Every 6 months or so, I have the pleasure of hosting some of our top customers at our Customer Advisory Board. At each CAB, we share recent and upcoming developments at Altify, and we listen to our customers’ opinions. We also get insight into the challenges currently facing them. I’m just back from the beautiful Marriott Camelback Resort in Scottsdale, where we were joined by 7 of our top customers. The sun was shining, the resort was spectacular, and our customers – with their usual combination of prescience, practitioners’ experience and informed intuition – once again provided very valuable signposts to keep us on the correct path. I’d like to share some of these insights as they may inform your selling activities.
Power Shift: The hypothesis that we discussed referred mainly to the shifting buying power (or perhaps better described as shifting emphasis) from Service Units to Business Units. The conclusion of this erudite group substantiated our opinion that buying influences in Business Units (or Profit Centers) are increasing in importance. Those Service Units (or Cost Centers) such as HR, IT, etc. are more subject to approvals from their internal customers than ever before. In other words if you’re not speaking with the business sponsor, who owns the profit center, and you’re working exclusively with the service unit, then your deal is under more risk than ever before.
Innovation & Process Improvement: At the CAB, we presented our recently launched Virtual Learning System (VLS). Through technology, VLS enables Knowledge Transfer, Knowledge Application, and Knowledge Testing and Certification, all without the need for a traditional sales training workshop. This consequently removes the need for travel. In my recent post 2009: The Year of Xaas, I referred to VLS as Learning as a Service. At CAB, this was received enthusiastically, and sparked a discussion about the value of innovation, and process improvement as a fundamental requirement for growth in these expense constrained times. Innovative process improvement that delivers cost efficiencies has always being an engine for revenue growth, and as cost focus reigns, it is more important that ever to leverage technology to provide economically sensitive solutions.
Align with Financial Imperatives: One or more of ROI, Cash Conservation, EPS growth, DSO Reduction, COGs Optimization, and Revenue Growth will take center stage in buying decisions now more than ever. Unfortunately Survive is a precursor to Thrive, and unless you understand how your solution can align to the customer’s financial imperative at this time your chance of getting a deal is dramatically reduced. This is the time to befriend your own CFO and his or her team. Get them involved to provide a financial perspective on your sales proposal. I know that the sales team and the finance team are perhaps strange bedfellows, but it’s likely that they can give you a perspective that you may not ordinarily have.
Metrics Matter: Risk is on the top of every buyer’s mind when making a purchase decision today. Every dollar spent is scrutinized. Moreover, businesses require metrics, analytics and business intelligence, that can predict risk. There just seems to be so much of it (risk) around, and nobody wants to be the next casualty. One of the solutions we presented at CAB was our Performance Coach (PC) product. PC delivers insight to sales predictability and pipeline health that give an unusual level of information for risk mitigation in the sales arena. The discussion that ensued underlined for me the increased value today of truly value measurement – particularly when leading indicators can be implicitly inferred. With such a murky outlook, customers are looking for ways to see around corners, so that they can take evasive action where necessary.
Cost Optimization – Not Cost Cutting: Once the aftershock of the initial financial turmoil subsided – and even considering the continuing uncertainty – companies came to the realization that business must continue. A nascent realization emerged that ‘no investment’ had to change to ‘smart investment only’. Straight-line cost cost cutting is not the only factor at play. Other economic factors are even more relevant. (See Align with Financial Imperatives above). Cost optimization is the real message you need to focus on and your selling activities should focus on determining the right balance between reduction, management and investment – from the customer’s perspective.