How to Engage Enterprise Buyers in Meaningful Conversations to Close More Deals

| September 17, 2012

This is the third article in a series of articles in which I have been focusing on the customer centric sales and marketing strategies required to successfully sell eDiscovery, Information Governance, Big Data analytic tools and cloud computing infrastructure into the enterprise.

In the first article in the series published on September 6, 2012, titled, “Roadmap for Selling eDiscovery Technology into the Enterprise”, I reviewed the history of sales and marketing within the litigation technology market as it evolved from selling scanners and associated services to law firms and litigation service providers to the current state of selling complex Big Data collection and analytics technology into the Information Technology (IT) and legal departments of the enterprise.

In the second article in the series published on September 10, 2012, titled, “Identifying Key Players in the Enterprise eDiscovery Buying Cycle”, I discussed the value of identifying and building relationships with internal champions, decision makers and other key players that professional sales executives need to work with in order to successfully sell eDiscovery technology into the enterprise market.

In this article, I will discuss the value of perfecting the skills to engage key players from the buyer in Situational Conversations as opposed to killing your prospects with PowerPoint presentations.

Traditional sales professionals from within the litigation services and technology market relied upon relationship based selling.  As they evolved into eDiscovery sales professionals with a greater emphasis on technology, they learned to rely upon making presentations using applications like PowerPoint as a major component of their sales kit.  The eDiscovery tools vendors, litigation service providers and consultants all rushed to engage cool marketing and communications professionals from outside the eDiscovery market to create the latest and greatest PowerPoint slide decks to enable their sales and marketing teams to trap their enterprise prospects in conference rooms and slowly bore them to death.  This is affectionately called Death by PowerPoint.

Admittedly, I am as guilty as the next eDiscovery marketing professional in developing brilliant leading edge PowerPoint presentations that probably killed more than one prospect along the way.  And, in a future article, I will share my thoughts and considerable experience on how to develop and properly utilize PowerPoint slide decks that actually work.  However, in this article, I am going to focus on engaging the key players from enterprise prospects (as identified in my previous article) in Situational Conversations as opposed to utilizing PowerPoint.

Meaningful Conversations

In selling, I believe that meaningful conversations are far more powerful than PowerPoint presentations—but they are also far more difficult.  Conversations are spontaneous, flow in directions that are hard to predict and require professional sales personnel to pay attention.   However, properly executed, meaningful conversations will provide value to both parties and most importantly create personal relationships.

However, it is important to realize that if a sales professional wants to engage in meaningful conversations with their enterprise prospects, PowerPoint is actually not the culprit prohibiting them from doing so.  It is just the vehicle or crutch providing them with an excuse not to engage in these meaningful conversations.  It’s actually not that different from texting and twitter as it enables people to avoid having to actually talk to each other face-to-face.

The real issue is the sales methodology of thinking that you need to manage the sales process.  This sales methodology normally manifests itself with the sale professional dominating discussions with enterprise prospects by doing the majority of the talking?    When a salesperson heads down this path, they have an agenda of what they need to accomplish or what they need to make the buyer accomplish.   In most cases, buyers view this approach as manipulative and pushy.  Remember that I indicated in my previous articles that professional sales people need to change their perspective about the sales cycle and engage buyers in their buying cycle.

In order to successfully sell eDiscovery solutions into the enterprise market, eDiscovery sales professionals must be able to relate their offering(s) to the buyer in a way that will allow the buyer to visualize using it to achieve a personal goal, Management by Objective (MBO), solve a problem, or satisfy a need. This, in turn, requires a conversation.

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, it is my perception that only a small percentage of current eDiscovery salespeople are able to converse effectively with enterprise buyers, especially executives and decision makers.

Ask Relevant Questions as Opposed to Offering Opinions

Traditional litigation services salespeople seem to have a desire to offer their opinions to their buyers in a consultative sale approach, while it would be much more productive to ask buyers relevant questions to draw them into the conversation.  It is far more comfortable for buyers if sellers focus on asking versus preaching. This allows buyers to steer the direction of sales calls based upon their agenda.  And, most importantly, it also allows them to draw their own conclusions about what they really need to address their requirements.  This doesn’t mean that the professional sales person should stand idly by allowing the buyer to drive the entire conversation.  It means that the professional sales person orchestrates the conversion in a way that enables the buyer to come to the conclusion that the seller’s solution will in fact address and satisfy their requirements

If properly managed by the professional sales person, this conversation may also result in the buyer coming to the conclusion that the seller’s solution will not address or satisfy their requirements.  Which an inexperienced salesperson may not understand?   However, as I indicated in previous articles, the professional sales person wants to win short, win long (if need be) but never wants to lose long.

Successful software and services sales and marketing organizations manage their scarce resources better than ones that are not as successful.  Therefore teaching professional sales personnel to engage in conversations with their prospects that quickly yields the conclusion that the seller’s solution is not a good fit enables these same sales and marketing resources to be directed to prospects that have a better change of closing.

As a sales manager, in addition to requiring my sales professionals to identify the key player, I have also always required my sales professionals to ask a set of simple questions that would clearly identify a opportunity that we would never win.

Questions to Start a Meaning Conversation

Following are examples of question that a professional sales person should be asking their prospects to engage them in a meaningful conversation that will yield results:

  • Tell me about your organization?
  • Who are your internal or external customers and what do they expect from you?
  • How do you currently address these requirements?
  • How would you like to address these requirements?
  • What are the benefits to your organization of implementing such a solution?
  • How much time do you have to implement such a solution?
  • How much do you expect to spend on such a solution?
  • What is the expected Return on this Investment (ROI)?
  • Do you have a budget to accomplish these goals?
  • Is this budget currently available?
  • Who controls this budget?
  • What does the successful implementation of a solution mean to you personally?
  • Is there anything else that we need to discuss that isn’t apparent?


Complete the Conversation Process

The last piece of advice that I want to cover in this article is to caution the professional sales person to resist jumping in with a know it all solution before the buyer is ready.  An example of how this would be perceived by the buyer is to compare it to how a patient would feel if their doctor walked into the exam room, pulled out a prescription pad and wrote out a prescription before even asking the patient how they felt.    Even though the doctor may in fact be able to make a diagnosis without first talking to the patient, most patients would not appreciate skipping the interview phase.   Further, as most doctors will tell you, there is great value in entering into a conversation with the patient and allowing the patient to move through the interview process at their own pace.  The same is true for the conversation between the professional sales person and the prospect.   No matter how quickly the professional sales person comes to the realization of what the prospects requires, it is important that they let the prospect move through their buying process at their own pace and come to their own conclusions about the viability of the seller’s solution.  Please not that this doesn’t mean allowing the prospect to come to an inaccurate conclusion.  It just means that prospects need to be given an appropriate amount of time to work through their buying process.

Conclusion

Traditional sales professionals from within the litigation services and technology market relied upon relationship based selling.  As they evolved into eDiscovery sales professionals, they have learned to rely upon making one sided and non-interactive presentations using applications like PowerPoint.

In selling, I believe that meaningful conversations are far more powerful than presentations—but they are also far more difficult.  Conversations are spontaneous and flow in directions that are hard to predict.  However, properly executed, meaningful conversations will provide value to both parties and most importantly create personal relationships.

However, it is important to realize that if a sales professional wants to engage in meaningful conversations with their enterprise prospects, PowerPoint is actually not the culprit prohibiting them from doing so.  It is just the vehicle or crutch providing them with an excuse not to engage in these meaningful conversations.  It’s actually not that different from texting and twitter as it enables people to avoid having to actually talk to each other face-to-face.

In order to successfully sell eDiscovery solution into the enterprise market, eDiscovery sales professionals must be able to relate their offering(s) to the buyer in a way that will allow the buyer to visualize using it to achieve a goal, solve a problem, or satisfy a need. This, in turn, requires a conversation.  If professional sales personnel within the eDiscovery market want to evolve beyond relying on PowerPoint and actually engage prospects in a meaningful conversation, I believe that they will be in more deals as serious contenders, close more business and ultimately make higher commissions.

In my next article in this series on the customer centric sales and marketing strategies required to successfully sell eDiscovery, Information Governance, Big Data analytic tools and cloud computing infrastructure into the enterprise, I will discuss strategies for closing more business once the prospect decides that they want to take the next steps in the buying cycle.

 

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Category: Big Data, Cloud Computing, eDiscovery, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Charles Skamser is an internationally recognized technology sales and marketing leader with over 25 years of experience in Information Governance, eDiscovery, computer assisted analytics, cloud computing, Big Data analytics and IT Automation. Charles is the founder and Senior Analyst for eDiscovery Solutions Group, a global provider of information management consulting, market intelligence and advisory services specializing in information governance, eDiscovery, Big Data analytics and cloud computing solutions. Previously, Charles served in various executive roles with disruptive technology start ups and well know industry technology providers. Charles is a prolific author and a regular speaker on the technology that the Global 2000 require to management the accelerating increase in Electronically Stored Information (ESI). Charles holds a BA in Political Science and Economics from Macalester College.
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