First perceptions are even harder to overcome than most people had realized. Our first impression of a person, place or idea becomes our brain’s default perception. We can learn more things later, but our brain usually categorize it as an exception from the rule. Let say your first impression about software is bad, but then it improves. It takes time to change and it is not always possible.
Here is the thing about product lifecycle management (PLM) – it is complex, expensive and highly risked IT project. Even things started to change, the value of PLM is becoming much clearer, ROI is improving and TCO is going down, most organizations are still getting it as an exception
PLM sales is a complex process and usually come together or very tightly connected with PLM implementation practices. Check my earlier blogs – PLM sales cheat sheet and 5 critical factors for successful PLM implementations.
I’ve been asked many times how to overcome PLM perception when you come to sell to an organization or even after sales in the deployment and implementation.
Here is my advise. Practice extreme listening techniques. What? You probably confused now. Extreme listening is widely used terms. If you ever attended communications or leadership training, you probably remember 1-2 tips about how to be a good listener. But my point is different. Here is the thing – it is all about questions.
When you come to organization to sell and/or implement PLM system, you are going to meet many people. You success is fully dependent on what they know, information about an organization, history or IT projects, current status quo and organizational politics. An extreme listening for me is to come with a set of very important questions and ask them during these PLM sales and planning conversations.
Here are few recommendations about how to ask right questions.
1. Why are you telling me about something?
People will tell you about organizational complexity, IT problems, working procedures and about anything else. Ask big “Why” on anything company is tell you because you will learn what organization did, what is important and what you should focus on.
2. Focus people on what is important.
People often can digress, speaking about history, small details, kids, sports, politics, gadgets. Try to bring them back to focus. Your time is money.
3. What people are skipping in their answers?
People tend to skip pieces of information. They think it is not important, so they skip. Try to identify these pieces and ask them why? what? how something specific happens? How latest migration of IT happened? Who is using cloud, etc.?
4. Search for contradictions and conflicting messages.
It is okay for people to contradict themselves. They can speak about single PLM vision and then hold 4 different PDM system in the back including some legacy databases. You need to dig inside and gather this info about an organization to plan your strategy of sales and implementation.
5. Not answered questions.
It can be tricky. You can ask – when do you plan to get rid of legacy databases in manufacturing planning? And customer will tell you – our vision is to have single PLM environment. See, the left the real question not answered. And this is a very important piece of info for you.
6. Create summary and communicate it with a customer.
You want to be sure you got things right.Create summary of what you’ve heard and repeat it in front of customer. And it is very hard to get into misunderstanding. So, try to repeat what you’ve heard and tell it to user. It can help to create a better alignment with users.
What is my conclusion? PLM sales and implementation is first about people and second about technologies. Some PLM implementations will fail because of product, but most of them will fail because of bad communication between people. Extreme PLM sales listening can help you get out of trouble. Just my thoughts…
Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.