Selling and simplicity

My regular readers will have noticed that I have become enamoured with Design Thinking.  At first I thought this was a good thing for product development, as it would help drive more simplicity into our products.  I’m seeing evidence of this simplicity in things like Duet and Muse,  and the early sneak I have seen of thenewdon’tblogthis stuffonthepainofdeathproduct, all goodness….

Yet the more I think about simplicity and design, the more I have realised that it isn’t just in the product development that we need to nuture a culture of simplicity by design. It is everywhere.  If the product is simplicity manifest, but the marketing and sales are complicated, then we will have a problem.

 Steve Mann is a senior chappy in the marketing dept here at SAP. He is based in NYC. (Mark Crofton is in his team)  I enjoyed what Steve had to say here. I hope he doesn’t mind me lifting the almost the  whole post. .

We conducted some customer ethnographic interviews today as we continue in our design of a new experience for SAP.  We received very explicit feedback:

  • Get to the point – give me the info I need right away and in a no-BS fashion
  • Stay away from the SAPanese
  • I want to make a decision on whether to explore further or to go away… and I want to make that decision quickly
  • They threw up all over the content
  • Show me exactly what the components are and how much they cost
  • Overall, give us a buyer’s view not a technologist views of the world
  • As far as the products themselves, tell us what they do right away
  • Communities.. get me right into the forums and I want to see references and case studies, events calendar, and they want to be tied geographically to other users and partner offerings

Now this is seriously radical, because it means we are actually, shock horror gasp, starting to ask folks how they would like to be sold to. Clearly with all the stuff going on with new products, we need to figure some new ways to sell and communicate with the market.  Reducing cost of sales, yet delivering a better experience is important and not just because it will give Vinnie one less thing to moan about.

Steve mentions more in another post here.

 We believe that its not enough to run a sales cycle but the big guys must loosen control over that sales cycle and empower the customers/prospects to be in control of that sales cycle. 

I can join a community of interest to interact with other prospects and to actively gather the information I need from my peers rather than from a vendor

I can use Web 2.0 capabilities to subscribe, create and collaborate on content that is important to me

I want to give you feedback any time, any where, and  I want my vendors to take it seriously

I want my vendors to maintain context over the course of my engagement with me – I should never have to repeat myself

Procuring solutions should be fast and easy

This is all rather cluetrainy, and it reminds me a lot of what James Governor was on about the other day, every blog a potential RFP?

Steve is suggesting a fundamentally different approach to selling software. I’m all ears. I have spent too many days and nights filling in 600 page RFPs and I have inflicted many a powerpoint slidedeck on hapless visitors to starship enterprisey.  Death by demo doesn’t do anyone any good. 

My Lord, it is a plan as cunning as a fox who’s just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University

If I was in marketing, and looking how to apply Steve’s first two  points, I  would start by changing how we write press releases.  At the moment they are a paper based form of Chinese water torture.  The PR folks should be reminded about the Geneva Convention and its prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments.  The English makes me bilious and the jargon per square inch is ridiculously and perilously high.  To be fair this is an industry illness, but SAP has it bad.

Many of my fellow enterprise irregulars were confused about the recent A1S and All-in-one announcements, and reading the press releases, I can see why. 

 I suggested to David that he watch the analyst conference instead, and was kind enough to take the time and do so he posted his views here.  IMHO Kagermann was clear, precise and to the point in his press conference, and the slides are well worth a look if you want to understand SAP’s plans.  But not everyone has the time or inclination to sit through a press conference. 

 If all a press release does is generate a “huh?” and grammatical queasiness, then why do it?  A few decent blogs could get the news out much more effectively. 

As A1S sheds its cloak of secrecy I’d like to see its  solution managers blogging,  over in SDN and out in the blogsphere generally. Conversing directly with the market, announcing new features and ideas as they are ready, gathering direct feedback, building  communities.  There are solution managers blogging already, but there should be more.

 SDN is a fabulous conversation, and a real competitive advantage.  Indeed, SDN may well be a  channel that meets a some of the goals Steve outlined above.  Selling by conversation. Imagine that, a cunning plan indeed.


8 thoughts on “Selling and simplicity”

  1. Thomas… loved that you were interested in this… feel free to leverage… yes, this is the direction we MUST go in if we are to survive and prosper. To paraphrase Don Tapscott, we have to “Engage and Co-innovate” with our customers. This means we have to treat them fundamentally differently than we do now – we have move to treat them as Valued Professionals who we deeply collaborate with as a cornerstone of our business model.

    One more point and then I’ll shut up… Jason notes that Apple and Google are doing it.. I LOVE that the comparison is being made to companies that have such a consumer/customer oriented mentality (and business model). It means we are moving in the right direction.

  2. “…enamored with Design Thinking” Nicely put!

    Great points, Steve has an opportunity and a bigger challenge in driving the customer-centric approach. In all my years of working with marketers and communicators it seems to me that there has always been enormous tension between the impulse to be didactic about the sales/marketing Message and trusting the customer to actually know what they need.

    – T O S

  3. At this point, I’m very interested in A1S and if HCM solutions/capability will be part of the mix – or leave it to ADP at that level.

    Guess I will need to wait a wee bit longer 🙂

    Great post.

  4. Great post. Simplicity and focus on the purpose needs to inform all aspects of what a company does.

    Product, UI Design, Sales Process, Internal Admin, Implementation, Ongoing Service.

    I have experienced this in a few smaller companies, but there seem to be few large companies able to maintain the level of focus required to maintain focused simplicity.

    Tom O’B

  5. Industry illness – SAP has it bad?

    SAP has elevated the press release to the heights of a dead Damian Hurst chain sawn cow that can only be interpreted by those with an IQ of 170+ and an infinite capacity for patience.

    Sadly I’m not one of those people.

    Great post Thomas – Kudos for opening the kimono.

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