Getting the Right Players on the Field
As I write this article the annual NFL draft has just ended. Like many teams, my beloved Vikings had a long list of priority positions to fill and we fans look optimistically to the future. Planning for success in our evolving UC business is a very similar process. The UC cloud is upon us like a new football season. How will we plan and prepare our organizations for success? We know that we need to grow professional services but by how much and with what players? Specifically, many SI managers are struggling to determine what their organizations need to look like to support their refined business models. The decisions they make today regarding technologies, vendors, and organization development will determine their level of success in the future. Wouldn’t be nice to have a clear-cut process like the NFL draft?
Our challenge is that the game is changing very quickly. Enterprises are moving mission critical business processes to the cloud and adopting buying models based on operating versus capital expenditures. SIs can get caught flat-footed with salespeople stuck in a vendor-type roles serving the enterprise IT departments while their competitors are entrenched with the business units that drive the strategic decisions for UC solutions. If you are a traditional telephony CPE reseller, your current organization may be designed to support a business model that is becoming obsolete. To put this discussion in perspective, I would like to repeat something one of my colleagues, Steve Leaden, heard from an SI recently:
“With the advent of the IP Telephony and UC cloud I can see 2/3 of my staffing becoming irrelevant in the next 4 years – this is the topic that keeps me up at night.”
I do not believe that this is an over-statement. Compounding this angst is the lack of a clear organizational model to move towards. If you look at SIs who have been selling cloud UC solutions for some time, such as the Microsoft Lync UC reseller who’s only CPE vendors are Polycom and Plantronics, you might get an idea of where all SIs are headed. A big difference is that their enterprise sales are won or lost in professional services. Another difference might be that their resources are aimed at supporting the mission critical business processes of their clients. If you are competing with an IT solutions provider like this you may ask, what kind of organizational structure do they have compared to yours?
One area to look at is sales and the people they hire. UC SIs can develop professional services internally around a core role of pre-sales engineers. The massive technical training of existing salespeople to fill these roles is time consuming, costly, and, often not effective. This is because core sales skills and behaviors are very difficult to change. Building an effective professional services organization includes committing to hiring and developing the right kind of technically competent salespeople. Whether or not two thirds of your staff is approaching irrelevance depends upon their “sales DNA” and your operational process to support the new complex sales cycle. To move a salesperson that is currently in a vendor role to become a strategic contributor or trusted partner will require the implementation of a dynamic business planning model and a quantum upgrade of skills and competencies.
Not all sales people will be able to “cross this chasm.” So, how do we find the right players for your key positions? Like the NFL scouts, the sales candidate you pick will depend upon a systematic evaluation of the role that needs to be filled, the talent available, and your vision for how they will be playing the game. Unfortunately, there are no sales certifications or other competency standards to help in the hiring process. If you want an idea of what different UC SI resellers are looking for in sales people, just take a look at the careers sections of their websites. This will tell you a lot about the type of relationships they envision with their clients, and the sales operations process they follow. Look for how often key words such as “cold calling” and “revenue generation” appear. That’s a sure sign of vendor-oriented relationships and activities-based sales operations, or, quantity over quality.
After that exercise, take a look at your client organizations and who they are hiring to design and implement UC solutions. Just last week a large fast food organization posted a job on their website looking for a “Senor Manager of Unified Communications”. The job functions were broken down into strategic and tactical including:
“Develop an effective vision that considers technical innovation, business strategy, consumer touch points, risk, and affordability. Develop supporting business cases for new technologies and initiatives to communicate business benefits to senior management and across functions. Create inspirational presentations to communicate benefits.”
That’s an impressive summary of what a top UC SI account executive should be able to do. Further, the qualifications for this job include undergraduate degree, technical certifications, and “MBA is a plus.” The point I am making here is that UC SI will need to build direct sales organizations that can develop trusted partner relationships with client contacts like this one. The game is changing and UC SIs need to get the right players on the field now.
My future articles will focus on creating a systematic approach to hiring the right sales people, sales development, and effective sales operations processes.