Mastering technical sales: the sales engineer's handbook. by John Care, ( Managing director of Mastering Technical Sales LLC); Aron Bohlig. eBook: Document. Mastering Technical Sales book. Read 3 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. Every high-tech sales team today has technical pros on boa. Mastering Technical Sales the Sales Engineer s Handbook(1) - Free download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read online for free. Mastering technical.
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Mastering Technical Sales The Sales Engineer's Handbook Second Edition For a listing of recent titles in the Artech H Read the Manual—Really! Completing the RFP. Presentation and Follow-Up. Summary. Appendix 4A. 42 vi. Mastering Technical Sales: The Sales Engineer's Handbook . Editorial Reviews. About the Author. John Care is managing director at Mastering Technical eBook features: Highlight, take notes, and search in the book.
Search Application of business mathematics in business In particular, the topics Mathematics is used in most aspects of daily life. Prerequisite: minimum grade of 2. Glencoe Math with Business Applications is a comprehensive text that covers all the skills students need to manage their personal finances and excel at their first jobs and in everyday life. Business mathematics, sometimes called commercial math or consumer math, is a group of practical subjects used in commerce and everyday life.
In cases where you are a key vendor for your customer, you may be able to avoid the initiation of an RFP process. If this is the case, try to find out what criteria are used to establish when an RFP is required.
Most large An Overview of the Sales Process 11 companies have very strict guidelines regarding when competitive bids need to be issued and when established vendors can be used. If your company is a major player in your market, you will also frequently receive unsolicited RFPs. This usually means that either a competitor or a systems integrator has already sold the concept of the product to the prospect, and the prospect is trying to ensure that they have a look at the best products on the market.
If your company is on this list, you will be permitted to ask questions of the prospect. This phase is usually called discovery or needs analysis. This is a critical phase because it is during your discovery that you will learn enough about your customer to put together a personalized solution. This is also your first real opportunity to interact with the customer.
Your ability to identify pain points and respond with a compelling value proposition is a true measure of your skill as an SE. Presentation, Demonstration, and Proposal This part of the process consists of three phases: Presentation Once you have completed your discovery session, you will be expected to present your findings. You should also certainly take the initiative and be sure that you present any additional selling points you identified during discovery.
In the presentation chapter Chapter 7 , we provide insight into ways you can improve your presentation delivery. The truth is that giving a demonstration is easy. Giving a good demonstration that meaningfully communicates the value of your solution is very, very difficult. Many SEs never rise above merely listing off the features of their products. If you are not beyond this phase yet, this book will help you learn how to put together a presentation that uses product demonstrations as the proof points for your key messages.
Proposal Some customers may make yet another cut, further reducing the number of vendors allowed to make a proposal. The proposal is meant to reflect the solution that you are recommending based on your interaction with the customer. The proposal will also usually include pricing and different legal terminology describing the way your company does business.
Many sales teams spend relatively little effort on the proposal, knowing that the evaluation is complete by this point. You will still usually be required to put together a document describing the products you are recommending as well as any details describing other dependencies on the customer, such as other products they may need to have in place.
Many companies have advanced, self-administering pilot kits. Most complex hardware and software products will require some level of human support to make sure that the customer is able to make the best use of your software. These projects can typically be one of the most challenging areas in technical sales. Close or Lose—Getting the Deal At this point, your job is done, and it is up to the salesperson to earn her money.
You may be brought in for last minute clarification of technical An Overview of the Sales Process 13 points, but most of the focus is on the financial and legal terms of the contract. So, cross your fingers and try to relax. Postsales Support and Ongoing Account Management After downloading your solution, a company will have to implement and then maintain it on an ongoing basis. Your sales team should continue to be involved with the customer. You will personally benefit from developing the relationship and the opportunity to use the customer as a reference.
Over time, you will also have the opportunity to sell add-on products to the customer. By continuing to support the customer, you will improve the probability that these sales will continue.
Usually, these types of sales require less effort on your part, which makes them very attractive. Summary This chapter provides an overview of a typical sales cycle.
If you look at Table 2. You should review this table and try to identify any other patterns of activity related to your business.
Understand how partners expect you to support them so you can do so effectively. Perhaps enjoy a junket. Get ready to answer hundreds of questions. This is a very time-intensive step. Close or Lose Relax once again. Focus on maintaining your relationship. An Overview of the Sales Process 15 Skill Building New SE Focus on understanding how the sales process works in your company so you can better balance your time across different sales efforts.
As you will discover, certain steps in every sales process tend to be very effort intensive. By recognizing when these steps are likely to occur, you can better balance your schedule and stagger meetings or deliverables. You can try to deepen your understanding in order to better understand future job opportunities if you are interested in marketing or one of the other supporting functions.
Frankly, you are better off avoiding becoming entangled in the first phases of the sales process as they will largely reduce your selling time without resulting in tangible sales results.
SE Manager Understand the sales cycle to help effectively allocate work across your team see new SE above. This will enable you to give constructive feedback to the different groups and to escalate critical issues to management.
Understand the different roles and motivations in the lead qualification process. Recognize qualification alternatives based on various methods of acquiring leads.
These are the new leads. These are the Glengarry leads. David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross A solid lead is worth more than gold, and too many bad leads can cost you your job. Lead qualification is the process by which the sales team will try to make the initial evaluation to determine whether or not you are likely to close a sale.
An irony of the sales process is that the least experienced member of the sales team, the telemarketer, usually handles lead qualification. Many SEs adopt this attitude. Unless you already have the support of experienced sales staff, this inattentiveness will result in wasted time and a poor win rate, as attested to by the case study below.
It was an extremely competitive situation in which we expended a lot of time meeting with the customer, understanding their needs, and putting together multiple proposals to meet those needs. We also spent a lot of time prototyping potential solutions at our own expense.
The customer had some high-priced consultants working on the deal, so we assumed that they were serious. After this extremely painful sales process, the customer decided that no solution on the market met enough of their needs and subsequently decided to suspend their process for 12 months.
The worst thing was that we knew how poor of a fit and how expensive our solution would be for the customer, but we kept after the deal anyway. The example shows a situation where consultants set the expectation independently of any particular offering. The reality is that, while telemarketing is responsible for this function, leads will come from multiple sources.
In some cases, you will have well-qualified leads and will be able to quickly proceed to the next stage. In other cases, the lead will be poorly qualified, and you and your sales team will end up doing much of this preliminary work. In this chapter, we focus on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the lead qualification process.
We provide guidance on how to customize the process and improve your efficiency by better integrating qualification activities across the sales team. Note that we have split this chapter into two sections. The remainder of the chapter is useful for managers or for senior individual contributors who are helping to improve lead qualification processes.
In the second part of the chapter, we describe the three most likely circumstances under which a lead will enter your pipeline. If you are working at a trade show, have sold a similar product previously, or have a friend with connections, then you already have leads.
In a major-account environment, where you may only be dealing with three or four customers, lead generation is actually, officially or not, part of your job function.
In general, the best thing to do in these situations is to qualify and work the leads in conjunction with your sales rep, but without involving your telemarketer, because if the telemarketer is supporting you, he or she will have to enter the lead into the list of corporate prospects, and it might be assigned to a different sales team.
In practice, this is unlikely but not uncommon. Most sales reps will be sufficiently savvy to know how to successfully manage this type of situation.
If you have identified a lead, you should first inquire about whether any bonuses are associated with lead generation. Many organizations provide incentives for employees to send valid leads to the telemarketing organization.
Frequently, you must complete a minimal amount of paperwork. Be sure to complete the formalities as soon as possible so no one else can come forward with the lead before you claim credit for it. Lead Ratings To begin with, it is important to understand that not all leads are created equal. All leads can be categorized based on their characteristics. These categories are an attempt to qualify the value of the lead to your company.
Value usually refers to the probability of download and to the total value of the download. The lead rating is a very artificial concept, but it is useful for you to understand it so you can participate in sales strategy discussions with your sales representative. The lead rating may be used by your marketing organization to distribute the leads or merely used for tracking purposes.
For example, a marketing organization might try to make sure that all sales teams have a similar chance of success by giving each team an equal number of high-quality leads.
Obviously, if a single team got all of the best leads, it would be far more likely to hit its quota. In recent years, variations of these questions have commonly begun to show up on Web sites, e-mail, or mail-in reply cards for products and services.
These are examples of marketing organizations trying to turn you into a lead for their product. Your company is probably going through a very similar process. Try to think of some other good criteria for your company and for your sales team. Table 3. We now look at the budget, time frame, and fit in greater detail. Can you tell me what the total budget is for the project?
This helps us determine which level of solution may be appropriate for you. Time frame When do you expect the download to be completed?
Need Do you have a corporate standard in the following areas? Database platform Server operating system Client operating system Are there any consulting firms assisting you with your evaluation or with other related projects? Do you have anyone in your company who has worked with our products previously? What other products are you considering? Are there any existing solutions we will have to factor into our solution? Do you plan to implement this yourself or will you be using external resources?
Lead Qualification 21 Hint: Often, the prospect will be reticent about providing some of the information discussed next. A stubborn prospect may need to be reminded that their own sales organization goes through exactly the same process to qualify a lead and that by providing whatever information is available, they will enable you to provide the best service for their unique requirements.
Budget One of the most important questions related to sales opportunities is, do they have a budget? The situation of a prospect without a budget will usually indicate that it is unlikely that the prospect has the ability to make a download, even if they decide that your solution fully meets their needs.
As such, this is a critical piece of data to have. If your prospect does not have a budget, then you need to know when they expect to have one. Frequently, you will run into IT groups who want to investigate new products but whose investigations will not turn directly into a project.
Some prospects feel that if they tell you what their budget is, your price will be equivalent to the number they give you. A question like the following one is a good way to approach the issue: In practice, you may be able to get access to budget information when the rep cannot. Posed by the technical consultant, the budget question is valid.
You will need to know that information to help structure the proposal. Knowing what the budget is will also help determine if the customer is truly in the market for a solution like yours. If their number is too low, they are probably looking for a solution with fewer features. If their budget is higher than normal, the prospect may be looking at higher-end solutions or expecting to have significant systems-integration costs.
In either case, the information will directly impact whether you stay in the deal as well as your sales strategy. If your customer is planning on making a download within 3 months, they will likely expect very quick turnaround on their requests.
You should be very willing to support them in the project because you are very close to a potential commission. Usually, the farther out the download time frame is, the lower the rating of the lead. Obviously, from the perspective of the sales organization, you want a download to take place as quickly as possible.
Asking about the time frame for the project is usually a very simple task: Accounting departments will frequently drive their companies to delay significant downloads until they are really needed. Knowing about any compelling events will help your sales team as they conduct their strategy sessions. The criteria discussed so far establish the possibility that a download decision will take place in a reasonable time frame. Now you must consider whether or not your solution represents the best possible option for the customer.
We can give you no simple questions to get to the heart of this issue, but your company should provide training in this area. A good strategy is to ask the customer what the business justification for the project is.
If the customer generally prefers the alternative option, you will know you have a lot of work ahead of you to change this preconception. Lead Qualification 23 Acute Organizational Pain Can Trump Budget, Time Frame, and Fit The existence of a formal project designed to select and implement a product is usually a feature of relatively mature markets.
At times, you may find yourself selling a product that is at an early stage, where there are few guidelines for downloadrs to make decisions. In other cases, the organization may develop a sudden, and unbudgeted, need for your product.
You should remain open to finding these opportunities, but they can be harder to qualify—meaning you will have to spend more time working with your prospect to determine if there is a true need for your solution, as well as the ability to pay for it. Case Study: Performance ground to a halt, and customers began defecting to competitors due to system errors and other quality-of-service issues. The client would have written a check for several million dollars on the spot to resolve the issue and prevent the loss of revenue and client accounts.
Unfortunately, it took several months of expensive diagnostic consulting and lost revenue before the problem could be fully addressed. You will also become aware of technical factors that serve as indicators of your competitiveness in a sales situation. Most of these factors relate to existing relationships your prospect has with other vendors or service providers.
For example, if your product competes with a product from IBM and the customer already has a computer from IBM or perhaps has professional-services staff from IBM on site, then they may be heavily disposed to work with IBM. The question then is, does this existing technical predisposition affect the quality of the lead?
In many cases, it will. If the factor is a positive, build it into your value proposition. If your product does not 24 Mastering Technical Sales: Making the Decision to Say No Your sales representative often will not have the in-depth product background to know when your competitors have outmatched you. This may make it difficult for the sales representative to perform the evaluation necessary to truly qualify the lead.
In cases such as these, it is best to write a one- or two-page document describing your major relative competitive strengths and weaknesses and what it would take to prove to the customer that you would be the superior solution.
Then, review this analysis with the sales representative. The decision to disqualify a lead will have to be a mutual one.
By preparing a succinct but careful analysis, you will make it easier for the rep to understand your logic. As an SE, you need to discuss this situation carefully with your manager after an initial conversation with the sales rep. Very few reps like to walk away completely from a potential deal and will usually attempt to sell you after all, that is their job on why the sales team should proceed with the opportunity.
If you support multiple sales representatives, then it becomes an issue of prioritization that you can manage upward by delegating the eventual decision to your superior. Defending Your Position When the Sales Rep Disagrees If you feel strongly that a lead is not worth pursuing, you should absolutely say so. If necessary, discuss the issue with your manager. However, be prepared. Remember to try to be flexible. Many technical consultants have a tendency to feel slighted when the sales representative makes a decision with which the consultant does not agree.
The most difficult decisions arise in cases when a large proportion of the work that needs to be completed after a lead is deemed qualified falls on the SE. Examples would be the areas of requests for proposal RFPs , requests for information RFIs , or deep onsite discovery sessions. Low-Cost Fallback Strategies By now, you have probably reached the unpleasant conclusion that although you have opportunities to benefit from improvements to the lead qualification process, you will still generally be subject to the whim of your sales representative.
This is true, but it is the nature of the relationship. It is Lead Qualification 25 worth taking the time to identify fallback strategies for those times when your sales team receives more qualified leads than you can realistically pursue. A mature sales team will occasionally pass up good leads if their schedule will not allow them to spend sufficient time with the customer.
By taking on more than you can handle, you will only dilute your efforts across all of your deals. ST O P This concludes the basic material on lead qualification. The balance of the chapter will be valuable if you are a manager or if you are responsible for implementing or improving the lead qualification process in your division.
If neither of these criteria describes your role, we recommend skipping to the chapter summary at this point. Internal Roles in the Lead Qualification Process Take a moment to think about your sales team and how you work together. Are there overlaps in the information you are capturing?
Are there certain activities that one member in the group has the skill to perform more effectively? These questions are relevant at any point in the sales process, but especially in lead qualification. The decision to go forward with a lead represents a commitment of time and resources across the sales team. We now consider each of the internal roles and how they participate in the lead qualification process. Sales Representative The sales rep is responsible for the final decision on whether or not to pursue a lead.
The salesperson will be responsible for defending this decision to management. She will often decide to pursue poorly qualified leads if a sufficient number of well-qualified leads are not available. Some sales reps will focus on one or two extremely large deals at a time.
This philosophy has a direct impact on your pay and the hours you must work to receive it. The Rule of Perform this simple piece of mathematics. Take your personal quota or the combined quota of the reps you support and divide by That is the amount of expected revenue per day your activities need to justify. Unfortunately, telemarketers are frequently compensated based on the number of leads they turn over rather than strictly on the closure rate of the leads they hand off to your sales team.
This can result in a decrease in lead quality as the telemarketer tries to achieve his quota by passing on leads that are either not qualified or have been qualified when they should have instead been rejected. If the telemarketer works with a group of sales representatives rather than a single sales rep, internal political issues may be associated with which sales rep gets a certain lead.
If the telemarketer has any discretion regarding where a lead gets routed, he may make an effort to send good leads to his friends in the field. Most lead distribution systems are built to prevent this possibility, but being sales, such things do happen.
It is certainly in your best interest to know if this is a possibility. If it is, make sure you cultivate a strong relationship with the telemarketer. Sales Management Sales management rarely gets involved in the lead qualification process. They may be responsible for distributing leads or for making sure that each sales rep gets his or her fair share of incoming leads of a relatively equal quality.
Management will only get involved if a political squabble arises related to equitable lead distribution or if you have chosen to reject a lead.
Frequently, if you decline to participate in a project, the customer will try to contact your sales manager to find out why. This highlights the need for your sales team to have very well-defined reasons for not pursuing leads. Sales management usually sees their involvement in lead qualification activity as necessary but as a low value-add activity. SE Traditionally, the SE has a minimal role. It is important that you expand your role to make sure your needs are accounted for in the lead Lead Qualification 27 qualification process.
The telemarketer will have access to many of the people who will have the information you need for subsequent phases of your sales process. By simply developing a good relationship with your telemarketers, you can usually get them to do some of this additional work while they are performing the basic lead qualification task.
Care and Feeding of the Telemarketing Team Before you drift off daydreaming about offloading too much of your discovery session onto the telemarketers, remember that they probably will not understand a detailed answer on many technical topics. Try to keep the qualification questions to two basic types: Work with your sales rep and the telemarketer to identify trends in your sales successes.
Good sales teams will often find that they have a very high close rate for certain types of deals or certain types of prospects. Often you will develop a personal strategy that is entirely independent of that espoused by your sales and marketing organization.
Lead Qualification in Action: The Process with Three Common Scenarios Now that you have an understanding of the goals and players, we will discuss three very common scenarios requiring lead qualification. Each scenario is fundamentally similar but has unique characteristics that will require you to vary your approach.
Often, your marketing department will offer incentives to entice potential leads to give you their information. Unfortunately, this action results in a high percentage of respondents who just want a free T-shirt or coffee mug.
Luckily, there are still several people between you and the prospect at this point. The first of these people is your telemarketer. The telemarketer is responsible for taking the contact information provided and following up with the individual to determine his or her needs.
The telemarketer will 28 Mastering Technical Sales: This new lead is then assigned either to a territory or directly to your sales rep. If the lead is assigned to a territory, the manager of that territory will then assign the lead to a sales team. The telemarketer must then try to identify the appropriate personnel at the company who may be interested in your products and who control the downloading decision. The next step is to try to convince those potential downloaders that they have a need that your product meets.
This initial sales pitch is usually a long and time-consuming process. The sales representative will probably send letters, e-mail out product information, and try to present to the potential customer—all in the hopes of arousing an interest in your product line. At this point, your sales team will have no idea whether or not the customer will be able to get a budget to pay for your product. It is important to realize the amount of work that goes into these types of leads.
This is based both on the amount of time your organization has already invested in the prospect, as well as the emotional involvement the telemarketer or salesperson is likely to have with the potential customer. Additionally, your sales organization has already imposed on the customer to a certain degree, and it is a matter of professional courtesy to deliver on the expectation set by the sales representative or telemarketer. Current Projects or Recommended Leads The best-qualified lead is usually one where the customer has already established a project to pursue a product like yours.
These leads are frequently the result of a recommendation on the part of an industry analyst who covers your solution. A project indicates recognition of the need as well as a Lead Qualification 29 certain commitment in human resources the project team.
If the project also includes external consultants brought on to help with the evaluation, this is an additional indication that the prospect is serious. This sign does not mean that you should not apply a rigorous lead qualification process. These projects often manifest themselves as RFPs, which are sent to someone in your organization.
The RFP process is covered in detail in Chapter 4, but for qualification purposes, it is usually up to your sales team to determine if you think you can put forth a competitive bid for an RFP. Summary Lead qualification is an advanced topic for the SE because it is largely the responsibility of the sales rep and telemarketing team.
By understanding the process you can accomplish the following: By developing a joint strategy for qualifying leads, your sales team can improve its ability to focus on good leads.
Qualification should be a constant activity throughout the sales process; smart salespeople are continually looking for indications that their time is better spent elsewhere. Following these disciplines will improve your probability of closing sales and will help eliminate low-probability deals from your pipeline. These should directly reflect the value proposition and solution strategy you are using in your demonstrations and presentations. Understand the three different scenarios by which you may receive a lead.
Consider how different sources of leads may impact your sales strategy. Experienced SE Further develop your relationship with the telemarketing team. Focus on understanding the process from their perspective and building a joint set of qualification criteria.
Remember that the time you spend developing these relationships will pay off when the telemarketers gather technical information, allowing you to be better prepared for your initial meetings.
Review the qualification criteria to make sure they accurately reflect the market on which your team is focused. If the criteria are off base, work with your senior team members and the telemarketing group to improve the questions. Help your SEs manage their relationships with their sales reps. If you see patterns of friction emerging, work to resolve the issue or reassign the SE.
Learn how to create a quantitative RFP scoring system. Be able to present and follow up as needed on an RFP. Reasonable men adapt themselves to their environment; unreasonable men try to adapt their environment to themselves.
Thus all progress is the result of the efforts of unreasonable men. It is both an opportunity to win business and an opportunity to waste resources. Ideally, these requirements will be wrapped within a business case, some economic data, and an extensive business and technical background, plus all the necessary legalities and downloading requirements.
As a general rule, the more business data contained within an RFP, the more thought has gone into its construction. An RFP, whether written internally or externally by a consultant, is always influenced by outside factors. Some initial contact and selling from at least one vendor or systems integrator will have impacted the requirements. This affords that vendor the luxury of setting the stage and laying out some additional requirements about which the RFP originator may never have thought.
You may even offer to supply these questions well before RFP issuance to save the customer time and effort. Remember that creating an RFP is a long and arduous task. The customer RFP team often welcomes any strategies for shortening the process, such as providing boilerplate questions. Because external consulting organizations are generating an increasing number of RFPs, we cannot stress enough the importance of an effective partner-education program.
The downside of an externally created RFP is that the same organization is often contracted to evaluate the responses. Factors to consider include these: A professional RFP response consumes many resources, so either commit wholeheartedly to respond or decline. Simply bolting together some boilerplate shows a lack of respect on the part of the sales team for the prospect. Although neither of us particularly cares for the RFP process, we can both state honestly that when we compete, it is professional, and it is to win.
Too many sales organizations fail to correlate RFP completion with winning deals. Drawing to an inside straight playing poker yields better odds! Naturally, exceptions arise; when dealing, for instance, with regulated industries, state and local governments, and so forth, completion of an RFP is an absolute requirement for contract award.
However, it is safe to say that responding to RFPs is unlikely to help your sales team overachieve on their quotas. Salespeople will be far more enthusiastic about committing to a response than the SE—and usually in inverse proportion to the volume of work required of them.
Aside from basic qualification techniques, making the sales representative the project manager for the RFP is your qualifier. A compete decision is often made based on available resources. If a rep has an empty pipeline or a new SE has just been hired, it is viewed as a training exercise.
Although this is admirable on-the-job training, it leads to substandard work unless supervised by experienced managers and, therefore, consumes valuable resources. Deciding to complete an RFP is a task that should be managed upward: Being asked to respond to an unqualified RFP detracts from more valuable opportunities and, when carried to extremes under tight timelines, is demoralizing and also highly detrimental to your bank balance.
Using the same objective measurement system for each RFP affords numerous benefits to the presales organization. First, it takes some of the emotion out of deciding how to respond to an RFP; second, it allows for ongoing measurement of RFP success against a score; finally, it provides a method to prioritize between conflicting RFPs in the event of resource limitations.
The scorecard should be a simple, one-page, fill-in-the-blanks sheet that both the account executive and the sales consultant can complete easily once they have actually read the RFP. Assign points, both positive and negative, based on a variety of business, technical, and opportunity-specific factors.
For example, an RFP from an existing customer may score five points, as opposed to that from a new customer, which may score zero. Should the existing customer be a positive reference for you, add another two points. Create a set of weightings based on key technical issues that are either wins or show stoppers for your solution. Also allow for the fact that some competitors are easier to beat than others.
After you have devised the scoring system, retrofit it against some historical RFP wins and losses over the past 6 to 12 months to judge its validity.
Remember that this is not an absolute measure of the probability of success, but it is another data point upon which to make a decision. Once the scoring system is correctly calibrated, on a scale of 0 to , you will find very few wins with a score under 40 and very few losses with a score over The decision points are how to handle those RFPs that fall into the grey area.
Handling Deadlines It is a sad fact of vendor life that an RFP that took 3 months or more to create often demands a response inside 10 days due to some artificial deadline. A spot-check we made of completed RFPs within their respective sales channels yielded an uninspiring 1-in ratio in terms of prospects meeting their timelines.
When a deadline is unreasonable, the sales team should strategize and then call the prospect organization immediately to request an extension. Any reasonable request will usually be granted; a refusal is a good indicator that you may not be a serious contender for the business.
Honesty is usually the best policy, with the possible exception of claiming that you are too busy. Very often, an issue with training, vacation, or existing customer commitments makes finishing the RFP by the deadline a problem. It is crucial that the SE organization agree to meet any deadlines because they are usually on the critical path for RFP completion.
An SE may already have an RFP to complete, be preparing for a demonstration, or have prospect discovery meetings set up.
Getting a 1-week extension may make the difference between responding and declining to bid. Using the SE manager, instead of the sales manager, to make the call to the prospect typically yields a higher success rate for extra time. A secondary tactic is to request more time to gather additional facts and details.
Even though most RFP-issuing organizations will set up vendor conference calls and meetings, you will rarely get to meet the ultimate end users of the system or products you are selling. These meetings are also very stilted and awkward because all of the responding companies will be present, and no one wants to say anything that may give a clue as to strategy or direction.
This could be economic, technical, or business information. You may also request a formal one-on-one meeting with the end users. Frequently, the prospect will reply that they would then have to provide that data to all vendors. Suggest that they provide that data or access only to those vendors who ask. However, bear in mind that every single one of your competitors will be trying the same tactics. Numerous contractual and sales approaches lie outside of the SE organization.
Both techniques involve considerable work and commitment both from the SE and the prospect, but they do give you control over the sales cycle. Also you need to The RFP Process 37 be executing a frontal competitive strategy and to be confident that you can provide more references than your competition. The real work in this approach comes in setting up the reference calls, possibly even site visits, and in coaching your references about likely questions and what to say.
This technique involves installing your product for a fixed period, usually 30 days or less, subject to meeting certain success criteria. More details about general trials are given in Chapter 11, which discusses technical-sales strategies.
This results in more effort than actually completing the RFP, but it 1 takes your competition out of the picture, 2 gets you inside the building, and 3 consumes valuable time that cannot be then spent with another vendor.
Even if another vendor convinces the prospect to give them the same option, you have still reduced the playing field and are now going head to head against just one competitor. The Alternate Response Tactic You will undoubtedly receive some RFPs that will score poorly either because they are clearly outside of your sweet spot or are from a customer that issues one RFP a month and has failed to award you any recent business. In the case of a poor product fit, where an alternative implementation or architecture exists that would suit your solution, you may generate an alternate response.
However, if you would like to consider doing it this way instead as we just implemented at , here is how we would do it for you. Although initiating this tactic is outside of the responsibilities of the SE team, a well-defined set of metrics can be an early indicator of such a problem area and discussed during account reviews on an objective rather than subjective basis. Completing the RFP Once the decision to compete has been made, gather the sales team and any external resources together to plan the response.
As stated earlier, making the sales representative the project manager ensures equal participation from all sides. Decide up front who will be responsible for tasks ranging from data gathering to collation and copying.
Setting the Standards New sales organizations typically will not have access to any RFP boilerplate or standard responses. Decide on font, headings, style, and format, and enforce their use.
A sizable library of compatible RFP data will rapidly be built. Then track your success rate. As the SE member of the RFP team, you will be responsible for all technical questions contained within the document. We recommend that you print a copy of the RFP and use a highlighter to mark those sections you are responsible for. Then feed your commitments back to the RFP team so that everyone knows what you have accepted accountability for. Many of the more mature SE organizations either have an internal RFP team or an electronic software package that can be used to answer most standard questions.
Failing this, an RFP library should be created on which an SE can draw see Chapter 24 for many of the standard responses to common questions. The RFP Process 39 At this point, review your section and begin to divide it into different categories.
Categorize each question based on who will answer it. Either you or your manager should contact any individuals outside the SE organization from whom you need help; explain the opportunity and timeline and emphasize that they are being asked to help on only a small number of questions. Should you need help from within the SE organization, but outside of your immediate branch or area, let your management team take care of securing that resource for you. Numerous SE organizations view an RFP as allowing them to find the most creative way to say yes to each question.
Where possible, refer your answer back to your technical or educational literature, but include the text in the response like this: System Guide Release 10, p.
You want to make reading your responses as easy and painless as possible. Present all your answers in a clear, legible form. Should a question ask for a list of features or functions, provide them in tabular or bulleted form as opposed to a simple comma-separated list. Where possible, include diagrams showing why your product meets that particular requirement. Also include any competitive advantages you feel you may have. Presentation and Follow-Up Even though most RFP responses are handled electronically, many requestors still require a physical hardcopy.
The RFP should be bound, personalized, and printed in color, and it should project the impression of the professional organization that created it. The executive summary will be read by more people, and doubtless in greater detail, than any RFP ever will be. Think of it as your marketing flyer for the prospect for the duration of the RFP evaluation and scoring.
The cover letter and summary should point out, both in business and simple, technical terms, why your organization is uniquely qualified to receive the final contract award.
Also insist that a meeting be set up either to deliver the RFP response or to review it within 48 to 72 hours after receipt.
Allowing the sales team to physically present the RFP allows for some real-time feedback and a quick psychological assessment to occur.
Follow Up Internally Too Once the RFP response has been delivered, make sure that you follow up and thank all the people internally who helped you complete it. Once you have an update about the opportunity, that is, once you make the short list, notify your extended team to keep them in the loop.
Should you need further resources for the deal, or even have another RFP to complete, a little thanks will go a long way, and if you consistently win RFPs, people will be more likely to respond to your requests for help. Once the RFP is delivered, maintain contact with the prospect, providing a steady stream of copies of press releases, technical updates, and journal articles—anything, in fact, to keep your name in front of the people who will make decisions.
Summary Engage early and try to set the ground rules for the RFP process. Be prepared to contribute questions and additional material directed toward your competitive strengths. Try creative ways to avoid the RFP, but once the decision is made to respond, after quantitatively scoring the RFP for success, engage fully. Develop a good executive summary that highlights your value proposition. Push the account executive to project-manage the internal process, making sure you fully define your responsibilities.
Seek some face time with the The RFP Process 41 prospect after RFP delivery and finally make sure you thank everyone involved—internally and externally. Skill Building New SE 1. Set resource priorities with your manager. Learn how to access the RFP library. Review with your manager all external resources available to you. Question the qualification of the deal. Develop a call script in which you can ask for a time extension.
Clearly define roles and responsibilities. Create an RFP scorecard to measure the likelihood of success. Attempt to have the salesperson project-manage the response. Develop a relationship with key technical staff within the prospect.
Focus on the development of the executive summary. Use this as the initial input for your discovery and analysis process. Be able to customize the generic discovery process to your product. Understand how salespeople add value in the discovery process.
Needs Analysis and Discovery Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi P erforming an accurate needs assessment and analysis is one of the greatest opportunities for the SE to add value during the sales cycle. At this stage, you will be defining the business problem that will be resolved in your proposal, and you will begin to identify ways to differentiate the solution you offer.
This is also your first opportunity to build a relationship with the customer project team. Overview During the needs analysis stage, you have three goals: Other chapters in this book provide general recommendations for enhancing your credibility and relationship building. This chapter is devoted to the third goal, unearthing and understanding why the customer needs your solution.
It is important to impose a process on the discovery phase because many things need to happen in a short time. By reading this chapter and customizing the process we provide, you can improve the effectiveness and consistency of your needs analysis.
To appreciate its importance, think back to the last meeting at which you spoke with people from your marketing or engineering groups. This lack of understanding may be reflected in every official company effort directed toward the customer. Take a minute to review the marketing collateral you have been given to help you sell your product. Ask yourself how well it speaks to the current business issues your customer is facing. This introduces a significant problem.
The lag between the time when your corporate groups produce something and when it reaches your customer can result in out-of-date marketing messages. Even otherwise effective marketing messages are often too generic for a given customer to relate to.
On the other hand, you are with the customer in real time. The discovery phase is important because it is when you take the off-the-shelf messages and products and begin to construct a customized solution for the customer. The customization you are doing may be at the level of a PowerPoint presentation, or you may spend days designing custom software, hardware, or networking solutions.
The fact Needs Analysis and Discovery 45 that you are able to make a hefty commission for doing so is a testament to the value you are adding to your company.
It is this value-added aspect that gives you the right to impose your own structure on the sales process at this point. As you review the steps discussed below, write in additional data or requirements relevant for your customers. Pay particular attention to any dependencies between steps. Such dependencies must be factored into your plan when scheduling appointments and resources during the needs analysis process.
The rest of this chapter is broken into sections describing the seven primary steps in the discovery process. Identify Needed Information Preparation Before Customer Engagement Going into the needs analysis phase, you should identify the pieces of information necessary to generate a winning proposal for your customer. Building qualification criteria and a needs analysis template is really the job of marketing or your sales-operations group, but if no one else has done it, it may fall on your shoulders.
Taking the time and initiative to apply this kind of process will definitely pay off in the results you experience. The abbreviated sample shown in Table 5. Note that even within this technical document, hidden qualification questions remain. Questions concerning whether support staff and related hardware or software have been included in the budget will give you important information about how well prepared the customer is for your project.
If they have not considered the support and hardware infrastructure, it is unlikely that they are close to a download. Engaging the Customer Now that you have the basics in place, you are ready to engage the customer. At this point, the only formal information you have about the project may be the request for proposal RFP.
With a little creativity and an Internet connection, you should be able to come up with the following quickly: List relevant standards: Server OS: Client OS: Average peak-time network latency: Server hardware: Currently owned or planned download? Will other applications be present on server? Is the hardware, database, and other software budgeted? Our software requires a -time administrator. Has this person been identified? Our software requires certain programming skill sets.
Do you have Java programmers on staff? Try to locate, or at least identify, these documents before presenting your discovery plan to the customer. In addition to impressing them with your thoroughness, you may also help remind them of other potential sources of information.
Table 5. Needs Analysis and Discovery 47 Table 5. Use the generic pitch from marketing Customize Validate with friendly customers and coach Interview key staff: Technical Business Other standards groups Observe current processes: Capture and incorporate internal jargon Gather at least two examples of how the current system doesn't meet employee or customer needs Synthesize information Prepare and present summary To complete this step, compare the data you have collected with the checklist of information you need.
Prepare a list of any specific documents or elements of information you will need in order to progress as shown in Table 5. You will not have had the opportunity yet to schedule the appointments shown in this table, but you will be well prepared to set them up rapidly. Navigating Through Internal Corporate Politics You may discover that you are being blocked from speaking with the customer by your own internal corporate politics.
This frequently happens when a salesperson insists that he or she has already met with and interviewed the customer, and you only need to listen to a debriefing. A second situation occurs when you are working within a very large corporation, and the major account representative is extremely possessive of account contacts and jealously guards access into the account.
In both of these situations, you have an absolute professional right to speak with the prospect and should insist upon a meeting, even if it is brokered by the account representative. Step 2: Build the Perfect Pitch Now that you have a rough idea of what the customer wants, begin putting together an initial view of the overall business issues and how you will respond to them. Think of this as a map you will use throughout the needs analysis process.
By documenting the vision at this stage, you can begin reinforcing your selling points during every interaction with the customer. If you are new to the product you are selling, beginning with the perfect pitch is a particularly good approach.
You can work with your manager or marketing team to produce a generic value proposition for this type of customer, then customize it as you go. This gives you the ability to come into the account with an industry-tested value proposition that will improve as Needs Analysis and Discovery 49 you work with your customer.
The goal is to have a presentation that captures all of their needs and represents your best possible solution to them. The perfect sales pitch constitutes the subject of many other books; for the purposes of your discovery session, it should be a slide presentation with the following outline: Customer business problem: Slide 2: Business processes and stakeholders: Slide 3: Solution definition—high-level walkthrough: Slide 4: Technical summary: Similar customer examples: Discuss other successful customers and validate why those customers are appropriate comparisons.
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