I have never met a salesperson that wants to talk about implementation during the sales cycle…never. “It will kill, slow down, confuse (fill in your own negative verb) the deal!”
Well, if the implementation is not trivial, and you don’t tell the customer what to expect:
· Best case: They will not trust the salesperson anymore
· Typical case: Their order sit in the implementation backlog awaiting them to fund and staff the project
· Worst case: They kill the deal after the contract is signed
Explaining implementation does not have to get complicated, confusing or frightening. They will have to go through something similar with any solution they choose, and a savvy buyer will likely bring up the topic up – so be ready.
Instead of playing defense, it is 100% possible to get ahead of the conversation and use your implementation as a competitive advantage. Talk about how the people are top shelf experts and are really nice people to work with (this must be true by the way).
As we make the turn from the Prepare phase to the Sell phase, it starts with marketing. Have a look at your marketing materials, and make sure there is similar coverage given to implementation as there would be to a major feature.
Often times there will be sales materials that cover most of the product but at a very high level, and then there will be a one-pager to cover a specific area in more detail. Use that same approach for implementation. A simple reference to the fact that you have a comprehensive implementation process and maybe a graphic about the flow should be good. Back that up with a one-pager that goes into a little more detail and you are well on your way. By adding these two small components, you get the customer thinking about what it will take to pull off a successful implementation and the sales team is being equipped to speak to the subject.
Having marketing materials in hand is a great start, but it will only get you so far. During annual sales training, have a session about how to handle implementation questions and objections. This will be a game changer for some sales reps, and they will see the power of using this as a lever against competitors.
Additionally, training one or two people from the implementation team to provide pre-sales support can also add fuel to the sales engine. Regardless if it is a phone call or an onsite visit, being able to intelligently (and in a sales focused way) speak to the implementation, tells the customers that you have nothing to hide, are ready, willing and able to take them on as a new customer.
In a prior post, I promised to go into a little more detail about the kick off. Project management wonks will tell you “The kick off is an essential element to a…zzzzz.”
The kick off matters because it is where the buy team transfers the vision and importance of the project to the implementation team. Period. That’s it.
A nice slide deck that briefly talks about the implementation process is good, and an onsite kick off followed by several days of breakout working sessions will dramatically reduce project duration, but it is far too common that the people who make the decision to buy software (and their salesperson) are nowhere to be seen once the ink on the contract is dry.
Pro tip – Schedule several full days of dedicated work time with the full implementation team, onsite right after the kick off. It will bond the team and jump start progress.
Any assumption that the business experts, database analysts, and trainers who are 14 layers down in the organization have any idea about what was purchased or why it matters to the business is nonsense. These folks all have many other priority projects, have been brought in after the contract was signed and have no clue about the business decision and strategy behind this move. Part of the agenda must be that the customer who bought your software stands up and talks for a few minutes about why.
· Why the software was purchased
· Why this vendor was selected
· Why they need to make this the top priority
· Why they will be there to remove roadblocks
The salesperson needs to be there to ensure a clean handoff and in case there are any awkward spots like…”We bought this because it has the ability to predict tomorrow’s winning lotto numbers, and that feature alone will make us a TON of money!” At this point the salesperson jumps in and reminds the customer that while that would be a terrific enhancement, we will be able to estimate the probability of certain numbers, but not guarantee a win.
In the post, the buy team and the salespeople head to the golf course, and we get into the work of doing the implementation.
Hopefully this has been a useful series for you. Please let me know your thoughts so we can keep the conversation going.
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