Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Should Presales People Do Detailed Statement-of-Work Documents?

Question:


“Our company does something I have never heard of: The SC [“Solution Consultant” – our presales title] does a deep and detailed Statement of Work (SOW) for each serous prospect. The prospect typically never sees anyone from Professional Services until after the sale. Our company likes this approach – SC’s are perceived, by customers, as very detail-oriented and technically strong people, so they are trusted. The downside is that SC’s often spend a full week working on the SOW alone - which is not scalable.

Our company is now working to double in revenue in the near term. I’m concerned that we can't survive like this when the deal flow picks up. Have you ever encountered SC’s doing this level of real SOW’s?”

Answer:

Yes, I've actually seen a number of companies do extensive SOW (or similar name) work prior to a sale for each customer. The companies that do this work tend to enjoy very high win rates vs. their competition and comparatively high customer satisfaction and retention rates. It is a great approach for dealing with offerings that require a fairly intense implementation process (system set-up, data migration, customization/configuration, etc.).

The downside(s) are exactly what you note: it is very resource intensive AND there is an enormous requirement for excellent documentation and communication of the SOW information within the vendor's team (e.g., presales to professional services and customer service). At one level, this is the essence of good CRM practices (as opposed to simply a sales forecast system).

It this process scalable? Not really - you need to have a sufficient complement of pre- and post-sales people to support the required/desired sales project bandwidth, so "scaling" often means adding people.

What can be done to improve the process? A few things, possibly:

- Some of the information currently collected in the SOW process may not be material - this could be cut out of the process. You may have to look at a broad range of implementations to determine what could be cut out, however.

- Boilerplate: Good boilerplate text and structure for SOW's can save a great deal of time and effort in documenting the information. It might even get to the level of pre-defined items with check-boxes or similar to help speed the process. Take a look at how doctors document their diagnosis information as an example...

Any other recommendations or suggestions?

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