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.

How to Impress Angels and Dragons?

A fruity Dragon

A Fruity Dragon

For many, a lot of the appeal of Dragon’s Den is to see budding entrepreneurs be made to look incompetent. That is probably one of the reasons it is now a success across the globe. It is such a shame that so many great ideas are left without investment.

We attended a New Start Exhibition recently which was a forum for budding entrepreneurs and start-up companies to meet organisations who could help them achieve their ambition to build a successful business. Most of the companies who we met had the same issues that are exposed on Dragon’s Den. They can’t explain their value proposition clearly or articulate why a potential customer or investor would spend money with them?

Bill Morrow the co-founder of Angels Den a company that runs an Angel Investment network in the UK sounded off on these issues during his conference session. He was outspoken on the failings of companies who approach their network for funding.

Surprisingly low on the list of his gripes was the quality of the business plan for the venture. Bill’s argument was that the plan was of course read by the Angel Investor but they were more influenced by the idea, the individuals running the business and how it was explained by them.

High on the list was inability to pitch the proposition. The pitch needed to have some fundamental components that Bill stated were normally lacking.

  1. What am I selling -  has it got a market and how is it unique?
  2. Why will a customer buy this and how will it help them or their business?
  3. How will the angel investment money be used to create revenue?

The same failings that frustrate me about most entrepreneurs when I am watching Dragon’s Den and worse it is killing great business seedlings before they can prospur.

Our idea is so obviously a winner...why didn't they see that?

You are probably thinking  how can this be so hard? If you believe in your product, do your research and get advice from experienced people then answering these questions should be easy.

Well belief in your product can mean that you have rose-tinted spectacles. This can cause misinterpretation by business owners.  An entrepreneur’s passion  is not enough on it’s own to make the value of their product or service clear to all.
Building a clear and compelling value proposition can’t be ignored. Without it you can’t rely on customers understanding what you offer, why it is different and why they should spend money now.

It may be of comfort to know that even the biggest and most successful business’s in world often struggle with this challenge. They consult with Sonsie-Selling because we can look at their proposition through the eyes of their potential customers and we are strong enough to tell them if we don’t understand.  What’s more we show them what would make us understand.

This month we are launching a Sonsie Selling service focused specifically on new start companies who are looking for investment or just looking to get noticed.

Get in touch through our contact page to find out more.

Graeme McKenzie, Sonsie Selling

Dragon Fruit by Taufik Madrop, Goodbye Monkey World by Lucien De Vivo





How do you make a sales presentation engaging?

The best way to engage a customer during a presentation is to ensure they participate. First you need to be challenging maybe controversial with a view to being disruptive to any low expectation of a trudge through a powerpoint deck. This should also be a strategy to get them to respond to you as someone who has knowledge and qualified views on the solution space being discussed.

Participation is key

If you can demonstrate credibility and demonstrate an understanding of what the customer is looking to achieve in their business then you are set to get them actively involved. Yes ask questions but also get them to contribute to the presentation physically. Their ideas and suggestions should be captured.
Let them direct how you explain the value of your solution. Because they have had some ownership of building out the presentation they will be more engaged and more compelled to take things further.

Being Challenging can earn you credibility

Achieving this using standard presentation methods e.g. powerpoint, is very tough to achieve. That is why Sonsie Selling advocates WhiteboardSelling’s approach to value selling storyboards.

Sales people have to know their subject to be confident to tell the solution story on a whiteboard with a set of Sharpie pens. A confident sales person with knowledge is best placed to gain credibility.

With a well-planned out whiteboard structure it can look improvised and personal to the customer whilst being controlled on the ideal outcome of the meeting being achieved.

You can give the customer the pen and get them adding their ideas on the whiteboard, flipchart or napkin. That is valuable sales knowledge and the customer has contributed to getting to an outcome that they are happy to progress with.

Drawing simple pictures set's you apart from Death by PowerPoint