Every consultant and sales person selling enterprise search, be that software, services, projects or some combination of these – will need to be able to convince their audience. And do that convincingly, even when they are facing un-earthly resistance from the (still) non-believers.
If you think you’ve got what it takes to close an enterprise search deal, you better be prepared to answer the following questions. In order to help you to be more successful, we throw in a handful of tips which may help you to win your audiences.
- What is the ROI (Return-of-Investment) of this enterprise search? That is the most commonly heard question, often asked to bring you to your knees, and force you to spend next day or two modeling your answer with Excel. But fear not. Instead, level the game by stating that “Well, it’s about the same as what you get with e-mail, intranet or file shares.” Yes! Sounds too simple? Well – in all these cases quantifying ROI, or even thinking these tools as point solutions which can be measured as standalone solutions, is always more or less artificial. Your ROI can pretty much be what you want, as you cleverly choose suitable variables, and answer the question as if tools would have limited impact on some specific task or process, while most of the work people do today involve never-stopping data hunt.
- If our users can find stuff, they may start finding stuff they are not allowed to see. Grrreat! So your audience is worried that a well-functioning enterprise search solution might just go and expose how badly they access control mechanisms have setup’d? Now users can not find these documents because they are hiding in their 9-level deep directory structure, and their location is “on need to know” basis only. Instead of putting the blame on the “power tool”, they should probably make sure that such “security through obscurity” situations are fixed before the sales person can say the word “PoC”!
- Can you tell us how this enterprise search will benefit our business? You should! And do that in less than 10 words. Because if you can’t, then you are proposing something too complex, and it is highly likely that your audience does not really get your key value prop, and because of that, can’t possibly justify the investment you are asking from them. You need to simplify, tie benefits with real business case, preferably making it absolutely clear what difference your offering makes to the bottom line of your prospects business. And furthermore, if your prospect does not have business with a bottom line, he/she probably does not have the budget to invest, and you are just spending your valuable time drinking coffee with the non-qualified prospect when you could be making good and real business elsewhere!
- Which content sources does your enterprise search solution support? This is a key question, and your answer needs to be spot on! But to ensure that you know what the customer needs, and ensure that you have MVO (Minimum Viable Offering) in your hands, you need to understand which repositories are most important for the prospect, and why so? Is it because of the nature of data stored, data volumes, user volumes or perhaps some other driver relevant to their business? Try to get some real data and figures from the customer, and ensure that your solutions connectivity is sufficient. A phased approach is quite typical, and also practical, when you have already most important sources covered, but the prospect needs to ensure that your solution can grow with their needs. If some of the sources are very proprietary to that prospect, you need to understand that, and scope your offering accordingly.
- How does your enterprise solution support our user authentication and security schemes? The most difficult part of enterprise search, in general, is security. Thus this question is relevant, and your answer must fit into the view of the world your prospect has. You need to be prepared to tell that your search solution taps into company AD, supports Kerberos and really – and we mean really – shows the end user only those results that user is entitled to see. Terms like late-binding and early-binding are often thrown in to check if the sales person understands what he/she is selling, and to validate the product fit for a certain use case. Be not amazed, if these follow words are used as a stealthy pathway towards questions testing the scalability of your search solution.
That’s it. Having a solid answer to above five key questions will get you started. And once you’ve answered them well enough, be prepared for the second round of questions. These typically are either technology oriented, or business focused – entirely depending on your prospect audience. Good luck!