Complex technology has never been easy. This was especially true in the pre-connected world. First off, tech is expensive. Second it always promises to solve old problems in a new way; usually an unproven way. Complex technology was and can still be risky.
In the pre-connected world, sales reps had to spend nights getting fluent in the language and technical aspects of whatever technology they were selling. Sales cycles would run long and much of it would be spent convincing skeptical buyers that you knew what you were talking about and that your solution was not some goofy, snake oil, 3 card monte invention.
Buyers did not have the same level of technical expertise or comfort that they often display today. Sales guys would frequently run into a credibility wall that they just could not get over or around. If the sale was going to progress any further, the only course of action was to bring in the guru from corporate.
High Tech causes High Drama
Almost every company involved in complex products had at least one corporate guru.
These guys were always ready. Ready to grab the next flight and get onsite to back you up, build the customer’s confidence and help close the sale. It didn’t matter if you were talking about computers, peripherals or any other complex device. The corporate guru was just a phone call away.
Sales guys would know when they had to bring in the big guy. The sale would stall, demo after demo would show the product as effective, but, skeptics remained skeptical. It was frequently just a trust issue.
At some point during yet another demo, the rep would tell his customer contacts that he’s bringing in some help.
“What help” everyone asks?
Dramatically, the rep lets everyone know that Ray Wilson is coming in from corporate.
“Who the hell is Ray Wilson?” someone asks.
The Guru from Corporate
The sales rep gathers himself and in a hushed voice intones, “Ray Wilson invented this technology. Ray can make this baby dance a tango, Ray knows everything there is to know about these machines.”
In short, Ray Wilson is the Guru from Corporate. Ray will be flying in, first class. Get ready, because Ray will explain it all. Ray is a genius.
A few days later, the rep has his customer contacts gathered together in a conference room onsite. There is silence around the table as they wait for the MAN. Ray is running late. The clock ticks, fingers drum, watches are checked and then rechecked. The management heavyweights in the room are just getting to the point where they’ve had enough waiting and they start fidgeting around.
Then, the door suddenly opens, a figure appears. London Fog rain coat, three piece Armani suit, calfskin briefcase, Johnson & Murphy shoes, a diamond bezel Rolex President adorns his wrist, several gold chains are revealed under his spread collar and to top off the image, designer glasses with gradient tint lens. Ray Wilson has arrived.
He quickly looks around, figures out who is who and pulls out a stack of business cards. “Let’s go to lunch” he orders as he hands out cards to the management guys.
Ray hands a product datasheet to the sales rep and tells him to have it memorized and ready to demo by the time they’re back from lunch. The rep jumps to his feet and moves off to get started. The lunch party starts out the door.
One of the managers asks Ray, “What am I supposed to tell our president about how much this thing costs?”
Ray Wilson stops in his tracks, smiles, turns to the manager, “Tell him if he doesn’t like it, to buy his new system where he buys his whiskey!”
Wow! Ray is tough. Ray has been through this before. Nothing intimidates Ray.
They all laugh nervously. They are starting to feel better. They have confidence in Ray. This guy isn’t afraid of anyone. They all wish they could be like Ray!
Ray asks if there is a decent steakhouse nearby.
Hours later, the lunch crew returns. They are all about half blasted. The booze was free, so why not. Ray picked up the tab. The admin hands out stacks of pink phone message slips to virtually everyone except Ray. Within a few minutes, at least one manager is overheard telling someone on the phone to buy something where they buy their whiskey. Clearly, the power of Ray, the KC Strip and three martini lunch is at work.
Meanwhile, the sales rep is getting his presentation ready. He’s going to be telling everyone about the newest feature which was explained in the datasheet Ray gave him. Ray gets everyone together and lays down the law. He’s done hundreds of these installs, they have countless customers who are now killing their competition, managers have to step up and push for change in order to stay competitive.
Ray makes a final promise, “If you buy today, I will personally handle the implementation!”
The sales rep steps up, runs through the new feature and starts passing out contracts for signature, Ray Wilson collects his stuff and quietly slips out the door. His work is done. By the time the paperwork is signed, Ray is downing his second Martini at the airport bar, his flight is called. A few minutes after that, Ray Wilson disappears into the sunset.
Corporate Guru as Closers
Being the Corporate Guru was fun. They backed up sales with real knowledge about the product, how it was best used and who was the ideal reference customer. This is where the Corporate Guru really earned their keep.
Sales reps frequently lacked the technical training needed to sell complex products. They built the relationship, they set the expectations and then they brought in Ray Wilson to help close the deal.
Ray may or may not have been a genius, but he was always portrayed that way. When things got rough after the sale, they could be called upon again to smooth things out.
High tech products cost a fortune and when companies spend big money, they expect to be fussed over. The customer also knew making a purchase of this magnitude might be a job killer if the wrong choice is made.
Ray Wilson, his image, his knowledge and his liberal expense account were designed to inspire confidence and to make the customers feel important. Important enough to make a buy decision. An afternoon with Ray at the steakhouse would be just the ticket to rid the buyer of any worries about making a bad purchase decision.
CPQ and the Demise of the Corporate Guru
Today the Corporate Guru is a dinosaur. They are gone, never to return again. Connectivity means that sales has all the necessary knowledge about the product, pricing, usage and configuration at their fingertips.
Today, all of that corporate guru expertise is built into the business rules driving the configuration engine in the CPQ solution. Every sales rep has CPQ onboard their tablet. Today, instead of bringing in Ray Wilson, the sales rep brings along a tablet and several user stories that mirror the customer’s own experience.
The customer also has confidence now because they do their own research before they engage with a sales rep or any vendor. When the sales rep does come into the picture, both parties are equipped to have a real conversation because the questions are real and the answers are correct. That builds confidence in both buyer and seller.
They no longer have to “believe in” Ray Wilson.
When the time comes to present the proposal to management, the buyer and the sales rep have examined all the hard questions and with the help of their configuration technology, the solution proposed is matched specifically to the customer’s unique application.
The people present at the close will be the folks that need to be there. No one will have to fly half way around the world to buy martinis, steak dinners and tell stories.
The corporate guru is out of a job.