As large organizations, elephants have a myriad number of pressures, objectives, priorities and distractions. And their priorities vary depending on the level of the organization you are working with – with top, middle and line management at times having very different motivations.
When you engage with an elephant pursuing eventual marriage, your ability to get the elephant to engage deeply will vary dramatically based on when you engage with them.
First - you need to do your homework
Have you read and listened to their quarterly financial reports - especially those management comments? How about listening to recording of the elephant’s management team’s quarterly “prepared remarks” – and Q&A – for investors? Reading and listening to several quarterly reports to investors can provide you plenty of insights on what the elephant finds interesting and valuable today, this quarter, and this year. You can use this information to steer your efforts to align with the elephant. Running alongside the elephant is definitely more attractive to the elephant then running in the opposite direction.
You may be in a position where you are ahead of the elephant’s thinking – and at times its about waiting for the elephant to come around to recognizing the value in what you have been developing – whether that be software, a service or an approach. Different elephants in different industries move at different paces. Five years back the Cloud was heating up in the ERP industry. This year the Cloud and Mobile is heating up in the design industry. Mobile was hot in the consumer space starting two years back – but is only reaching the business world this last year.
Face you can be too early or too late
Over the years I have seen marriages with elephants happen too early when the elephant wasn’t sure how valuable the marriage would be resulting in “too small” a dowry, the marriage happen too late where again the dowry was again quite small because the bride had lots of competition with similar attributes, and the marriage happening at just the perfect time (for the bride) – when the elephant felt the urgency to get married right now (very much like real people getting a bit older and getting concerned about their biological clock ticking down).
So how do you know when the right time is to push the elephant to propose to you? Again it’s about listening carefully about what the elephant is saying – publically in quarterly financial reports and presentations, in talks at financial and industry events, at user conferences, and by taking the elephant’s senior management to lunch on occasion. As I mentioned in prior posts, the elephant’s management team needs to eat, the best of them love talking to people that are close to customers bringing fresh perspectives on where and industry is heading and where the growth opportunities are (and where there is increased competitive risk).
We’ve been on this marriage topic for a few weeks now and still have a few more sub-topics to cover including the pros and cons of playing hard to get, the wedding, and post marriage blues (aka buyer’s remorse). I may take a break from this marriage topic for a week or two or three – coming back to finish off “getting married” next month. We’ll see how inspired I feel next week.
There is a lot going on in the Cloud and Mobile space I feel can use a bit of discussion. Dancing with the elephant’s desktop or client/server technology is quite different then dancing with the elephant’s web services technology. How does this impact how you leverage the elephant? How does this impact how you prepare for a very different form of dance with the elephant (the well understood and carefully structured foxtrot versus the less structured and more improvisational hip-hop)?