Monday, October 18, 2010

Aligning IT with the Business - A Buyer-Oriented Translation Tool

"We've got to align IT with the business."

How many times have you seen THAT phrase in the IT press or heard it from the mouths of CIOs?  Usually followed by terms like, "leverage", "core competencies", "shareholder value" and other MABUSHI phrases that no one understands or believes.

I've heard it said that a lot of problems are caused by business people who don't understand technology asking technologists who don't understand the business to fix their problems.  It's kind of like speaking Klingon to a Ferengi when your universal translator is broken.

Is it your job as a product marketer to jump in and magically align IT with the business?  No.  And please don't try.  Your family and career will thank you.

You can, however, as the buyer expert, be the translator so your sales people know what language to speak when they talk to the different buyers.  Again, it puts your team in the position of talking about impact to the organization rather than the efficiency of your dilithium crystals. 

Here's how you can lay out a sales tool that shows the logic and language flow.  I do it in a spreadsheet for flexibility and readability.
  • Business Owner
    Their title and name of division, if appropriate.  This is going to be the VP of Sales, Supply Chain Director, VP of Customer Services, etc.
  • Business Problem
    This is how they see their issues, their bonus being impacted, their business being disrupted.  It's going to say things like, "Customer shipments are not arriving as planned and this results in our paying fines to them for being wrong." Or "My sales people aren't closing as many deals because they aren't getting the right data at the right time."  Include sales or other operational metrics like, "Profitability is down 4% this quarter."
  • IT Owner
    CIO, IT Director, whoever has the responsibility for the part of the stack that has the problem.
  • IT Problem
    Description of what is going wrong in IT to cause the problem the business owner is having.  Name the systems or processes that are failing.  Say things like, "When jobs take too long to complete or the database gets corrupted, it takes too long to recover those jobs.  We have to manually roll back the database and manually restart the job."  Be specific.  If the IT owner isn't making his bonus, either, include that in the description, too.
  • How IT Deals With the Problem Now
    Describe the stone knives and bear skins they are using now.  Include man hours and other information.  "We allocate 3 people full time to handle the problem.  It occupies 30% of their time each week."
  • Wouldn't It Be Nice If...
    You could automate this manual process so that X, Y, and Z. Use general terms that just so happen to describe how your product works.  Avoid specific features unless that particular feature is the key to the solution.
  • Solution
    Your product(s), highlighting the features that address this particular problem. 
  • Metric
    This is absolutely KEY.  Part of the metric will be for the business owner: Profitability will rise by x%.  Sales will increase by # per year, etc.  Use the business owner's language and metrics.  He will have told you what they are when you built your persona.  The other part will be for the IT owner.  Use language and metrics that are for them: Half a person instead of 3 to do this function, saving X dollars per year.  Operating costs will drop by this percent. System outages that currently cost $thousand each will be eliminated because...
The Easy Reference Guide I talked about last time is product oriented.  You should have one for every product in your portfolio.  This tool is buyer oriented.  Create one for every business buyer you have. You can have many problems for each business owner - solved by a particular combination of your products.  You can have multiple business owners with different problems in an organization.  You can have multiple business owners with different problems solved by one of your products but with different success metrics in each application. 

At the end of the day, your sales people will show they understand the problems each buyer has by using the language and metrics of those buyers.  Your competitor who just wants to talk about his neural pathway technology will look pretty silly in comparison.

Next up: Getting to the Business Owner

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why Your Salespeople Don't Read Your Brochures

Simple - Because they don't help your sales force sell your stuff.

Your brochures are for telling your target buyers (there's those personas, again) why your stuff is the best thing since pockets on a shirt - presuming that your target buyer has a burning need to transport small items on the front of their clothing.

But your buyers are not your sellers.  Your sellers need something that helps them remember all that info you stuffed into their heads at the sales training session you did two quarters ago.  The brochure your customer reads won't help.

The cure: Make a brochure for the sales people.

Remember your sales force is another buyer - create a persona for them and what they need to solve their problems:
  • They have to choose from a myriad of products to sell, especially at bigger companies
  • They have to learn how speak to your customers using the right language
  • They have to know how to handle common objections
  • They need to know what landmines their competitors are going to lay for them
  • They need to know how to get to quota faster (or at all)
  • They need to get to 'No' faster so they have time to get to quota, etc.

Call it whatever you please: Battle Card, Cheat Sheet, Shower Card, Easy Reference Guide, Quick Reference Guide, etc.  Just make sure it addresses their needs, in their language. 

 Ones that I've created and had sales teams use in the past have had the following structure:

  • One physical piece of paper. 
    It's okay to use both sides but try to keep it to one sheet.
  • Printed in 10 or 12 point type
    Mouse type won't get read
  • What Does It Do?
    25 & 50-word product descriptions for those mythical elevator rides.
  • What Problems Does It Solve?
    Top 3-5 real business problems in one sentence bullets
  • How Does It Work?
    Short section on key features and components.  This is a good place for the architecture graphic.  You can also add on what the offering includes.
  • Who Is It For?
    Subtitled: Who makes a good prospect?  A product for everyone will get sold to no one.
  • What are the key differentiators for the offering?
    Be honest.  No MABUSHI here.
  • General Pricing Summary
  • Top 3 Objections
    Include the suggested response to each.
  • Top 3 Probing Questions
    To help get the conversation started and explore the problems listed in the first section. 
Like car mileage and parenting, your results may vary.  You may want to include a section on customer testimonials or drop the pricing section to suit your needs.  The idea is always to give your sales staff tools they can and will use. It should NOT be a comprehensive regurgitation of all your training materials.  Limit it to the highest value points - your sales people can review the other training materials if they need a refresher or more details. 

And one last suggestion: Laminate it for them so they can keep it in their briefcases for quick review or pinned to their cube wall.

Next Up: Another type of sales staff brochure for enterprise or complex sales