Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Power of the HTG SWOT

I was blessed last week to spend a few days with Michael Cocanower and the team at itSynergy. We were invited to come in as part of the HTG SWOT process and take a look under the covers and give some ideas to the team on ways to break through the barrier they are facing – revenue around the $1M level. I see this happening quite often as companies grow – it seems to be the step that happens when a company has leveraged all their personal relationships and client referrals and are up against the need to build a true sales organization. It is so frustrating and Michael was no different than many IT owners – he is ready to break through this challenge and move on to the next level. There are numerous ceilings that we need to break through along the path of growth – which is why being involved in a peer group with others who have been there before can be so helpful.

We met with the team as a group and individually. MSPtv was on hand to video our interaction, and will be creating the second TV show in our series of SWOT makeovers in the near future. You can catch it on MSPtv in the next month or so. We discovered exactly what Michael was experiencing – he had self-diagnosed a major part of the barrier. The team at itSynergy is technically talented, and while they have been working to build a sales organization – they haven’t cracked the code on that one quite yet. So HTG team members Steve Riat and Lyf Wildenberg (who accompanied me on this SWOT) were busy creating a plan to help drive sales to the next level.

Michael’s approach has been to focus one of his sales guys on the medical vertical, and have the second doing general SMB sales. But the culture at itSynergy was very much technically driven and controlled. It is the way many IT companies operate today – they come from a technical perspective and the sales culture is controlled by and actually stymied by that approach. You can’t build a culture of sales excellence if everything is created by and driven by technology. Sales is about people and finding pain and solving that. Technology is a tool for sales people to use – but it is not the first response – and it can’t control how clients are served. That is where many companies fail. They allow the technical side of their business to have a strangle hold on what happens in the sales process.

Where does that show up? Consider who determines what solutions you will take to market. My bet is that it is the engineering team – not the sales folks who actually are listening to customers. Why should a sales motion be controlled by what engineers want to sell or support? That is backward to the way a true sales culture operates. Sales determines the need and finds solutions to address those needs that can be sold to the customer. Of course the engineering team needs to evaluate things to be sure they actually work and will solve the issue. But most companies never consider how solutions get created, or supported, or tested, or priced, or marketed – from a sales perspective. It always has engineering overtones. That is how most companies think.

If you want to succeed in building a sales culture – you have to change the approach. You have to come at things from a sales perspective first – not as an afterthought. You should never be asking the question “can we sell this”. If you approach it with a sales mentality – you are creating an environment that allows your team to succeed. The transition is easier to talk about than to do. Habits are difficult to break – and engineering has been king a very long time in most organizations. But in the new world – that has to change and reverse completely. It isn’t going to be about what you can implement or fix – it will be about what you can sell.

In the case at itSynergy, we recommended some pretty basic things:
1. Train the team in effective sales
2. Create an effective sales management program

Basically there is a need to create a sales organization driven by a sales culture. This is true for 80% plus percent of HTG member companies. It is our Achilles heel. It has been an aggravating problem to this point since most of us have been able to stay successful serving our current clients and growing slightly using relationship based selling. In the new world – the cloud world – that is not going to be enough. We are moving quickly to a much more transactional based sales motion – we have to be able to find and add new clients. We have to be able to grow our client base and sell new products to new people. It is a very different landscape than we are used to farming. Basically we need to learn to hunt. That is uncomfortable and challenging. But it is essential for our long term survival. Are you in process of transitioning your company? If not, now is the time to get started down that path.

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