Category Archives: Management

The pathway to better enterprise relationships

Enterprise companies can be tremendously rewarding to work with but they certainly have their challenges. With long sales cycles, lots of complexity and lots of politics, they often offer consultants and vendors opportunities to increase business value at an awesome scale. Over the years working with at least 20 Fortune 500 enterprise clients, I’ve gathered a few best practices that have helped me be successful both in North America and overseas. This is by no means an exhaustive list – I’d love to hear what’s been successful for you – but here are some general principles that continue to help me be successful with these types of clients.

One contact is never enough – Just one contact at an enterprise will never be enough to make a sale or keep a client. Know everyone that you can, understand the business from their perspective and listen to what’s important to each one of them. If you can ensure your service or solution will make all of your contacts successful in some way, you’re onto a winner.

 Be there to help – Yes, everyone has targets and quotas but if you’re thinking about your money, you’re not thinking about your client’s success. Concentrate on how you’ll be helping them and the money will come.

Be responsive – people in large companies are used to stakeholders who take weeks to get back to them and projects that take forever to get off the ground. If you’re getting back to them in hours, they’ll be surprised and grateful that you’re addressing their questions quickly.

IT is not the enemy – IT departments in large companies have lots of headaches. Dealing with technology projects that are not a part of their remit and yet another vendor who doesn’t listen or understand their position is just one more problem for them. Get to know the IT team and help them understand you’re here to help.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate – Big companies know that there is no free lunch. If your product or service has value, demonstrate that value and have a conversation with your client. Don’t feel like you always have to fold on price without a murmur. You may have to give discounts in some instances but it’s always better to at least talk about it first.

Work towards alignment as well as signatures – the person who signs your deal may not be the person who benefits most from your solution or even the one who fully understands your value proposition. Pay attention to what makes each stakeholder successful and find a way to bring these objectives together. It’s a bit like creating a bill that can be passed into law – addressing the needs of special interest groups can make the whole thing more palatable and possible to get done.

If you work for an enterprise, I’m especially interested to know what you think of this list and how you’d improve it!california-pathway

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Try specifics

You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one. – John Wooden.

I love this quote from this very successful basketball coach. The most important thing he gave his players was unbiased, specific information about best practice. He didn’t get caught up in how well or badly they were playing. He just told them over and over how they could improve, specifically, clearly and without judgement. Awesome.

Going global – things to think about

I finished work on another project recently that allowed me to consolidate some ideas on how to make implementing software outside your home country more successful.

Obviously planning is key, but often the plan doesn’t follow activities right through until the final outcome. I came across several instances where a planning decision had been made before people had thought through the full impact of that decision, resulting in confusion, loss of time and wasted effort. Of course you can never know *everything* about possible impact, but you can certainly get some of the bigger things right.

In my experience, these things are:

Localization – will the product be localized for each market? If so, how will training be conducted? How will support be handled on an ongoing basis? How will ongoing changes to the product be handled? If you’re not going to localize at all, think through the impact of asking everyone to use your native language.

Security and Application Management – can people access the product within their current IT structure and who will be managing access? If it’s IT, do they have the desire and resources to do so? If it’s the business side, same question. If you’ve never implemented a product of this type across different markets before, you’ll need to do a lot of testing. This means engagement with local IT teams who may not have your project even on their radar, let alone have resources assigned to support you.

Data Security and Granularity – where will data be stored (as in general, data storage in the US is not sufficiently secure for Europe)? Does the data need to be encrypted at rest?

What granularity of data will be required for reporting at the most senior level, and at what point will data differences not matter to the higher level reports?

People in constituent markets need detail, and that detail can differ from country to country. What you need is to understand how data in one country stacks up against data in another, and then tune your high-level reporting accordingly. Many companies implement a global software solution to drive standardization across process, products and pricing, but in some environments that simply isn’t possible. You have to decide where the “break-point” is for reporting and then work to that point in every market.

Communications Alignment – this is a fairy standard principle, but I’ve seen many instances where broad, high level goals had been communicated in a pretty generic way but not broken down into specific messages. It made things difficult for us, as not only did people not know what we supposed to be doing, they didn’t understand how they needed to participate or contribute.

So, not too many things to think about really, but time spent working through each of these areas will pay dividends, I promise you! I’m happy to answer questions on this topic if you have them,

Can *anyone* really have it all? And what is “all” anyway?

A friend of mine – with her own business and two children – pointed me to this article today http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/07/why-pepsico-ceo-indra-k-nooyi-cant-have-it-all/373750/

It’s great to see a point of view from someone who can give an informed opinion, but maybe we should quantify what “all” is. Can a person – male or female – have a career and a family? I think generally the answer is yes. Can this person give as much attention as they would like to every aspect of this “all”? Can they be the perfect parent, succeed to the highest levels of their career, look after their own parents plus ensure they too are supporting themselves with the best diet, exercise, emotional support etc.? No, I don’t think it’s possible.

You make decisions on a day-by-day basis and you do the best you can. Everyone makes sacrifices and everyone sometimes has things they feel guilty about. Maybe if you decide what your personal “all” is, that will help with both the decisions and the guilt.

Try, try again

I’m in the process of leaving a project this week and my successor has been coming up with suggestions on how to improve as the team goes forwards. It’s tempting sometimes to say, “I tried that already and it didn’t work,” but I stop myself if I can.

I have to remind myself that the fact that I tried something and it wasn’t successful is not an indicator of potential failure if someone else tries something similar. The project has continued to develop, the participants have changed, maybe the approach is slightly different – who knows? Maybe this time the outcome will be better.

This is not to say we should mindlessly repeat ourselves, expecting a different result every time, but we can sometimes be tempted to squash other people’s ideas on the basis of our own experience.

Let’s not do that.

You just don’t know what the future will hold for any attempt at a leap forwards. It’s better for everyone to stay positive on possible outcomes and avoid letting our own experiences jeopardize someone else’s opportunity for success.

Great coaches

I’m always interested in working with great coaches and am lucky to have found a few along the way. How do I recognize them? How do you know if you’ve found one?

Great coaches know that most people can’t take in a long checklist of improvements. When someone gives me too much to think about, I spend all my time checking each move and I lose the flow of what I’m doing.

Great coaches focus on one area of performance at a time. They give you one or two things to think about or correct, and what they give you often has an impact far beyond the immediate.

I practiced karate for years and noticed time and again how a good instructor would get a student to make a small adjustment that made a big difference. They’d ask a student to adjust their hip position slightly and that would affect their foot position, their leg, shoulder, their arm – you’d see a person’s whole body change as a result of one small shift.

Look for people who give simple instructions that have great effect, and maybe you’ll have found a great coach. Think about the same approach for yourself – the world can always use more!