PLM Business Growth and Sales Super Rep

September 9, 2015


PLM sales process is painful. Think about PLM sales rep. For him, PLM sales process is a long journey of building consensus in a prospect organization, following engineering groups and CIO organization, planning meetings, quoting industry analysts, learning about complexity of a prospect manufacturing companies, bringing references from existing customers, lunch breaks and business dinners, pilot projects, new people that organization brings to help evaluation, price quote crunch. Unfortunately, it might end up with a Powerpoint presentation for CIO staff meeting when somebody accidentally putting your PLM vendor name in too small font to be read from the back of the conference room. Sigh…

But PLM sales picture is complicated from both sides of the table. Now think about manufacturing company. The team is evaluating multiple vendors, trade-offs, politics, arguments, revenge for past wrongs, turf-building, multiple groups of users with different interests. The team on a customer side is under significant pressure to make a decision and take the responsibility for a potential failure.

In the past, I shared some of my thoughts about PLM and sales process. You might noticed my PLM Sales Cheat Sheet from last year. Even most of PLM sales today look exactly the same way it was a decade ago, there is something in the air that give you a hint on a future changes. New sales methods are disrupting the old story of “buying from IBM”. The question of Growth Hacking PLM sales is the one you might be interested to learn more about. Growth hacker is a new VP marketing. But this is not about how to change one role. This is about changes of entire enterprise sales system.

I was reading TechCrunch article –Is Enterprise Hyper Growth The New Normal? this morning. It is an absolute “must read” article to every PLM sales rep these days. PLM sales organizations are starving to growth. And this article explains how to get from old school “Elephant Hunting Era” to a new era of Sales SuperReps equipped with new sales and marketing tools coupled with mobile devices and internet. The following table can give you some guidance about practices and tools that future SuperSalesRep will be using.


What is my conclusion? Enterprise software eco-system is changing and it will impact PLM. The old-style elephant hunting approach is going to change. It won’t happen overnight, but the new super sales rep channel will become a source of a future PLM growth. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Growth hacking PLM sales

July 1, 2015


Enterprise sales is one of the most conservative things in sales eco-system. Despite many changes that happened in our life for the last 10-15 years, this particular experience doesn’t change much. You probably heard best recommendation about how to stop “PLM sales” calling you – buy something from these guys. To sell multimillion dollar PLM deal to large manufacturing OEM is an art performance by a group of people mostly combined from a diversely skilled sales people with heavy support of management, development and… marketing. Let speak about last one – marketing. Do we really need one article – The role of marketing in complex solution sales brings a perspective on how modern digital marketing can help to sell complex PLM solutions. In a nutshell, I can summarize it as a creation of a credible story that can help sales people to make a sale. Few passages below can give you a feeling about what is that.

Some prospects that the sales team has not reached may identify themselves by reading thought leadership stories and realizing a PLM system may be what they needMarketing creates awareness among the decision makers who may not have heard of your solution. Marketing creates the content that helps prospects understand the value of a new solution. Thought leadership is a big part of the marketing mix for many engineering solution vendors. They routinely send speakers to conferences, for example, to demonstrate their command of technical challenges. These presentations translate very well to digital marketing, either as sponsored posts in trusted publications or as webinar presentations.

Nothing bad with creating of credible story. For a long time marketing was about how to amplify messages from vendor to customer. So, you may think about new digital technologies as a set of new tools that came to help traditional marketing to amplify their voices.

Here is thing – this wrong and old approach. To use modern content marketing with a traditional sales approach is like to put a lipstick on a pig. Guess what… it is still a pig. Few years ago, Andrew Chen wrote in his blog back 2012 – Growth Hacker is a new VP Marketing. If you never heard about growth hacking, navigate here to read more. The following passage can give you some perspective:

This isn’t just a single role – the entire marketing team is being disrupted. Rather than a VP of Marketing with a bunch of non-technical marketers reporting to them, instead growth hackers are engineers leading teams of engineers. The process of integrating and optimizing your product to a big platform requires a blurring of lines between marketing, product, and engineering, so that they work together to make the product market itself. Projects like email deliverability, page-load times, and Facebook sign-in are no longer technical or design decisions – instead they are offensive weapons to win in the market.

It made me think that new marketing approach can disrupt existing PLM paradigm of selling and implementing PLM products. Most of PLM products today are first sold and then implemented by customers. This process requires a lot of effort from customers to grasp around the PLM idea and thinking how to apply it in an organization. Growth hacking can change it. Few years ago, I posted – How to ditch old PLM marketing and friend engineers. It could be part of growth hacking for PLM sales.

What is my conclusion? Growth hacking can be an important moment for PLM software. By disrupting a traditional marketing and sales roles, growth hacking can change the core paradigm of PLM products – to change the way companies are doing business. Instead of that, the culture of growth hacking will introduce a practice of learning from customers and discovering opportunities to sell products solving customer problems. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of sattva at


Cloud PLM and SaaS sales mindset

May 22, 2015


I want to talk about PLM sales today. If you want to succeed in sales, a mindset is a right starting point. But, enterprise sales needs a special mindset. PLM sales is very special case. These days SaaS / cloud software is setting new rules for enterprise software. How does it influence and change PLM sales? What advantages cloud PLM can get compared to a traditional PLM products and sales model?

Few days ago, I posted about how to stop blaming engineers for PLM sales problems? In my view, engineers are on average bad sales people. Therefore, to put engineers in the spot of selling PLM and blame them for wrong articulation of PLM value is a bad idea. There are thousands of books and article on the topic of how to sell to enterprise organizations. It is a good reading for coming Memorial Day long weekend. Today, I want to talk about cloud PLM sales – a new category that has a chance to change the way we sell PLM.

I can see two aspects of cloud PLM sales. First is related to a new reality of our world – internet, online connectivity, social networks, virality. How does it help to sell PLM? It certainly helps to create a new level of awareness about what your product does. If you didn’t setup your product twitter account, blog and other social channel, do it now! But, it doesn’t change a fundamentals. Despite all social channels, selling to enterprise is still very much old-schoolers game. In my view, there is no PLM vendors that discovered a new way to sell PLM until now. You can read more in my earlier post – PLM, Viral Sales and Enterprise Old Schoolers.

Second aspect is related to the fact how PLM companies are managing enterprise sales process and new business models. My attention caught the A16Z blog post – If SaaS products sell themselves, why do we need sales? The article gives you an excellent perspective on the details of sales process. I like the comparison of enterprise sales to the process of getting a bill passed in Congress. Certainly true. Although PLM is not a new category in the market, I would consider PLM sales challenge to create a unique value for every customer as something real PLM vendors are facing every day. PLM sales are competing with many other activities in manufacturing companies and it is literally hard to take it through the all three steps of decision process – why to buy PLM, why to buy PLM from a specific vendor and why to buy PLM now.

SaaS sales are facing the same level of sales difficulties. At the same time I’ve been thinking how cloud PLM can get some advantages over a traditional PLM product sales. And the point of "customer facing activity" form A16Z blog is clearly resonating here. This is a passage to pay attention in my view:

SaaS is a winner-take-all market involving a “land-and-expand” sales strategy. However, landing doesn’t necessarily mean expanding and winning. Staffing your startup with customer-facing resources — professional services, customer support, etc. — at this stage is an investment that will pay off not only in expanding your footprint inside that account, but in building the most powerful sales tool there is: a good reference. And while new clients are great, the best place to sell something is where you’ve already sold something.

You may ask me how is that related? Here is the thing… Landing should be an easy process in SaaS PLM compared to a traditional PLM sales process. And this is where cloud PLM can provide a clear differentiation. A traditional PLM approach is to sell on a premise of changing the way customer is doing business and manage product development processes. When it is done, you can setup PLM system and prove it. But it is a very lengthy process. Opposite to that, you can think about cloud PLM first sale as a "land" process. Do it for the most painful problem customer has. This is why PLM sales should be more technical. Land it to the customer for a cost of zero dollars. After all, you can leverage elasticity of the cloud as a biggest advantage. After you done, work on expand option. New subscription business models will help you to provide a new way for customer – pay per use.

What is my conclusion? Moving to the cloud, doesn’t mean PLM can sell itself. After earlier attempts, it looks like wrong sales strategy. At the same time, landing small feature to solve the most painful problem for a customer can be a right step to start. The challenge is to have enough customer facing resources that can help to discover it and land an initial solution with very low cost and super fast ROI. In my view, it is a completely different mindset from what we had before in PLM and enterprise. It is a time for PLM vendors to retool sales teams with new skills. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Kittisak at

How to stop blaming engineers for PLM sales problems

May 16, 2015


It is hard to sell PLM. Sigh… Even today. Even with all modern open source, cloud, browser, web, mobile, big data, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and other cool product and technological buzzwords. How to get PLM right? Startups and large companies are trying to bring new ideas and products to the market in hope to make it different. I certainly can confirm that modern PLM systems are better in many ways than what we had 10-15 years ago. They are nicer, faster, more flexible, better integrated and better equipment to deal with problems manufacturing companies have today.

Here is the point. They are better…. Which brings me back to the the sales dispute about difference between vitamins and painkillers in PLM. Analysts and industry pundits are trying to find the reason why is so hard to sell PLM. A very respectful PLM analyst and my good blogging buddy Chad Jackson of Lifecycle Insights came with an interesting research related to that. Navigate to his article to read more – Engineering’s struggle to justify technology. His main point – engineers aren’t good at justifying technology investments. As a result of that, engineers just cannot sell these great technologies to CxO executives. Here is the passage from Chad’s blog:

Engineers aren’t good at justifying technology investments. I wish it wasn’t true. But in my mind, the findings prove it. The technologies aren’t lacking. Otherwise, technology capabilities would rise to the top of these lists. They don’t. If there was a problem with the underlying value proposition of these technologies, then that would bear out. However, as seen in a post I published last week, the value of some of these technologies is high. To me, the failing lies in the inability to justify these tools.


In the conclusion, Chad stated clear that price is also not an issue with regards to the problem related to engineering software sales. It all connected to the ability of engineers to justify the value of the technologies.

Pricing, in my opinion, is not the culprit for these issues. It lies in the difficulty that engineering has in justifying the technologies they need. Engineer’s decisions directly affect company profitability ever single day. Understand that connection and engineers should be able to easily justify their technology needs.

Well… I feel bad for engineers. At least for some of them that struggles to implement complex PLM systems. Certainly, if technological value is clear and price is not an issue, then to sell PLM should be an easy deal to make. But it is not… Which takes me back in my mind into product and technology. I’m sure you remember an earlier attempt of Microsoft to develop tablet computer. If not, the picture above can remind you Microsoft tablets circa 2002. The technology was right and all buttons were in place. However, something was missed. And Steve Jobs iPad circa 2010 confirmed that it was about technology and products. And Bill Gates confirmed Apple did something different. Here is a passage from BI article:

Last July, during an interview with Charlie Rose, Bill Gates explained that Jobs “did some things better than I did. His timing in terms of when it came out, the engineering work, just the package that was put together. The tablets we had done before, weren’t as thin, they weren’t as attractive.”

What is my conclusion? Engineers are easy target to blame. It sounds like product and technologies are right, price is perfect, value proposition is articulated in a most clear way, but… customers are not buying. Yes, it could be about market and prices. Maybe market is not ready for PLM or many be prices are too high or too low. I was in the situation once when customer didn’t recognize the value of PLM product because price was too low. But I doubt, this is a case with PLM systems today. Getting back to the product, we need need to think how to make it more attractive? It is certainly the moment to look again on product and technology. Just in case. Maybe there is still a small chance PLM vendors missed something. Just my thoughts….

Best, Oleg

How to sell PLM to big companies

April 14, 2015


PLM sales is not an easy job. PLM is usually “sold” to companies…. or actually sold to people running product development and manufacturing in these companies. I shared some of my thoughts about PLM sales in my previous posts – PLM Sales Cheat Sheet and Why hard to sell PLM ROI?

However, I want specially reference the following article – How to sell PLM to enterprise IT, which is setting a stage for my thoughts today – how software vendor is selling PLM to big companies. In my view, this is probably encounter for 99% of PLM business as of today. In most of situations, PLM software vendor, business unit or organization is selling to much larger businesses – manufacturing OEMs and suppliers.

The following article by Mark Andreesen gave me a big chunk of inspiration – The Mobi Dick theory of big companies. The article is worth reading. It helped me to identify and articulate 5 guidance principles of how to sell PLM to big companies. These are absolutely necessarily to keep in your mind if sell PLM to large OEM and just big manufacturing companies.

1. Set yourself for a very long sales cycle (months or even years).

Be extremely patient. Big companies play “hurry up and wait” all the time. It is probably going to take a lot longer to put together than you think.

2. Hire real sales people.

If doing deals with big companies is going to be a key part of your PLM business, be sure to hire a real sales pro who has done it before.

3. It is not done unless company is using PLM in production.

Never assume that a deal with a big company is closed until the ink hits the paper and/or the cash hits the company bank account.

4. Try to avoid bad deals

Selling to large companies can often require development of additional features and long pilot projects that will involve best product and technical sales people. It will suck the energy of your organization.

5. References from another big company.

Don’t sell to large OEM by referencing small tier-n supplier. It won’t work. Be aware that big companies care a lot more about what other big companies are doing than what any small company or startup are doing.

However, my absolutely favorite passage from Marc Andreesen’s post is the following one. It gives you a good picture of what will influence PLM sales decision process :

The consensus building process, trade-offs, quids pro quo, politics, rivalries, arguments, mentorships, revenge for past wrongs, turf-building, engineering groups, product managers, product marketers, sales, corporate marketing, finance, HR, legal, channels, business development, the strategy team, the international divisions, investors, Wall Street analysts, industry analysts, good press, bad press, press articles being written that you don’t know about, customers, prospects, lost sales, prospects on the fence, partners, this quarter’s sales numbers, this quarter’s margins, the bond rating, the planning meeting that happened last week, the planning meeting that got cancelled this week, bonus programs, people joining the company, people leaving the company, people getting fired by the company, people getting promoted, people getting sidelined, people getting demoted, who’s sleeping with whom, which dinner party the CEO went to last night, the guy who prepares the Powerpoint presentation for the staff meeting accidentally putting your (company) name in too small a font to be read from the back of the conference room…

What is my conclusion? Selling PLM to big company is more science than a procedure. The way current PLM paradigms and technologies are set, company is buying PLM and defining the way to manage product development processes using PLM technologies. It is painful, because this process is supposed to change the way people do business. However, in a big company you are dealing also with extreme level of organization complexity. We cannot change big companies, but we can change PLM paradigms to convert PLM sales into repeatable process. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of stockimages at


How to sell PLM to enterprise IT

October 31, 2014

Enterprise IT adoption cycle diagram made by Simon Wardley made me feel sad and funny at the same time. I found it one of the best visualizations of many situations I’ve been in the past when working on PLM sales and implementation situations. This is a brilliant reflection of technology adoption route for IT department – ignore, prevent, tolerate, allow, integrate (credit Joe Drumgoole tweet).


It made me think about how to prevent a conflict with enterprise IT earlier in the PLM sales process. Today, I want to share some of my recommendations. These steps helped me in many situations. This is not a silver bullet, but I found them useful. PLM system and implementation cannot live in isolation. It has to be integrated with many other systems and processes in organization. Therefore, to learn them early during the sales process can be very beneficial.

1- Learn about enterprise IT

You need to make yourself familiar with basics of enterprise IT. You can bring engineering people to help you at this stage, but you need to get basic information about company enterprise infrastructure, data centers, data management. You need to learn how IT is managed. Is it local team? Does company use outsource IT consultant and service company, etc.

2- Get information about related enterprise software

PLM system cannot live in isolation. So, it will use databases, connect and use variety of application services, integrated with ERP and CRM systems. It will help you a lot to gather information about enterprise software. More specifically, you need to learn about fundamentals of how company is doing item master management, material planning and manufacturing BOM.

3- Find matched solutions

Do some homework and research to find similar solutions and/or references to products already used by a company. It will help you to find precedents and patterns you can refer during the review with IT organization.

4- Ask for meeting with enterprise IT to discuss PLM values and architecture

Don’t wait until late stage to discuss architecture and specific deployment aspects with IT organization. Do it earlier in the process to identify potential conflicts of infrastructure and process implementation – security, data ownership, workflows related to manufacturing planning and supply chain. During the meeting, try to show how IT organization will benefit from adopting PLM solution. It can come in many places – better data management, process optimization, collaboration with suppliers, data integration. Very often, IT organization suffers from complexity of processes IT people need to support. Explain to IT how PLM solution can help if you will have one more vote inside of organization.

5- Make reference call with IT people

Find existing customers that you can reference with similar enterprise infrastructure and solution landscape. Nothing can be more convincing IT people, than speaking to people having same roles in another company. In many situations it can help to solve problems much faster.

What is my conclusion? Enterprise sales requires communication with IT people in organization. One of the mistakes is to think that you need first to convince business and engineering people about PLM solutions. In my view, this is wrong approach. You need to work proactively with IT, otherwise IT can destroy the deal at very last moment. To get references from existing well-known customers is one of the best ways to pass IT. To have certification and/or partnerships with vendors, which products already used and can be referenced is another complementary approach. If you see a major conflict in architecture, system approach or IT strategy, you better get an alert about that early in the process. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Diagram by Simon Wardley’s blog – Bits or Pieces? (CC BY SA 3.0)

Why hard to sell PLM ROI?

May 24, 2014


In business, ROI is one of the most fundamentals principles that can help companies to make decisions. To buy a software is an investment and therefore to be able to show ROI is an important part of sales and marketing activities. Manufacturing company will be trying to evaluate and compare ROI before the decision to buy and implement PLM system will be taken. Here is the problem. Historically, PLM systems and vendors have poor record to show PLM ROI. The simplest way to show ROI is to present it in the same method of measurement – money.


I read Why PLM Has CFOs Seeing Dollar $igns article by Arena Solution. In a nutshell, it speaks about how PLM can show measurable ROI. It brings lot of comparison between ERP and PLM. I can see premises of the comparison – PLM is taking much broader scope of business influence – from early design and customer requirements to service and maintenance. The following passage from the article arguing about the fact PLM financial and business value of PLM is greater than ERP.

For years, a Product Lifecycle Management solution has been seen as a solution that makes the lives of engineering and operations teams easier. But more strategically minded CFOs now see PLM as a solution to maximize business results. In fact, many C-level executives are finding greater financial and business value in their PLM solution than even in their ERP systems.

Well, as I said, it is hard to judge without numbers. Article leads to white paper – Why CFO are Banking on Cloud PLM? (You need to leave your contact information to get access to the article, which is fine). White paper speaks about 3 sources of ROI from PLM implementation – manufacturing and internal operations, optimizing the supply chain, customer satisfactions.

Unfortunately, article brings many data points about %% of saving and less examples of how to convert it to $$ signs. I found two places where examples of specific $$ saving where presented – (1) $500M savings over 3 years on direct materials in supply chain in computer industry. (2) $640M in materials acquisition savings potential in supply chain in industrial products.

The comparison between PLM and ERP made me think why PLM ROI is much less visible. Why is it so hard to convince CIO/CFO and other top executives to invest in PLM programs? Here are couple of thoughts.

You need to be able to measure saving. IT efficiency, operation metrics and strategic competitiveness – these are important things. However, can you show me how companies are measuring these parameters and what systems are helping to do so? Historically, finance and accounting systems were focus on external reporting. The needs for such system arose from the need of owners (and management) for cost information upon which to base production decision. Originally (many decades ago), the objective of financial system was to provide external financial reporting (IRS, Wall Street, etc.). Even for the last 2-3 decades the focus shifted from external reporting and profit to total process efficiency, it is still not reaching much to the level of operational metrics mentioned in all PLM ROI documents. ERP is a system that mostly satisfying the needs of financial reporting. PLM is not there yet.

I found the following passage from the white paper provided by Arena a good confirmation to my assumptions above – PLM is not measured on balance sheet.

Of course, CFOs naturally see clear ROI when it comes to financial systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), but PLM – at its core – is an intellectual property management system with huge value not normally measured in a balance sheet. Simply put: CFOs see how inventory translates to dollars in an ERP system but have not considered how product quality and time to market translates to tremendous cost savings

What is my conclusion? If you want to improve something, you must be able to measure it first. In my view, this is a main problem with PLM ROI. The focus of PLM system and vendors should be on providing systems and tools that can measure activities. Companies should do the same. It is a lot of changes, but without that, PLM will remain the system with huge potential. Which gives hard time to sales and marketing to "show me the money" of saving and ROI with PLM. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit to CIMdata.


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