Monthly Archives: February 2013

Going with your gut

Going with your first instinct is fine as long as it really is yours.

Awhile ago I went with some friends to Canada’s Wonderland. It was the first time I’d been back in years and while I can’t go on rides that go around in circles, I love rollercoasters. Wonderland has LOTS of rollercoasters and I’m pretty sure we hit all of them.

One in particular was pretty scary as there was no floor. You got into your seat, the safety bar came down and as you rolled out, the ground dropped away below you and you realized that you felt kind of naked. I was sitting next to my friend Ken and as we pulled to a stop at the end of the ride, my two friends in the row behind us said, “Let’s go again – we can just stay on!”

Ken said, “Yeah – ok! I’m going again!” but I was done. It was a good ride but once was enough for me. I waited for them at the exit and on their return Ken looked a little shaken up.

I asked him what was up and it turns out that after I got off the ride there was a short wait, then the safety bar came down, and then he realized that he didn’t want to go again. The attendant came by to perform the final check and Ken, slightly panicked, said, “I don’t want to go.” The attendant looked deep into his eyes and said, “It’s too late,” and the coaster pulled out again.

Ken admitted, “I got carried away by their enthusiasm – I didn’t really know what I was doing.”

“I feel kind of sick now.”

We laughed a lot but it made me think.

Going with your gut can be perfectly legitimate. Just make sure it’s your gut you’re going with, not somebody else’s. 

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The Customer Is Not Always Right

Anyone who thinks that enterprise sales/account management means agreeing with the client all the time is wrong. People develop wacky ideas about their own business all the time, often because they are either stuck in silos or they are too close to the issues. This does not mean it’s a good idea to implement them.

For me, the really interesting part of working with a client is understanding how their whole business works and serving that best interest, not just the interest of whoever is in charge of the RFP this week. This is the only way you become a proper advisor and someone the client will trust no matter what they’re looking for. It doesn’t mean you’ll always conclude a sale, but it does make it much more likely they will always make sure you’re at the table.

 In no particular order then, here are my top reasons to say “no” to a prospective or existing client:

i.      You/your company does not provide the product/service they need

ii.      The client is seeking to support a business process that is sub-optimal

iii.      The requirements are not clear – and neither is the expected outcome

iv.      You don’t believe what the client wants – or says they want – is good for their business

Are there others you can think of, or does this list cover most reasons?

Management ≠ prevention

An acquaintance of mine was employed as a risk manager on a project and like any good professional doing that job, identified the likely risks and mitigation strategies the team would employ. Later in the project, one of the previously-identified risk events occurred and was addressed in the way that was planned. The client took my acquaintance aside and said,

“How did this happen? I hired you so that we wouldn’t run into this situation!”

Isn’t it amazing how differently particular words can be understood?

When appended to a word like “time”, the understanding seems clear – time management can only mean how we deal with time, so in general terms how we influence or maintain control over time.

Substitute a word like “risk” or “change” into the same phrase, and people can choose to interpret it differently. Some appear to think that risk or change management means, “How can we stop these events from occurring?”

Listening is touted these days as a must-have skill. Agreed, absolutely, but just listening is not enough. We have to pay attention to how we interpret what we hear and ensure that everyone has a common understanding of what was said.

Confluence – from the Latin “confluere” meaning to flow together

When I was in high school, business studies were presented almost as…accountancy. Dry. Full of numbers. Stuffy. I could not think of anything more boring to do so I gave the whole area a wide berth and went into arts.

Over the years I went from arts to communications to technology and ended up bringing everything together in business, which I now think is one of the most exciting things anyone can ever do. This confluence of people, information and now technology gives you the opportunity to be involved in countless new situations, make a real impact on people’s lives and never stop learning.

This blog is for people who enjoy business, especially those who love working with clients and technology. It might veer towards other areas from time to time but none of us have only one dimension so I hope you enjoy it all.

Product company or services company?

The question came up during a conversation recently – do I work for a product company or a services company?

Historically, technology “product” companies – those that produce one or more standard applications that can be used by many different customers – are seen as having more value in the marketplace than services companies. A product may be sold again and again (goes the thinking), continuing to leverage and profit from the initial work that went into its creation. A company that provides services must tailor their offering to each client, leading to fewer options for scalability over the long term.

But just because you make something does not mean people will come.

The last 40 years are littered with instances of great products (do I even need to say Betamax?) losing out to others that are not as good but cheaper, marketed more effectively – and today I would add – easier to tailor to your own needs.

Everyone’s getting used to being able to do whatever they want with their consumer products and software, so it’s inevitable that they should start to have the same expectations in their work environments.

But personalizing for business is a little more tricky. Everyone has to adopt a solution in order for the business to realize the proper return on investment, but how do you allow everyone to do what they want while maintaining some order?

To get to full adoption, the seller of a business product has to understand the whole business and provide the services necessary to create value for everyone. Otherwise the awesome product you sold your client ends up a bit like a paperweight – an executive decoration that doesn’t offer any real return.

So the question really isn’t “product company or services company?”

It’s how much service does your product company need to provide to make sure your clients realize the full value of what they’ve purchased.