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Are Software Sales 'soft'? Here's what to do about it
By Tom Lavey, Executive Vice President, MS2, Inc.
Seven Changes to Make on a Rainy Day
You bet. It’s time to buckle up. Change the way you do things. Take advantage of what you have and start improving your bottom line today. Polish the car and get it serviced instead of buying a new one. Paint the house instead of moving. Focus on local festivals instead of traveling to new continents. In other words, take this time to re-examine what’s real today. Fix it. Make it better. Benefit from it.
If you are in business today you have customers, real live people who depend on your product to get their work done. You have a market that works. It may be soft, but you know that it works. Under normal conditions the organizations in those markets need your solution. So why not take this time to capitalize on your existing customers and re-sell into your market? Polish your organization. Re-paint your product. Focus on your market. Stay home.
Capitalizing on the elusive “Network Effect”
Many promises were made (perhaps by YOU) about “viral marketing” or the “network-effect”. It was supposed to give you more customers automatically, at low cost of sales because your customers would introduce your product to their customers (or suppliers) and they would introduce it to THEIR customers, etc. etc. until you magically had 80% market share and zero cost of sales. That didn’t happen, did it? Why it didn’t is the key to revitalizing your company.
It has failed because of challenges that you haven't addressed:
Take this time to change your organization and capitalize on what is real – your current customers and your market. Following are seven easy steps to help you get there.
- Real product adoption within your customers takes more work than you’ve given it.
- “Supply chain collaboration” is harder than it sounds
- Your sales organization is not set up to sell to your customer’s customers or suppliers.
- Your marketing and partnering efforts were not re-engineered to make it work
1. Change how you measure Customer Support and Services.
Today, most customer support and professional service teams are measured on customer satisfaction. You should measure how many current users are using the product - including the new modules and features. Do your current customers need more users? Not until everyone who could use it does use it.
Today, I have a team at a large telecommunications company, and they are measured not just on the “smile meter” of customer satisfaction, but on moving adoption from group to group. A year ago we had a pilot of 300 users in one product organization, today, we have 3,000+ users spanning over five teams, with an agreement to have 8,000 by the end of the year. The lesson: satisfaction is nice, but adoption is the prerequisite of success.
2. Change market research to account research.
It’s time to stop talking about vertical market strategies and focus on specific account strategies. Examples:
- To make the network-effect work you need a map of the network. Map the supply chain of your customers account by account. Look for multiple points of influence. Find a supplier to four or five of your key customers and you’ll find an interested prospect.
- Research changes in the executive ranks of your customers and your targeted prospects. My experience is that almost all new initiatives that involve significant technological investment occur within 6 months of one or more new key executives joining the company. After all, they were recruited because change was needed. Use this as a key indicator.