So the big news a couple of weeks ago was the preview of the Dynamics 365 Business Edition Apps. Then the rumors started swirling about the reorganization of the Sales Engine for Microsoft. As I sit here at Inspire, chaos and confusion reign.
Big heads are a rolling
I am hesitant to name names of people who I have heard are out, but one thing is for sure, some previously big players are updating their resumes as I write this. Many others have told me that, while they are safe, they are not clear what their role is. It should be an interesting “Ready” this year.
Ripping the Bandaid
I can’t imagine that anyone is unaware of the significant changes that have taken place in recent years on the platforms that Microsoft offers, as well as how they now want to offer them. This has been no small undertaking, and it is not yet fully done, and in the new world we live in now, will probably never actually be finished. There has been a lot of reorganizing of the product teams to get where they need to be for the future of Microsoft. While that reorganization continues, it looks like Microsoft is turning its attention towards the largely untouched Sales organization.
Shedding the tab picker-uppers
Customers today are more sophisticated than they have ever been. They no longer value the guy with the Microsoft business card, who gladly picks up the dinner check, but can’t really answer any questions. The days of the sales generalist who has memorized all of the product names, but does not really know what any of them do, are over. As we march unrelentingly towards the end of the EA era, a new kind of Microsoft seller is being imagined.
If you don’t know an industry, what good are ya
Far more important than understanding a product, is understanding an industry, and how that product, or any product, may or many not accomplish anything for that industry customer. Depth of product knowledge, without industry specific application, is useless, at least in the new sales process.
Help Wanted – Only Industry Experts need Apply
Microsoft is about to stack the deck. If you are the CEO of a hospital, you will be talking to a Microsoft seller who was in the hospital industry, possibly even as a former CEO of a hospital. Someone who took their deep understanding of the hospital industry, and married that to an understanding of which Microsoft solutions, in what combinations and proportions, could best be brought to bear on solving very specific requirements… of a freaking hospital.
A shift from asking to telling
A Sales generalist’s job is to ask a lot of questions? “What is your pain?” Then take furious notes about the customer’s perceived pain, as well as some possible customer guesses about what might solve their pains. The problem is, that most customers are unaware of what solutions even exist, to apply to their pains. And the sales generalist can do little more, but say “I’ll go over this list with my team and we’ll get back to you with our ideas”. What a waste of a bunch of time! The industry seller, on the other hand, does not need to ask what the customer’s pain is, theoretically, they already know, it’s just a question of the degree that the customer is experiencing it. Prescribing legitimate solutions can commence immediately.
Three Martini Lunch
My dad was an advertising salesman, (think Madmen) and he told me about how business used to be done. You would invite the advertising agency executive to lunch, pick up the tab for what invariably included the three martinis, and then hope for the best. In those days, deals were actually won by the person who bought the martinis, regardless of whether they were the best choice. He also said he would fall asleep in his office every afternoon as a result, so it was not conducive to productivity, but that was how business was won. If you did not play the game, you did not succeed. Obviously, this has changed a lot since the 60’s and 70’s, that was the beginning of the “relationship seller”, we are now coming to the end of what is left from that era. Picking up the tab guarantees you nothing.
In order to stack the deck, Microsoft is going to need to find, or create, these Industry Sellers. That will be no small feat. The person who truly understands a particular industry as well as every solution that Microsoft can apply specifically to that industry, probably does not exist today. Which is easier to learn? Clearly, for Microsoft to succeed, they need to start with the industry expertise, they can backstop solution expertise while that person ramps up. They have already tried doing it the other way around, applying deep technical expertise to an industry sales conversation about “how”, only to stumble on the basic customer question of “why”.
Why is the answer Why?
It is only from actual industry experience, from the customer side, that one can actually know the whys. Those from the outside can only guess, relegating themselves to becoming tools for the customer to use to figure it out on their own. “How” is the least important question, at least in the customer’s mind.
The Customer is more than ready
Today’s customer understands that there are a lot of options for every problem they are facing. Too many options in fact, from too many vendors, all screaming “we’re the best”. The “Best”? Based on what? Your VMs are twice as fast as the competition… so what? “Why is that important to me at all? Really, I just want to know the answer.” Customers are more than ready for the “technology interpreter”. The person who speaks both their industry and technology, fluently. Faking neither side of the conversation. If Microsoft can “make” these people, they will own every industry they go after.
Enjoy Inspire, and say “Hi” if you see me.