Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Interviewing Subject Matter Experts

Have not posted in a long while, none the less, here is something new. Thought I would share parts of an interview guide for sales. The point is to develop case studies, success stories or simulations so that participants can learn from others in a structured yet contextual format. Below is what you might share with others who will be conducting the interview.

Best to you in all your endeavors!



Find a comfortable place to meet with your SME, where you and your SME are both comfortable. Even if it is on stage having a comfortable chair or even a glass or bottle of water goes a long way. If it is over the phone try to book with your SME between 9 and 11 AM for their timezone. I tend to be most awake and sharpest during these 2 hours, I think others will concur.

1. Get your SME excited about the story!

2. Let your SME tell the story by prompting with open ended questions.

3. Think about points your audience should remember that they can reuse.

4. If this is for educational pursposes have your list of objectives by your side that you can mark off objectives as the SME discusses them. Or prompt the SME to address specific items.

Great success stories tell the story of the sale mapped to the sales process. Start at the beginning of the sale run through the win. The tricky part is leaving enough ancillary and contextual data in the story to make it memorable and reusable by the listener.

Encourage the narrator to use customer quotes or talk specifically about what happened at key moments a few examples:

Tell me about what happened when you were actually proposing the solution.
"I was up at the whiteboard and I knew it finally clicked for the customer when they said:XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX".

What compelling event happened that changed the flow of the deal?

'I picked up the phone and surprising the CIO was there and he wanted to drill down into the actual dashboard. Although he understood the business case it turns out he was a former QA Director and wanted to get a feel for how the applications worked.'

If possible review the questions below with the sales rep before the interview. Ask them to choose a few questions from each section which questions resonate most with them. Then get them to be more specific.

Understand the Customer

Where did this customer originate?

Was this customer already in your pipeline?

Were you referred or brought into a larger deal?

Validate the Opportunity

What aspects of this customer met the target profile?

Was it evident that they met the target profile or did you need to dig deeper?

If so what resources did you use to validate the customer?

What preliminary compelling data led you to believe that this customer was worth pursuing further?

What type of open ended questions did you ask the customer?

What were the SLAs in the various IT groups, where were these not met?

Qualify the Opportunity

Who did you partner with internally at HP and at the customer to qualify the opportunity?

Were there objections at this phase? How did you overcome so you could properly scope the deal?

Tell me about the roles of the ambassadors of change or champion(s) at the customer?

Tell me about any skepticism you may have met by champions how did you over come it?

What pain points were uncovered? Anything that surprised either you or the customer?

Did you uncover any upsell or cross-sell opportunities?

Referencing the maturity model, where was your customer and why do you think they fit that level?

Tell me how long it took to validate the scope?

Develop and Proposal

Who was the completion?
-- What tactics were they using?
-- How did you combat this while building your proposal or presentation?

Internally at the customer who helped to champion your proposal?
What was in it for them?

What is the story of XXXXX solution at this customer?

Of the pain points you identified earlier where did you customer see the value of this solution?

What resources did you use to develop your proposal?

Which resources were most valuable?

Were there any tough negotiation points? How did you navigate negotiation?

What compelling event happened that made the customer agree to the proposal?

When you were up at the whiteboard what happened? How did you show the value of the solution?

Won and Expand

What's next for the customer ?

What's next for you?

Motivational Questions:

Why was this deal compelling?

What happened that surprised you?

Why did the customer trust your firm?

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