Discussion with a Sales Leader: The Transformation of the SunGard Sales Force

Last week I spoke with Ken Powell, who’s been leading a sales transformation at SunGard in his role as VP of Global Sales Enablement. (He was also a speaker this week at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston.)

He joined SunGard just 15 months ago, but his prior experience leading a sales transformation in his previous role at ADP helped him hit the ground running. Already he’s taken many steps to improve sales effectiveness. These have included:

  • equipping the sales team with mobile devices (specifically, Windows 8 tablets, which have “exceeded” his expectations and are “more business friendly” than the iPad);
  • adopting various Sales 2.0 applications (including Xactly, OneSource, LinkedIn, and SAVO, to name just a few);
  • simplifying messaging.

As a company, SunGard is in an interesting spot right now. Formed originally through acquisitions starting in the 1980’s, its primary revenue driver is currently software licensing, although they also have a large consulting organization. Ken said one of their aims is to make the consulting aspect a competitive differentiator.

To that end, Ken has already done quite a bit of work with his team to refine the message his teams send to the market. Whether his salespeople are face-to-face with customers or interacting online, Ken has made it clear that they must connect the capabilities of SunGard solutions and capabilities to business outcomes. Given this initiative, it didn’t surprise me to learn that one of the next steps for Ken and his team is to incorporate value-based selling tools (and TCO tools in particular) into the selling process. In his words, proof of value is “a natural course of a conversation that professional salespeople need to have today when they’re interacting with customers, because it’s an expectation.”

Since I’m in the business of creating ROI tools, Ken asked what I tell clients about overcoming the fairly typical objection from customers about “fictitious numbers.” As we all know, numbers can be arranged in ways that will support almost any kind of story (as Mark Twain said “There are three types of lies:  lies, damned lies, and statistics.”) As a result, many customers look at numbers supplied by salespeople with a very skeptical eye.

I said that, in my mind, a major benefit of using a value calculator (or other tools) as part of the sales process is transparency. Whenever we train salespeople on how to leverage ROI tools, we advocate what we call a “peel-the-onion” approach. Salespeople should rely on the default calculations of an ROI tool to generate an initial report. But the next step shouldn’t be to simply throw the report over the fence and let the customer evaluate it alone. A much more effective route is to say, “We have this tool to evaluate your business case and decide whether or not this solution makes sense for you. Let’s sit down to discuss the numbers together.” After that, you answer questions and adjust numbers accordingly as you go.

With a peel-the-onion strategy, the customer sees the numbers evolve and thus becomes invested in the final calculation. For example, you might change the default analysis from three years to five years on the spot. Or, if the customer pushes back on a point, you have options. If the customer says, “Ok, I’ve seen your case study and how you’ve done this with other customers, but I personally don’t think you’ll ever get a two percent reduction in labor for us.” At that point you can ask the customer what he or she feels is realistic. If it’s one percent, you plug in the numbers for a one percent reduction in labor and show them what that scenario looks like.

The point is to start the conversation with numbers. Numbers will get the customer engaged. Only then can you talk about features and functions and how you’ll be able to support those numbers with your capabilities.

Great sales leaders must make hundreds of choices that will influence whether or not their sales teams succeed. This is particularly true for sales leaders that undertake a sales transformation, which by definition involves countless changes that all tie back to a unifying business strategy. It’s an interesting journey for any sales leader and I look forward to seeing what evolves at SunGard.

Do you have a sales process that supports a business case? What do you say when customers show skepticism about numbers? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Find New Growth Opportunities by Expanding Your Market Definition

If you’re trying to find new opportunities in a market, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to expand your product line. First expand your perspective. Why do I say this? To paraphrase Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt, people don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole. In other words, look at the market from the perspective of the problem that you solve.

In other words, if you’re looking for opportunities for growth, don’t limit your thinking by looking just for people who want drill bits. Look for people who need to find ways to make holes. A potential buyer might find any number of options: hammer and nail, a neighbor’s drill, a contractor, a laser cutter, a CNC machine — even dynamite (if he doesn’t care about the precision of the hole). If you limit your understanding of your market to a product definition, you miss out on many alternatives to solving the customer’s problem.

Invariably, however, markets continue to be organized by the product or service being sold. Again, that’s because many sellers and marketers accept the premise that a market is specific to a good or service. If you define your market this way, you’ll frequently miss all kinds of potential customers, including those who

  • Aren’t aware that a solution exists, or didn’t even realize that they have a problem.
  • Don’t have access to buy the solution because there isn’t a developed channel to serve them.
  • Are currently unable to use the solution because they are missing other elements required to solve the problem.
  • Currently won’t buy because the solution lacks benefits for their situation.
  • Currently won’t buy because the solution is too expensive for their situation.

I use the word “solution” on purpose, because it highlights the fact that there was a problem being solved. In one of my recent blog posts, A Tale of Finding New Profitable Growth Opportunities, I discussed how Apple found opportunity in the MP3 market when everyone else was struggling. Back then, I think it’s likely that Apple wouldn’t have defined this market as the “MP3 Market.” Instead, they probably would have defined the market as something along the lines of “anyone who wants music to be portable, legal, easy to access, and fun.” That isn’t a product view of the world; it’s a view of a problem being solved.

It’s not always easy to find new opportunities for market growth, but it helps if you look for potential from both a smaller and larger market perspective. The smaller market definition is your core. The larger market definition shows where there is room for growth and where you should be looking to expand.

When looking for new market opportunities, there are many dimensions that you can consider, but these three questions often prove helpful:

One: Who do we serve? Possibilities include:

  • Industries
  • Geographies
  • End-use applications

Two: What are we delivering?  Possibilities include:

  • Scope of supply An example of scope of supply would be you can make a sensor going into a pressure measurement device going into a pressure control loop going into a fuel control system, or you could make any of the larger portions of the system.
  • Problems you are solving

Three: How are we serving the customer (or getting paid)?

  • Payment model (paid an initial price, paid a price plus maintenance, paid as a service (SaaS)
  • Basis of payment (paid for delivery of a product, paid for delivery of a capability, paid for an outcome)

The diagram below shows an example of how a product company might be able to expand their market definition.

3d market model

Think about the market from your potential customers’ perspective. Then, define the market based on the problem that you’re solving. That will help you think about all the alternative ways to solve the problem, and it should help you to find new opportunities and identify potential competitive threats.