Identifying Key Players in the Enterprise eDiscovery Buying Cycle

| September 10, 2012

This is the second article in a series of articles in which I will focus 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.

As indicated in my first article, up until just recently when selling into the enterprise became a requirement, sales within the litigation technology market was relationship based.   However, enterprise decision marker and buyers are trained to NOT make business critical buying decision based solely upon relationships.    Therefore, legacy litigation services sales professionals who have relied upon relationship based selling techniques are going to have to learn a new customer centric sales approach to continue to be successful.   The first step in this process is the identification of the key players in the buying cycle.  Please note that I have referred to the cycle as the buying cycle and the not the sales cycle because sophisticated enterprise decision makers and buyers have no interest in the seller’s sales cycle.  This is a major theme to customer centric selling methodology).

Remember what we learned from the article that I published on June 7, 2012 titled, “2012 Study of Global 250 General Counsel on eDiscovery”, where I pointed out that that one of the top pet peeves of the General Counsel from the Global 250 over the past 12 months were:

  • Annoying eDiscovery Vendor sales people = 65%
  • Outside Counsel’s refusal to take responsibility on eDiscovery = 50%
  • Lack of Support from Information Technology (IT) group = 50%
  • Anyone that states that litigation in now all about technology = 75%
  • Outside Counsel and LPOs Knowingly Low Balling Cost Estimates = 85%
  • LPOs dropping the ball on eDiscovery Projects = 75%
  • eDiscovery Cost Overruns = 75%

Customer centric selling methodology requires sales professionals to look at everything from the perspective of the buyer.  In addition, it requires that sales professionals to not be annoying and bring value to the buying process.  To accomplish this goal, the first step for the sales professional is to identify the major players within the buying cycle.

Identifying the Major Players

Foremost among key players are champions who provide access to other key players, as requested by the sales professional, and who can be found at any level within the prospect organization.  Many times champions have an agenda or career goals and have decided that ushering in new eDiscovery technology is a way to reach those goals and advance their careers. Ideally, the champion is also a decision maker who is willing to provide access to those below him or her in the organizational hierarchy. Such top-down access is always preferred.  Within the eDiscovery buying ecosystem, your best champions will be the general counsel, an assistant general counsel or a very high level executive from the Information Technology (IT) department.  A word of caution on champions:  make sure that they have the juice to accomplish their goals.  A champion with no respect or no ability to even purchase a cup of coffee is of little use.

Aside from champions, sales professionals and their managers must also be aware of these other key players with important roles in the buying cycle:

  • Coaches want the seller to win the business, and are willing to assist with information and inside selling, but they have limited authority within the organization.  Coaches within the eDiscovery technology buying ecosystem could reside in a number of different organizations.  They could be mid level managers or lawyers from the legal department with knowledge and relationships within the Information Technology (IT) department.  Or they could be mid level managers from the IT department with relationships in the legal departments.  In either case, they are normally long term employees and well respected and liked within their organizations. Most times they are also “pleasers” and have non threatening personalities and agendas.  Please note that your coach will help you identify the rest of the players.
  • Decision makers can make the vendor selection and free up unbudgeted funds. They can commit internal resources to evaluate a seller’s offerings.  Identifying the decision maker(s) within the eDiscovery technology buying ecosystem is going to depend upon which organization has the responsibility and therefore the budget to purchase new eDiscovery technology.  Identifying the decision maker in some cases can be complicated.  As an example, you may find a champion leads you to believe that they are also the decision maker.  However, when it comes time to actually allocate budget, you will find out that there is another person that is the real decision maker and therefore the buying cycle will have to start over for this person (i.e. understanding their requirements, goals, objections, timeframes, etc.).  It is always best to identify the decision maker before you invest too many resources in a buying cycle.  Once again, your coach should be able to help you identify the real decision maker.
  • Financial approvers are those who must sign off on expenditures — either by rubber-stamping a purchase or by being actively involved in the purchasing process.  Financial approvers are usually staff personnel that work for the actual decision maker.  However, be aware that they may be a trusted advisor to the decision maker and therefore may have the ability to say no and derail the buying process.  Therefore make sure you understand their political alliances, agendas, goals and include them in the buying process.  Under any case, they need to be identified and included as they will be your guide through the actual purchasing process (i.e. they actually know how to buy things whereas the decision may not).
  • Users and managers of users can provide a groundswell of support with the rank-and-file members of a given organization.  However, if they feel left out of the process or their voice is not being heard or taken seriously, they can also provide major roadblocks to any purchase.  Within the eDiscovery buying cycle, users and managers of users are going to come from within the legal departments.   Therefore, given the history of litigation technology sales professionals selling to these same types users at law firms, these players should be easily identified, related to by the sales professionals and their pre-sales field service support personnel and brought into the buying cycle.  A word of caution in regards to users: buying decisions within the enterprise are based on business value and not on which vendor has the coolest user interfaces.  Therefore don’t get too wrapped up in what they want unless the decision marker has clearly indicated that he or she will take his or her buying que from them.
  • Implementers are responsible for migrating from the current method or environment to the new offering. They often prefer to work with vendors who offer professional services and ongoing support.  Within the eDiscovery buying cycle, implementers are going to come from within the IT departments and are therefore going to be the most foreign to work with for many of the litigation technology sales professionals.  In most cases, although sales professionals should not ignore implementers, it is going to be more efficient for pre-sales field service support personnel or maybe even member of the vendor’s technical staff or consulting group to work with the players from the IT departments.
  • Adversaries are individuals who either do not want to change, want to control change internally, or want to do business with a competitor.  Many times, adversaries are very difficult to identify as they may linger in the back of meetings, not attend at all and in many cases will not want to include themselves in the process.  However, they will be working a parallel cycle to undermine your buying cycle, influence your players and ultimate derail your deal.  The best way to indentify adversaries is through your champion or coach.  Don’t be afraid to ask and use very blunt language so that there no confusion.  If there are in fact adversaries, everyone will know who they are.

Good Managers Ask to See Player Maps

Regional Sales Managers (RSMs) and Vice President’s of Sales (VPSs) that are responsible for approving and rolling up sales forecasts should never forecast any revenue from any field sales professionals who cannot identify and who has not met with each of the above listed players from within the buying cycle ecosystem.  Because, more than likely, this sales person doesn’t really understand the playing field and is going to rely on a relationship to get the deal done.  And, that’s not customer centric selling.

Conclusion

Up until just recently when selling into the enterprise became a requirement, sales within the litigation technology market was relationship based.   However, enterprise decision marker and buyers are trained to NOT make business critical buying decision based solely upon relationships.    Therefore, legacy litigation services sales professionals who have relied upon relationship based selling techniques are going to have to learn a new customer centric sales approach to continue to be successful.   The first step in this process is the identification of the key players in the buying cycle.

In the next article in this series, I will discuss how to navigate through the buying cycle and more specifically how to conduct interviews with each of the buying players to ensure that “you never lose long”.

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Category: Early Case Assessment, 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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