Spot opportunities

The enterprise sales cycle is a long one. When a need is identified, however, things move much faster—a matter of weeks instead of months. The capabilities presentation is our chance to scout for open doors, including the following:

  • Projects going off rails
  • Painful relationships with vendors
  • Aggressive go-to-market targets for future projects

Don’t be shy about exploring the above areas during the presentation. Establish a strategy for motivating your prospects to join you in a workshop. And log what you discover in Salesforce.

Focusing on current vs. new accounts

We often get excited by the new. A major airline, a tier-one bank, a growing software company—all often lead down the path of investing a significant amount of effort into a prototype, proposal, and attempt to gain their business.

Those are good instincts, but it is important to look at existing accounts and contract renewals in a similar light. Nine times out of ten, existing accounts require less prework, less convincing, and less churn to get to a signed contract state—and yet they are the area that receives the least amount of energy in proposals, pitches, and closing efforts.

It’s important to note that each organization has a natural life cycle of stakeholder and buyer attrition. People change roles, people leave to pursue new opportunities at new organizations. The best counterstrategy to a decreasing footprint inside an account is to leverage every opportunity as if it were new. Consider these proposals:

  • Prepare a rich proposal deck—don’t jump right to the SOW from the workshop.
  • Document and celebrate past successes through case studies, white papers, or videos.
  • Offer value-added services, such as training, to existing accounts.
  • Leverage success in one business line to expand to others.
  • Facilitate regular “state of the union” sessions.

When considering where to invest effort, always remember that tapping existing account growth is significantly easier and faster than building up new accounts. Both are necessary for an evergreen product pursuit to business development, but the effort should reflect the expected return in the context of the overall portfolio.

Recovering from failure

Failure in large enterprise projects is the norm in the industry. In addition to complex requirements, scale, performance, and so forth, large system rollouts often involve changing management from a business perspective. Things quickly get complicated.

The best way to build up your prospect’s confidence in our ability to give examples of past experiences tackling similar challenges.

For example:

We understand you have an existing relationship and the project is in flight. We can lower the risk of failure by performing an architectural evaluation—review the design, the architecture, and coding best practices. All we need to get started is access to the source code and a week’s worth of time. If you do not find our executive summary and technical recommendations useful, we will not bill you for it.

Share our approach to such a project with the prospect through

  • an analysis of the current state;
  • a stabilization period of several sprints, during which time we address the most critical design decisions and defects;
  • performing prototyping and testing improvements in parallel and getting business buy-in;
  • a new-feature period, building on top of the platform and demonstrating value; and
  • ongoing performance and architecture optimization.

Shipping faster

“We need a world-class booking application by June of next year!”

Sometimes it’s an industry event, sometimes it’s budget availability in the current fiscal year, but the majority of the products we build are driven by a deadline. I like these types of opportunities because the delivery date is leveraged throughout the sales and onboarding process to foster urgency.

“If we don’t get access to your source control system in the next two weeks, some scope will need to be cut from the backlog to still make the June date!”

Rules and process get circumvented when delivery is positioned as a risk. When working through the sales and workshop process, always fall back on the delivery date as the core motivator to get sponsors and stakeholders to act instead of just coasting along.

Displacing a vendor

To date we have taken companies like Accenture, ThoughtWorks, CGI, and Pivotal to school on how to ship products. Organizations that are hundreds if not thousands of times bigger than Devbridge. The third type of opportunity to look out for—mediocre or failing performance of a vendor. It has become acceptable to overpromise and underdeliver in the software industry, so keep your ears open for ongoing builds and check in on the progress. Probing a sore spot will often lead to the prospect opening up about the challenges being faced.

Somewhere someone is always failing to deliver. Be there to catch the customer fall.

There are two sides to this coin. In essence, we’re picking up a half-baked product (in our case, source code) from a greasy diner and somehow need to turn it into something fit for a Michelin-rated restaurant—and we have to do so while the guests are uncomfortably shifting around on their laminate chairs. First, there’s a significant amount of risk because we may not know what we’re getting into (poor choice of tech, bad code, crummy designs). Second, approached properly, it’s an incredible opportunity to foster trust with the new client by delivering where others have failed. Remember, failure is not just a nuisance for clients—their necks are on the line.

I have watched our teams step into incredibly messy “legacy” situations that cause frustration for months at a time. With delivery, however, teams are able to build trust and start exerting influence on the client. This influence leads to better process, change of technologies, and open communication.

Introducing capacity

While it doesn’t happen often, when we do lose business, typically, our greatest competition is the enterprise’s internal team. Clients and prospects justify this decision by citing ownership of the domain: “What happens if we need to support our core platform?”

Anticipate internal teams being an area of contention and risk. Understand the landscape of how a prospect uses vendors and internal teams and plan an engagement model accordingly. Consider the following:

The reality: Our clients struggle to hire great people. There are limited good resources in the market to staff internal teams. Most IT teams are behind on hiring, and the best candidates tend to move on to work with technology companies.

Our solution: We have the people they need at a moment’s notice.

The reality: Hiring, training, and forming teams takes time (six to ten months) that our clients do not have.

Our solution: We have teams with industry expertise at the ready.

The reality: The enterprise often plans work based on a project, meaning that the demand on product teams in many cases is not constant. Budgeting and hiring full-time employees adds considerable financial risks long term.

Our solution: We offer on-demand resources with varied skill sets and expertise. Our teams and experts scale up and down as needed.

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The Secret Source by Aurimas Adomavicius

About the author

Aurimas Adomavicius is the president and co-founder of Devbridge. When not in the trenches working with clients, Aurimas is an active speaker and writer on product design and engineering best practices.

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