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Securing Approval for a KM Solution Purchase – Part One: Convincing Leadership

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Posted by Jason Buggy

I’m a sales person with Inmagic, and when I sat down to write a blog post for you, our loyal customers, it dawned on me that perhaps you (and hopefully some prospective customers) would like some best practices on HOW TO MAKE SURE YOU CAN BUY SOMETHING, in general.

Just before the Christmas break a prospect told me that they would not purchase our solution, but they didn’t want me to feel bad, because they were not purchasing anything.  “The VP of X did not really grasp why we needed a KM system, or what it could do for us, so she wouldn’t sign off on the project.”  These are the WORST words a sales person can hear.  I’m giving something away, but here is a little secret:  we don’t mind losing a deal here or there to a competitor.  It drives us to be better and in reality, there are times when someone is looking for something soooo specific, that there truly is only one right solution, and you know from the beginning that may not be your product.  That’s okay, it’s easy to tell our managers “we lost because of A, B and C.”  But when you walk in and say, “we didn’t get approval, they are buying nothing,” that’s typically a result of the sales person not understanding a prospect’s needs and internal approval process.  

As a sales person, I have a process that I follow to help me understand when things will happen, what the likelihood is that they will happen, and by what date.  For you, let’s call this the sales process in reverse…let’s call it the buying process.  In this specific example, let’s assume you’ve made the decision to purchase a solution to your KM challenges. In a three part blog post, I’ll share some purchase approval and process best practices gleaned from my years in sales, and if you get even one pearl of wisdom , we’ll both be happy.

First, be prepared to quickly explain exactly what knowledge management is all about to your non-KM practitioner colleagues.  I’ll run with the Gartner Group’s sophisticated definition, which I have blatantly poached from a most EXCELLENT article in KMWORLD . “Knowledge Management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets.  These assets may be databases, documents, policies, procedures and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual workers.”  That is from 1998, and I must say, it still holds true today.  Add a pinch of tacit knowledge here and a smidge of social components there and that definition could have been written yesterday.  To really bring things on home for your colleagues and management you’ll need to give concrete examples that show how the above concepts apply to your organization – in terms of its information assets and its needs.

You must be able to show and convince leadership of the importance of implementing a KM strategy at your company.  To do that you will need to have answers to a number of WHY, WHO, WHAT, HOW, WHERE and WHEN questions.  In my next post on this topic, I’ll share those questions with you.   I find that working through them with my prospects really focuses the process and is mutually advantageous.  If you are well prepared with information and answers to share with your management, you stand a better chance of getting approval for a purchase you may have spent a good amount of time and energy evaluating.

Inmagic Services Methodology - "Teach 'em how to fish"

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By David Abels

Teach 'em how to fish
I was excited to join the Inmagic team last year as the Director of Client Services, when my wife’s job necessitated a move to Boston.  As a librarian and as someone with years of experience running Cuadra Associates’ client services group (Cuadra is a sister Lucidea division), I was looking forward to learning how client services worked at Inmagic.

I soon learned that a key pillar in Inmagic’s product design is to build products that typical people (or at least typical information professionals) can use without knowledge of programming or other technologies.  This seemed especially true of DB/TextWorks and also of Presto.

When I started, I felt like I had been thrown into the deep end.  I was assured that Inmagic customers don’t bite and that with all my years of managing client engagements at Cuadra how different could it be?  I was very pleasantly surprised to find that my previous experiences had indeed prepared me well for this new assignment and that for the most part, Inmagic customers are an enthusiastic bunch and fun to work with.

As I have gained more experience, I have noticed that the other advice I received day-one also seemed to be true.  Dave Golan, Inmagic VP Sales (and previous manager of client services) told me when I started “We have a simple approach here.  Teach’em how to fish and you will be better off and so will the customer.”  I could not agree more.  If you complete a services engagement and we’ve done all the work and the client has had only minimal involvement and limited training, I know what the hand-off is going to be like.  The clients are often nervous because they do not really understand the software or how to configure it and they are not clear about how they will maintain or administrate it in the future.

However, when the clients have been actively involved in the implementation and they have learned by doing, we find that they approach the launch of their new system with gusto and with little fear, because the client knows how the system works, they know how to make changes in the system themselves and they are confident that they can manage the system with minimal help from Inmagic.

So, job one in the client services group is to “teach’em how to fish.”  We help clients build the first Content Type (e.g. database) in Presto and then we let the client learn by doing and build the next two.  We focus our skills on the tasks where the client might not have special skills (e.g. general site look and feel is often controlled by Cascading Style Sheets), so we do the CSS work and train the client on the Configuration Menu and the various operations that are performed there.

It’s been really gratifying to see how quickly we can train experienced DB/TextWorks users to use Presto.  Defining a textbase in DB/TextWorks is very similar to defining Content Types in Presto.  Building Screens and Views in Presto is similar to building Forms in DB/TextWorks.  And it is even more fun when clients make unanticipated enhancements to their systems without our help or assistance after the implementation is complete.  For example, a recent Presto for DB/TextWorks client was able to add a chat feature onto their homepage without even calling us!

So when a client ends up being a fisherman, then I know that I have done my job, and most likely we will have a happy client for years to come!

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