I'm sometimes accused of only writing "happy talk" on the blog about how things are great and wonderful in Lotus-land.  Yes, a lot of what I write here highlights the good, because there truly is so much positive activity around IBM Lotus and Workplace these days.  Today, though, I'm thinking about a deal that it appears I've lost.  And for no good reason.

This entry is genericized as much as possible, because I don't want to talk about specifics of IBM sales execution.  A small organization started the process of considering IBM vs. Microsoft last year (they run neither at the moment).  Only one problem -- the business partner they work with proposed Notes/Domino 6.x, while the IBM salesperson proposed Workplace Messaging.  Having never talked to the customer directly myself, I don't have enough information to know which was the right solution.  Unfortunately, I was brought in way too late to make a difference, even after an appeal directly to the organization's CIO.  It appears they are now headed down the Exchange path.

So what are my lessons learned?  First, always emphasize the value of partnering.  Everyone from Steve Mills down is focused on the IBM partner community at the moment, probably the most focus on partners that I've seen within Software Group in years.  My colleague Alan Lepofsky tells me every day about the new programs, initiatives, websites, and tools that PartnerWorld offers.  The tools are there, and more importantly, it's called PartnerWorld for a reason.  Second, Notes/Domino as part of the Workplace family is a critical message that needs to reach more broadly into the overall market.  IBM Workplace Messaging is right for many organizations, but typically as part of a broader adoption of the Workplace Collaborative Services.  Notes/Domino is right for many organizations, but sometimes encounters legacy biases ("I remember when Notes could only run 75 users per server.  Have they fixed that yet?") Third, be solution-focused.  The customer wants to solve a problem.  Perhaps the customer wasn't ready to adopt J2EE.  Perhaps they had WebSphere Portal and could leverage it.  But the bottom line is, what was the customer's issue they were trying to solve?  

Years ago, I attended a class on "solution selling" that was amazing.  One of the points it made was "keep your product in your pocket".  Listen to the customer and the solution will become clear.  That works in IT, too -- that solving organizational IT challenges doesn't always mean doing things starting from existing tools and capabilities.  Innovation and problem-solving can happen in many ways, but they all start with listening to the customer.

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