As a Microsoft gold partner, we take our Microsoft certification really seriously. We have eleven certifications – gold and silver – and our presales team has a set KPI that ensures our technical resources keep up to date.
Keeping our sales team skilled in the latest selling techniques always seems a bit more of a challenge. We have training pathways for the relevant Microsoft fundamentals courses (Azure, 365, Dynamics CRM and Power Platform) – and senior and junior sales specialists complete these as part of their induction.
In September 2020, we took on four young recruits to train up as customer success managers. We inducted them over a six-week training programme using a blended approach with The Sales Activator® toolkit (board game, quiz app, coaching tracker, mental resilience assessment, e-learning and face to face sessions and mentoring.)
But a year later our juniors had more experience and needed a more evolved sales methodology, and our senior team needed a skills revisit that was suitable for the complicated deals they were expected to engage in.
Enter stage right: Microsoft Catalyst – a customer engagement journey to help businesses conceive and realise business transformation by taking customers through a series of curated phases: Inspire, Design, Empower, and Achieve.
Figure 1: What, How and Why Microsoft Catalyst Training?
Participants are trained to use the IDEA FRAMEWORK to drive successful business transformation with customers. The key is being equipped with the skills to speak about Sales Plays and Industry Scenarios in a way that really speak to the business decisions maker’s business problems. And while the Sales Plays revolve around the Dynamics 365 suite of products, our Modern Work sales specialists were able to apply the IDEA framework to the solution products that we propose based on the Microsoft Modern Work product suite. PLUS, we have been able to now get our Modern Work sales team actively engaged with the cross-selling of the Dynamics suite that we offer.
The team learnt a four step approach that covers:
- Positioning an envisioning workshop that uncovers the future state of the prospective client
- Aligning technology investments to business goals resulting in an assessment that shows clear business value in the proposed solution
- Empowering other business decisions makers to see the value with a relevant solution demonstration
- Crafting a proposal with achievable business outcomes resulting in improved customer experiences
Catalyst certified, our team has access to Catalyst resources like the customer-ready Microsoft Catalyst one pager and the partner-ready Microsoft Catalyst BDM pitch deck.
Figure 2: Resources available at https://partner.microsoft.com/asset/collection/catalyst#/
Using Catalyst increases our value as a Microsoft partner to our prospective clients:
- Our sales team will increase their connection with business owners early in the sales cycle and the envisioning component then supports an increased engagement with other Business Decision Makers so that everyone is involved in the positioning of a roadmap to busienss transformation.
- Partners using the Catalyst engagement report an increase of 50% on close rate because the business engagement moves away from selling a product or a solution to solving business objectives. Up to 15 projects can be identified to enable a customer’s vision so that not just the relationship between partner and customer increases in value, but the deal value expanded over a longer period of time.
- Deal velocity is increased up to two times, because although the initial envisioning workshop takes 20-40% longer than an average initial MSP phase; the agreed plan and set of prioritised solutions that are agreed with the customer accelerates the finalisation of an agreement. We are also able to cross sell across our Infrastructure and Modern Work, Dynamics and Business Central offerings.
With the whole team (including Head of Sales and Managing Director) trained up in the Catalyst training offering that ended in December 2021, we are looking to a very healthy sales engagement with our customers for 2022. I look forward to sharing an assessment of the bigger deal sizes and faster close rates that we experience over the next 12 months.
About the Author
Lisa is the Managing Director at Infinity Group, she strategically manages all facets of the business and is a certified board member of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP).