Good news! The U.S. Department of Labor has reported that the job market has finally recovered to pre-economic crisis levels. Still there are some lessons that should not be forgotten. With this recession, enterprises around the globe adjusted their policies on how they make buying decisions. Across the board, enterprises implemented a strict set of requirements to justify purchases of new products and services. They require that each purchase needs to show a clear definition of the expected total cost of ownership (TCO) and anticipated return on investment (ROI). This has created new challenges for sales teams.
In order to enable sales teams to achieve their goals, they need to adjust their sales process. They need to be able to demonstrate they clearly understand the business of their customers and articulate how the product or service they offer will enhance their business. With tighter controls on spending by the enterprise, the burden of proof is in the sales teams court. To accomplish this, they need to team up with their product managers and product marketers to define effective ROI/TCO modeling tools to show the benefits of their product or service.
Beware of Snake Oil
I have seen a variety of ROI/TCO modeling tools being used in the technology sector. Some of them definitely fall into the category of “snake oil” or “cure-all” elixirs. These are the models that typically require only a few inputs, such as “Quantity of licenses to purchase”, and result in an amazing too-good-to-be-true ROI. Often, these models don’t take into consideration all of the critical factors to estimate a realistic total cost of ownership and return on investment.
Effective ROI Tools
An effective ROI modeling tool to support the sales effort is going to take into consideration the viewpoint of the customer CFO. It should allow as input all the expected cost factors experienced by their operations and particularly those factors impacted by a purchase of the product. Some of the factors would include:
- Manpower costs
- Facilities costs
- IT and data center costs
- Administration and maintenance costs
- Infrastructure costs such as new servers to support a software purchase
- Costs of the product and/or service being sold
The output of the ROI modeling tool should also be able to show the expected benefits that would result from the purchase of the product or service. These benefits may include reduction in operational and fixed costs such as:
- Reduction of infrastructure
- Redeployment/re-purpose of manpower
Benefits may also include new efficiencies such as:
- Increases in speed to revenue
- Efficiencies in transaction processing and volume management
- Improvements in customer service
A good ROI modeling tool will also be able to clearly define “tipping points” such as whether or not it makes sense to utilize cloud-based services or purchase premise-based equipment. This is a topic for a future post.
Corner Office Wisdom:
Sales teams, product managers and product marketers need to have the ability to show the ROI/TCO benefits of their products or service in order to be successful. This will require a comprehensive set of tools and training in order to empower the sales teams to have such a discussion. If they cannot support such a discussion and the competition can, they will lose the opportunity.
Aristotle is attributed with the expression “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.” This is demonstrated every week in the sporting community. The best athletes in the world will tell you that they are always training in order to stay in top form.
This same thought is true for those that want to excel in the workplace. To achieve specific goals, each person needs to focus on their own personal development of the needed skills to be successful. How can this be accomplished? Here are some suggestions:
- Check the resources made available by your company. Many companies offer training courses to assist in employee development. Often, these courses are overlooked or even unknown.
- Outside resources may also be available through the company. Check with the HR department to understand the available options for tuition reimbursement.
- Express your interests to your management. Based on their experience, they may be able to recommend specific courses that can directly benefit you in achieving your goals.
Once you have a clear understanding of what is available to you, design a personal training plan that will take advantage of those resources and execute on that plan to enhance your skill-set.
I have always had excellent coaches and mentors that provided me sound advice, guidance and support. They have always allowed me to enroll in training courses that would improve my personal performance, enhance the team environment and increase my value as an asset to the company. Some of these training courses have covered topics such as:
- Continuous Improvement
- Leadership Effectiveness
- High performance teamwork
- Public speaking
Topics such as these have provided benefits to all of the various roles I have taken in my career as a manager and as an individual contributor. Before I could register for any courses, my management always wanted me to make sure there was enough room in the budget to cover the costs.
It should be noted, however, that most managers are focused on achieving quarterly goals and milestones. It is very possible that employee development may not be at the top of their priority list. In my own experience, while I knew my management continued to support me, I found that I needed to be willing to take the initiative in my own training. Thus, it is important that each individual proactively pursue their own personal development.
Corner Office Wisdom:
Be proactive in pursuing the development of your skills. Create a plan, review the resources available to fulfill that plan and execute on it to manage your personal development.
Everyone in business has multiple demands on their time. Everyone has a high-priority issue that needs to be resolved immediately and cannot wait any longer. Jim Rohn, a successful entrepreneur, had the expression: “Either you run the day or the day runs you.”
As a person who has been involved in multiple complex projects, prioritization of these demands is essential. For example, in my role as product manager, there were many departments, groups and individuals that I needed to communicate, coach and collaborate with on the direction of the product strategy. Groups that were associated with the product release process included:
• The Executive Team
• Sales/Sales Support
• Systems Engineering
• Product Development/Engineering
• Program Management
• Professional Services
• Customer Service
As the “CEO” of the product, it is easy to see how these groups would want your time and attention. Therefore, a critical skill to be successful is being able to organize your work tasks and prioritize them so that ongoing efforts to product GA are completed.
Everyone has different ways to organize their day but one of my coaches early in my career told me his method and it as has worked well. It was his TTD, or “Things-To-Do” list. It sounds simple but it works. The key was his ability to prioritize his list by asking key questions about each task and ranking the tasks accordingly. Some of the questions included:
1. Is the task directly tied to revenue?
2. When is the item due?
3. Who is it for?
4. What is the level of importance?
5. What is the estimated effort?
The list of questions above is certainly not a complete list. To use this method effectively, each person will need to make their own set of questions to assess their TTD list. Once the questions are completed and the list is prioritized, it is recommended to review the list each morning and/or at the end of each day. This is because there may be new information to influence the order of ranking, or more likely, there are new items to add and prioritize.
The reason this method works for me is that it gives me a clear focus on the highest priority items that need to be accomplished.
Corner Office Wisdom:
Each person is different and needs to determine what methods will work to make them successful. Using a TTD list has been a simple and effective tool that has aided my success.
Watching the World Cup qualifying tournaments has been really enjoyable. It is always great to see individual talents performing at the highest levels. But what was even more enjoyable was seeing the teamwork demonstrated by the players. The teams that gelled the best were the ones that were the least selfish and supported their team mates.
There are many times in the momentum of play that the player with the ball has an opportunity to take the ball down field. As he does so, he will need to temporarily “switch” positions with another player. For example, if the player is a defender or a mid-fielder moving the ball down field, he might suddenly occupy the space of a different player, perhaps a winger. The winger will need to switch positions and pull back to cover for the midfielder. To do this successfully requires great communication, cooperation and common skills between players. If the winger does not fall back, the result will be too many players bunched up in an area of the field. This will leave gaping holes in the defense should the momentum of play shift and go the opposite way.
In one of my roles, I was leading a software development team. It consisted of a Sr. Engineer under contract, a tester, a student-intern, and me, also a Sr. Engineer. We had a tremendous amount of work to do to get our delivery completed. Each of us had individual roles and assignments. After working an extensive amount of overtime, we completed the delivery. Then my group was combined with a second group. It also included a mix of Sr. engineers, testers, as well as a person who handled the massive amount of process paperwork required by the customer.
In our first meeting together as a team, we compared notes and realized the new group had worked even more overtime than my original group. They were really tired and on the verge of burn-out. Looking at the dark circles around everyone’s eyes, we determined there had to be a better way.
We decided to review the process used to get things done. We determined that there were a number of bottlenecks in the way each task was accomplished. The biggest issue was that people were so focused on their own role and assignment that they did not know what the others persons did. We discussed how we can tear down some of the walls between roles in the team and focus on how we can work together better. The results included:
1. Cross-training and developing skills among some of the team members to expand their abilities.
2. Allow them to grow and take on additional, more expanded roles.
As a result, we were able to “switch” individuals between roles and directly assist one another when needed. With the combined adjustments of increasing the skills of the team, increasing communication and cooperation, we met our deadlines with very high-quality, high-morale and minimal overtime.
Corner Office Wisdom:
There are times when process improvement also requires skills improvement including cross-training of individuals in the organization. By improving the skills of the team as a whole and encouraging cooperation, the team will operate with greater efficiency and higher quality in completing their deliverables.