Oracle Strategy – Musically Clear

How do you explain your complete strategy when you are Oracle and your range of products is so broad ranging.

Maybe you can record hours of video footage that goes through all the mashinations and how everything works together.

With so many market leading technologies it could have been tempting to get technical in how the strategy was put across.

Luckily Oracle chose to engage Sonsie Selling to deliver a “Sketch Draw” animation video that communicates their strategy in less than 5 minutes.

We achieved this on a single page storyboard by focusing on a distilled number of messages so that the viewer clearly understood the key points.

There are more videos being worked on for Oracle using other analogies. We will share these as they go public.

This style of video for simple message communication is now fashionable as it works so well. We do “Sketch Drawing” differently by distilling down to a single picture so all the messages are continually visible to the viewer as the story is built out.

Doodling Can Be A Dollar Making Activity

This article from the Wall Street Journal published this week highlights a lot of points that could have come from our own mouths.

Businesses encouraging staff to get on a whiteboard to sketch ideas or explain complex concepts. Great to see WSJ shining a light visual communication techniques that Sonsie Selling are experts in.

Companies who are holding training sessions on visual note taking understand that there is more to good use of a Whiteboard in business than many of you may think. Some of our prospects question the need for our expertise, stating that their employees already actively whiteboard. What we see though is these whiteboards are random their design, do not good narrative to support the storyboard and are typically a load of boxes and lines.

We apply road tested storyboard templates to give the whiteboard structure and create a narrative that helps the understanding of the concept being communicated.

The more visual the diagram is the more memorable it will be. Representative icons help ideas come alive and be more quickly understood. As the article states ” A 2009 study published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology found that doodlers retained more than nondoodlers when remembering information that had been presented in a boring context”

You don’t need to be a skillled cartoonist to get your ideas across better using this approach. It is about being more engaging in the delivery and keeping your audience’s attention as you are in their focus explaining the concepts in a multi-sensory fashion.

Time to remove the Powerpoint crutch to let ideas and interactivity flow form the whiteboard.

Selling in a commoditized market does not need to be boring – Graeme McKenzie, CEO, Sonsie Selling.

There are 2 ways to break the monotony of a commoditized market

1) Create a disruptive technology that none of your competitors have thought of and turn the market upside down

2) Use consultative selling model that invests time in understanding building customer empathy, differentiating by how you engage and mould your proposition to each customer scenario.

To me 2 seems easier than 1.

But there seems to be resistance from taking the easy path across many sectors we work in.

Before setting up Sonsie Selling I was a sales leader in the IT Service Management software market. If you want to see a commoditized market –ITSM is a prime example.

Yes there have been disruptive technology releases from time to time.

A few years ago Service-Now entered the market with the ITSM Software as a Service offering. Now in 2012 there is nothing disruptive about ITSM SaaS as pretty much all the vendors – even the small guys – offer this.

Another disruption was Service Catalogue. It was and is a good concept. NewScale caused the initial disruption with their focused product release. But now in 2012 NewScale has been gobbled up by Cisco and it is a standard for all vendors to have a Service Catalogue as part of the product suite. They are really now just squabbling over who provides the nicest one.

If I was a customer looking for a replacement solution (as it is commoditized the ITSM market is well over 90% replacement selling) then I would not be able to make a confident decision based solely on a product demo comparison. How can you when all the products look so similar and seem to do the same things.

I am not saying do not demo your product even in a crowded market like ITSM. But the demo is only part of the selling approach and should be done at the right time in a controlled manner.

My last ITSM sales leader role was with one of the mid-size vendors who had been around since the earliest days of the market. They still believed their product was the best – most technology company owners and CTOs do. But there was nothing disruptive about the product set.

But we did consistently compete and win against the disrupters even when they were at their height of disruption.

The approach we took was not radical for me but it was to this mid-size ITSM vendor. We delayed showing product until we had a solid understanding of the customer including their needs and goals.

That meant that when we went through the product the demo focused on areas of functionality that address these needs and goals.

We also framed the demo with clear communication (normally using a Whiteboard) of what was about to be shown. This gave the customer the context of why a product feature added value to them and their business.

There is nothing new in a consultative selling approach. But because the ITSM market was commoditized with vendors sticking their head in the sand refusing to accept this fact – it was actually a fresh approach that worked.

It was challenging for the sales guys. Firstly they were moving away from their comfort zone – only talking about their company and showing their product. Secondly they had to learn how to overcome the customer objection – “Show me your product first. Then I will share my issues and goals”. With good managers coaching the sales guys in the field these challenges are of course surmountable.

Since leaving ITSM and forming Sonsie Selling we have been helping many other vendors facing the challenge of a commoditized market.

In Business Intelligence, QlikTech built a disruptive technology in the form of QlikView. It is an In-Memory highly flexible analytical solution for end users.

QlikTech recognised that to maintain their disruptive impact a move to consultative selling was required. We helped them on that journey by providing the customer facing tools that the sale team use with their customers to understand issues and objectives.

QlikView is still a very appealing product but there other BI vendors now offering In-Memory flexibility for end users. The market has raced to catch up and the QlikView initial disruption will level out. So it was a good strategic decision for QlikTech to move away from relying on product demonstrations only. Glad we were able to help them.

As a company that takes pride in maintaining confidentiality we can and have helped other BI vendors with their consultative selling approach.

Our view is that each vendor has a unique proposition but they can struggle to make this clear to a customer. It will not come across in product demonstrations without customer context or long winded PowerPoint decks.

It comes back to the simplification of a differentiated and customer focused message. This can be achieved in a number of ways but we have found WhiteboardSelling is one of the best methods. Using this approach a single page storyboard will contain all the unique selling points required for a sales person to explain to the customer why their solution is best suited to meet their needs.

WhiteboardSelling is ideal for flexible consultative selling, breaking the monotony of how a vendor engages with customers and increase chance of winning business in a commoditized market.

If you work for a vendor it is easier to understand what is unique about the product you sell. After all you live and breathe the functionality of the product every day. It is your job to know what is good about your product. But differentiation that seems obvious inside the corporate walls of the vendor’s offices may not be so clear from the customer position. That is why those who adopt a consultative selling approach will succeed and others will struggle to maintain a market position.

Here are some other markets where vendors should be adopting consultative selling to address commoditization challenges.

Security and Identity Management. Employees of TrendMicro, Oracle, Sophos, Integralis, CA, Quest, BMC, HP, Fortinet, Proofpoint etc., may believe their product is better but is it getting across to customers with the right context?

It may be a relatively new market but with so many vendors offering cloud management and automation solutions how does a customer tell the difference between all the big guys  in the space including Oracle, VMware, Microsoft, CA, EMC, NetIQ and IBM. What about the other cloud vendors like Rightscale, Splunk, Riverbed, Kaavo; can they take on the big guys and win? We think they can and we would love to help them try?

I talked about QlikTech in Business Intelligence. There are the big players in this market as well including SaS, Oracle, SAP, IBM, Microsoft, Infor, MicroStrategy and Informatica. Lots of similar propositions and capabilities. That makes it tough for Tableau Software, Panorama, Targit, Jaspersoft and others to take a slice of the market.

The market I discussed in depth, ITSM, has vendors of all sizes. The framework players IBM, CA, HP, and BMC swing from focusing on ITSM to seeing it as only a part of a bigger story. The ITSM proposition is potentially being diluted in the proposition of VMware and Service-Now . That should be an opportunity for Frontrange, Serena, LanDesk, Cherwel, Sunrisel and others, but in my view only if they adopt a consultative selling model.

If you are looking for innovative tools to support a consultative selling model or you need some expertise to help your sales team make the change then don’t sit on your hands any longer.

Are the sales people of the 21st century wimping out?

A fight for supremacy in customer communication hit me in the face recently.  It is a common scenario we see in many global technology companies where battles is ensued between Marketing and Sales. The bigger the vendor is the fiercer the battle. As we work with most of the big technology vendors we have been observers of these type of hostilities many times.

Corporate Marketing decides sales people will not be professional in the eyes of the customer unless they use tightly scripted PowerPoint decks created by head office. They don’t want to let the sales team to have the flexibility of presenting on a whiteboard.

This is a naïve view. The marketing belief that messaging will not taken seriously if it is presented live on a Whiteboard is frankly loopy.

Why would customers be angry if a whiteboard presentation is not artistic and neat. It is the content of the discussion and how it is relayed that matters. Not how pretty a slide is.

Organisation who have grasped the power of not using Powerpoint realise that the slide quality is never an issue for a customer.

I have seen some companies allow a Whiteboarding approach but with strict controls. Some even going so far as to prepare pre-recorded videos that the sales person can run in a meeting.Or a click through PowerPoint simulating the whiteboard being built.

That will really keep the audience engaged !

Do these Marketing guys not understand that customers like interaction?

How does that approach encourage customer interaction?

Can we expect sales people to become proficient in communicating the value of a solution if all they are doing is hitting play?

“Why make it so hard for sales people to adopt new messaging and use it?”

If I was sales person in one of these companies I would be tearing my hair out in lumps with frustration. As I don’t have much hair that would be a risky thing to do.

Sales need good messaging from Marketing – that is not in dispute.

But the content needs to be usable.

Whiteboard presenting offers flexibility but only if it is done live. Recording it for a “Press Play and Watch” meeting interlude does not work for the customer or the sales person.

The customer will switch off and the sales person concedes control to whoever is voicing the video.

If you click through a PowerPoint then it is not possible to reorder the presentation on the fly, omit content or in the actual meeting capture some relevant content that reflects the discussion that is happening.

The sales person is being controlled by Marketing like glove puppets .

“Only do what I tell you to do”

It is time for Marketing to listen to the needs of sales. Who is in front of customers every day? And who is holed up in the corporate towers?

It is time for Sales to fight back and retake control of customer communication.

Sales are you with me !!!!

What’s The Fuss About Pecha Kucha?

It might sound like the latest religious movement that Madonna and Tom Cruise are signing up for. But in fact Pecha Kucha is a technique for presenting a concept that it starting to take route across the world.

Fast paced presentations

There are other very similar methods being promoted with different names – Lightning Talk, Speed Geeking and Ignite.

The common goal is to ensure presenters are concise, clear and to the point.

How is this achieved? Draconian conference or event organisers ensure each presenter has no option but to comply with these goals.

-      Each presentation has 20 slides

-      Every slides is progressed after 20 seconds

-      Presenters are ushered or potentially hauled  off the floor after 6 minutes and 40

Your 6 minutes 40 seconds is up..


It might sound scary to the more verbose presenters amongst us but we think it is a tremendous concept.

The audience benefits as they should not experience Death by Powerpoint.

Capturing audience attention

Good practitioners of the technique distil their proposition down to be hard hitting even with such a limited time and slide set.

Our approach to Pecha Kucha is to apply the best practice of WhiteboardSelling to deliver a compelling story that the audience can follow where the messaging is put across with visual clarity.

As the slides progress the whiteboard diagram builds up to explain the proposition. Concepts core to the story remain visible through the presentation as vital parts of the narrative.

This achieves 2 things over traditional presenting.

-      Pressure is reduced on the presenter to explain a concept in 20 seconds and move on.

Make it Zesty

-      The audience can remember things that have explained earlier as they are still visible and can be referred to as the story is developed.

Different people digest information in different ways. Using our whiteboarding approach to Pecha Kucha caters for verbal, pictorial and textual preferences that people may have.  This engages everyone, retains their interest and ensures the message hits home to a higher proportion of the audience.

We are working on a Pecha Kucha by Whiteboarding for a Retail Solution company right now – We will share this next week.