Taking back the power!

We had a LM team training session today with almost more SCs than RSEs.

One of the really key points that came up was from Chappo, and he said that “giving a customer a demo is giving them the power to say no”. This made a lot of sense because they can dispute the features and functions of the system till the cows come home (don’t like the buttons, don’t like the colour, your s/w looks the same as the other guys) but if you base your sale on the ROI and business case, it is way more solid and getting them to agree on their numbers means they can’t dispute it.



The disengaged buyer

It’s been a while since I’ve been thrown into this situation and it’s my fault for allowing myself to be put into it.

In this situation I’m working with a very weak Sales Rep and a disengaged (and slightly delusional) prospect. The main ingredients for a successful deal are painfully absent:

  1. Rep doesn’t know how much this deal is worth.
  2. Rep doesn’t know how to quote.
  3. We have no information on requirements. Most probably due to Rep’s lack of assertion and buyer’s unwillingness to engage.
  4. Rep doesn’t understand the landscape at all.
  5. Rep didn’t build relationship with any of the stakeholders.
  6. SC (me) didn’t research the prospect and review the deal beforehand – allowing myself to be put into this situation.

So we go into the meeting with the buyer expecting a demo but I decided to present a proof-of-concept to uncover their requirements and try to get them to engage with us more openly. Only managed to get the bare minimum out of them and they expressed their disappointment at not having seen a demo. I tried to explain to them that in a highly configurable solution, a demo that is not specific will do more harm than good. The buyer then claimed that she’s ahead of the curve because they have a competitors product in place and she knows what to look for and doesn’t need us to be so involved.

Due to my limited experience, this is the first time I’ve come across a buyer like this and it is quite perplexing.

Happy for anyone reading this to leave comments/advise/suggestions on how to manage this type of buyer.

Maintaining control

So we were balls deep in a deal and at the stage of seeking approval for the business case, with Finance owning the project and approval to come from CFO.

While seeking confirmation from IT that we’ve ticked all their boxes and satisfied their requirements, I get a call from some IT guy asking about stuff that is outside of the project scope like SSO and Web Services and 2-factor authentication. The guy ended the conversation with requesting for a quote on those things.

Sensing that this could potentially derail the timeline of closing the deal, I had a discussion my Sales Director on how best to neutralize this and prevent this guy from re-opening and expanding the business case again. As expected, I got the knee-jerk panicky reaction from Mr Mans which I wasn’t satisfied with. In the end I remembered one of the most valuable lessons that I learnt from Gari – let people take ownership of what is theirs and never take ownership of what is not yours.

With this epiphany, I went back to the IT guy and explained that Finance owns this project and any quotes should come the project owner. This is to keep a clean and clear line of engagement, prevent overstepping on someone’s authority and ensure there is no confusion. I also gave a heads up to all the parties involved including the project owner.

We should be expecting contracts by today. 🙂


Expense demo to T-Corp today. Had a room full of Finance people + 1 IT head.

I’m starting to be able to really target my approach based on the people in the room. Managed to call out a few problem areas that they currently have and also challenge some of things they wanted to do and some of the concerns they had. Becoming the Challenger!

On the downside, I think I’m getting a bit complacent though. Need to do more thorough preparation next time and review my slides and demo setup carefully. Had mistakes all over my slides because I didn’t reference my notes and verify the information I was putting in.

On the bright side, I’ve been getting very very good feedback going back to Brett – which is going help my case to becoming a senior.

Selling BI

BI seems to be a bit of a hard sell in this space, but does it really have to be a hard sell? After all, it should make sense to the client.

I think it all comes down to a lack of information/education – on my part and the client’s part. If I don’t even really understand the difference between Standard vs BI, how can I sell it?

So I had a game plan in mind for my meeting with Saiyan – to ask them questions and do a bit of discovery. Instead, they wanted me to start off by telling them how BI has helped our other customers. This was a great approach because we are again demonstrating ourselves as thought leaders! So we really really need to be able to act as a thought leader.

These are the things I wanted them to start thinking about:

  1. Measure KPIs to determine the success of the Concur program.
  2. Gain full control of their card program – ultimately leading to control over all spend. Accrued + submitted expenses.
  3. Insights into spend – vendor analysis, employee spend analysis, cost center analysis, etc etc.
  4. FBT – entertainment spend analysis.
  5. Apply the top & bottom rule to all analysis. Top 10 & Bottom 10.

Then talk about the automation that comes with BI – scheduling & bursting, self servicing, mobility & dashboards.

What I’ve found is that you need the customer to have a level of maturity before they will really understand the value of BI because their concerns would be primarily around the fact that they “don’t want to start paying for something they won’t be using yet” – which absolutely makes sense! Don’t sell me gym classes when I’m struggling to just get to the gym!

I think I need to frame the differences between Standard vs BI much more clearly.

  1. Standard is designed for our SMB clients who are small, simple businesses with an average of 50 to 100 employees with an extremely simple organizational structure, where their reporting needs are extremely simple.
  2. BI on the other hand is designed for larger organizations with complex organizational structures and most of the time multiple entities. Reporting needs to cater to the many different requirements across the different parts of the organization. BI allows you to automate that process and allow employees to self service.

The Stapler

This was a bit of an unusual sales process. We combined discovery and a demo all into one purely because it’s been really hard to engage with the main key contact (Biz App Manager), so we decided to grab the rare chance where we’d have all the evaluators together in the room at the same time to do it all. I was also a bit bullish approaching this deal because we were trying to displace SV as well. I was keen to “tear shit up”!

It actually worked out quite well. It is important to state that the session is meant to be an interactive one where they should feel free to ask us anything and for us to do the same. We had a good mix of IT, Finance and IT/Finance people in the room – which was great! The session was extremely candid and interactive and you could see their eyes light up when shown the value propositions of our solution. Some people instantly “got it”! They could see the future – just like SAI.

The demo went really well because I did some careful planning on how to position specifically against SV – understanding the competitor and uniquely differentiating ourselves. I feel explaining what a report is and what it means is extremely important. 

At the end of it all – BW is proven right again. No matter how good a demo is, it doesn’t seal the deal. Starting to have a tremendous amount of respect for BW. It all came down to the business case again. We need to help them build the business case and work on the commercials to make the switch attractive. The cost of change – the benefits of change MUST outweigh the cost of change!


It’s true, we’ve focused too much on the compelling event in the past, even when there was none.

So we’ve realized that now and follow a more reasonable school of thought going forward.

In order for a project to be approved, we’ve got to have a combination of these things:

  1. Compelling event (obviously still the best thing to have)
  2. Executive alignment
  3. Legal and Commercials

Failing to produce a compelling event, you will need both 2 & 3 to succeed.