larry schlang: the human element
you very much. My
name is Larry Schlang, President and CEO of Bantu,
a provider of industry-leading, secure, enterprise, instant
messaging (IM), primarily to the government market, which Esther
mentioned. We focus
on the government market, although we also have commercial
for example, is a commercial customer, but we've signed up the
Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, and we have an early stage
engagement with FEMA, Homeland Security, and others as well.
technology perspective, we focus on providing the functionality
that people associate with consumer IM, making it
business-critical technology that is secure, scalable, and
embedding it to enhance other applications that organizations
have already invested in, that they already are working with,
and that their people use every day to get their jobs done.
We make those business applications real-time, and, as a
result, make their people more productive.
important not just because I want to pitch my company, but it's
important from a sales perspective, and I think it's something
to think about generally when selling your products into your
customers. We have
a two-step ROI proposition for our customers.
Our application not only increases their users'
performance and productivity, it also contributes to the ROI
that they get from the applications that they've already spent
millions of dollars on. That's
a two-step process, and it's something that we find customers
are looking for these days when they have limited IT budgets.
They want to improve the things that they've already
invested in, and that's how we fit in.
going to focus on the United States Army as our customer.
They were our first government customer, and the
perspective I want to bring to it is maybe a little bit higher
level than Jeff's excellent talk. As you're going through the process that Jeff described so
well, what can you learn about your company as a result of the
sale? What can your
customer teach you, and what can the process teach you about
your company and your sales proposition?
During the last
few years, it goes without saying that there's been a tremendous
amount of transformation in the economy.
Everyone in this room has had to transform their
businesses and their sales propositions, as well.
We've had to do that, too.
What we did was that we listened to what our market and
our customers were telling us, and that is very much what the
Army deal was all about. We
were able to take the opportunity, close the sale, make it a
success, and then leverage that opportunity to sell additionally
into that customer, as well as to have that customer take us to
additional business. It's
that process that, to a great degree, defined where we are as a
business today, so let me tell you a little bit about the story.
It all began
long ago, in Q2 or Q3 of 2001.
We were out selling to the education and commercial
markets. We had a
number of customers there, but what we were seeing was that the
sales cycles were stretching out, customers were going out of
business, they were pulling their IT budgets off the table, et
cetera. Around this
time, when things were getting extremely bleak, we received a
call out of the blue from what used to be TRW. They were located in California, and they were working on a
large initiative for the Army called Army Knowledge Online, the
enterprise-wide knowledge management portal for the United
States Army. Unbeknownst
to us, they had already defined the requirements, which included
IM and presence
as an embedded, enhancing technology for the portal.
A number of Jeff’s steps were already out of the way,
and we didn't even know about it.
They said that they were far along in the project,
evaluating a number of different tools, and what could we tell
them about Bantu?
we had two young guys who were on vacation in California, a
software engineer and an account manager.
I wasn't there, but I have these visions of these guys
with their cutoffs on the beach with their surfboards and beers
in hand. We called
them on their cell phones and said, “You've got to get over to
this office at TRW.” They
said, “Sure. Cowabunga, dude!” And they raced off to TRW.
I see them saying, “Hey, man, here's a beer.
Let's talk about this.”
Whether they did that or not, it was a critical step for
us, and it is one of my key messages for you today.
It demonstrated to them our commitment.
They knew we were a small company, but we were there the
next day. I would
like to think that our technology is extremely compelling,
robust, secure, all those words, but it was actually the human
element that I think helped ultimately close the deal.
They were out there that day.
thing that followed was we maintained that commitment level.
We were feeding them all the documentation they needed
about the product, and we gave them all the information about
the competitive landscape, which is a great thing to be able to
do. If your
customer asks for the competition, tell them what the
competition is. If you believe in your product, your product will stand out.
It was a great strategic position for us to be in with
To make a long
story short, they were building a thousand-point matrix against
which they judged all the competitive products, of which there
were over 20 which touched messaging in any way.
At the end of the day, we got 975 points; the next
closest competitor got 625.
The deal was closed within a week or two after that.
One key thing that we did was building a demo site out of
pocket for them and integrating it. Even though we are pretty loathe to do that without money,
especially now, it was another key decision for us and a key
part of the win for the customer.
You have to pick your spots and do what it takes for the
maintained that commitment after the sale, and that is extremely
for your customer is essential during the sale, in presales
process, and, even more importantly, after the sale. If
you win their trust and you keep their trust, they will start
doing things for you. Our
customer, the Army, has been an extremely strong reference for
us in the media. They've
continued to buy products and services, and they've introduced
us to all those other customers that I mentioned to you a minute
ago. The post-sales
process is as important, or more important, for your sales
knows that the
customer is king. Also,
as in Jeff's talk, one of the things we've learned from our
customer, the Army, is that you've got to pick your spots, pick
who you're going to spend resources on, and what you're going to
focus on. The story
I just told you has basically become the centerpiece for our
listened to what they were telling us, what their business
problems were, and their communication issues.
We took it to heart, and basically, we're building the
entire company on top of it. Thanks.
Ms. Smith: Thanks, Larry.
Next is Doug Clark from Métier,
who started the company with Sandra in 1997, I believe, and is
one of the survivors from that wonderful early stage.
doug clark: the numbers game
Esther. You know,
we also had an experience of selling on vacation.
We sold to a bank in Bermuda at the end of a vacation and
tried to expense it. The
accountants wouldn't let us.
Just a brief
word on our company. We provide project portfolio management software for large
enterprises and large government programs.
We integrate with existing tools, like instant messaging,
help desk software, and project management tools, and we analyze
and forecast the work within these enterprises with accuracy
that's well up in the high 90s for accuracy of modeling work.
You read in the newspaper that enterprise software is
dead. Well, you're
looking at three enterprise software companies here, so,
clearly, it's a little early to say that. I think we're doing
I will be very
honest that we didn't have a lot of selling experience in the
early days of the company.
We had a really, really great idea, we got a good
jumpstart on developing the product with Lockheed Martin on the
Year 2000 Census, but we were pretty lean on sales experience
early on. The
school of hard knocks and experience sits before you now.
We planned this
out. We planned to
have Jeff go first and give you the good details so that the
rest of us on the panel could be philosophical and high level.
We'll take the easy part.
Eating the elephant in small bites and everything that
Jeff talked about, is so critical, but I would like to talk a
little bit about some philosophical points that we have learned
and live by. Then
I'll talk about one of our customers, BMW.
I could explain BMW using Dante-esque kind of language,
or I could do it like Gary Larson’s Far Side comics, but I
think I'll take something halfway in between.
I hate to tell
everybody this, but there are a lot more people out there who don't
want to buy your product than who do want to buy your product.
We found that out, and so the first part of the
philosophy is get the “no” as fast as possible, then move
on. It's a game of
certainly about relationship and strategy and things like that,
but, in the end, it truly is a game of numbers.
exactly as Jeff was talking about, you don't have control.
Especially as a small company, it's hard for you to
control the process, but do everything you can to control it
because it's going to be in your best interest. The fact that you have a strategy, whether it's good or bad,
and that you follow it and try to control that sales process is
alluded to it, and I should stand up and yell it: Get the close
to be as soon as possible. It's always going to try to elongate on you.
BMW was a monster close that took a long time, but the
point is that you evolve. You
can't make money until they sign that contract, so you've got to
have the strategies to get the close as soon as possible.
BMW was doing
the dreaded “trade study,” which already says that you're
not in control. They
had a plan. They
were on the tail-end of the trade study when we were introduced
and did a demo. We have another saying at Métier, that the worst demos
always result in a client.
Once again, we somehow stepped all over our fingers and
did a very bad showing. They
loved it. The next thing you know, we're on a plane down to South
Carolina to the plant where all of the IT is, and we're doing
getting to be friends with our customer, we've found our white
knight, we're working our strategy.
At first, they said that the presentation would be in a
briefing room near the entrance.
We had decided to take a fairly experienced person with
us who had a bum foot, but we thought it would be okay.
As we get there, they said, “Oh, no, it's been moved to
the IT center, which is all the way across the factory.
By the way, you have zero setup time.
Here are two full-figured men during the summer,
sweating, one is hobbling.
We finally flagged down a BMW golf cart—really, it's a
golf cart with a BMW logo on it driven by a frustrated
ex-Autobahn racer. We're
trying to get the demo laptop all fired up and, at the same
time, he's wildly driving us past the X5s and the Z3s coming off
the plant floor.
We do the
have one German and all he cares about is, “How does it
work?” We have
the folks from South Carolina with their wonderful accents who
are trying to establish relationships with us.
We have the CFO asking, “How much does it cost?”
We have South Africans in there who we just could never
figure out what they were all about.
It’s all part of the control thing.
We do the demo,
and, now, we're three months into the sales cycle.
We finally close them
about 14 months later after several fits and starts.
Actually, Sandra has a meeting with them today, and
that's part of the farming or harvesting the fruits of your
labor with our Outlook Integration piece.
We're rolling out the next piece.
We're fully in North American IT—all of their projects
and programs use our tool—and the Holy Grail for us is the
global roll-out. We
continue to sell to that.
Let me go to
the lessons learned. Again, “get the no” means that you're trying to do it as
fast as possible. It's
difficult for salespeople to do this, because you've got to be
out there, you've got a great product, but what you really have
to do is look for that “no.”
When it comes
to the process, one of the things we do is what we call
means for every 25 qualified prospects, you want to do no more
than five proposals for one win.
Certainly, the metrics are key.
Figure out your own metric, but you need to have those
evaluate ourselves on our ability to get control, and a key
metric for us is to look at how many proposals we're doing.
My experience has been that if we can get into that 25 to
5 to 1, you guys are going to be reading about us constantly in
the paper. What we're really trying to do is get the control.
Lastly, get the
close as soon as possible.
There are so many different approaches, but, if you're
getting control up front and you have a fully qualified
customer, it transitions over to the relationship. Know the
white knight. Cultivate
your white knight. By
the way, a white knight is not “Lenny, the server guy.”
It's someone at the right level, like the CIO, who can
ink the checks. If you've done a good job, the white knight in your
relationship is right where he or she needs to be, so that when
you're ready to give him the sticker shock, that the
relationship is strong and they're ready to sign the contract.
Ms. Smith: Thanks, Doug.
Our wrap-up today is from Ken Kiser.
You've heard from three CEOs.
Ken is a straight sales professional, and one of the
things we agreed upon at the beginning was that, generally,
having the CEO go on the sales call is maybe not the best idea.
Ken may want to go into that with a little more detail.
ken kiser: the real world
you. Now you know:
I'm just a simple salesperson.
Kind of at the bottom of the heap, or at the top of the
income scale, however you want to look at it.
I could go through the process and whatnot, but these
gentlemen have done that quite well.
Process is the bane of a salesperson's existence.
Most salespeople are kind of free-flowing, “go out and
do your thing” types, and your management is constantly
saying, “Do this today, do this tomorrow.
Where's the forecast?
I want the money.”
What I would
like to do today is to talk a little bit more about the
specifics of how you execute against the process that they put
together. I agree
that the process they laid out is important, it is valuable, it
is one I have found over my career to be successful, but there
are a couple of things to remember.
When you're a
small company, the big company doesn't want to buy from you.
I think most of you know that.
The reality is, you're a huge risk.
The failure rate of small companies with big companies is
companies know that they tend to kill small companies because
they force you to do things through pricing, features, whatnot,
that create massive stress in your organizations.
You want to do business with the big guys because, you
know that once you land the customer there's a budget behind it
that not only rewards you on the initial effort, but that you
can continue to get more and more from.
problem, and the other fact of life, is that your ability to
create opportunities in these large organizations by working
hard or making 400 cold calls a day is, not always, but a lot of
times, a useless effort. As
you've heard all of these gentlemen talk about, the big
successes they've seen in their organizations is when the big
company came to them.
The key is to
make sure that your company is visible so that when
opportunities or requirements get generated in these large
organizations, they find you.
Of all the successes I've had when I was at a small
company called CacheFlow, the biggest deals we got were calls
into us. It wasn't
from the salesperson, the classic calling room where everyone is
dialing, dialing, dialing, dialing.
That I found to be almost completely ineffective for the
big, big accounts. The
trick is to figure out how to get your name out there.
Obviously, trying to do it the hard way, which is
spending to do it, is not usually a realistic goal.
Trying to capitalize a marketing campaign to create a
brand is not going to work.
What I found is that you need to figure out where your
target customers are, which is part of the process Jeff talked
about, so that you can get in front of them and get those
inbound calls to your sales rep in California or on your
vacation in Bermuda.
You'll find the
successful ones are the ones where the call comes into you, and,
typically, the person calling you is the champion, the white
knight. That is the
key part of any sales process when you're the little guy.
For one thing, you get someone who is motivated.
It's their idea, so it's a career move.
The best play is when you attach your product or service
to somebody's play politically inside their organization so that
they really get behind it.
Obviously, the best case is when that person also has
purchasing authority. Another
thing you'll find, typically, in a big organization is that
there are half a dozen or more people who are involved in the
process. You cannot
get to those people, so the trick is to get to one person or set
of people, convince them that your value proposition is
worthwhile or that your interests are aligned with theirs, and
they take you to all the other people who are sitting in their
seats saying no, no, no, no, no.
You've got to figure out how to get in front of those
marketing people and finance people and operations people so
that you can communicate your value proposition and overcome
their objections and help your champion help you.
That's my high
level message. Here are some specifics.
When I was at
CacheFlow, I started out pre-product, zero dollars in revenue.
Two and a half years later, it was over $100 million in
revenue. Obviously, it was boom time—pretty tough to pull off
something like that these days—but there were good examples. I was involved very early with an opportunity we had at
Xerox. We were at
some little trade show focused around something or another, and
this individual walked up.
I thought it was a joke.
He said, “I'm from Xerox.”
That's really neat.”
need one of those things.”
I'm like, yeah,
yeah, yeah, you and a half dozen other people that just walked
So I'm talking
to him, talking to him, and we have a dialogue.
Always talk, no matter how crazy the people sound.
He hands me his card and it says: Director MIS, Xerox
Global Information Infrastructure.
I get back and
call the guy. Just like everyone here said, the deal skipped four process
steps almost immediately, which also is a common theme. If you have to work every step in every process in every
deal, you get tired of it pretty quickly.
I immediately got to him, he immediately figured out that
I had value—my message and value proposition resonated with
his problem—and the trick was that I didn't tell him
that. “You have
one mouth and two ears, use them appropriately,” is part of
the sales book. Don't
take your CEO to “deliver” the message.
Listen, then tell the message after you hear what they
We got through
this thing, jumped through a bunch of process steps, I'm all
fired up, and we got it going. That's when it really started.
That's when I started getting introduced to half a dozen
other meetings with this person and that person and standards
bodies and outsourcers and finance guys and on and on and on.
It was one objection after another.
The thing was, that was good.
You know you're into something worthwhile when you're
being introduced by your champion to somebody who doesn't like
telling you, “This person has an objection; I need your help
to overcome it.”
part, and this is the human part of it, to reiterate the earlier
point about the close. We
went through this entire process; it was probably eight months
long. The numbers
were staggering for a small company because it eventually ended
up that Xerox standardized globally on the CacheFlow product.
Xerox is a big company with a lot of sites, so the
numbers on this thing were spiraling out of control positively.
We sat down to talk about the big close, and, I kid you
not, it was a deal that turned out to be well over $5 million
and it was closed over a $20 Arby's lunch.
No steak dinner, no fancy big event with brass pens and
gifts and all that stuff. It
was real simple. It
was finding the champion, aligning your interests with theirs,
having your champion introduce you to all the objectors, and
knocking them down one at a time.
When it came time to actually sit down and put the deal
together, it was literally two roast beef sandwiches, fries, a
pair of Cokes, and it was done.
In summary, the
close is basically the rite of passage.
It's the last thing.
You've got to find the champion.
Selling is a people-to-people business, so you've got to
find ways to align their personal interests with your product's
value proposition. The
best prospecting is to position yourself so that the big
companies, the innovators, and the early adopters will find you.
And, as any good sales guy, shut up and let somebody else
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