Most of my sales work involves a productized service: the SQL Critical Care®, a package of consulting work with a defined set of steps and a finish line.
But sometimes on introductory calls, prospective customers just start venting.
They complain about performance, management, capacity planning, architecture, upgrades, downtime, cost, staffing, the last guy, and a litany of stuff.
As a consultant, though, I can’t write a Statement of Work for that. Or to be more specific, I can’t write it up in a way that an executive will actually sign the contract to let us start work.
So when I’m not sure where things are going, here’s what I say:
What does success look like to you? At the end of the gig, I want you to be able to say, “Thank goodness we called them because they were finally able to ____.” What’s in that blank?
The answer helps us all:
- Understand what the first project’s finish line looks like (not necessarily the end of our entire working relationship, just the first finish line that we need to cross together)
- Understand if I can help them cross that line (because sometimes it’s not a good fit for me)
- Set things out of scope when they’re not related to the finish line (it doesn’t mean we’re never going to do that work – it’s just not part of this first race we’re running together)
If you don’t have a productized service yet – or even if you’re just applying for a full time job – success is so much easier when you understand what success means to the other person.
All those are good points Brent, but I would add another bullet there. Understand whether the finish line is tactical or strategic in nature. If it is tactical, find out how it aligns with or supports C-level strategies. Discovering or insuring this alignment increases the chances your contract is going to get signed by the people that hold the purse strings.
All too often I see IT staffs, all the way up to the director level, that have no idea what the corporate strategy is from the CEO/CIO/CTO levels. That causes a lot of their problems to begin with as they focus on work that isn’t relevant to their bosses. Those of us in sales and/or consulting need insure there are no gaps between the tactical and strategic or we will lose out.
Rick – great point. Sometimes you’re having discussions with folks who can’t actually sign contracts, and you wanna get to that knowledge fast, too.