May 2009 - Internal Selling Techniques

Over the last few months I have presented my idea of using the Oracle Siebel CRM product as a Project Management and Requirements Gathering Tool, to several Oracle Partners and Customers with the following feedback:

· A lower cost, read only version of Siebel Tools for Business Analysts would be welcome

· A Data Mart tied to the Siebel Repository used for Application Object Management Dependency Analysis would be welcome and save time on current projects

· A Requirements Gathering and Tracking Tool will meet strong resistance until a Business Process Diagramming capability is available and it will continue to meet resistance until there is a single application framework in use.

The Prototype for the above products done in my spare time has been well received and a good use of my energy. The Prototype has also opened the door to Oracle's Siebel Product Development team who are now contemplating the release of the Client based Repository and Data Mart Views.

It has taken me over 5 years to bring a personal vision to the point where others are interested and I thought that this month I would discuss "How to sell internal projects" as many in IT invent new methods and tools but are never able to get them into the development cycle.

For whatever the reason, during my career I have been either shunned as the guy with the strange ideas or welcomed as the guy with the strange ideas. As a consultant my strange ideas were welcomed and revenue producing. As an employee for large companies it has always been more difficult to implement innovation and present my strange ideas. So what do you do, when you have an idea, and want to develop it as an employee. I laughed when other employees in various levels of management asked why I did not leave my company and develop the idea independently. As I am currently happy with Oracle I wanted to stay with a company that has the leverage to take my idea into the marketplace.

So what do you do, when you want to push an initiative forward. It is my experience that new ideas either fix current problems, reinvent ways of doing the same process, or change the way we think. Whatever new concept you want to bring forth must either improve someone's productivity, increase the volume of business, or improve the company's general profitability Understanding the business environment is the first critical success factor.

I started my campaign for a Business Analyst Tool over 5 years ago by writing a white paper describing the need for a new tool and data to help Siebel Project Teams. At the time many fires were burning at Siebel and the smoke put everyone into firefighting mode with all resources focused on short term revenue production. My manager and his manager had no interest in the idea as it was not going to produce any new revenue for their departments. In other words I hit a brick wall.

At the time my network did not extend to those in positions most likely to see the revenue benefits of a tool for implementation teams, and I remained stuck at that point, happy to have a job after the merge with Oracle. Still, I could not get the idea out of my head. The concept as many I have had in the past, wanted to be developed.

The most successful approach I have learned in my career is that a functional but inexpensive prototype can prove a concept and help secure funds for full development. In the 1980's I used a product named Dan Bricklin's Demo to build non-functional but visually accurate IBM CICS prototype screens. You may remember Dan Bricklin for his more memorable contribution as the developer of VisiCalc the world's first commercial Spreadsheet program.

In the 1990's I was able to model complex new data structures and build a consolidated workbench of data for Marketing Managers using Microsoft Access. Showing how the flexibility of data relationships could assist management in their decision making process. I did not know I had designed my companies first Data Warehouse. The next generation of the prototype was in Watcom and the final version was implemented in production as an Oracle database.

Several years ago I decided to use Siebel Tools to build my prototype for Business Analysis information processing. Yet after constructing my new tool I needed to get the word out. I started showing it to others, I started working up the ladder of management to disinterested managers, but I got the word out that I had something. People liked the idea, though no one was interested in pushing it forward. I was recently surprised and happy to hear from a Partner who is also using Siebel Tools as a platform to do new development to solve customer requirements.

As chance would have it, one day while on a smoking break, I was told that a guest Siebel speaker was presenting and I was provided an introduction to my first contact in product management. Finally all my networking paid off with a lead. Over the years working with sales people I have seen the importance of maintaing contacts and networking and like many good sales people, I have come to realize that growing relationships resulting from leads may not always show short term results, they may instead reap longer term and more significant rewards. Like many in sales I have found ways, usually through emails or elevator chats to keep my network informed of my progress and solicit assistance when needed.

The ability to persevere despite brick walls and despite setbacks it critical to being successful. The ability to preserve your network over time is critical if you are going to bring together your resources and break through obstacles. I give a lot of credit to highly successful people as they bring enough energy to survive through the selling cycle, excel in the development cycle, and build the support structure to keep their ideas growing.

Finally you need to be flexible, it will be a rare occurrence that gives you all the resources and funding to develop your vision. The ability to hear what aspects of you vision are best received enables you to adjust your planning and development to prove your concept. More than once it was only success that turned my detractors into supporters. If you are lucky you can then turn your energies from selling into developing. Getting your foot in the door with your first funding is many times the hardest objective to meet. Once you have accomplished this yand gotten your funding your next challenge is to ensure you can demonstrate the benefits of your work and justify the trust placed n you and the project..

As I have said before, it is all in relationships. As a technical resource, learning the skills of relationship management will help you sell your ideas and positively affect how your company does business. We are entering a period of time where innovation will be critical to the survival of many businesses. It is my hope that companies will make it easier to test innovative ideas.

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