Tuesday 30 June 2009

5 questions every KM salesman must be able to answer

They say that every customer really only ever has 5 questions, and every salesman must know the answer to these off by heart. Whether you are selling Knowledge Management or Vacuum Cleaners, if you don't know the answer, then you won't close the sale.

These are the questions;

What’s this?
What will it do for me?
What will it cost me?
Why should I buy your model?
What’s the next step?

Now lets look at them as they apply to KM, and the answers I usually give when selling to an in-house sceptic, such as a project manager or plant manager (NB the answers to a CEO or senior manager would be different).

What’s this? It's knowledge management. It's a new management discipline, along the lines of risk management or safety management, but focused on the value of company know-how. It's a systematic way of ensuring that all decisions are made in the light of "what the company knows", in order to deliver improved performance.

What will it do for me? It will save you time in planning, by giving you access to knowledge you can trust; to good ideas, to practices worth repeating, and to documented pitfalls to avoid. It will save you the risk of repeating errors someone else has already made. It will help you bring your project in faster, better and cheaper, and will give you a way to feed your own discoveries and improvements back into the organisation. You will also be given the opportunity to join a community of practice - effectively a group of brains you can pick when you need instant help.

What will it cost me? It will cost you involvement in a few simple processes at key stages in your project - KM planning, peer assists, retrospects, after action reviews. These are quick and simple, and deliver value to you as well as to the project.

Why should I buy your model? This model is proven in practice. It's simple, and it works, There are other models out there, which often focus primarily on deploying new software, or on content management, but you won't get the same value.

What’s the next step? The answer to this one depends on where you are on your KM implementation journey. You may invite the manager to a seminar. You may look for the opportunity to try a KM process such as an AAR or Peer Assist. You may ask him or her to join a CoP. You may even ask them to support a pilot of the whole KM system.

The key is to understand these questions, to understand that you have to answer them in order and that the customer won't move on to the next until you have answered him or her effectively, and to have good answers prepared for each question.

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