100th and Final Post

December 21, 2010

It seems only fitting that my 100th post on this blog will be my last. As you may have seen in the NI Alliance Partner News on December 17th, I will be transitioning to a new role focusing on companies that supply NI with services (e.g. calibration, maintenance, and so on).

Changes to the NI Alliance Partner Team

Over the past 6 months, NI has been building our partner team to meet our increasing partner needs. Our mission is to ensure customer success by engaging system integrators, solution providers, product and technology partners while fostering mutual growth and financial success and driving new product adoption. Our partnering resources now include:

  • Armando Valim, Partner Programs Group Manager
  • Jeff Meisel, Software Product Partners (e.g. LabVIEW add-on toolkits)
  • Robert Jackson, Hardware Product Partners (e.g. CompactRIO modules)
  • Julie Schreier, Partner Programs Marcom Manager
  • Rob Reichmeider, VAR Manager for Americas
  • Kelly Hunka, Partner Programs Associate
  • Andrew Ellison, Alliance Program Administrator
  • Additional resources (to be determined)

In the interim, Amando Valim will assume responsibilities of Alliance Program Manager. For inquires that you previously directed to me please, you can now contact partners@ni.com.

Importance of our Alliance Partners

It has been my pleasure and passion to work with our Alliance Program Partners building our mutual business for these many years. While I am looking forward to new opportunities in my career, I firmly believe that building stronger partners is crucial to our continued success. Good business practices is an important aspect of that growth — thus, the reason for this blog. I hope that you have found some insights on how to improve your business. For the time being, I’ll leave this blog up and remind you of the Table of Content is a good way to access the content.

Best regards,

Jack

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Sales Negotiations

December 14, 2010

Alright, proposal is done. Now, the real fun begins with the negotiation phase. There are entire books and seminars devoted to negotiation. For instance, NI has used Karrass in our sales training. In talking with Alliance Partners, here are some common techniques.

Tips and Techniques

You should typically start with a win-win approach. Stay positive and first look for the areas of agreement. But, be prepared and willing to negotiate where there are differences. Hopefully, you left some room to negotiate.

  1. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes – The most common mistake is to fixate on your own situation rather than your customer’s concerns. For instance, if you are too worried about winning the business, you may not see how desperate the customer is for a solution. You may need to challenge your own assumptions.
  2. Capture and Create Value – If you have productized your own software for re-use, you may be able to charge a license to use it. If you have created higher labor rates for more experience staff, you can offer to discount it (e.g. using one of your CLAs at your CLD rate).
  3. Silence is Bliss – Don’t talk to too much. Most people are uncomfortable with silence. Let them fill the void – and avoid making mistakes of your own. Use it as an opportunity to test limits and get agreement before making a concession. Also, don’t over-close. If you have a deal, don’t introduce more facts or information.
  4. Slow and steady – As you are negotiating, be careful not to give away too much, too soon. Make concessions slowly as needed. Try offering minor concessions first. And, don’t simply trade ‘tit for tat’.

Always Be Closing

And, until you have a deal, the old adage applies: always be closing. That’s not just about asking for the sale. But, it is a mindset that you should always be driving for closure. What is required to reach a deal? What is preventing the deal from getting done? If you can’t close the deal, figure out what are the next reasonable steps. And, always solidify the next engagement


Proposals (3 of 3) – Warranties, ….

December 7, 2010

Concluding our short dive into developing proposals, we have discussed the merits of having a standard template and review process to not only improve consistency and professionalism, but also reduce and manage risk. We also addressed some common issues like protecting IP and software licensing. Let’s continue the fun.

Warranties and Indemnification

The other major aspects of T&Cs deals with the liabilities associated with the project:

  1. Warranty – basically, if it doesn’t work or stops working. How long are you responsible to fix it? Note that there is difference between providing  a warranty, which should only address the system not performing as specified and service which can include standard maintenance, updates, adaptations, ….
  2. Indemnification – what if there are damages associated with the system’s operation or failure?

Typically, these liabilities are limited in some fashion. For instance, they liabilities will not exceed the total cost of the system (or project). Note, for those who are CSIA members, there are a good list of suggested T&Cs available on their website.

Customer’s T&Cs

Now, I know this has probably never happened to you, but I’ve heard on occasion from Alliance Partners that the customer will ask to use their T&Cs. Or, send their own T&Cs with their acceptance. So what do you do? Well, first of all, you should have a defined process to review for unfair terms.

Note that if you simply accept their T&Cs, you may invalidate your own insurance policy (which was created according to the liabilities of your own T&Cs). So, a good strategy against an unruly customer may be to ask your insurer for a rider to accept the additional liability and then rebid with that additional charge.