Solutions Marketing Success Story: Leveraging Your Clients to Learn how to Develop and Sell Solutions
Is your company facing the following problem?
You’re struggling to get your sales force to identify the real challenges and business problems that your clients are facing, which usually results in a conversation around the products and services in the portfolio that your salespeople are most comfortable selling….which, of course, is usually not what the client is looking for.
And is this how you typically try to correct the problem?
You arrange a 1-2 day workshop where you bring in professional sales trainers to present a solutions selling model. This usually results in 10-20% who “get it” and improve how they deal with prospects, 30-40% who try it once or twice and then go back to their old ways of product selling, and 40-50% who immediately do what they’ve always done – try and sell what they’re most familiar with in the portfolio, regardless of the prospect’s critical business issues.
I'm being a little extreme here with this scenario, but I think you get the point.
Let me suggest another approach to changing the behaviors and mindset of your sales force – have your most trusted clients come in and train them. In fact, include your delivery team and maybe even your marketers in the training process. After all, who is in a better position to get the attention of your sales and delivery teams and shake them out of their “that’s how I’ve always done it” syndrome than the people who are most responsible for the future success of your company – your clients?
The Problem Facing Ness Technologies:
Ness Technologies, a global IT professional services company with over 7,000 employees that focuses on software product engineering, software distribution, and enterprise applications and business services, needed to make a rapid transition from selling pre-packaged services to developing and selling real client-based solutions. The process of carefully identifying the unique challenges of its key clients, providing a vision of how Ness can effectively address the challenges, and then understanding how to develop the best possible solution from the company's worldwide assets needed reinvention.
How Ness Used Clients to do Solutions Development and Sales Training
Instead of taking the traditional training route to deal with the problem, Holly Ripley-Boyd, who was the EVP and Chief Strategy Officer, decided to take a more radical, impactful approach. She felt that the best way to get everyone’s attention around the problem was to have their top clients involved in the process. But instead of having the clients simply tell them what their issues were and what they expected from Ness, Ripley-Boyd decided to have the Ness staff experience it directly with the clients.
At the company’s global annual sales conference in November of 2011, Ripley-Boyd brought in several of their best clients. She then developed a process by which the Ness staff was broken into diverse cross-functional teams, assigned to a client, and required to:
- Develop a consultative approach to learning about the clients’ real challenges
- Interview the client to gain a better understanding of their Business Imperatives and Business Initiatives
- Translate the Imperatives into a potential solution, or set of solutions, that would likely require multiple Ness products, services and partner contributions
- Present the vision of the potential solution back to the client, including the expected business benefits, back to the client for validation and collaboratively begin working on a roadmap to build and implement the solution
Through a series of exercises that included intensive client involvement, everyone at the event not only learned what some of the better approaches to solutions design and sales were, but they also had a chance to experience it with the clients directly. The icing on the cake was the direct feedback on the performance of the Ness teams by the clients at the end of the day.
This was clearly not the typical approach that most B2B companies take to change the behavior, skills and competencies of their sales and delivery staff. Everyone understood that there was some risk involved in bringing some of Ness’ top clients “behind the curtain” so they could see and experience how the Ness sales and delivery teams really behaved, how they thought about client issues, and how they worked together.
Ness discovered that the reward of implementing this approach, however, greatly outweighed the risks. Not only did Ness achieve significant forward momentum, but all of the invited clients felt honored to be a part of the initiative and left with a stronger bond to the company and a deeper understanding of their capabilities. Bringing clients into the internal dialogues paid off when the teams realized the risks involved and stepped up to the challenge -- the clients were pleasantly surprised at how well the teams zeroed in on the most appropriate and attractive solutions and presented them with a compelling vision to address the challenges. The icing on the cake was that a high percentage of the Ness staff stated it was the best event they had ever attended since they had joined the company.
In looking back at the client-based training model applied by Ness, several lessons can be drawn from it:
- Make sure you invite your most trusted clients and set the proper expectations with them
- Create the exercises so that they feel as “real” and unvarnished as possible
- Involve delivery teams and marketing in the event since they are equally responsible for ensuring the clients receive high-value solutions
- Don’t assume that your job is done after the training event. Use this as a springboard for embedding the new skills and processes into the sales and delivery teams through intensive coaching and mentoring by sales management.
Go Ahead…Buck Tradition and Take a Risk!
Solutions Insights has been involved in a wide range of solutions development and selling training programs. It doesn’t matter what the delivery mode is – webinars, self-instruction, classroom -- nothing can compare to getting real clients involved who give candid, thoughtful advice and feedback. We’ve never seen this model fail, and the benefits are usually immediate and long-lasting. So…rethink your next solutions training event and give it a try!
To find out more about how we can help you ensure that your solutions are sold by a motivated and effective sales team, click here >>