At a recent executive workshop, a CFO said, “We sure know our costing down to the half-penny, but we do not have that same level of focus on our pricing.” We also polled participants at an industry conference and found at least five times more resources reviewing cost and expense than pricing. This atmosphere results in product teams bemoaning the ineffectiveness of the sales team and the sales team lamenting about incomplete or non-existent product positioning to build a compelling sales strategy.
How many times do your functional silos get in the way of closing a deal at target margin or even landing a new customer? The ramifications to revenue and profit can be immense.
What can we do to drive alignment and an understanding of the impact siloed decisions have on company profitability? How can we align resources in customer-facing teams not only to protect profits but to grow profits, too? Using all team members with a customer touchpoint, we can have the same number of folks focused on the revenue details as we do on cost and expense. Align the teams for a more detailed goal: identifying and monetizing a differentiated value that supports your customers’ growth and yours, too!
Here are some important steps you can take to align your customer-facing teams and move on to more profitable business:
- Create ongoing and frequent working sessions where the customer-facing teams engage in account planning and account strategy. Include members from marketing, finance and operations and anyone else who touches the account either face-to-face or behind the scenes.
- Give the teams a structure and common language to create an actionable negotiation plan and identify the selling scenario they face. How stiff is the competition? What is their selling position?
- Provide ample time for practice, organizational alignment and “devil’s advocate” input to test the strategy and pre-empt failure by adjusting the tactics for the actual customer conversation.
- Create an environment where the customer-facing teams can test their new approaches and learn as a team. Foster a forgiving environment so your folks learn from any stumbles.
Sales teams, on the front line with the customers, tend to feel pressured to know everything and handle everything on their own. I like to remind them that instead of being the single point of failure with the customer, they should see themselves as the conductor of the customer-facing team. Like an orchestra conductor, a salesperson must get the best out of the individuals in the organization – translating the customer into a sales plan and using comprehensive cross-functional communication and extensive practice to gain alignment for the “performance.” The end result is a team that can make better decisions for both the company and the customer.
In summary, assess the resource you have as a customer-facing team and align on your purpose. Leverage the great things the team does for customers, and get paid appropriately for what you accomplish. With a little change of mindset and a commitment to regroup, we can move beyond protecting profits to growing them for both our own organizations and our customers.