It's All About the Data

It's All About the Data
It's All About the Data

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fear, Uncertainty + Doubt in Buying

Have You Ever Been "FUDed"?

People say all is fair in business - win at all costs.  One strategy some competitors use is to confuse the buying/selling process through infusing fear, uncertainty and doubt into the buying/selling decision.  FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) is described as:
FUD is generally a strategic attempt to influence perception by disseminating negative and dubious or false information. FUD is a manifestation of the appeal to fear. (Wikipedia).

The key part here is the phrase "appeal to fear".  Fear is the mortal enemy of a buying decision far more than pricing.  Some examples of FUD that might be said about you, by your competitors:
  • You are going out of business (no money)
  • You have lost a key member of the organization (can't deliver on promises)
  • Individually (you have a drug/alcohol problem)
Do these tactics sound familiar?  Usually it leaves you confused as to 'why' would someone say that, and why is your potential/existing customer listening to such outrageous statements.

As we know, disproving a negative is nearly impossible.  How can I prove that my company is NOT going out of business -especially when so many businesses closed their doors overnight?

So, the question is - How do we (the FUDed party), deal with the FUD being thrown at us:
  • First, don't be offended, it is probably a compliment to your competitive selling ability, and your company's products/services. The FUDder is desperate, and using risky, and despicable tactics.
  • Stay calm, the more you profess your innocence/righteousness, the more you give some credence to the FUD statement.  The people who handle it the best, approach it in two possible ways.
    • A hearty laugh and a clear statement of "does that sound logical to you" can often overcome/defeat the FUD statement.
    • Sometimes a response of "what information/data can I provide that will reduce your fears" will help.  The key is your openness; it is a cure to the FUD virus.
  • Whatever you do, do not throw FUD back!  First, your competition is probably better at FUDding that  you are, and in my experience "FUDders never win long term".  Yes, you may lose temporarily the customer, but you will more times than not get that customer back later on, when the customer determines the 'real' story.

It is a badge of courage to be FUDded !  Keep your head up, and your confidence strong.  Realize your competition is nervous  - YOU GOT THEM ON THE RUN !

David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (  David's experience is in providing companies with business process analysis and change implementation.  @dhaynestech.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Value Proposition - Why you need ONE !

We all belong to a sales organization

Often when this statement is made, there is a chorus of "No we are a service organization", or "We are doctors, lawyers, architects, etc."  This is simply not the complete story.  Something has to be sold, whether you are a charitable organization, provide services,  or Apple, Inc., there is a buyer and a seller.  The fact is:  If you work for yourself or work for Google, you are part of a selling organization.

This leads to the question - How do customers/clients make a buying decision?  Many firms will talk about their people, or that they went to school with the client, or other such things.  I agree these may be factors, as well as price can be a determining factor.  However, customers want to receive 'value'.  Value is defined as the relative worth of goods or services.

How do you position or define the 'value' of your goods or services?  A value proposition is the method of conveying your company's value.  What is a value proposition?  In essence, it is about turning a customer from 'saying so what' to 'gladly willing to spend money'.  Also a strong value proposition reduces 'price' as being the only determining factor.  When all things are perceived as equal, price will become the final determining factor.

Let us start with what value propositions are not:
  • It is not featured based.  Our cellphone has a 4 mega-pixel lens.
  • It is not only about price, I contend, value propositions have little to do with price.  Our hamburger is 49 cents.
  • It is not about goals, philosophies, theories or concepts.  'We love our job' usually does not make a buyer decide.

In reality, it is all about faster, better, stronger.  This may seem obvious until you start listening to your company's marketing speech.  Does your company website, or company management, say:
  • We are local, we have been in the area for over 50 years.
  • We are known for our people.
  • The new software lets you do the following feature.
  • It is all about our philosophy.
  • We are agents of change.
This all may well be true, but leads buyers to say "so what?"

 How do you put together a value proposition and how should it be stated?
  • Approach from the client's perspective - how can you make them faster, better, stronger.
    • We provide process improvement that will save you time.
    • We provide multiple necessary steps of a process saving you the headache of coordination.
    • We deliver pizza in 30 minutes, guaranteed to be hot.

  • State the information directly, don't be shy.  The client has a need and wants the answer.
    • Our help desk will answer your question in under an hour.
    • We can get your taxes done in 2 days, and we deal with the IRS with questions.
    • Our trash bags are 15% stronger than the competition.

  • Where should the value proposition be stated?
    • On the front page of your website.
    • Into the everyday 'speak' of your team.
    • In every discussion with the customer.

Why do you need it?
  • Your competition is talking about how they are better.  Your competition may even be using fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) to confuse the customer.
  • It creates a differentiator for your company.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY -  The customer is trying  to solve problems and wants them solved FASTER, BETTER, and STRONGER.

David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (  David's experience is in providing companies with business process analysis and change implementation.  @dhaynestech.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Are You Asking the Right Questions? Service Risk Mitigation

Risk exists in all things.   It is how we manage that risk that decides if we succeed or not.  Just because we can, does not mean we should.  We can drive down the freeway at 100 mph without a seat belt - but I think we agree it would be risky, and the outcome might well be disastrous.


Risk management is the identification, assessment, and prioritization of risks followed by coordinated and economical application of resources to minimize, monitor, and control the probability and/or impact of unfortunate events or to maximize the realization of opportunities  (Wikipedia).

How does risk management apply to services?  Many do a 'pray and hope process' regarding possible risks.  Some do a 'how did we do it last time' methodology.  Some negotiate a fee and then work to fit the service within that fee. All of these options do little to mitigate risk. In fact, I believe they increase risk, by inducing a false sense of security or safety.

To mitigate risk, information/communication is the best approach.  Both receiving and delivering information is critical.  Two key parts (though not the complete answer) to risk mitigation are:
  • Scoping
  • Setting Expectations

This is an easy process to by-pass.  We have already had discussions with the customer, we don't want to seem un-knowledgeable, etc.  However, scoping is a very important part of risk mitigation and management. 

Scoping, or project scope statement, is the process of defining the who, what, where, how of the project.  In Project Management Professional (PMP) terms this process is the developing of a Baseline Scope. 

Here are my best practices in developing Scope:
  • Always complete the scope in a document that is reviewed by the client.
  • For best results, have the scoping conversation directly with the customer (face to face is better than phone).  Never do it via email.  Have the discussion with the decision maker, if other people are in the meeting (stakeholders, team members, etc.) that is good too, but sometimes hard to achieve.  Contract Manager, etc. are not good candidates - you need parties with domain expertise to provide input.
  • Have an agenda - what items do you need to have input and confirmation upon.  It is your meeting - own it.
  • Items on the agenda will vary, but some main items might include:
    • What definable outcomes will make the project a success?
    • What items will not be covered in this process - what will be provided by others.
    • What are time, people, material constraints that are known?
  • Ask precise, information gathering questions - reconfirm all you knew and now know.
  • Get the draft document reviewed and approved by all prior to proceeding.
  • This should all be done PRIOR to establishing the fee or budget.

This part of the process is rarely done enough.  Why bother to set expectations?  Won't the customer get upset if we set an expectation?  Risk mitigation is all about reducing risk, therefore, isn't there a reasonable risk the customer is expecting something different than you are proposing. 

What is included in 'setting expectations'?  It is a discussion that outlines what makes a successful project for the customer.
  • What do they want to understand better
  • What process will need to be implemented
  • What workflow needs to be improved
  • What are the possible blockages to success (corporate culture, etc.)

By discussing, and documenting, and getting agreement on what the customer expects in a definable way, many headaches that occur at the end of the service delivery are avoided.

There are many aspects to Risk Mitigation, however, Scoping and Setting Expectations is a good starting point, and where many service providers stumble.

David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (  David's experience is in providing companies with business process analysis and change implementation.  @dhaynestech.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Where do we stand? (Competitive Analysis)

Has your company ever done a proactive, unbiased review of where you stand in comparison to your competition.  Not the usual "we are better because of our people" review, but a more analytical, comparative review.

Why, might you ask?  In order to know where a company wants to go in the future we need to understand where we are right now.  Usually, companies focus on what they want to do, not what they may be best at, or what others are better at.

An effective tool for understanding where the company stands, and where it might want to go, is a SWOT analysis:

SWOT Analysis is a structured planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture. A SWOT analysis can be carried out for a product, place, industry or person. (Wikipedia).

When I was first introduced to SWOT, I asked myself "What benefit could my company receive - this is silly."  Over time and a with a little practice, valuable information can be gained.  Some feel SWOT is business school 101 stuff, but if thoughtfully done, SWOT brings insightful analysis.

The strongest benefit is that, done correctly, good business decisions (both strategic and tactical) can be achieved.  These decisions and directions will be derived from a realistic view of your company's position in the marketplace.

First, the process:
  1.  Sit with a group of people, this can include customers, it is important to include many internal stakeholders (not just management people).  Bring unbiased people to this discussion - you need a hard analytical look, not Pollyanna types.
  2. Decide on SWOT topic (ex:  your company, your competition, the key objective).
  3. We use a white board divided into four quadrants.
  4. Note the top half is about internal issues (strengths and weaknesses) and the bottom half is about external issues (opportunity and threats).
  5. Be free form about putting things in each quadrant, just make sure the statement is really a strength, weakness, opportunity, or threat.  Specific is better than general.  Question if the statement is real, or what we wish it to be.

  1. Strength - great people   (way too general).
  2. Weakness - not enough projects (that is more of a threat than a weakness).
  3. Opportunity - there is a bond issue to create new infrastructure (great example)
  4. Threat - competition (this can be a threat, it can also be an opportunity) - see below.

So here is an interesting thing you will find:  There is a relationship, or correlation between the different quadrants. 
Strengths can lead to opportunities, while weaknesses create threats (orange arrows).
Strengths reduce threats, while weaknesses, when corrected, can create new opportunities (yellow arrows).
Looking at the problem in a new way, brings new connections, new data to review, and maybe a new look at a familiar set of issues.

I have done SWOT analysis numerous times, and have found that it has been a valuable exercise, with new insights, new connections, and also the stakeholders are both engaged and educated.

David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (  David's experience is in providing companies with business process analysis and change implementation.  @dhaynestech.