with an automatic internal attribution, followed by a slower consideration of whether an external attribution is more appropriate. Key to this is, if we are hurrying or are distracted, we may not get to this second step. This makes internal attribution more likely than external attribution.
Example of Use: I have no support and no budget there for I cannot do a good job.

Using it: Beware of being a complainer (i.e. making internal attributions about the situation). Also beware of making excuses (external attributions) that lead you to repeat mistakes and leads to Cognitive Dissonance in others when they are making internal attributions about you.

Defending: Watch out for people making untrue attributions.

Constructivism

We try to make sense of the world by making use of constructs, which are perceptual categories that we use when evaluating things.

People who have many different and abstract constructs have greater flexibility in understanding the world and are cognitively complex, whilst others are cognitively simple. Cognitively complex people are better able to accept both complex and inconsistent messages. They also have a greater need to understand things and will question deeply anything that is new to them. However, once persuaded, they stay persuaded and are less likely to change their minds as their new constructs will support the argument.

Example: Some people have a construct about being fat that says fat people are lazy and greedy. Others may perceive it as a medical condition. 

Using it: Help cognitively complex people to build new constructs that support your argument. Do not bother with this detail for the cognitively simple.

Defending: Do not let others take charge when building new constructs.

Framing

A frame is the combination of beliefs, values, attitudes, mental models, and so on which we use to perceive a situation. We effectively look through this frame in the way we would look through tinted spectacles. The frame significantly effects how we infer meaning and hence understand the situation.

Example: I see a holiday in the hills as an opportunity for outdoor exercise. My friend sees is as a chance for a quiet read. My son sees it as a long period of boredom.

Using it: Change elements of a person’s frame (reframing) and hence how they view the world). This is a powerful persuasive technique. 

Being able to see things through many frames yourself gives you a broader perspective and able to understand more of how others think.

Defending: When people ask you to look at something from another viewpoint, be aware that there are many viewpoints, many of which are valid and legitimate. 

ShoesSchema

A schema is a mental structure

Schemas are also self-sustaining, and will persist even in the face of disconfirming evidence. This is because if something does not match the schema, such as evidence against it, it is ignored. Some schema are easier to change than others, and some people are more open about changing any of their schemas than other people. Schemas are also known as mental models, concepts, mental representations and knowledge structures(although definitions are different–for example some define mental models as modeling cause-effect only).

Schemas affect what we notice, how we interpret things and how we make decisions and act. They act like filters, accentuating and downplaying various elements. We use them to classify things, such as when we ‘pigeon-hole’ people. They also help us forecast, predicting what will happen. We even remember and recall things via schemas, using them to ‘encode’ memories.

Schemas have inferences and appear very often in the attribution of cause. The multiple necessary cause schema is one where we require at least two causes before a ‘fit’ to the schema is declared. Schemas are often shared within cultures, allowing short-cut communications. Every word is, in effect, a schema, as when you read it you receive a package of additional inferred information.

We tend to have favourite schema which we use often. When interpreting the world, we will try to use these first, going on to others if they do not sufficiently fit. 

Example: Some people dislike police because they have a schema of police as people who perceive everyone as guilty until proven innocent. Other people feel safe around police as their schemas are more about police as brave protectors. 

Using it: Find people’s schemas around the area of interest, then either create trust by utilizing their schema or reframe to change their schema.

Defending: Become more self-aware, knowing your own schemas and why there are useful for you. When people try to change them, you can then more rationally understand whether your or their schemas are better.

This is a lot to absorbs,  so look for these in your every day business or personal life and check back for the second part of this Article after I try this myself!

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Evaluating Partner Alliance Opportunity

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING by Tom Levers on March 19, 2009
Partner Marketing

Partner Marketing

Recently a major management consulting firm delivered the final engagement  “Evaluating Partner Relationships”,these are some of the general conclusions.

Partners deliver new sources of revenue, and are the genesis of efficiency, speed and market share. Often large organizations have too many and the small have none.

The complexity of variables to facilitate relationships is daunting, but partnerships can validate a new  product or service. It is the “Divergent ” components of partners that influence the  “business natural selection” process.

There are  Six Indicators or factors that significantly impact the  success and failure of a Partnership outcome. These are:

New Partner Attractors – Sometimes partners get together because of hot topics (ie environmentalism), some because of market buzz (company success), others have “hot” technology (technical advantages), more have functional ability, and for some it is the quality of people.  The true attractor is if the Partnership delivers a  “new value” to the customer.

Technical Domain Competency – The more similar the area of domain the less divergent, the less dependent and the more an organization can rely on in-house expertise rather than the partner.  Because an organization has a strong internal technical resource the emphasis shouldn’t necessarily measure technical competency, but more important it is the experience of doing (i.e. the number of successful implementations completed or product sold), and how complex or amount of time the domain discipline requires, is really how domain competency is measured.

Professionalism – The more strategic a solution or the larger the account, the more likely the final customer will expect a high level of “Competency” and “Professionalism”. It is the combination of “Competency” and “Professionalism” or “Service Quality” that creates the reliability of the  product and ultimate service solution.

Other key values are localization, demand generation, and sales capabilities that allow their team to drive new “up-sell” and “cross-sell” opportunities. These new capabilities provide a reasons to engage with existing clients, and a new way to introduce yourself (a foot in the door) with a new client. This can be supported by:

Localization – Thinking locally, looking local, behaving like a local, while acting globally is the key. It provides client connectedness, capability relevance, and local resilience.

Demand Generation – Hot markets can create leads from the brand and be easily integrated into the existing corporate marketing, such as Webinares, Events, Case Studies, Thought Leadership, SEM (see SEM Channel Partner Methods ) and more. If a Partner Demand Generation capability is a Pull-through only relationship often a “Technology Alliance” (i.e.”Intel Inside”) exists.  So often when competitive products or services enter the market the functional differences may not retain as much value (ie. AMD shows up and the only customer difference is “No Sticker” on the PC). The Partner successes use this to strengthen divergence by delivering partner marketing programs and tactics that both Push and Pull interest.

The Sales Cycle – Partners will likely add “speed to market” and “new market opportunity ” when selling  a complete partner solution. Some brands have a huge opportunity leveraging existing sales organizations that utilize their partner sales stakeholders. By having a partner sales force that supports the different vertical disciplines and complete product solution throughout the end-user customer buying process, rapid growth can flourish. Establishing the combined partner sales process for different products and services across different kinds of markets improves touch points, cycle speed and probability.

Divergence defines a stronger Partner

This is why ideally the best outcome for a Partner Program is “all of the listed factors of divergence”. Understanding these principals ievaluating-alliance-partner-relationships2s key to creating a strong Partner / Brand. By putting together a business relationship that generates long-term Partner Alliances, the use of divergence outreach can differentiate when direct competition creates market confusion. When multiple vendors and sub brands start to appear, creating similar functional value. Building the right Partner organization can deliver the additional momentum and breadth to support confidence and expertise that sustains market leadership.

A non-proprietary summary of the final delivery of a “Partner Marketing ” Engagement, from a major Global Management Consulting Firm for their client.
*Over 50 partner interviews were conducted for this engagement. Applying Organizational Science principals of Divergence has been used to predict outcome by defining the qualitative metric  of “New” ability over the alliance “Interdependence” (N/I)  delivered. The quantitative component is composed of organizational “Quality” as a multiplier of the “Functional” execution that uses a fraction of “Market” size and forecast market potential (Q x F)/M. This is then built into an Input /Output engine to quantify the “Opportunity” potential of a Partner relationship.->

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