I am a big Mark Suster fan and follow his blog regularly. I pretty much agree with everything he says and even if I don’t agree with things, I definitely take them to heart. Mark talks a lot about the sales process and just completed a series based on a strategy he employed at his last business (sold to Salesforce). The strategy is named PUCCKA and is an acronym for a multi-step process. The last step is “Ask” and is about openness from salesperson to the buyer and ‘asking’ for guidance in the process. I have read this before in other posts but there is one line that I disagree with in this last post that sort of pulls together this general theme. The line is a follow on to the process of how to find a “Champion” (one of the C’s) with budget authority for your product in the firm. I agree with the notion of a champion, but I don’t like this part…
If they don’t want to share that information with you then they’re not your champion and you must continue in search of one in order to be worth investing resources in this account
In a large firm buying a new product, someone has to do research. That is usually a product manager, someone at the director level. It can be someone more junior, but that tends to be rare. Directors don’t do real work, they just create silly slides in PowerPoint. A director controls a low 7-figure budget. So an enterprise solution is never going to be something she can authorize. The reason is that with that budget, you are so locked into your deliverables that there is no room to buy ANYTHING else. Maybe some developer tools or small one-off licenses, but nothing for the enterprise. So while that may be the original contact for the sales person, they can’t approve squat. According to Mark, after you realize this, the salesperson should move on.
A VP has a high 7, maybe low 8 figure budget. That’s enough for little things to get lost. You might be able to choose a SAAS offering instead of building a custom module for some component of one of your products, but nothing big.
An SVP is commanding a solid 8 figure budget and at that level you can start to make build vs buy, people vs PO choices. But you can be sure that the SVP is not making these decisions on a whim. As I like to say, nothing is real until you see it in a PowerPoint deck. These guys are so busy, they might forward an article to a staffer, but they aren’t thinking about product architecture or the roadmap on a daily basis.
So what does every Director want? To make VP. How do you get there? You pitch the SVP. And if you stick your neck out and get a win, you might be rewarded. You have to be the hero. Think a sales guy is going to get a meeting with an SVP? No F’ing way. Not without her seeing a pre-evaluation in a deck presented by someone in the CoC (Chain of Command). Why? Because no SVP installs software and rolls it out, her people do. You trust the opinions of your people.
Now as a sales guy, you can skip over mr director and go right up the CoC if you want. And you can present your fancy ROI numbers, but that is all BS without knowing our hardware platforms, support model, business staffing, volume of data, etc. Who is going to do that legwork? Yup the hungry guy looking for the letters (“VP”). The funny part is that as soon as you skip over the person who actually wants your product, here’s what happens: That SVP sees your presentation and asks for competing products/estimates/options from her staff. When the ‘recommendation’ deck comes along recommending a vendor, you really think I am going to give the thumbs up for your product after you treated me like crap? Nope. Sale gone.
So what should you do as a sales guy? Find a director who wants your product and make them a hero. If I watch a webinar and give you my email address, send me the damn deck! Let me steal the slides. You want to pad an estimate so everyone can trim a pound of flesh? Fine, but give me a frickin number. Give me clear guidance on a hardware profile based on my volumes. Show me configuration screens and how to work a sample use case. Give me the screen shots. Make it real. And most importantly help me build my deck! PowerPoint is like the magic weapon creating the hero in the cartoon version of corporate America.
I understand this is a subtle difference between finding a champion and helping to build a hero out of a champion, but I really think it is important. Mark refers to someone with “authority to either make the decision or to get somebody who holds budget to make the decision”. I think he glosses over the part about getting someone with authority as just part of bouncing around looking for the champion. I agree with knowing how to target deers. But every hunter knows, if you actually get to see a deer in the wild, you better have done your prep work and you definitely don’t let it get away. Finding a better buck is not that easy: You might not see another for a long time.
A hero always has a sidekick and even the sidekick gets praise from the mayor. Does it really matter which you are as long as you get your commission?