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Helping Lotus Software Development Company
Achieve Revenue Growth

Mike is a sales innovator. His deep understanding of modern sales techniques and processes help him to develop new markets. Mike helped transition our sales team at Cognicase from a group of amateurs to pros. I learned a lot from him

Jeremy Miller

Brand Strategist, Keynote Speaker, Bestselling Author

The Problem

The Lotus software development company had reach a plateau with software development, while it had built an innovative CRM product on the side: Maximizer Enterprise for Notes or ME4N. The product licensed a CRM brand name on the front end, or Maximizer Enterprise. It was married on the back end with the dominant groupware features of Lotus Notes software, formerly owned by IBM and now with HCL. The Lotus  groupware features were designed to help people working on a common task to attain their goals. Effectively, they had a great product which was ahead of its time for groupware at the time.  It served businesses who needed to support mid to large size sales teams.  Yet, ME4N was struggling with a lack of brand awareness for their innovation.

To put the software company’s challenge in the context of the day, ISM’s top 15 list was well recognized as the world-class standard for the Top 15 CRM.  The list was put together back then by ISM Inc.  It was led by a CRM Hall of Fame, Barton Goldenberg who remains the Founder and President of ISM Inc.   ISM examined several hundred software packages annually to compile the list of winners, which were selected on the basis of the following categories: Business Functions, Technical Features and User Friendliness/Support Features.  ME4N was not on the list where almost all of those who were on the list were Windows based. 

Meantime the market was fluid and the Lotus software development company was a buy-out target, first by Cognicase, then CGI, and then Patriot Computers in less than two years.  They were a target because  their executives and developers had proven to be quite adapt at making Lotus software attractive for supporting businesses in achieving their goals.  While they had a diamond in the rough with ME4N.  However, their marketing and sales teams in contrast were relatively young and inexperience in comparison.  The latter fact was costing them substantially large deals.

I had previously demonstrated skills, experience and accomplishments in the enterprise CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software sector.  And I was asked to come in to make this sales team fact an advantage for growing the revenues for their ME4N.

The Approach

The first steps taken in week one:

  • Meet with key stakeholders or ownership and executives;
  • Audit marketing, sales, related processes and supporting technology;
  • Meet with marketing and sales team individually and as a group;

The purpose of the first three steps aimed to establish the following objectives in week two:

  • Establish accountability and performance expectations re: revenue growth based on a change in market strategy;
  • Review what’s possible with existing resources and possibly uncover innovative ideas re: cash flow;
  • Determine the degree of alignment between the company’s vision and day-to-day results re: talent assessment;
  • Frame vision, accountability and related performance benchmarks within a strategic plan re: find their sales spark;

After processing feedback from week one and two, the goal for week three was to create a corporate strategy for changing the company’s focus from Lotus software development and move to further develop and market its ME4N product.  I chose to do so with the understanding that up to 70% of corporate transformation fail.  I knew though that the right strategy has the ability to fuel necessary changes.  That said  most people are open to change, in contrast to popular belief.  What is easily forgotten when putting together a corporate strategy is involving those who will put it into action.  For a strategy to almost guarantee results, you must enact change in people’s minds and passion who will make it happen.

The right corporate strategy that I introduced involved the following elements:

  • Introduce  unique, visionary and compelling strategy that is understood and accepted by everyone.  It clearly outlines what everyone will do.  While it also allows everyone a good look at the plan in draft form, in order to discuss, refine it and understand what skills need to be practice to succeed.
  • Ensure open and candid dialog from the top down, where the plan is promoted to the executives as well shared with everyone else and all are allowed to debate its value.  Allowing openness to ideas, honest debate, disagreements and resolution is critical to effective teamwork as well as further improving the corporate strategy.  It creates a culture of candor and improves employee engagement as well as drives innovation.  Soliciting buy-in is critical for gaining performance breakthroughs individually as well as a team.
  • Establish the roles and related accountabilities required of everyone clearly.  There is no fog about what we are about to do or need to do, in case signals get missed or misunderstood.  It drives expectations and cement people’s commitment to specific actions.  More importantly, who does what where, when and how should a team mate be unavailable for any reason is also clear since the plan execution must go on.
  • Execute bold and decisive action generates incredible momentum.  It propels the organization toward its new direction, as well as excellence and precision.
  • Require visible leadership as the plan goes into action, for recognizing a job well done and encouraging everyone as you move forward
 Some of the key areas of the corporate strategy that I pursued in the first year of this project broke down as follows:
 
  • Corporate – Provide leadership and create sales culture
  • Corporate – Provide direction in terms who to target, what expect, through to and bottom line goals
  • Corporate – Produce strong quarterly forecasting, as well as ensure that revenue and gross margin targets are met
  • Marketing – Provide visibility to our brand by working with our marketing folks
  • Marketing – Build new website with the goal to create demand for ME4N
  • Marketing – Drive end-user demand by visits, applications and close working relationships
  • Marketing – Establish new lead qualification processes for capitalizing on inbound interest
  • Sales – Establish new sales, specifically adding new sense of ‘urgency’
  • Sales – Took active role with sales team skills through mentoring, coaching and training
  • Sales Operations – improve marketing and sales processes
  • Sales Operations – establish the ‘right’ follow up cadence and more with support from internal ME4N CRM technology
  • Sales Operations – Improve time to delivery, onboarding and supporting new clients with quotes and statements of work
I chose the above areas first to immediately replace existing loose culture with a more formal and accountable framework.  Once the seriousness of the accountability set in, I immediately addressed many stealth concerns and worries with streamlined operations or processes beginning with the website.  The balance of concerns were addressed by creating a fun, energetic and to the point sales mentoring, coaching and training. 
 
All one salesperson on the team needed was mentoring or gentle questions which they determined the answers.  Others needed coaching in one aspect of selling from research, to profiling out to actually making a call.  One for example had a call schedule with a CEO early in the morning.  Upon calling the CEO, the CEO answered, and the salesperson promptly hung up.  He was expecting and was fully ready to leave a voice mail.  After some teasing and encouragement, the salesperson called back.  He apologized for the hang up and interruption of the CEO day. After a little back and forth, the salesperson proceeded to verbalize his well thought out voice mail within a more conversational setting.  Long story short, that call eventually led to the salesperson’s first six figure deal.
 
Hosted poker night as a platform to show the team what to look for in face-to-face, phone or email communication with the prospect.  Basically demonstrated who is bluffing, who has something to hide, and so on.  Moved on with the party ‘telephone’ game to demonstrate how communication can be garbled by the time they receive it.  Or used Speaker Friday to get them comfortable in speaking in front of a crowd.
 
The more we reinforced the above, the more committed and passionate everyone on the marketing and sales team became with the corporate strategy.
 
I leverage my expertise in:
 
  • Market Research
  • Business Analysis and Acumen
  • Strategic Planning, for gaining buy-in from team
  • Servant Leadership, coaching ‘how to’ close enterprise deals
  • Sales Professionalism and mentor, coach and train ‘How to’ sell
  • People Engagement, soliciting team collaboration with the plan
  • Organizational Development and Business Modeling
  • Technology Know-How

The Result

The initial corporate plan addressed the following action plan priorities in changing the Lotus software developer’s market focus, for gaining its product, ME4N’s brand awareness in less than two years :
 
  • Built from the ground up a new website focused on marketing, branding and positioning the ME4N product.  It immediately boosted referrals from existing customers and prospects, initially by 26% and grew from there.  However the resulting new website budget was higher than defined in our financial plans.  Therefore we needed to solicit an extended marketing budget from IBM and promptly received a no.  But upon demonstrating early sales audit results, we were able to demonstrate to IBM that as both an IBM and Lotus partner every sale of ME4N generated on average four IBM software sales.  As a result, we gained a $50,000 marketing budget, or more than enough for our website budget  needs.  This was notable because the company was just bought for a second time and it was by CGI or IBM’s competitor.
  • Meantime we approached ISM and Barton Goldenberg to review ME4N for a Top 15 rating and we won.  ME4N was the first and only ISM Top 15 ranked Lotus based CRM.  We subsequently won industry awards or best-in-class Lotus solution in 2001, as well as Best IBM partner in the same year.  This eventually led to one of many seven figure deals, one of which was with a global pharma or AP Biotech.
  • Next we needed to improve both the sales processes and ‘sales-as-an-art’ skills of the sales team.  The same corporate strategy approach were used for the sales strategy, which included a business analysis of existing process through to a technology audit.  We were able to effectively streamline sales processes from a web lead or target prospect through to a deal.  It led to early wins for some of the reps or their first five figure deals.  Similarly put in place mentoring, coaching and training time to help with their initial prospecting approach, relationship building, listening and observing skills and more.  It led to some of the reps earning their first six figure deals.  Bottom line, we grew revenues by 350%
  • All the above was a success and accomplished while the company’s ownership went through three owners during the course of this project.

Behind this case study were my skills, experience, and competencies with:

  • Market research as to how best to brand ME4N
  • Putting the research into a corporate strategy that everyone could buy-into
  • Addressing concerns and worries with the strategy with my abilities for streamlining critical processes
  • Addressing the balance of concerns and worries with my leadership and engagement skills for recognizing and praising, along with the right training
  • Leading by example, with a sense of urgency and a focus on improving rather than on results or winning led to the success mentioned.
Edited in 2020, I still stay in touch with many of the team members who went on to productive and successful careers at companies like Salesforce or as entrepreneurs.

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