When I purchased my first house the real estate agent we used to help guide us in our search enjoyed “showing” us various properties with many different features. One house had a nice backyard with a HUGE side yard that was paved with cement and was probably 20’ wide by 60’ deep. The agent repeadidly emphasized to us how wonderful the house was because of it’s ability to park a large recreational vehicle. She kept emphasizing how wonderful the RV parking feature was and how it was so unique and rare. She couldn’t understand why we weren’t as equally enthused. Finally one day she asked why we weren’t as estatic as she was about the RV parking feature. I replied “we don’t have an RV, therefore it doesn’t matter”
I share this because like you, I’m involved with my fair share of “customer workshops” that cover a multitude of topics that can last 3-4 + hours at a time. While I understand and appreciate the concept of staging these all encompassing sessions to introduce suspects / prospects to the wide range of solutions our firm provides, I often wonder how many of the recipients that sit through one of these 150 slide presentations think to themselves “I don’t have any use for <fill in the blank>, why are they spending so much of my time showing me <fill in the blank> benefits?”
Should we really discuss MDM, Oracle, SAP, Infra services, ETS and testing all during the same gigantic meeting hoping to gain a “yes, please tell me more” from a participant? Wouldn’t a more focused and thoughtful approach involve targeted and specific questions in a 1:1 or small group setting over the course of several meetings PRIOR to a big show and tell session, to allow for a deeper understanding of the clients business BEFORE we decide to present solutions hoping to generate a POC? I was part of a call that involved 15 + IT Experts from different vertical sales teams and different delivery organizations from around the world via web ex, in person, and conference call. On the prospects side they involved well over 25 people from various disciplines (operations, finance, IT, etc). This call lasted approximately four hours and at various times you could hear dogs barking, car horns honking, childrens voices, snoring (yes snoring), and all other sorts of interesting noises. My portion of the call didn’t start until hour three and lasted for 25 minutes. At the conclusion of the call, an hour later, the action item list was a mile long. No business has yet to be generated from this call.
I was part of a another call recently where the topic was focused on a large project along with testing. The account had other needs as well, but this sales rep elected to follow a more focused discovery session. The call involved only three resources from my company and four resources from the prospects IT team. It lasted 1.5 hours which allowed us to delve deeply into their organizational goals and to learn about their current challenges. We used this info to craft and refine our discussion points during the presentation. We spent more time on the points that really seemed to matter to the prospects while barely discussing or ignoring points that weren’t of much interest (ie: RV parking). By using a focused approach we were able to learn more about their decision making criteria, project specifics that only became understandable after several detailed questions, and other tactical issues that wouldn’t have been brought forth in a larger forum. A POC was the direct result of the discussion.
Am I saying that large “show and tell” four hour sessions should never be used? Not at all. I’m sure there are some cases where this is an appropriate approach to use.
We are an innovative company and we are continually expanding our solution offerings to our clients. Being a sales rep is definitely a daunting task especially with such an abundant portfolio of solution options to choose from to structure a “next” meeting. The potential for customer workshops that last hours and hours involving discussions on a multitude of only slightly related topics is certainly tempting. While using this shot gun approach can be easy to implement, my experience has shown that it’s not the most impactful, or a focused enough strategy at a client level to gain a deep understanding of their business. By defaulting and using a “throw stuff on the wall and see what sticks” approach in our presentation, we don’t provide ourselves the time to really learn the clients business. When we spend the time to really learn their business we are able to gain insights that can help us to craft unique solutions which themselves act as differentiators. Providing something other than a “me too” response can be the difference between winning and losing
As consultants and delivery people it’s our duty to ensure that we are presenting our firm in the best light possible to all suspects. Tailoring the BEST approach to fit each and every clients unique situation ultimately allows us to provide the differentiation necessary to truly be the IT partner our clients want and need us to be.