I cannot use the real names of the companies and people involved and the real names do not matter anyway. But the storyline is an interesting one worth sharing with the community.
One of our reps calls me all excited to tell me that we are the selected vendor in a project management software deal. Legal documents are being reviewed and the deal should be finalized in a few days. Almost like clockwork, a few days later, our solution champion calls back the rep with a smile and says "You were right. What you said will happen, did.".
One of the big companies we beat found out who they lost to. They immediately resort to their standard playbook:
1) Dig up the key talking points why this prospect should not choose this vendor
2) Search the internal competition folder archive (must be a few terabytes large!) for most recent wins against this best of breed player
3) See who we have as a reference that is ready to throw loads of mud, fear and doubt at the prospect. If we do not have any reference see who from our customer base we can convince to be that reference by giving them heavy discounts and other incentives, do whatever it takes, to find people who will speak negatively about this company and product.
4) Call the prospect and send him/her the key talking points, anti documents, and provide the negative references
This worked well when we were not ready for it. But then we learned the standard playbook. Now we tell our prospects what to expect. That large software companies spend more time on anti competitive research and content creation than they do on innovation. That their focus is neither on why the prospect should do business with them nor on why they have a better solution, rather it is why they should not do business with a specific best of breed vendor.
I am sure this kind of mud works from time to time. But, technology buyers aren't that stupid. Ultimately, the superior solution, better technology, more innovation, and great customer service wins a lot more often.
Here is brief memo I sent to our services team about the importance of communication and feedback.
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. - George Bernard Shaw
How to lose a client in 10 days:
We had some cracks in and around our shower in the master bathroom. I looked at the job and decided it is small enough for me to take it on alone. After all, how hard can it be to apply new caulking? Little did I know how hard it is to do a good clean caulking job.
I cut the top of a tube and started caulking a small test area ... I was not able to get it to look nice and clean. I got a little bit of caulk everywhere, on me, on the wall. It wasn’t going well. I stopped and searched the net for some answers. I found a few very good how-to videos and articles that explained what I need to do. At this point, my two older kids (13 and 10) got curious seeing me going back and forth, up and down the stairs, looking for tools, watching the online videos, scratching my head.
Kids: “Dad what are you doing?”
Me: “I am caulking”
(They giggled as the word sounded really funny and of course it rhymes with a bad word they know they are not supposed to ever repeat around the house).
Kids: “Caulking? What does that mean?”
I explained and showed them how it works.
My son’s conclusion: “Ok, you are not very good at it dad.”
After several iterations, I was finally able to apply the right amount of caulk and finish the job. It took me a total of three hours and a full tube of caulk to get it done. A pro would probably have done this in less than fifteen minutes.
After I was done I cleaned up and went downstairs for tea. My children, all smiles, had prepared a prize certificate for me:
Rudolf Melik Certified Professional Caulker
I was proud of completing the task. But both I and the kids knew I was no expert caulker!
We often underestimate how much effort, multiple iterations, practice and focus it takes to become good at anything. We assume “it’s easy”. Project management, looks simple, how hard can that be? You just plan it, delegate then follow up. Integration? Easy stuff, you just map this to that, link this to that …
This was a good reminder for me on why an accidental consultant, project manager … accidental caulker just doesn’t work out too well. We can fix small things around the house for fun but when it comes to our business, I always choose and invest in a focused, experienced professional.
Interviewer: Hello Mr. Cloud CEO, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me today.
Cloud CEO: Hello, of course. I am happy to be here.
Interviewer: So how is Cloud Inc different from the competition? What is your proposition value?
Cloud CEO: We do everything in the cloud. Anything that is not in the cloud is old and obsolete.
Interviewer: These cloud offerings are really exciting stuff!
Cloud CEO: Yes, we only think, eat, drink and see clouds. Our strategy meetings are really white and fuzzy.
Interviewer: You have had such an impressive growth in the last few years. Do you think you can continue to grow so quickly?
Cloud CEO: We are looking strategically at every cloud opportunity. We are very selective. Not all clouds are created equal, you know.
Interviewer: What should everyone know about Cloud Inc?
Cloud CEO: We are the cloud. Clouds are us. We will never let any sunshine cloud our thinking.
As the year end approaches we all become prognosticator of all prognosticators. I ran into Jim Carroll, a bonafide futurist, in one of my trips and he inspired me to write this article for PS Village. He got me thinking about what are the trends for 2011 and how they will affect enterprise software, project and service delivery and cloud-based technologies, all of the stuff we work and live with everyday. I started with Jim Carroll’s 2011 trends and wondered how these trends will impact our world.