Go-to-Market Boot Camp: 7 steps to Field Sales excellence(a16z mini-mooc notes)

The art of persuasion is a paradox the more we attempt to persuade people, the more they tend to resist us. But the more we attempt to understand and create value for them, the more they tend to persuade themselves.
Courtesy of Esther Aarts

Mark Cranney from Andreesen Horowitz has an excellent lecture on demystifying the the steps related to field sales. The scope of his lecture mainly deals with large enterprise customers. The following is a study notes on his framework on field sales. The field sales process is highlighted below:

In his framework, the field sales process has seven major processes.

  1. Identifying initiatives.
  2. Create value proposition
  3. Execute competitive strategy
  4. Validate solution
  5. Propose solution
  6. Negotiate and close
  7. Deploy + develop

The true purpose of sales is to create new value for customers. This kind of selling requires different mindset. This only happens when we understand what the customers’ needs are. And to help the sales team optimally drive results, Cranney has a set of tools/documents to help along the way.

The details of the first 5 parts of the framework are presented below.

Step 1 Identifying initiatives + Create value propositions

Identifying key corporate initiatives through Value Alignment (Start evaluating what different levels within the prospect’s organization need)

Know your customer as a cliche is never wrong. The sales team should start understand the three levels within an enterprise: the executives, the directors/VPs, and the individual contributors.

Each level concerns themselves with different things.

Executives focused on and accountable for objectives/business strategies. The VPs and directors are concerned with initiatives and critical capabilities. Then individual contributors are focused on solution set. Looking at these levels, we can understand them better through the lens of a corporate entity as a whole. We need to figure out how top level objectives cascade through the organization and translate into activities relevant for each level.

Corporate objectives: Almost always for profit organizations prioritize returning capital to company owners. For example, increase shareholder values, drive revenue, asset utilization, net income and or deliver on presentation to wall street and investors.

Business strategies: How is the organization currently driving corporate objectives? For example, is the company trying to improve revenue, acquire new customers, or to manage risk. Some companies may be focusing on the products while others focus on operational excellence, or customer intimacy etc.

Initiatives: It is an identifiable action plan based on the business strategies. For example if the strategy is about operational excellence, then you’d be looking at a variety of “plan of action” within the company that optimizes operational excellence and the most common way is through firing. The key word is How. Another example, if mitigating risk is a priority, then you’d be facing a ton of initiatives that try to reduce security exposure on IT infrastructure, standardize process and best practices, consolidate migrate data center.

Critical capabilities: this is the must haves at management/user levels to deliver on the initiative, processes, infrastructure (they are required to make sure initiatives will be successful).

Solution set: These are the features + functionalities of a critical capability to support the initiatives. Generally the technical criteria of a company’s evaluation. There are must have tools to deliver critical capabilities like: end user functionality, technology, integration connectivity, support of certain predefined work flow etc. The solution set considerations for example should include: rapid patch management, scaling to 1000s of servers, automated discovery + remediation.

This is how each component of the value framework fit together.

When the customers say that there’s no budget for the solutions/products is because they have never bought anything similar before. Budget will be there but it may need to be tweaked to accomodate the solution that we are selling.

The discovery tool comes to the rescue for understanding initiatives, strategies, solutions. Components of the discovery tool:

  1. Add account information: turn pains into gains. Have a template of questions that capture critical account information.
  2. Summarize the opportunity. Do we understand the entire opportunity?
  3. Craft a deal strategy: are we discovering an already funded initiatives?

Step 2 Creating a value proposition that allows for the prospect’s situation.

Depending on the customers’ levels, the value propositions should be crafted and adjusted. When developing these value propositions, the field sales team should also testing/develop potential champions at the client’s. Here are the additional details on these customers’ levels:

  1. The C-level executives. Their decision criteria are usually based on business objectives. The message catered to these type of guys are at a higher level that involves key dimensions they care about. Security, cost, quality, visibility, quantity. For example, the want to see capability and expertise, wide customer base, company stability, and the quality of your leadership team
  2. The VPs and director level. Their decision criteria are usually based on architectural criteria. They are concerned with integration, standards, policy, cycle time reduction, security etc. For example, they want to see scale + extensibility, integrated data model, integrated server, network storage, application and processes.
  3. The end user types. They make decisions based on functional criteria. For example, they are concerned with simplified operational control of apps, consistent user interaction models, automated update of policies.

The process to creating a value proposition that is unique to the customer:

  1. Build + test the value statements
  2. Understand the as-is + to-be state -> what we can do for you
  3. Identify case studies for value proposition
  4. Develop + test the anticipated financial returns associated with your solution

So after breaking down what each level of the buyer requires, we can tie them back together to form a complete map of the the buyer’s characteristics across all different levels: (How the top level strategic objectives are translated across the entire organization)

The value statements then need to be crafted and tailored to each level. After both identification initiative & create value proposition stage.

It is to be noted that at this stage, the tools needed include: discovery tool, value propositions template, ROI tool, on-demand demo.

Step 3 Execute competitive strategy

The next natural progression on the sales process is to evaluate what else is in the market place. In this stage, political alignment needs to be laid. Laying the ground work for establishing organizational influences. The tools required include: discovery tool, account plan, competitive traps, POC lockout document. When executing the competitive strategy, a clear positioning of our product/solution is required to frame the comparison.

A very granular de-positioning process is required. Here’s the importance of opportunity management & account planning. The account plan should include:

  1. What’s the current political position in the organization
  2. What’s the decision criteria of the key influencers and buyers
  3. What’s their decision process
  4. What’s our competitive positioning relative to the current offering/solutions that has budget items
  5. Validation
  6. Funding process

The account penetration landscapes:

  1. Economic landscape of the account penetration: (industry information, business strategies, key initiatives, market positions — where they, financial results)
  2. Political landscape: use Miller Heiman buying type framework to understand these key people. (Who’s the economic buyer — one per sale, who’s the user buyer — several, who’s the technical buyer — several, who’s the coach in the situation). Enlist + train influential allies as extra eyes, ears and mouths in the account. The types of allies include: champions — someone who has influence, will sell and maneuver on your behalf; coach — a coach provides you information to win, but will not actively or openly fight for you; supporter — someone who will vote for you but avoid giving you an advantage before the vote takes place. The account team needs to know the organization very very well. Map each level to a type of role and know where the enemies are in the organization. Classic sales strategy (direct — do you have overwhelming superiority, indirect — can you change the rules, division — is there a piece of business that you can win, develop — is this business that you don’t have but are not ready for, defend — is this business that you are trying to protect). Different strategies
  3. Operational:Think about where you are in the buying cycle — has the train left the station. Having the situation awareness.

Step 4Validation solution (Technical validation)

In this stage, the purpose is to lock out competition during the technical evaluation process. Who is more qualified to define buying criteria — you or the prospect? Define or be defined.

The following is the different type of technical validation events:

  1. freemium/premium — introduce product to jumpstart user. Use quick value without investing many resources + time.
  2. RFI/RFP — narrow down competitive field
  3. Demo — this is the comprehensive includes customer’s data, supports value proposition, avoids lengthy POC or competitive benchmark
  4. Proof of concept — two to three day test drive, two to four week extensive POC
  5. Pilot — aims for success, for transition to production

Positioning during validation:

  1. What’s comparative (what the competition has)
  2. What’s differentiated (what the competitor doesn’t have)

Here’s really the time to set traps:

  1. Know prospect’s environment
  2. Know the competition and solution
  3. Map technical criteria + use cases to identify business value
  4. Demonstrate differentiators + functionality your competitors can’t

Define/influence the buying criteria (using help from customer success team, product management team):

  1. Customer seed requirements document (This is the beginning of a PRD)
  2. RFI/RFP/RFQ — questions + answers (Needs to know what the gaps are)
  3. Technical validation POC plan (This is the beginning of a customer success/deployment plan)

The crush all POCs (CAP) methodology:

  1. Qualification: qualify at all levels: will a successful technical validation create a sale? Define the success criteria towards proprietary + comparative advantages, Develop + agree on technical validation event
  2. Preparation: assemble technical, sales, and customer success team + prepare materials, develop customizations + technical preparation, conduct multiple dry runs
  3. Execution: conduct technical validation activities at customer site, leverage internal SMEs when + where appropriate
  4. Follow through: provide and deliver written presentation and summary to evaluation team, answer any open issues or questions
  5. Continuous improvement: conduct internal post-morterm, change process from learnings
“The technical validation event is provide clarity on answers for why you and why now”

Create ROI/POV for the customers directly.

Understand your deliverables during the technical validation event:

  1. Hard dollars: reducing costs, mitigate risk
  2. Soft dollars: augment revenue

Create confidence: These ROI/POV for customers can create confidence in the evaluating team and other teams.

The ROI/POV should be very granular and very detailed.

ROI and business case outcomes: there should have base case, conservative case and aggressive case.

Components of the ROI worksheet:

  1. Direct benefits
  2. Reduce costs
  3. Augment revenue and mitigate risks

Step 5 Proposal Stage

Proposal templates + quote tools

Components of proposals:

  1. Quote with terms
  2. License descriptions
  3. Statement of work
  4. Tech validation + ROI results
  5. Software license agreement
  6. Support and/or services agreement

The purpose is also to create options for the customers — three options presented to the buyer. If options aren’t given, it would create frictions. The customers are usually thinking long term when making an explicit ask.

Revisit the account plans often.

Deal review process:

  1. Sales management
  2. Customer success
  3. Sales engineering and marketing
  4. Finance
  5. Legal
  6. ROI/business case development

The components of the deal review: account plan + competitive strategy

  1. Structure
  2. Strategy
  3. Options
  4. Quote + terms
  5. License description
  6. SOW
  7. Business Case
  8. Marketing risk

The full video is linked here: https://a16z.com/2017/01/03/field-sales-go-to-market-mark-cranney/

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