This is based on a real engagement that started with the conversation in “Living In Anticipation With Schrodinger’s Leads.”
The CEO placed a stack of about 30 business cards on the conference table: “See, here are all of the leads from the trade show.”
“Would you like us to put together a simple campaign where we e-mail them an update of what’s happened since the show and call them once or twice to see if they are interested in a longer demo or an evaluation?” I asked.
“No, that’s not why we asked you to come in, these guys will call when they are ready,” he answered, “We had a visit from someone in sales at BigCo [a large firm in Silicon Valley], he came by our office last week because they are interested in our product and we need your advice on the deal.”
I knew that the two founders had worked together at BigCo before striking out on their own two years earlier when a downturn had triggered layoffs that they used it as an opportunity to launch their startup.
“I cannot figure out how to price the configuration,” the CTO spoke up for the first time, “I can’t figure out if I should charge $7,500 or $15,000. They could technically get by with one license but they should probably pay for two because they have come back and asked for some consulting to be bundled in to close the deal. We quoted had quoted them $7,500 but it seems like it may be a lot of work.”
For a brief moment I was reminded of an early morning ride to the airport on 280, the sun was barely up and the fog was very thick; we had left a little later than planned and were driving a little faster than visibility might have warranted. I really wanted to have the sun come up and burn off the fog.
“Can we just back up a minute and walk around the situation a little more? The guy from BigCo came to your offices? He didn’t ask you to come to his?” I asked. BigCo offices were only a few miles away but it would unusual for them to visit a small vendor unless they were serious about a deal and wanted to get a real sense of company size and activity level.
“Yes, Mike and I worked with him back at BigCo and he wanted to talk to us about deal for a license to help them with a contract they are working on with a Japanese company. He had called me earlier for a budgetary quote for a single license but now he wanted to negotiate a discount and get us to throw in some consulting to close the deal” the CTO elaborated.
“How much consulting?” I asked.
“They need us to convert the work in progress and library elements for a business unit of [a major Japanese company]. They are putting together a deal to sell software to about 120 engineers. If the Japanese engineers have to re-enter the work in the new system the deal won’t go through, if BigCo pays for outsource engineering time to do the translation by hand it’s probably a team of ten to twenty for three to six months. But they would do it by hand; if we use our tools it’s a week or two. The Japanese don’t like the idea of manual translation since the errors are unpredictable: if we do it automatically we also automatically verify, and if they find an error then we can fix our code and re-run. It’s cleaner,” the CTO concluded.
” OK, so aside from doing it with this outsource team do they have anybody else that can do the translation?” I asked.
“No one else has software that has already been used in production. We have two other customers using our tools to allow different teams to move this same kind of data back and forth between different systems,” the CEO explained.
We calculated that the deal was worth on the order of 2-3 million dollars in license revenue to BigCo and the outsourcer was probably going to charge between $60,000 and $240,000 depending upon the real scope and where engineering labor was located. So there was something like $1.5M to $2M in margin after cost of sales and support for the deal.
I suggested, “I think we should quote them between $400,000 and $600,000 for the translation, verification and support of the translation, and a license to access the translation technology on-site in Japan. You are going to be saving them direct cost of probably $120,000 or more, your approach is an order of magnitude faster, repeatable, scalable, and probably two to three orders of magnitude more accurate. You are enabling a $2M deal plus if they win this deal it means that they can flip other Japanese firms to their software. We will probably end up at half to two-thirds of the opening but we should start a the high end of a defensible value range.”
“But we have already quoted them $7,500 for a license. How do I get to $400 grand?” the CEO protested.
I thought for a minute and then asked,”When does the quote expire?”
“I didn’t put an expiration on it,” the CTO said.
I said, “OK, we have to call your contact and send him an e-mail advising him that we will honor the quote for another 30 days but after further analysis of their requirements we think that they need a different product and some related consulting. We are happy to furnish them the license we quoted but we are not discounting it further and we are not throwing in any consulting to get the deal. We would like to request a meeting to fully scope the project but we anticipate that it will cost between $400,000 and $600,000 to meet the quality and delivery expectations of his end customer.”
There was more back and forth but after we walked around it a few more times it was clear that they were bringing considerable value to BigCo to close this opportunity. We drafted and sent an e-mail to their contact and then read it aloud to his voicemail since it was now dark out and he had gone home.
We ended up in a meeting with at the BigCo site with folks from corporate and the lead salesperson from their Japanese distributor. This led to a month of serious conversations that uncovered some additional requirements that neither side had considered, allowed us to run some test cases that increased both sides confidence, and allowed us to develop a detailed multi-phase project plan that included not only our work but key tasks from their team and the Japanese customer.
It took another two months beyond that for BigCo to give us a purchase order–probably because the Japanese customer waited for the end of the year to squeeze the best deal out of them and they didn’t want to give us an order until then–for about $320,000 for a mix of licenses, a month of on-site work in Japan, and a year of support and follow up.
Especially when you are selling to enterprise you need to calculate the real value you are creating, this normally requires you to thoroughly understand their needs and constraints and develop what is typically a multi-phase project plan detailing commitments from both sides to make it happen.