• May 13, 2010
  • By Adrian King, director of product marketing, MetraTech

Let Customers 'Have It Their Way'

Most of us will be familiar with the adage: "It's not what you sell but how you sell it." Cliché or not, there is no doubt that out-performing sales teams are worth their weight in gold.

Beyond the headline, though, all sales need support — whether it's from the marketing department, management or from the technology infrastructure. How many times have sales teams negotiated with customers only to find that the business has real difficulty in implementing the agreed terms and conditions of a contract?

Let the sales team sell what they can

There is little point in closing a deal only to find that the systems and processes which are needed to support a contract are going to encounter real difficulty automating the agreement. Without automation, the cost of supporting the customer spirals, transparency is lost in how the service complies with the original negotiated terms and ultimately leads to disputes and a difficult customer relationship. Any CIO will have the right to ask if it is the right business if winning it is so disruptive. But this scenario is an all too frequent a problem, particularly when it comes to selling to enterprise customers.

So how do we make the above an easy task? How do we ensure that sales teams have the freedom to close their deals? But also, how do we protect the people and departments which have to live with the day-to-day management of these contracts and customers so that every business deal becomes good business? Ultimately, how do we ensure the customer gets the right deal and the business itself makes sense?

Match the terms to what you're selling

The utopia we strive for is to allow customers to set their own expectations; let sales teams sell and automate as much of the sales process as possible, without making exceptions to the rule.

This is where Dynamic Business Modeling comes into play. Dynamic Business Modeling (DBM) is the ability to model any aspect of a business model without the need for coding, manual processing or extensive re-engineering of business processes to accommodate new ways of doing business, or just new ways of selling existing products and services. This could mean that service level agreements (SLAs) can be easily implemented on any condition without any coding or lengthy engineering analysis, to the more complex matters of dealing with supply chains and their subsequent settlement agreements.

What would happen if we were able to model the types of services sold with the flexibility in trying to match how they are being sold? For instance, if I were selling a cloud-based reseller service to a software producer, I could negotiate the settlement terms on any aspect of usage, including the ability to settle based on how the software consumed infrastructure resources, in the sure knowledge that the implementation of these rules would require no more than a few hours of business analysis time. No manual processes, no strange workarounds, and complete transparency to the customer.

DBM touches the entire process. Not only does it mean that new screen layouts, new business processes, new workflows can be implemented for a new product line or market segment, it means that this is all done in a manner which reduces the risk to the business in terms if disruption and overcomes the legacy of workarounds to meet ‘special' customer requirements.

Sell differentiation through customer care systems

Not all businesses can work this way. Selling to the mass market, through dedicated CSRs in contact centers, requires an approach which aids efficiencies, including reduced training times and reduced call times. In these circumstances, one has a tight-rope to walk: make the proposition worthwhile and be able to differentiate one's value but meanwhile manage costs within an agreeable margin. Differentiating the value is not easy, certainly not in an environment where change costs money and introduces risk. The right approach here is to allow flexibility, introduce it so as not to burden the CSRs, but allow the differentiation to be sold through the customer care systems.

Back to our view of Utopia and contrast this with how things are really done today. One could argue that many businesses ‘muddle-through' and despite the ability of the sales teams and the needs of customers, businesses just don't make it easy to manage the huge disparities in customer and market expectation. Adopting a DBM approach is crucial for business and consequently must better reflect in their processes and technology strategy the How of selling as much as the What if they are truly going to become out-performers and give customers what they want.


About the Author

Adrian King (aking@metratech.com) is director of product marketing at MetraTech, an innovative provider of billing, charging, settlement, and customer care products. With more than 10 years' experience in billing, King oversees MetraTech's product marketing strategy.


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