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.

Musings about QR Codes and Marketing ROI

Sometimes it seems like we never stop talking about ROI here at Stratavant, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Recently, for example, we had a brief brainstorming meeting to discuss what kind of marketing materials we want to feature at our sponsorship booth at the upcoming Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston.

Ultimately one thing we decided to do is add a QR code to our business cards that links to our new ROI-Selling Value Assessment tool. We figured this would be a great blend of an old-school approach (think traditional, paper-based booth materials) and a new-school approach (think digitized content and inbound marketing).

For most folks, the meeting would have ended there. But David and I are hardwired to get to the bottom of things, whether its client’s problems or personal curiosities, and we quickly became distracted by the mathematical possibilities of QR codes. Neither one of us could resist doing a little digging to learn more. After comparing notes, we can share the following facts.

  1. There are 45 standard alphanumeric characters and a typical QR Code has 50 spaces in a string of alphanumeric characters and the highest resolution and quality QR Code can store up to 4,296 characters.
  2. The average URL has nowhere near this many characters (which means QR codes are well suited for storing this type of information).
  1. Excel cannot handle an attempt to calculate 45 (number of standard alphanumeric characters) to the 4,296th power (maximum number of alphanumeric characters stored in a version 40L QR code) though my old HP Engineering Calculator could no doubt handle it. However, I traded that in a while ago for a HP Business Calculator since it is better equipped to handle the time value of money calculations I use every day now.
  1. Even if there were only 1,000 bits of data in a QR code (which there are 4,296 Bytes of data, so suffice it to say many times more than that), then there are more than 1.2 X 10300 (or a novemnonagintillion) combinations (which is the equivalent of more than 1.2 quadrillion to the 20th power – or 1.2 quadrillion times 1 quadrillion twenty times, which is even more than the US Government can spend at this point).

As you can imagine, we spend a lot of time thinking about numbers. In fact, we spend time doing mathematical analysis whenever we build an ROI tool for a client. Although the back end work is complicated, the tool itself is simple and easy to use for both marketers and salespeople as they move their prospects through the sales cycle. Our mantra is that simple is better – as long as the analysis has integrity.

We’re not sure where we are in the trend cycle of QR codes (it seems that they’ve already been declared dead and resurrected by B2C and B2B marketers), but we look forward to sharing our new business cards in Boston with Sales 2.0 Conference attendees.

Does your marketing team use QR codes, and have you seen ROI? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments section.