THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST COMPELLING SALES PROCESSES I’VE READ – AND IT NETTED ONE PARTNER $50,000 FROM 15 CUSTOMERS IN JUST 90 DAYS.
As a Partner Territory Manager in Australia I constantly have the same conversation with unmanaged partners selling to SMB: Their customers will more often than not refuse to upgrade Office ("but Office 2003 already does everything we need") or just buy the cheapest retail version of Office (usually Home & Business PKC) no matter how many times the partner suggets open licensing as a more suitable route. Here are the key ideas I arm and inspire partners with to help them have more engaging customer conversations. Usually I’d articulate this through a presentation or face to face where it probably has the greatest impact, but I’ve written out the general conversation below:
CONVERT YOUR CUSTOMERS FROM LOW-VALUE LAGGARDS TO HIGH-VALUE HEROES!
I provide this advice based on my 10 years’ experience in selling IT solutions to SMB customers (my life before Microsoft), my current experiences with the hundreds of partners I speak to each year, and my own passion to deliver IT solutions to SMBs that tangibly improves their business.
The key tenets I prescribe to:
Office is a strategic asset, not just email and word processing: If customers are buying Office from you based on the configuration which nets them the cheapest price, they perceive it to be a commodity. This is pretty normal – after all they’ve been buying PCs for years with Office virtually included in the total cost of the PC. The challenge we collectively have is to change their thinking so they recognize Office as a key enabler within their business – even a competitive advantage. The way I used to approach this: Ask your customer which applications they (and their staff) spend the most time in on any given day. Ninety-five percent of the time it’ll be a combination of applications which make up the Microsoft Office suite. Ask them what tasks they do within these apps. The answers are generally very common – email, customer quotes and proposals, pricing, ordering, job management, managing resources, tracking inventory. That is, BUSINESS CRITICAL tasks! Now, ask them how they think they’d survive from day to day without Microsoft Office in their business. Most customers can’t even name a competitive product they’d be able to use instead of Microsoft Office. So we’ve established Office is pretty important to them from a day-to-day operations perspective. Ask them: What other software do they use day-to-day which is imperative to the successful operation of their business? Again, almost every time the answer will be “our accounts system” – or even more specifically, MYOB or Quickbooks (the two dominant Australian accounting packages in SMB). Small businesses usually see their accounts package as a key asset within the business – and are more than happy to pay the ongoing maintenance fees (i.e. Software Assurance equivalent!) to ensure they have the latest updates and access to premium support. No small business I ever came across was using an MYOB version that was 10 years old. Why? Because managing cashflow and paying staff is the lifeblood of their business and they want to have all the latest enhancements to help them do that – they would never risk stuffing it up by using old, out-dated software. Yet many of them are still hanging on to Office 2003 (or older!) – software which drives many of the processes within their business to help them bring in the revenue which allows them to pay their staff! So why risk stuffing this up by using old, out-dated software – why not demand that latest updates and enhancement to ensure these business critical processes are continually being made more reliable and efficient? Explain this correctly to a client willing to understand and most will have an “a-ha” moment and never look back.
Productivity is progressive: The days of waiting for the PC to die before upgrading Office, or waiting for a year or two to upgrade after it’s released for no real reason, are, in my opinion, gone. Again, to illustrate this to customers I used to draw a comparison with another key productivity tool in their business – the mobile phone. How many of the business owners/managers you deal with have an iPhone 4 or a Blackberry Bold or Samsung Galaxy or, of course, a Windows Phone 7 or close cousin of any of these? I’m willing to bet most will. How many have a mobile phone that’s 5 years old? Or even just 3 years old? Again, I’d bet there’s very few. Why? Because they understand the smart phone is an indispensible productivity tool which they demand more from, and which delivers more to them, with each iteration. They’re happy to get these tools on a subscription basis – rarely would they buy them outright upfront – with the knowledge they’ll always have the latest. The main software which drives productivity within their business should be considered in the same light. They should crave to have the latest version, to be able to do more, to give their staff the best tools to be more efficient and effective. They can’t sit on their hands and expect productivity to just improve.
Customers who refuse to adopt the latest technology will fail to attract new talent, be surpassed by competitors and abandoned by customers: Again, this is my belief based on the trends I continually see in the industry. New, bright Gen Y workers coming in to the workforce will not want to work for – or at least won’t stick around in – a company regressive in technology. They’re used to being able to access everything on their smartphones, used to synching documents in the cloud, live on instant messaging, social media and collaboration tools. Old technology doesn’t cut it with this crew and the consumerization of IT sees them demanding the latest technology at home and at work. Similarly, as newer, more savvy businesses enter the market they’re building technology solutions on cloud platforms and subscription models which keep them up to date. This gives them a massive competitive advantage which will leave ‘old-school’ businesses on the back foot. And lastly, consumers – that’s you and me and the whole bunch of Gen Y consumers/buyers coming in to the market – well we demand instant answers, accurate information and the ability to self help and we’ll quickly move away from companies with old technology which can’t provide this. If you ring two house builders and one faxes you a quote and hand sketched drawings five days later and the other emails a quote and computer generated 3D renders a day later – who would you choose?
Customers don’t know what they don’t know: Anytime we’re discussing Office with a customer we need to do a better job of showing it off. Not the small little features, but the vision, the end-game, the ‘what if?’…..as in ‘what if you could do this?’ We need to show them Lync, show them integration with Skydrive, show them collaboration ability with Sharepoint, the mobile experience with Onenote and Lync on Apple devices, integration with CRM etc etc. And don’t forget the features of the licensing program and software assurance: "What if…." all your staff could use Office 2010 Pro Plus at home?… Staff had access to online productivity training?…Flexibility to install the software as you need it and pay later?…You were always up-to-date with the latest version? When customers SEE what’s possible, when they understand what they might be able to do in their business, it changes the conversation from one purely about price to one about suitability. It goes towards helping them understand Office is an asset to the business, not a commodity.
Small business demand flexibility, nimbleness and simplicity in their technology solutions and our subscription on-premises and cloud based licensing models is delivering this.
TOOLS & RESOURCES TO HELP
I also point partners to several resources to help them sell Office and more often than not they’ve never seen these before:
Microsoft LicenseWise – Online tool to help build licensing proposals and understand the benefits of different licensing programs.
Microsoft Assessment & Planning Toolkit – Excellent tool to add additional value around providing a customer audit or inventory of software. Has a specific template for Office 2010 proposals.
Microsoft Demo Showcase Suite – Contains downloadable scenario style click-thru demos which can help partners sell the vision, the "what if…" story by showing Office integrating with other core products.