Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results

The Process Engage Pilot Framework: Winning with Certainty
Increa...
Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results

The Rise of the Pilot
“It appears that your product does most of ...
Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results

The Proof is in the Results
As we began to apply these best pract...
Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results

•

Increased sales forecast accuracy: Greater confidence in predi...
Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results

•

The Evaluation Questionnaire: This simple checklist defines cu...
Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results

Phase 1: Preparation
When envisioning the Prepare phase, think of...
Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results

•

Business Goals/Success Criteria: A list of what the prospectiv...
Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results

Phase 2: Prove
Here’s a little secret – most companies have no id...
Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results

We had just finished running a pilot with a large multinational. ...
Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results

Customer Playbook
The Customer Playbook provides you with a numbe...
Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results

and next steps were already established in the Evaluation Charter...
Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results

After winning a pilot, we asked the customer why they chose us. T...
Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results

By following the methodology, you have proven your value, secured...
Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results

Invest in Results
We made a conscious effort to improve our pilot...
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The Pilot Engage Pilot Framework

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The Pilot Engage Pilot Framework: Winning with Certainty. This whitepaper explores the best practices, systems and techniques that have helped us to achieve mastery of the pilot process over a decade selling complex solutions to corporate customers. We call this framework Pilot Engage, and the results it generates have a measurable and powerful impact on the bottom line.

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The Pilot Engage Pilot Framework

  1. 1. Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results The Process Engage Pilot Framework: Winning with Certainty Increase Revenue, Shorten Sales Cycle, Reduce Customer Evaluation Times By Jonathan Jewett and Lance Knight Principles, Process Engage www.processengage.com In today’s B2B marketplace, selling and buying have changed. More than ever before, vendors are compelled to demonstrate their value through a proof-of-concept – or pilot – of their product before prospective customers will make a big purchase. This whitepaper explores the best practices, systems and techniques that have helped us to achieve mastery of the pilot process over a decade selling complex solutions to corporate customers. We call this system the Process Engage Pilots framework, and the results it generates have a measurable and powerful impact on the bottom line: • • • • • • Increased revenue Winning more deals Winning bigger deals Improved resource utilization Better forecast accuracy Sustained competitive advantage We hope you find this information to be useful and would welcome the opportunity for a dialogue. 1
  2. 2. Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results The Rise of the Pilot “It appears that your product does most of what we need, but before we buy it we’d like to run a pilot...” Pilots. Evaluations. Proofs-of-concept. Whatever the term, if you are hearing these words more often from prospects, this whitepaper may be the most important document you read all year. If you're like most companies selling in today's B2B marketplace, your prospective customers are requiring hands-on evaluations – or pilots - of your product before they commit to buy. In the past, pilots were required only for new vendors selling technically complex or very expensive products and solutions. Today, pilots have become standard procedure for almost every corporate purchase, and the burden is on you to prove your value before you are rewarded with a contract. There are powerful forces converging to perpetuate this growing trend, including more informed buyers with enhanced access to data, a sluggish global economy, corporate aversion to risk that demands an ironclad business case before funds are released and a shift in power as buyers become increasingly assertive in the sales process. Smart companies have recognized this fundamental shift and the profound impact it will have on future revenues and market viability. They are examining their own evaluation processes and taking steps to drive better, more consistent results. As sales leaders, we saw our results suffer because our teams did not have the skills or training they needed to run successful pilots. We needed to win more often and with a greater degree of certainty. What emerged was a process framework that we field-tested and over a decade selling complex B2B software solutions to corporate customers. The results we achieved could be measured in millions of dollars in sales revenue, multiple trips to President’s Club and the confidence to approach pilots with optimism rather than apprehension. We’re so confident in the framework we developed that we wanted to share it with others. This whitepaper summarizes many of these key concepts and techniques and we invite you to contact us to learn more. 2
  3. 3. Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results The Proof is in the Results As we began to apply these best practices to our pilot processes, it wasn’t long before we started to see powerful top-line results: • Improved pilot win rates. At one of our companies, win rates soared from 50% to 95% in less than a year. • Increased sales revenue. We won more often, and we won bigger deals. One year, we closed twice as many deals and grew deal size by 30%. • Enhanced ability to control the sales process and dictate the terms of the sale • Credibility that led to greater confidence and advocacy from the buyer • Major efficiency improvements in terms of opportunity assessment, reduced cycle times, better resource utilization and revenue forecasting It’s important to note that successful pilot execution will always rely on good judgment and sound business practices. You’re not likely to win if your prices are 3x those of your competitors. You always need to demonstrate a strong ROI to the buyer. Don’t stick dogmatically to a process if changing conditions and customer needs require you to pivot. We highly recommend that you focus on driving outcomes, learn as you go and adapt your approach as needed to achieve the desired end goal. The Process Engage Pilot Framework The Pilot Framework is specifically designed to “stack the deck” in your favor by driving customer evaluations towards a rapid and successful conclusion. Once perfected, the impact on your sales process is measurable and powerful: • Rapid assessment of deal viability. What is the potential business at stake? Is it worth pursuing and how quickly can it close? • Significant reduction in customer evaluation times. Map the quickest path to implementation. • Improvement in resource utilization. Critical for both you and the customer. • Competitive differentiation. Present a professional and organized image of your company that is highly valued in potential partners. 3
  4. 4. Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results • Increased sales forecast accuracy: Greater confidence in predicting sales and future revenue. The Process Engage Pilot Framework will help your sales team run a flawless pilot every time. We’ll show you how to manage the process from start to finish, define what is most important to the customer, remove roadblocks that might derail a successful outcome and position yourself to ask for and win the business. Although the framework is vast and nuanced, we have distilled it down to 3 critical phases – Prepare, Prove and Close. The 3 Steps to Pilot Success PROVE PREPARE CLOSE 1. PREPARE: Assert Control, Build Strong Foundation, Make ‘Go’ Decision The Preparation phase helps your sales team to assert early control over the process, make more informed go/no-go decisions, mitigate risk, assign resources and establish a solid foundation that will maximize your chance of future success. Key concepts include: 4
  5. 5. Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results • The Evaluation Questionnaire: This simple checklist defines customer viability, sets evaluation boundaries and identifies potential roadblocks. It helps your team better manage customer expectations while formalizing the pilot schedule, defining expected outcomes and outlining your team’s next steps. • Use Case Prompters steer customers towards your core strengths and away from your competitor’s. Guided questions help formulate success criteria favorable to your company that are also aligned with the customer’s proof points. 2. PROVE: Run a Better Process, Prove Customer’s Success Criteria The Proof phase gives your company the chance to shine by running a precise process that proceeds in an orderly manner towards meeting the customer’s goals, demonstrating their proof points and positioning you to win the business. The goal is better execution. • The Evaluation Charter becomes your roadmap through the evaluation process. It outlines the roles and responsibilities for each team member and defines the actions, expected outcomes and overall sales timeline in a clear, concise manner. • The Customer Playbook combines recognized best practices with innovative new sales techniques that will help your company to differentiate, execute and win. 0 3.•CLOSE: Position Yourself to Win the Business The Close Phase positions you to complete the pilot, close the business and build upon the strong foundation you have established to drive future sales and revenues. • Advocate Selling nurtures customer contacts into active advocates who will present a powerful case for the sale to executives. • Close Meetings secure your support among key players, give you the right to ask for the business and help the relationship evolve to the next level. 5
  6. 6. Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results Phase 1: Preparation When envisioning the Prepare phase, think of the foundation of a building. If that foundation is weak or poorly structured, then the building will surely fall. It’s no different when pursuing large contracts and enterprise sales. Building a strong foundation will enable you to run a stronger process and better position you to win the business. Before you even agree to run a pilot, there are important questions you need to answer: • Are the right conditions in place to run a successful evaluation? • Will you have access to the right personnel, business units and key decision makers? • Are there clear and achievable business goals? • Is there a plan to purchase upon a successful conclusion? One of the reasons we have been able to increase win rates so dramatically is that we sometimes said No. Simply put, some sales cycles just should not be pursued. It’s in your best interests to make this determination upfront. Our strategy helps your sales team avoid these no-win situations by reading early warning signs that point to futile pursuits and focus your time and resources on sales that you can win. Evaluation Questionnaire The Evaluation Questionnaire (EQ) helps you to answer important customer questions upfront and lays the foundation for the Evaluation Charter, which becomes the execution roadmap for your engagement. The EQ is immediately sent to the customer the moment that they request a pilot with an explanation that it is a mandatory step in the process. Key data points of the EQ include: • Stakeholders/Decision Makers: Each of the stakeholders within the pilot are identified, including the roles they play in the evaluation, making decisions and authorizing budget. • Schedule/Timeline: The expected timeline for the evaluation, including end date, checkpoints, close meetings and other important events. • Use cases: Customer use cases that will be proven during the evaluation. 6
  7. 7. Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results • Business Goals/Success Criteria: A list of what the prospective customer wants to achieve through the evaluation and eventual implementation of your company’s product. • Action Items/Responsibilities: A list of specific actionable items required to complete the evaluation and the people or teams responsible for accomplishing them. • Next Steps: This defines how you and the customer will proceed together once the business goals and success criteria have been proven. • Risks/Unknowns: An internal accounting of potential risks that need to be addressed with the customer before agreeing to proceed. • Financial: Will the buyer have “skin in the game”, or is it easy for them to walk? What are your internal costs to pursue and win this business? Customer Testimonial – One prospect was so impressed with our organized approach to the pilot, they just figured we had our act together and awarded us the business. We didn’t even run the pilot. Following this framework gave us an unfair advantage from the start as we were able to project an image of professionalism and organization that every company is looking for in a prospective partner. Use Case Prompters If you have ever been lucky enough to help a prospect write their request for proposal (RFP), then you have seen the power of use case prompters. Through a series of carefully crafted questions, you guide the customer’s thought process in a way that benefits your company, shapes the success criteria and gives you an early and distinctive advantage. Questions are specifically designed to highlight your strengths and downplay the competition’s perceived strengths. By guiding the customer to value the things that you do well, you are cocreating the success criteria that you must prove to win the business and creating a playing field that favors your company. 7
  8. 8. Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results Phase 2: Prove Here’s a little secret – most companies have no idea how to run a product evaluation. They do it because procurement or management tells them that they have to. By stepping in, asserting control and guiding them through the process, you can better anticipate their needs and show them how to buy your solution. Although some companies support self-service pilots, our experience has shown that simply letting customers loose with your product and fielding support calls does not give you an advantage or ability to shape the outcome. You don’t want to be a Help Desk – you want to be a Sherpa who will guide the customer along their journey to a desired endpoint. Along the way, you help the evaluators to build their business case, break down perceptions of risk and take ownership of your solution. By leveraging the aforementioned Preparation techniques, you have built a strong foundation to prove out your value and established clear advantages: • You have stacked the deck in your favor, mitigated your risk and minimized roadblocks that could sabotage a successful outcome • You have taken control of the process and introduced a framework that will help your customer build the strongest possible business case • You are demonstrating the professionalism that the buyer can expect from you as a future partner • You have mobilized the right resources to win – on both sides • You have differentiated yourself from your competitors, most of whom will be running a haphazard, ad-hoc pilot process • You are teaching the customer how to run their evaluation and buy your products • You are forecasting projected revenue and close dates with more confidence 8
  9. 9. Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results We had just finished running a pilot with a large multinational. Their evaluation team was very complimentary of our evaluation process and the results, and they decided to buy our solution. An issue arose as we were the most expensive alternative and Procurement pushed back. Fortunately, the credibility and goodwill we had built up with the business sponsors made this objection disappear. We didn’t even have to drop our price. The difference this made to us? Almost $50,000 – on one deal. The Evaluation Charter The Evaluation Charter is a key element of your execution strategy. It builds upon the information captured in the pre-evaluation stage by helping you create a comprehensive action plan. Every aspect of the evaluation is captured, including activities, players, timeframes, business goals and next steps. Both you and the customer endorse the plan and it becomes the single point of truth and governance throughout the pilot. While the framework is important, execution relies on your skills, training and experience as professional salespeople. Process Engage is essentially sales process-agnostic. At various points, we employed techniques from Challenger Rep, SPIN selling, Solution Sales, Sandler and others. The overall framework provides stability and structure while empowering your team to employ the right sales technique to help you drive the best possible outcome. We ran a competitive pilot with a major tech company who wanted to test our software solution. Their evaluation team was big – 50 people across 8 separate divisions who were charged with proving out 15 specific use cases. Digging deep in our Playbook, we decided to create a project website for the evaluation team. We shot videos of users proving out all 15 use cases with our software and posted these videos to the project website. We added a live blog for questions. We met face-toface with as many people as we could and did not stop until we had spoken with everyone at least once. We ran individual demos and scheduled webinars for the entire evaluation team. When we won, the sponsor told us that we had run the best process that he had ever seen from a vendor. 9
  10. 10. Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results Customer Playbook The Customer Playbook provides you with a number of customer-focused strategies that have been proven to help you win. These best practices and essential sales techniques will help you operate within the overall pilot framework while designing the right program for each unique customer situation. As your sales team innovates and finds new ways to win, the Playbook is updated and becomes a knowledge base of successful techniques for your entire sales organization. We start our clients with best practices and techniques that have worked for us, but over time companies make the Playbook their own. As your team improves, you’ll find that these principles become second nature for your salespeople and a training guide for new hires. We made the final cut for an RFP issued by one of the biggest apparel manufacturers in the world. Our competition frankly had a better product than ours. It became incredibly important to think outside of the box and redefine the rules in our favor. In addition to a custom demo environment, we harnessed the power of storytelling to create a “day in the life” narrative of an employee who used our software to do their job better. Our story specifically addressed all of the customer’s use cases in a more engaging manner. It demonstrated that we thought differently and would go the extra mile. It allowed individuals to study our solution at their own pace. Finally, it gave everyone something tangible with our logo on it. When we won, the customer specifically mentioned this story as a decisive factor in their decision. Step #3: Closing the Deal In general, companies run pilots because they are a necessary step towards closing a deal. Everything we do leads to the Close. It's hard to believe, but many of the best sales reps we’ve are afraid to ask for the business. They run a perfect process, handle objections with a smile and bring the ball right to the goal line, but then…they…just…go…to...pieces. As we leveraged our process and began to learn and improve, we found that closing became an almost foregone conclusion rather than a daunting challenge. Since the evaluation goals 10
  11. 11. Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results and next steps were already established in the Evaluation Charter, closing became just another step in the process. It was natural and relatively stress-free. Strong planning in the Preparation phase enables you to anticipate and eliminate the “gotchas” that can sneak up on you at the end. Solid execution through the Proof phase builds the customer’s business case, breaks down their aversion to risk and instills confidence in you as a partner. These are the conditions you need to close. In fact, many prospects were so pleased with our pilot performance that they would be pushing us to sign the deal and get started. Advocate Selling Advocate selling is a cornerstone of Process Engage that helps you to transform project sponsors into enthusiastic advocates who will help you to sell. Advocates will take ownership of your solution, give positive feedback to executives, work their internal systems and over time assume a major role in helping you close the deal. The real power of Advocate Selling lies in the fact that, ultimately, you are not selling your solution…the customer is. Here is how we approached Advocate Selling: We would assign a specific resource – often technical - as the frontline contact for the customer throughout the pilot. Their agenda was simple – establish credibility as an expert and internal advocate for the customer, build a strong relationship with the sponsor and guide them towards taking ownership of the solution. As the pilot progressed, we earned trust and helped the sponsor to build a strong business case for our solution. We instilled a sense of confidence in our people and company, and demonstrated how our solution would help them to succeed. In turn, we asked for their advocacy with executives and Procurement. Advocate Selling can make the difference in your sales cycle and ability to win. 11
  12. 12. Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results After winning a pilot, we asked the customer why they chose us. To our surprise, they cited our responsiveness and professionalism. Whenever the customer made a request, we responded immediately. We delivered on every commitment we made. If we didn’t have the answer, we found it quickly. We even coached the sponsors on how to effectively deliver the final executive presentation. In sum, we ran a better process than the other guy and transformed every interaction – big and small – into an opportunity to differentiate and demonstrate our value as a partner. The Close Meeting Close meetings are planned events in which you secure the support you need to complete the pilot and ask for the business. We recommend that you schedule two close meetings – first with the sponsor, then with the executive. The sponsor close meeting has the explicit intent of validating the sponsor’s satisfaction with the pilot results and asking for their recommendation. If they are no actively advocating for your solution in their company, they need to begin doing this. You want them to take ownership and start envisioning your solution as their solution. The close meeting is a formal opportunity to make this transition and collaborate on the end game. Once your advocate is on board, work with them to plan out the executive meeting. The intent of the executive close meeting is to review results of the pilot, validate the business case and ask the executive for their support to move forward. By recommending your solution, the advocate is staking their reputation on your ability to deliver. Take the time to help them develop an airtight business case that speaks directly to the areas most important to the executive. One very effective tactic for the executive close meeting is to coach and prepare your advocate to deliver the presentation – instead of you. Their recommendation carries more gravitas than a vendor asking for their business. We employed this technique with great success, and could not recall a single instance when the team’s recommendation was overruled by the executive. 12
  13. 13. Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results By following the methodology, you have proven your value, secured the support of key people and positioned yourself to ask for the business. Even better, you have earned the right to ask for the business. Gaining the executive’s support formally wraps up your pilot and opens the door to further partnership and revenue opportunities. We were concluding a competitive, 3-month evaluation with a Fortune 50 company. We had earned the sponsor’s recommendation and requested an executive wrap-up to present the results and ask for the bigger deal. The plan was to walk the executive through their most important use cases using our software…only we wouldn’t be presenting. We spent quite a bit of time training our sponsor to be proficient with our solution and he was able to walk the executive through every use case. Without even speaking, we had achieved instant credibility and built the business case for our solution. The following week, we met the executive and signed a deal worth several hundred thousand dollars. 13
  14. 14. Increased Revenues, Faster Sales Cycles, Better Results Invest in Results We made a conscious effort to improve our pilot execution because we found that our success as salespeople – and our company’s success – was tied directly to our ability to run a stronger evaluation process and win more often. The confidence and skill we developed carried over into other aspects of our sales efforts and ultimately made us better salespeople. Mastery of our framework and its techniques has led to more revenue, greater success and stronger partnerships with our clients. The Process Engage Pilot Framework is part of Process Engage Consulting. We invite you to learn more at www.processengage.com and contact us to discuss how this smart investment might help your business to drive better, more consistent sales results. 14

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