Collaborative: The Art of Selling Collaborative Software

Posted: 8/2003

The Art of Selling Collaborative

By David Coleman and Bob Sayle

a collaborative software technology to a prospective customer is no different
than selling any other type of software application — you need to understand
the customer and why they would buy your product. The use of a solution-selling
model to gain necessary insights into a customer’s motivation to buy, to build
credibility in your solution and to drive the selling process to a successful
conclusion is paramount in today’s market. The days of simply demonstrating a
software solution and expecting the customer to buy are over.

Based on extensive sales experience
in the collaboration and other software markets, we have developed a list of
questions that can be used in various phases of the selling process to help you
better understand the prospective customer and achieve your goal of closing the
sale. These questions are examples only, intended to help you frame your own
questions when talking with prospective customers.


These questions can be used to
qualify the prospect and determine whether the prospect is a good candidate to

  1. Are you using any type of
    collaborative solution in your organization today? What type of solution?

  2. Have you looked at any
    collaborative solutions in the past? What type of solution? What was the
    outcome of that evaluation?

  3. Do you have any initiatives
    underway to implement collaborative solutions in your organization? What
    areas within your organization are looking into these types of solutions?

  4. What are some of the objectives
    you’re trying to achieve by implementing collaborative solutions?

  5. What are some of the
    collaborative business processes that are being addressed?

  6. Are you planning to look at any
    collaborative solutions in the next three to six months?

  7. Will you be the one making the
    final decision on selecting a collaborative solution for your department (or

  8. Do you have a timeframe for
    making a decision? What is it?

  9. Do you have a budget approved
    for making this kind of purchase this year? Are there any special
    circumstances where critical purchases can be approved based on their
    potential value to the organization?

  10. Would you be willing to
    introduce me to a manager in one of the business units you think could
    benefit from our collaborative solution? (If you’re talking to the wrong
    person or an IT person).

  11. What is the current computing
    infrastructure in your organization? (To determine if it is a good fit for
    implementing your solution).


These questions can be used to
determine if the prospect is experiencing any "pain" due to
inefficient or lack of collaborative processes. The goal of these questions is
to help the prospect look at the impact that "pain" may be having on
the organization and establish the value proposition for the solution.

  1. Are your employees spread out
    over different geographic locations? Where are your offices?

  2. Do your employees work in teams
    on various projects?

  3. How do team members communicate
    and share information with one another when they are in different locations?

  4. Do team members complain about
    phone tag, waiting to receive responses from e-mail, etc.?

  5. Do team members typically
    operate under tight deadlines? Are deadlines missed? How often? What were
    the consequences of the missed deadlines?

  6. How do team members or employees
    find experts in your organization to help resolve a problem or an issue?

  7. Does the use of
    "experts" have an impact on making timely decisions? Are there any
    cases where poor decisions resulted from not being able to reach the
    "right" people in the organization on a timely basis? Can you
    explain the outcome?

  8. Do your employees often travel
    between offices to meet with one another? How often?

  9. Are there any budget constraints
    on travel or travel bans? What are they?

  10. Is employee productivity a
    concern to management? What areas of productivity are impacted by this

  11. Does a low productivity level in
    these areas impact any other areas of the organization? How does low
    productivity in one area affect other areas of the organization?

  12. Do employees have to work
    excessive overtime to complete their work activities? In what areas of the
    organization does this occur? What are the reasons for working overtime?

  13. What impact is overtime having
    on the current budgets?

  14. What impact is working overtime
    having on employee morale?

  15. Do your business processes
    require ongoing collaboration with customers, suppliers, partners and other
    external organizations?

  16. What types of communication and
    collaboration occur between your organization and others in your value

  17. Have these external
    organizations complained about inefficiencies in communicating and working
    with your organization?

  18. Has this strained the
    relationships between your organization and others in the value network?
    What would this mean to your organization if a customer, supplier or partner
    broke off the relationship?

  19. Does the ability to collaborate
    with team members and others in the organization affect meeting your job
    responsibilities and objectives? How does it affect you?


These questions are used to manage
the sales process once the prospective customer agrees the proposed
collaborative solution can help.

  1. What process steps will you
    follow to evaluate our solution?

  2. Who will get involved in the
    evaluation process?

  3. Will they all need to see a
    proof (demonstration) of our solution?

  4. Do separate people perform
    evaluations on the functions/features vs. the technical capabilities of the
    solution? Who are these people?

  5. What type of justification is
    needed to make a decision on a solution?

  6. What type of ROI is required to
    move forward with this type of project?

  7. Who will make the final decision
    for implementing a collaborative solution in your organization? Will this
    person be involved in the selection process?

  8. Does this person have the budget
    to approve the project? Will you introduce me to this person or make sure
    they will be in our next meeting or demonstration?

  9. What is your administrative
    process for purchasing a software solution? Who gets involved in the
    process? Who reviews and approves the terms and conditions in software
    agreements? How long does this process normally take?

  10. Will you implement a pilot
    project for proof of concept before rolling out the solution to the rest of
    the organization?

  11. What area and process would you
    select for the pilot project? How many people would be involved in the
    pilot? How long would the pilot run? Who would manage the pilot from your
    organization? Who would manage the roll out to the rest of the organization?

  12. How will the solution be
    introduced to the organization?

  13. How will various groups in the
    organization be accessed on their readiness to adopt a new collaborative

  14. Who will be responsible for
    training employees on the use of the solution?


These questions are used during the
sales process to determine how the prospect will confirm completion and measure
the success of implementing your solution in their organization.

  1. What are your objectives for the
    pilot project?

  2. What conditions constitute
    completion of the pilot project?

  3. What will our role be in
    supporting your organization during the pilot project or rollout to the

  4. Is the target population for the
    pilot project used to working closely together and sharing information with
    each other openly?

  5. How is the target population
    incented to collaborate with one another and/or with external parties?

  6. Is the pilot group
    representative of other groups within the organization?

  7. What metrics will be used to
    measure success of the pilot? (Examples: Reduction in cycle time, cost per
    unit of work, or travel time/cost?)

  8. Who will determine actual
    metrics before and after pilot? How will this data be captured?

  9. What are your objectives for a
    rollout to the enterprise?

  10. How many people will be included
    in the pilot? In the enterprise rollout?

  11. What is the timeframe for an
    enterprise rollout?

  12. What conditions constitute
    completion of the enterprise rollout phase?

  13. What metrics will be used to
    measure the success of the enterprise rollout? Do the metrics vary by
    department/division within the organization?

  14. Who will determine metrics
    before and after the enterprise rollout? How will this data be captured?

  15. What will our role be in
    supporting your organization during the enterprise rollout?

David Coleman is managing
director and Bob Sayle is director of advisory services for Collaborative
Strategies LLC, a San Francisco-based management strategies firm. This article
is reprinted from the company’s monthly newsletter, Inside Collaboration.


Collaborative Strategies LLC


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