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About This Episode
Finding a product solution to please everyone sounds like an impossible task.
Maxwell is a Pacific Northwest native who has learned how to create a methodical approach about evaluating products and services that tend to have a lot of noise.
“There’s a lot of hype around certain products versus something that your business actually needs,” Maxwell said.
Let’s dive into his process of cutting through the noise and choosing a valuable solution.
4 elements to consider in project assessment
1. Convenience vs. efficiency
The first thing that Maxwell looks for is whether the noise about a product has any substance. “Is it more of a convenience factor or is it an efficiency factor?” he asked.
If it’s not going to deliver a measurable business outcome, then it’s probably just a want — something that sounds convenient but doesn’t necessarily make your business more efficient.
Yeah, so, if you can’t justify the solution in terms of ROI, it’s probably just made of noise without any substance.
“Anything you do has to have an ROI with it,” Maxwell said. “You don’t want to spend money and not get something back in return.”
3. Multi-departmental touch
Investigate how many departments it would touch.
Finance has very different needs than sales groups. So understanding how a solution can help not just one department but the next department and the next… to flow into an actual business process.
“How does this fit into other business processes that we have? How will this implement to other softwares?” Maxwell said.
Take a holistic view of the solution to see its effect across the business.
4. The waterfall effect
Finally, you’ll need to identify the main driver to a project implementation.
“You’re never going to have five departments all agree on one idea,” Maxwell explained. “You’re going to have one driving force.”
If you can satisfy the driving force, the main problem that the solution will address, from there you can evaluate its effect on other departments, its ROI, and to what degree the solution is substantive.
“It’s like a waterfall effect. Whoever’s going to be affected most, work with them quickly,” Maxwell said.
In other words, prioritize who will be most affected and get them on board. After that, the less and less directly related will fall in order.
Tips for working with sales reps
Maxwell’s insight into working with sales reps boils down to trust and transparency.
“Sales reps are truly a partner to me, so I don’t look at them as vendors,” he said. “Sales reps are awesome at providing inside knowledge into the industry or into that specific solution.”
He partners with them by, quite simply, trusting that they want him to succeed.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to trust who you’re working with,” he said.
You’ve got to be up front with the sales rep about what your requirement list is. Honestly, there’s no such thing as too detailed.
“I try to be up front with the project timelines, the budget, what we’re actually trying to accomplish, how we’re going to evaluate you,” Maxwell said.
Clearly define what you are looking to accomplish at a high level.
You: Here’s my angle at a high level, and here are all the details. I’ve got five categories with detailed points in each one explaining what I need to be able to accomplish and what’s important to me.
A formal RFP is a great way to go in order to assess how well the reps can customize the conversation to meet all of your needs.
“If you can be transparent with a rep and a rep can be transparent with you, you have a very easy path to building trust together,” he added.
You can’t be transparent about your needs without doing your homework about what your needs are.
“The more you can be up front with what you’re wanting, the quicker and the better a partner can deliver results to you,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell has a personal goal of spending 4 hours researching a partner before he sits for a demo.
If you hear noise about a solution’s benefits and you implement it without investigation, it might fix one department’s problem at best. “Do your homework and understand how that solution is going to fit other needs,” Maxwell said.
It’s a fine line between a partner’s best practices for what you should do versus what’s unique about your company.
Maxwell says that whenever you have a chance to customize a solution — don’t.
“They have their best practices for a reason. They’ve proven to work time and time again with multiple different clients,” he pointed out.
Use the out of the box features. They’ll work for you better than over customization will.
“Some of the automation factors of a software may not work if you customize too much,” he warned. “That managed package update may not work perfectly for you.”
Bottom line: The closer that the partner’s best practices and out of the box material fit your needs, the better overall solution that’s likely to be for your organization.
Maxwell’s framework for evaluating and driving change stems from one of his core beliefs: If you want to progress in your career and personal life, specialize in something.
“There’s a self-fulfillment in mastering something — as well as it’s absolutely invaluable when you know something better than anyone else,” Maxwell said.
Connect with Maxwell on LinkedIn.