Selling Around IT in Larger Firms

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Consulting Business, EDA, Startups

Large firm IT departments are “gatekeepers”. Their job is to keep the enterprise network computing infrastructure safe and operational. New software from a new vendor is almost always viewed as a threat. Most of the time, they will say NO to any new software. Most of the time our clients have to sell around them. Here’s five tips for doing that:

  1. Provide a service (deliver the results of you running your software) instead of selling software.
  2. Package your offering as SaaS at a price that’s below the radar of IT.
  3. Leverage an existing partner: Who else is your prospect buying from?
  4. Find someone who is in a lot of pain whose needs have been ignored by IT.
  5. Find someone whose needs span more than one IT administrative boundary, so that no single IT group views satisfying the need as their obligation.

A related article “Selling Around The CIO” which is well worth reading to understand what likely counter-attacks from an IT group will look like. In particular we advise clients to prepare for three audiences in a sales presentation: business, end user, and IT. The objective of the IT oriented presentation is simply to neutralize as many potential IT roadblocks as possible. It can be given directly to the IT folks or supplied as ammunition for your internal champion if needed.

Another blog entry worth reading on this topic is Ori Weinroth’s summary from the 2006 Office 2.0 Conference on “Is IT the Enemy of Office 2.0

Building Communities using Search Co-op

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Consulting Business, Startups, Tools for Startups

We have added Google’s Search Co-op to our Resources page. As an entrepreneur, you need to dabble in so many fields. Some areas of expertise an startup needs are legal, accounting, funding, marketing, sales, public relations, recruiting, hiring, partners, and advisers. We work with some great experts and partners and you can take advantage of their best practices, checklist and templates. If you need help with Learning the Business Side of Consulting, Growing My Software Startup, or Developing a Product, take a look at the resources we have gathered together.

If you would like to suggest an additional site that we should add, please use the Contact Form to suggest it.

One Search Co-op feature I would still like is an article rating system. I would like readers to quickly rate how useful the article was for them.

What’s Your Passion?

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Consulting Business, Startups

Don’t forget the dream to change the world that got you started: your passion is an important element of craftsmanship and a commitment to excellence.

What’s Your Passion?

Recently, I chatted with a well-established consultant–she’s been working for more than a decade. She was having trouble developing a short elevator pitch to describe what she did and how she helped people. This can be a problem when you are starting out, but she had clearly been successful for a while and this was something else.

Sometime I do this or do that, sometimes I work with this group inside the company. It all depends.

If you have been consulting for a while, or bootstrapping, you can lose your passion. How are you going to change the world? What was dream when you originally got started? What is your passion?

Find Your Passion?

Pay attention to the activities, challenges, and accomplishments that give you energy. De-emphasize, outsource, or partner to address issues or customer needs that you cannot summon enthusiasm for.

Related Blog Posts

Evaluating Business Advice

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Consulting Business

Everyone has advice for you about how to run your company! Even if it’s in the form of question like “When are you going to Get a Job?”

Friends and relatives who have only been employees may have your best interest at heart but not have the background or temperament to help you get your startup off the ground.

Starting a business is like becoming a new parent. When you are a new parent, everyone has advice. Sometimes you have to ignore friends, family and acquaintances’ best intentions. You’re the parent you know what’s best. Business advice is often the same way.

Thinking About Your Business Goals for 2007, Part 2

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Consulting Business, Startups

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on thinking about your business goals for 2007, it’s also worthwhile to look at your own motivations and needs.

In an extending interview in Fast Company “Are You Deciding On Purpose,” Richard Leider advises that you ask yourself two key questions:

  1. What do you want?
  2. How will you know when you get it?

He continues:

“People really do have their own solutions. The problem is, either they don’t know how to discover them, or they avoid discovering them. But if you want to come up with good decisions for your work and your life, simply ask those two questions-because it all comes down to very simple things.”
Richard Leider  in “Are You Deciding On Purpose

He further suggests that there are four key factors to consider when thinking about your business goals

“First, discover how to live from the inside out. You absolutely have to start with yourself, not with the external demands of the situation. Second, discover your gifts. What is it that makes you unique? What song do you want to sing? Third, discover what moves you. Where do you find joy? A decision that connects with your own emotions is much more likely to succeed. And fourth, discover solitude. Go to a special place where you can find quiet. If it’s the mountains, take the time to get there. If you can’t go there, create a space in which you can find a similar peace of mind. In solitude, you’re much more likely to deal with the first three elements of this process.”
Richard Leider  in “Are You Deciding On Purpose

The best reason to take part in a startup or to start your own software or consulting business is that it furthers your own personal development. It should allow you to work on the problems that you feel are important or to create something that leverages your creativity, experience, expertise, and passion.

We don’t tend to explore these as much in our engagements: team dynamics and shared goals are more where we tend to focus. It’s not a bad idea at least once a year to make sure you are working on what you want to achieve and you have given some thought as to how you are keeping score.

3 Ways to Build Credibility with Prospects

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Consulting Business, Rules of Thumb, Startups

Here are three ways for building credibility.

  1. Referrals
    A referral is an introduction to a prospect with an endorsement. A referral allows you to borrow credibility from a trusted third party. They spring from shared success with your customers or former co-workers, someone who knows your potential and can vouch for you or your team’s ability to deliver. Meaningful referrals do not originate from a casual contact, someone you have met and spoken with only a few times: without a history of shared success they cannot substantiate your ability to deliver value.
  2. Speaking Engagements
    As soon as you are in the front of the room doing the talking, most people in the audience will give you the benefit of the doubt as a credible expert. Obviously once you open your mouth you can rapidly undo that perception. A successful speaking engagement combines a clear presentation of your thoughts not only in a strong narrative on a topic that’s of use to potential customers, but also in your answers to real questions from the audience.
  3. Writing Articles
    It may be easier to communicate your knowledge of your prospect’s issues in writing. Especially if you are someone like me who doesn’t enjoy public speaking you should work at the craft of clear business and technical writing. Most articles these days are presented on a website (e.g. blog entries like this one) or in an email newsletter. In either case you should consider writing in HTML and adding links to provide substantiation of your key citations.

Power of Website Content

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Blogging, Consulting Business

Here’s a good blog post on website content. How Can 10 Simple Articles Change Your Life? In his post Chris Pearson, recounts a story about a friend who creates a website (nothing fancy) but has wonderful content (10 articles). He kills his competition with his content. If you are selling your expertise, try promoting yourself with articles that satisfy your prospects’ needs. They will search the web looking for information and find you. Articles posted on a website can provide leads years after the initial posting. Don’t forget to submit them to industry websites. If your website provides a service, people will find you.

Our 2007 New Year’s Resolutions

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Consulting Business

Theresa: my 2007 New Year’s Resolution is to do more public speaking. Given how nervous I get speaking in public, I’m going to start with baby steps and talk at our upcoming workshop, Getting More Customers. Hopefully I will have enough nerve to do a joint talk later this year.

Francis: I also want to get better at public speaking but since Theresa took that one I will take a different one. I plan to read the books mentioned in Sean’s talk “Twelve Books for the Busy CEO” this year.

Sean: focus more on the positive accomplishments of clients and prospects. I think it’s an occupational hazard as a consultant to try and “add value” by pointing out where folks are making mistakes or have problems. It’s just as important to acknowledge what’s working that we can help them build on. I blogged about this in Hey Wait a Minute, That’s Me in the “Before” Picture but it’s worth more focus in 2007.

3 Tips for Closing your Next Consulting Deal

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Consulting Business

Early software sales are typically a mix of service and product, and in fact can look a lot like consulting deals. Here are a three tips to help plan your next sales call.

  1. Focus on the prospect’s business needs, issues and concerns more than your smarts, methods, or credentials.
    • Promised results (benefits) matter more than methods (features).
    • Methods (features) matter more than your experience or credentials.
  2. Share your ideas and knowledge, tell them something they don’t know that’s relevant to their business needs.
  3. Use customer testimonials. They increase your credibility.
    • If you don’t have testimonials ask for them (once you deserve them).
    • Focus on converting all of your early customers into references. References matter more than revenue for early stage companies.
    • Remember that a customer is someone who has PAID you, not someone using your product for free.

3 things I learned at Next Step’s “How to Sell the Real Value of Your Solution”

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Consulting Business, Events, Startups

Here are 3 things I learned from Jennifer Vessels in Next Step’s workshop “How to Sell the Real Value of Your Solution” on Thursday, November 7.

  1. I need to align my sales efforts with my prospect’s success factors. This means that I need to figure how they are getting measured and how to influence and serve their basic needs.
  2. We had an interesting and lively discussion about selling to or around corporate gatekeepers, typically purchasing and IT departments.
  3. They recommended a book called “Questions That Sell: The Powerful Process For Discovering What Your Customers Really Want“, which I plan to check out and report back on in more detail.

Blogging From KMWorld 2006

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, Consulting Business

There is a wiki for the conference at http://kmi06.pbwiki.com/ where I will also be doing some gardening (which I think sounds better than gnoming).

We are also helping out New Idea Engineering with their booth; if you get a chance drop by booth 200 and say hello to Dr. Search, who first appeared in Issue 6 of the Enterprise Search Newsletter (and bears a remarkable resemblance to Theresa, at least on the show floor). If your job involves the care and feeding of an enterprise search engine it’s worth subscribing. There is also a Yahoo group for Independent Search Engine Developers

A technical and business discussion group for developers, consultants, IT people and managers who work with Enterprise Search Engines such as Autonomy (now owns Verity and Ultraseek as well), Endeca, FAST, Google (Enterprise), IBM Omnifind, Nutch, Oracle Text, and Lucene. While some engines already have specific groups, most large companies own more than one engine; vendor selection and integration can be rather complex, and of course each vendor pushes their own solutions.

Full disclosure: New Idea is a client, I like wikis, and everyone remains fully clothed at all times while visiting Dr. Search on the show floor.

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Referrals

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in checklist, Consulting Business

referralsBuilding a strong referral base is critical to every entrepreneur. Three things you can do today to build referrals:

  1. Make a list of 30 people you have had a shared success with, go back to school, first job, etc.
  2. Contact those people tell them:
    • What you have been up to
    • Here’s what I am looking for, please refer me to people if they are looking for my services.
    • Please let me know what you have been up to and call if there is anything I can do to help.
  3. Write 2 testimonials for people you’ve had a shared success with in LinkedIn

“Tell everyone what you want to do and someone will want to help you do it.”
W. Clement Stone

SKMurphy E-Mail NewsletterRelated Blog Posts

Related Article: 10 Secrets to Getting More Referrals

Nancy Roebke offers details on these ten suggestions:

  1. Ask for them
  2. Reciprocate them: send business to those who help your business
  3. Reward them: from thank you letters to discounts to fees
  4. Give them to other qualified businesses
  5. Use testimonials in your literature and advertising.
  6. Give out more business cards.
  7. Community service.
  8. Sponsor a team or event.
  9. Be helpful.
  10. Join a networking group.

Office 2.0 Tools for Consultants

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Consulting Business, Events, Startups, Tools for Startups

Attending Office 2.0[1] in San Francisco, we discovered some useful tools for consultants and small teams.

What is Office 2.0? Office 2.0 tools are collaboration tools that you can connect to from anywhere. They are perfect for virtual businesses or small teams. Most are sold as software as a service (SaaS) and for a low monthly fee you get web access to the tools. All that is needed on your machine is a web browser.

Here’s what I found interesting:

  • Site Kreator – pick a template and get a basic website up and running very quickly. You don’t need to get a web designer or know HTML, Java, etc. It supports wiki, blogs, and forms. Everything is click and point.
  • Another way (and the one we selected) is WordPress. We did use a web designer, Dave Horner from Silicon Ridge. But we picked a template and he quickly built our website. I can build new pages, changes pages, or add blog post without coding.
  • Invoicing might be a consultant’s least favorite thing, but it’s impossible to get paid without it; check out FreshBooks.
  • Do you need a part time admin to put together conference material? Work on your website? Virtual admins are a great way to go. They charge by the hour and can answer your phone or perform other tasks you need.
  • One area we have been hunting for quite a while is a shareable calender. Our team is virtual and scheduling appointment used to take many emails. We have been using with WebEx WebOffice and quite happy with it. It is more expensive than many we tried but it fits us the best, so far.
  • Podcast/RSS for e-newsletters or training. Podcast and voice in general allows you to make an emotional connection with your audience or prospect. This one is still under construction for us.
  • We use wikis (e.g. from Central Desktop, EditMe, Jotspot, and Socialtext among others) with all of our clients. A wiki provides a private work space which we can leave behind after our engagement is over and they cut down considerably on having to e-mail attachments. We have used it for collaborating on datasheets, web site mock-up, backgrounder and other strategy and planning documents.

[1] Update Jan-18-2011: Office 2.0 website www.office20con.com has been taken over by spammers, links deleted.

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