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

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.

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