Most IT service providers talk about offering holistic solutions instead of pure play technology services to their customers. However, from my previous experiences, I have realized that it is easier said than done. How does one really approach a prospect and offer a unique solution? Unless we truly engage with the prospect, it is hard to understand their immediate, medium and long-term priorities. Vice-versa if we do not offer something that interests them, the prospect is unlikely to give us time.
Of course, a great way to start is do your own research about the client on the web and other means. This is a good starting point to understand the context of the prospect and a reasonable guarantee to make the first conversation smarter.
However, the core of the challenge is knowing ‘how to think solutions?’ How does one evolve from thinking ‘skills’ to thinking ‘solutions?’ Thinking of skills comes almost naturally to all of us. Partly because we have become used to thinking of a skills match on both sides of the table. It makes the dialogue much simpler and crisper. Also, if one is engaged at the lower to mid-level management on the prospect’s side, the conversation tends to be centered around the skills itself.
If you are reasonably lucky, you may have already created a solution that could be reasonably generic, yet customizable. While such solutions inevitably run into competition, it usually helps to start a good, engaged conversation; even when the customer has already discussed a similar solution with a competitor. Obviously, such a solution is not specific to the prospect, but if you are solving a real, important problem for him, you have a serious opportunity to convert the prospect into a customer.
Obviously, this demands that you to be more creative, innovative and studious at the tougher end of the problem. It is also likely that you may not have a ready solution to present to the prospect. Now, this is where you need to understand the pain points of the prospect. The top-level management usually engages in high octane searches for bigger solutions, expressed usually as a business problem – leaking revenue, higher maintenance and repair costs, device portability, anywhere accessibility, security in a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) environment and the likes.
Most of the common problems resulting from new technologies are usually addressed fairly quickly after they first surface. The technology window continues to get shorter and shorter. The first mover advantage is proportional to the size of the problem primarily because large problems need larger solutions and higher technology integration – a point of advantage for the bigger/entrenched players. If you are an entrenched player with niche skills, you have a great opportunity to establish an early lead with a solution to a new problem.
If you are not a niche/big/entrenched player, think of what technology pieces you can integrate to solve the problem you have identified. How strongly is the prospect aligned to COTS (Components off the Shelf) strategy? What is their environment? How open is the approach to new products/technologies?
When you engage with the prospect, don’t talk about technology frameworks (such as Java, .NET) and skills (such as project teams, management, programmers, testing). Talk solutions to your prospects. Your catchphrases can be - “We can create a completely secure intranet and internet environment for your employee-centric BYOD policies.” Or “We can help you convert your PC-based spreadsheets to web-based spreadsheets with tight access control to protect your strategic business calculations from being emailed. I am sure you get the drift.
Needless to add, it is important to remember that you will need the underlying skills to offer these solutions. Therefore, your commercial offers will be based on the team size and LOE (Level of Effort) calculations. But the key point is that you should offer the client the ‘outcome’ of your engagement and not the engagement itself. This is a crucial distinction you need to make in your mind.
Remember - When you talk skills, you offer engagement. When you talk solutions instead, you offer the outcome of the engagement!