Friday, September 13, 2013

You Are Only A Trusted Advisor When ...

You Are Only A Trusted Advisor When ... The Customer Says You Are!

I had the opportunity to participate in the Amazon Web Services for Public Sector Conference in Washington DC earlier this week. An very impressive event with over 2,500 people registered and a host of 3rd party vendors and partners in attendance.

It's very obvious that Amazon are serious about this market, and that judging by the number of customers (as opposed to prospects) present, the market is serious about them. Between the massive scale, competitive pricing, and the adoption of major US Federal and International standards they are here to stay.

The presentations were varied and informative, BUT ... as I am in a Trusted
Advisor mindset right now (writing the book) there was one slide that bothered me. It's the one where Amazon call themselves a "Trusted Advisor".

It doesn't really matter what you call yourself in a Trust relationship, it's what the customer calls you and how they view you that's important. Now, the Amazon Trusted Advisor is actually an automated system that checks your configuration and usage and makes recommendations on ways you can save money or optimize the system. Aside from the psychological human-machine implications of trusting an automated machine, you still have to deal with the issue that

a. A human programmed it with the algorithms
b. No matter what it says, you'll double-check it anyway. (Minimal Trust)

So .. You Are Only A Trusted Advisor When ... The Customer Says You Are!
(Even if you are a machine)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Should SE's Participate in SPIFF Programs?

Before I answer – a quick piece of trivia about the origin of SPIFFs. Although there have been numerous explanations about the SPIFF acronym (like the humorous Sales Performance Incentive FFund) it is not an acronym. The use of “spiff” or “spif” derives from the 1850’s. It was a term used by tailors to describe a payment in kind of fine cloth they gave to their best salespeople. The salespeople would then use the cloth to have suits or shirts made to “spif” themselves up.

As far as data, the one number I can share is that about 45% of software companies allow presales to participate, to some degree, in SPIFF programs. I continue to collect data within other industries as I don’t have a large enough sample size yet – but I feel that hardware, services and devices are all about the same.

That said, I am a firm believer in presales participation, when appropriate. Here is the reasoning I have always used with VPs of Sales and Finance.

1.       If we are truly engaged in team-based solution selling, then you need to encourage team-based rewards to reinforce the behavior.

2.       Salespeople bear far more risk (both financially and job stability) than presales, so they should clearly receive the largest portion of a SPIFF.

3.       Most presales people care more about inclusion in a program than the actual payout amount. (The best thing a VP of Sales can do to gain the respect of a presales team is to show that he/she considers the impact of every program and initiative on both sales and presales.)

4.       I define “where appropriate” in this manner:

a.       A SPIFF to encourage linearity of bookings in all three months of a quarter, or to include faster payment terms to reduce DSO (Days Sales Outstanding) is a SALES SPIFF only.

b.      A SPIFF to encourage the uptake of a new product, or cross-selling across multiple product sets is a joint SALES/PRESALES SPIFF.

c.       A SPIFF To encourage customers to upgrade from an old version of a product to a newer version is a PRESALES SPIFF.

5.       I define ‘sharing” using this great example. A hardware company was originally planning to rollout a 10,000 Euro SPIFF to salespeople who sold a certain amount of new product to new accounts in a quarter. Their goal was E40M. After looking at who would truly be doing most of the work (demonstrating, configuring, benchmarking etc.) they elected to modify the SPIFF. The revised version gave E7,500 to sales and E2,500 to presales. The result was maximum engagement, team selling and E62M of new product sales into the new accounts market.

6.       I once helped the finance department of a software company analyze the historical results of multiple SPIFF programs over a three-year period. Those that included presales had an average incremental effectiveness of 26% over those that did not.

So the summary is that presales should participate in SPIFFs when a case can be made that they drive a significant part of the end goal – although to a lesser extent than sales.

FINALLY – A WARNING. One of my customers decided to implement a 20% additional sales quota credit for all deals that were implemented through a new partner program. In one quarter, partner deals increased from 17% to 85% - resulting in 5/6 deals going through partners, even when they shouldn’t have – to the detriment of the customer. Presales, who received no credit – had to clean up the mess alongside services and support. Compensation drives behavior.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why Businesses Buy Technology

I talk about “The Three Wise Men” a lot in my workshops. They are the guiding principle why businesses make technology decisions – being:

1.       Increase Revenue
2.       Reduce Costs
3.       Mitigate (Decrease) Risk

So it was heartening to read the “connect” article in the September issue of CIO Magazine, which showcased the advice of CIO’s to their peers. In particular, the advice of Rick Roy – the SVP and CIO of CUNA Mutual Group. I quote his advice in full.

“We use three macro-level business metrics to prioritize IT investment decisions and set strategy: revenue growth, cost reduction and risk management and compliance. For line of business spending, it’s rare for someone to introduce a major initiative without a strong connection to one of those. But at the enterprise level it’s more challenging. How does that Windows 7 upgrade really help the business? Whoever presents that case has to make the connection.

Risk mitigation and compliance are the hardest to quantify. We must distinguish between the need-to-have and the nice-to-have. We can’t just say we need to invest in something because the risk is high. What does that mean? Will we lose money? How much? Will we lose customers? How many? We take advantage of our in-house actuarial and risk-modeling expertise to quantify risk.

We look at IT spending in business terms, reporting our costs as an expense ratio. It changes the conversation from “IT costs too much” to a conversation about priorities. It requires more rigor, but it benefits IT to have a clear focus on our top priorities”

Beautiful – well said Rick!! A lesson in there for every single Sales Engineer and every single sales representative.