Sunday, July 30, 2006

Standardization in Sales

Vinnie has a great post up on Reengineering the Sales Process.

"I would break the product discovery process into 3 steps each with varying levels of customer self-service and vendor sales involvement:

a) From the thousands of RFPs vendors have already responded to, they should have an A,B,C analysis of most requested/somewhat requested etc. features. Expose that on-line to users (in a password protected area to keep from prying competitor eyes) using a requirements traceability tool. Let prospects navigate and fill their own feature/function checklists, if need be. Then it would be ok for vendors to refuse to fill out requests for 400 page feature lists in RFPs – encourage users to do so on a self-serve basis. And I mean refuse. JetBlue decided it was only going to have instant ticketing business model - no reservations on hold for 24-48 hours. I am sure they lost a few customers but they stuck to the model and it is becoming industry standard.

b) For horizontal functionality – common across verticals, geographies - expose major process flows in on-line demos, architecture in well structured documentation etc. so customers can self-navigate through the look and feel, flow etc. Make reps available by on-line chat, telephone – remotely - to answer questions. Organize product marketing collateral on those lines. This functionality should not usually require demos at the client site.

c) For more unique vertical or client specific functionality, invest in on-premise, scenario based demos. Vendors should encourage buyers to define likely real-life business scenarios and then diligently walk them through how their solution delivers it. And tell the truth – what is available as a standard feature, what comes from partner functionality, work arounds etc. Too many vendors fight scripted scenarios. Or they will only do them grudgingly if a competitor is likely to invest in them. This is where the sales person should be focused, because this is likely where the differentiation will be most acute."

IMHO: Vinnie has hit the nail on the head, yet again. There is a need for standardization, of greater automation in the sales process. We, especially in the IT services sector, need to cut down on this needless expense by leveraging already existing (at most places) technology infrastructure. It would also help us showcase the effective use of the very technology that we are pitching, lending credibility to our claims. The biggest benefit would be a smaller, more productive, more responsive sales force, and an efficient, trustworthy brand image. We also need to learn to say no to unrealistic expectations, be honest with our claims, and deliver a consistent, high quality experience to our customers. Standardization helps cut down inconsistency and wildly fluctuating results from Sales and Delivery alike.

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