ICON9® is a methodology for optimising efficiency and communication, especially for technical teams that work with customers: Applications Engineers, Technical Sales, Marketing and Product Engineers, even Developers, if they have customer exposure.
The ICON9 system helps engineers to tackle client encounters with confidence, offering a structured approach that saves time and helps avoid mistakes. It provides not only tools for the work, but also language and models that can be customised to suit individual and team preferences.
The system can be learnt and deployed in a number of ways, including classroom courses, remote coaching and eLearning. Companies can also choose to license training material and use their own trainers, adapting the materials to local culture and language.
ICON9 provides a foundation on which field teams involved in complex sales can build winning strategies.
You can’t work as a team unless you have good basic tools and a common language.
My company, Xilinx, is selling extremely advanced solutions into a very complex market. We sell all sorts of hardware and software. We sell direct and through channels. Our customers rely on us to give them leading-edge solutions for Data Centers, Industrial Control, Telecomms … you name it.
It’s essential for us to have a solid groundwork for our technical sales solution, and that’s where ICON9 is an invaluable asset.
Observe, Clarify and Influence
Do you run, or work in, a customer-facing team – in technical sales or product development, for example? If so, here are some ideas on getting equipped to succeed with your customers …
The B2B environment has changed significantly in the last 10 years, affecting anyone responsible for bringing technology to their customers.
Field Application Engineers, Sales Engineers, even R&D folk, when they have to occasionally switch to support roles. Standards for products and services in our internet-driven economy are such that customers expect perfection! If they don’t get it from one source, then they simply switch to another.
Reliable, reactive problem–solving is not enough, since my competitors provide that too. To stand out, I have to do more than just fulfil the job specification.
Not only have customer expectations changed, their behaviour has too. The commercial world has had many crises in recent years, and periods of growth and optimism have become somewhat rare. This has made customers cautious, and it’s become hard to find people willing to take a risk on innovative technology.
The mantra used to be, “search out the decision–maker and convince them of your solution!”. But this is no longer practical, because I can rarely get access to real decision–makers. Instead, I have to build up support in multiple parts of my customer’s organisation. Each part has its own pain points and needs, so I have to tailor my approach to them.
Since this is much more complicated than convincing just one person, I need to work closely with my parent organisation. So the charismatic guru model for technical sales and support doesn’t cut it any more. Strong teamwork is needed and, in any case, clients expect excellent service irrespective of the individual delivering it.
There is a final difficulty – my client relationship has to be Win-Win. It’s no use amazing the customer if doing so puts me out of business. And so sometimes I may have to challenge my client’s views or even refuse their requests. All these factors are changing the way that field work is done, which is where the ICON9 methodology comes in.
The ICON9 Toolkit
In this video, Andy Betts gives an overview of the ICON9 tools and methods. It can either be used as a first introduction to ICON9, or as a refresher if you are coming back to the system.
The toolkit provides simple tools both for doing routine things efficiently and for coping with complex situations. It gives Customer-Facing Engineers the support they need when they need it, but does not encumber their natural communication abilities or style. They are organised around an Encounter Process (Prepare-Engage-Do- Check-Follow-up) which serves to structure meetings and the work that supports them. The other tools either fit into this process, in the sense that their use can be linked to specific process steps, or they support it in a more general sense.
The tasks that can be addressed by the tools include encounter preparation, getting meetings on track (and keeping them there), learning and guiding discovery, non-conflictual communication, presenting, negotiating, obtaining help and collaboration and problem solving (analytical and systemic).
And that’s just the first eight tools! The ninth is the most important of the lot, and that is the person facing the customer – you. This evident truth reminds us to have realistic expectations of our tools and methods, to not overcomplicate them, and to pay attention to other aspects of the customer interaction also.