Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Improving Win Rates

Still here at the Gartner Local Briefing. In a session with Richard Fouts about customer win rates.

Sharing Win/Loss Data

Sales teams tend to advertise their wins, yet contain their losses. Why is this so?

Q: How many global IT companies conduct win/loss on an enterprise scale? Less than 5%? About 10%? About 20%?
A: Less than 5%

  • CEOs and Sales people say "I know why we win/lose". 
  • Some politics are touchy; people don't want you to expose what they did well/not (especially in competitive environments). 
  • "I clicked the won/loss checkbox in Salesforce.com"
One company evaluated their win/loss data. They looked at 140 wins, and 55 losses. Looking at this data, they noticed a correlation between the wins and the fact that they beat their competition to market with compelling announcements in over a third of the scenarios.

An IT services firm attempted to sell a more sophisticated solution. Upon evaluation of the win/loss data, they found that more deals were being lost. That data point led the company to discover that their sales force wasn't prepared to sell the more complex solution and thus they were unable to close those deals. The company had two choices: revert to less-complex deals, or retool their sales team. They opted for the latter.

Getting Buyer Feedback

True/False: Buyers are more willing to share why they bought from us...then why they didn't. (Trick Question!)
  • Buyers don't want to tell you why they did select you because they don't want you to become complacent with them as a customer. They want to keep you on your toes!
  • Buyers don't want to tell you why they didn't want to buy from you because they don't want you to come back and try to re-pitch them and create an uncomfortable scenario.
  • Third party interviews, however, enjoy the benefits of being a "safe" resource.

One interesting tactic is to ask a Buyer to spend 20 minutes to answer 5 questions. This is a disarming quantity of time that people are willing to afford you. What questions should you ask?
  • Competitors: Which vendors were considered?
  • Evaluation: What were top priorities?
  • Sales Cycle: How did requirements change?
  • Lessons: Anything you would have done differently?
  • Conclude: What did I forget to ask you?
Avoid closed-ended questions (yes/no).
Think about the follow-up question you'll ask if you get a certain response.
Know when to let the interview go off-script (let the buyer take you somewhere interesting).

Some other good questions:
  • What went well?
  • What could have gone better?
  • Would you buy again?
  • If asked about us, would you recommend buying from us?


If you don't know why you're winning (or losing), you are ill-equipped to to sustain your success or correct your approach. If you don't have the human resources to invest in win/loss, you can retain third-parties to do this for you. Most companies that contract win-loss work spend $50-$75K/year on it. If this swings one to two deals in your favor, it pays for itself.

Once you have the data, present the big picture and spotlight on key wins/losses from which valuable advice/lessons can be derived and shared.

All of the People, None of the Time

Sitting here in a local Gartner briefing in San Francisco, where they're describing the Marketing Investment Model. As usual, a lot of sensible information presented that is unfortunately not always followed.

One of the interesting aspects that was discussed was the typical marketing message style employed throughout the tech industry. "At [company name], we..." "We work the way you work..." "We're platform agnostic..." "Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce..." OK, I inserted that last one...but you get the point.

Many companies employ a very passive message in an attempt to put prospective buyers at ease with the promise of flexibility. This boils down to: "Don't scare away any prospective buyers; let's appeal to them all!"

What often transpires, however, is that companies fail to sufficiently entice a buyer with a clear, firm, confident, focused position bolstered with a sound approach and success stories.

When you try to be everything to everybody, you fail to be anything to anybody.

Monday, April 9, 2012

OSX & Mac Office Team: Please Be Kind

Recently I opened a Word document from Outlook. I worked in it for a while, tracking changes, etc. Then I did a "Save As...". The prevous three Word documents I had saved automatically went to my Desktop. However, because this one originated in Outlook, I didn't notice that the destination folder was set to "Outlook Temp".

Needless to say, I went looking for it. Lo and behold, Word didn't have any recollection of this being a recently-opened document. So I couldn't open it from Word.

Very lame Word. Very lame.

Suspecting something was amiss, I opened another document from Outlook and did a "Save As..." and then noticed that the save folder was set to "Outlook Temp".

No problem, I thought. I'll just go to that folder and fetch my file. Actually, this turned out to be a problem.

I searched in vain for "Outlook Temp" via Spotlight to no avail. I searched for the file name in Spotlight. Nothing. I then went back to the Save As... window to see if Finder would behave nicely like its Windows counterpart and let me copy/drag files out of that interface. Nope. I could see my file; grayed-out and seemingly inaccessible.

Finally, I searched Google for information about this. Fortunately, I found some help in the Apple forums (no help from Apple, mind you because they don't care about support or documentation): https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3286580?start=0&tstart=0

If you have upgraded to Lion, the Library is no longer viewable. Here's how to access it:

  1. Open finder
  2. Go to the "GO" drop down menu and hold down the option key. (next to the command or apple key)
  3. The "Library" option will appear between the "Home" and "Computer" options in the same "GO" drop down menu
  4. Click on "Library" and you are in..then you will find "Cache" and then "temporaryitems" and Eureeka!!!  The outlook temp folder is in there and your troubles are over!!!

Very lame OSX. Very lame.

Oh, and if you've already closed Outlook, you're screwed because that folder will automatically be purged on application quit.

It's the little things that make or break the UX.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Change In Perspective on Mobile Content Creation

Over the past few years, I've championed the idea that smartphones are by-and-large consumption devices; not creation devices.

Someone asked me recently: Do you send email from your smartphone? Isn't that creation?

I suppose that it is. But I typically send bite-sized emails, SMS, and Tweets; not long-form content. But when you also share photos and videos and links and likes and plus-1s, smartphones are clearly creation devices.

This reflection challenged my previous perspective from thinking of content exclusively as robust documents to include rapid-fire info-blurbs. Where now is the dividing line between smartphone content creation expectations and those of laptops and desktops?

This question prompted me to try the previously unthinkable; to write a blog post on my mobile phone. This is clearly long-form, but still distinct from the rich authoring experience I enjoy on my full-fledged computers.

Perhaps then the discussion ought not be about content creation, but rather rich document authoring; the kind that often requires templates, detailed tables, complex layouts or animations, etc.

I managed to survive this little experiment (although I would have rather written this on a proper keyboard and had full formatting options available) and complete thus post on my smartphone while sitting on a bench in a museum. Perspective adjusted.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2012 Gartner PCC

Heading out of the 2012 Gartner Portals, Content, and Collaboration conference in Orlando in about an hour. Over-all, a good experience as this was my first Analyst-led conference.

Had face time (actual, not the Apple variant) with several leading analysts in my space, including Nikos Drakos, Susan Landry, Jeffrey Mann, Carol Rozwell, and Tom Austin; which proved collectively useful in some unexpected ways.

Some sessions were good, especially The Social Workplace: Rethinking Communication and Collaboration in the Age of Social Networks. Others, however were simply too rudimentary. This seems to be the common trend with conferences that cater to both customers and vendors alike; the majority of sessions cater to the neophyte customer who knows very little about the space.

It would be helpful if conferences had multiple tracks; "I'm New", "I'm Buying", "I'm Selling", and "I Want the Bleeding Edge". They should also include dedicated events that encourage vendor & customer interaction other than the showroom (which is the province of sales).

Regardless, I found the PCC to be useful and informative. I was able to validate some business assumptions and delve into some corner topics with analysts for which there is very little public information on the web. I also learned a lot about the way Gartner works as a company, and have a much better idea on how to leverage their services going forward.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More Error Messages that I Like...

This is one of my favorites. It occurs if you enter an invalid URL on Blizzard's web site.

And then there's the Google Robot, which is pretty funny too.

You can really only get away with things like this when you're a) offering a free service, and b) people generally have a good opinion of you. You can bet that if Microsoft worked an error message like that into Hotmail, the tech bloggers would have a field day poking fun at them. Google, for a multitude of reasons (none of which are terribly compelling), gets a pass.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Error Message Fetish

Well-designed applications take user error into consideration. As a Product Manager, I often try to use applications in unusual ways to see if/how they bend and identify where they break. I'm always impressed when I encounter well-crafted, helpful messages resulting from the break scenarios.

On occasion, I'm highly amused by them too. Many consumer-facing companies deal with errors and failures in a humorous manner. So long as it's a non-critical failure, I'm OK with that.

I just encountered one such message today while attempting to reset my password on Delicious.com.

The fact that they don't offer real-time validation of password matching would normally annoy me. But because the error message was at least somewhat funny, it took the annoyance factor away.

Not all of us have the liberty to inject humor into our applications. The enterprise customers I deal with don't have much of a sense of humor when their expensive solutions don't run like clockwork. However, used wisely, humor can turn an otherwise frustrating experience into a moment of mirth.