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Point of view selling


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Point of view selling

  1. 1. point of viewPoint of View Selling:Using thought leadership to sellto senior executives Authored by Michael Collins, Vice President and Executive Consultant, The Forum CorporationThe business challenges faced by executives today Today’s solutions providers are borrowing a successfulare more varied and complex than ever before. As they approach from management consulting firms seeking toemerge from the economic downturn, many companies are sell higher in the organization. We call this approach pointlooking to realize top-line revenue growth without taking of view. It involves four stages of starting and growing aon fixed costs. How can we cut product launch-time to get client relationship:new products on shelves faster? How can we build andexpand hospitals that deliver world-class health care at areasonable cost? How can we integrate our field, web, and LEAD WITHtelesales channels to increase charge-card adoption and A POINT OF VIEWusage?Often, there are no clear-cut answers for the customerexecutive. The best response to a complex challengemight involve a myriad of things: process changes,outsourcing, technology, new marketing campaigns, JOINTLYpeople development and training, and so on. Implementing IDENTIFY MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL EVALUATE OTHER CUSTOMER/SUPPLIERany of these things would require investments of time, OPPORTUNITIES RELATIONSHIP POTENTIAL SOLUTIONSmoney, and resources. Wanting to avoid making big bets—and risking costly mistakes—the executive needs proofthat one course of action makes the most sense beforeproceeding with it.In markets and selling environments such as today’s, the DELIVERsolutions provider has a tremendous opportunity to serve SOLUTIONS AND REALIZEthe customer by leading with ideas and providing thought VALUEleadership throughout the selling process. Customersvalue the ideas that a solutions provider brings to thetable to the extent that these ideas address significant One way to think about point of view selling is to consideropportunities or problems they face. As the solutions the customer’s purchasing-decision process. (Seeprovider moves higher in the customer organization, the the model at the top left of the following page.) Seniorimportance of compelling ideas becomes even greater. executives focus on the “why” question first: Why is thisThe challenge for sellers is significant. Senior executives idea relevant to our business? To what extent are the ideaare looking for more than just “your answer.” They and the solution(s) going to impact our performance? Isare focused on the impact you can bring—not on the this a $50 million opportunity or a $50 opportunity?features and functions of the solution. In carpentry terms, The second key question is “how?” The buying executive,customers are interested in the hole, not in the drill. who has been persuaded that this is a significant idea,In addition, busy executives may not want to spend now needs to know the various alternatives that hermeeting time simply answering questions about their company should consider if it is to realize Their calendars are tight: Why should they spend She needs to believe that her organization can implementtheir time educating you? the alternatives. For instance, she needs to know whether
  2. 2. point of viewthe “right” answer might involve process change, The point of view selling approach guides the customertechnology implementation, outsourcing, or training—or through considering the three questions of the purchase-some combination of these. decision process by managing three stages of engagement with the customer: WHY? HOW? WHO? To what extent is What are the Who can best this idea relevant to possible deliver the my business? solutions? right solution? DEVELOP PROVOKE CATALYZE A POINT INTEREST DECISIONS OF VIEW Entry point for an Entry point for idea-based approach traditional selling „„ Develop a Point of View. Salespeople, and othersHaving explored the alternatives that answer the “how” assigned by the selling organization, generate insightquestion, the executive is now ready to decide “who” can for the customer on how to capture new businessdeliver the right solution. Can the internal resources of value or manage a looming risk by combining theirthe executive’s company act on the opportunity, or must knowledge of a customer’s business and industry withthe executive turn to an outside partner, and, if so, which their own organization’s capabilities and experience.partner? By introducing new information and/or a newWhen engaging a senior executive, your job is to begin framework for thinking about how to directly affectwith the “why” question, persuading him or her with one or more of the customer’s business value drivers,education and dialogue that your point of view is worth the customer learns something that he or she may notpursuing. By first guiding the customer’s thinking about have been aware of or may not have fully understood.the value of the opportunity and concrete ways to pursue „„ Provoke Interest. Salespeople meet with a senior-it, you establish a very early and highly influential position level decision maker to succinctly and compellinglyin the eventual purchase decision. This dramatically present their point of view on new value capture. Theyincreases your chances of winning the deal when the educate their customer and guide her to considercustomer is ready to decide on “who” can deliver the right the significance of the point of view. If the customersolution. agrees the point of view represents significant newGetting in early and guiding the customer’s decision is value, the salesperson suggests a method to validatemore critical than ever. With the proliferation of information the idea within the customer’s business before offeringon the Internet today, customers do a significant amount a specific solution.of research and due diligence on their own. A recent study „„ Catalyze Decisions. The implementation of a pointby the Corporate Executive Board looked at customers’ of view can be complex and may require significantpurchasing-decision timelines. CEB’s findings showed customer investment and effort. And since the solutionthat, on average, customers had moved 57 percent of the to a point of view often involves elements the customerway through the timeline before they made first contact may not be deeply familiar with, the salespersonwith their supplier.1 can and should help the customer navigate suchIn doing due diligence research, customers are a complex decision. Prior to presenting a detaileddetermining their business case and their needs—that proposal for a solution, the skillful salespersonis, they are answering the “why” and “how” questions leverages his or her position as an expert advisor tothemselves. Vendors are left to compete on little more than guide the customer in developing a framework forprice, often in an arm’s-length RFP process. decision making—involving the right stakeholders, considering viable alternatives, and selecting decision Customer Purchase-Decision Timeline criteria. By jointly creating a decision framework with Customer Due Customer’s First Customer the customer the salesperson enables the customer, to Diligence Begins Contact with Supplier Purchase Decision more confidently evaluate and act on the point of view. 0% 57% 100% 2
  3. 3. point of viewPoints of view can derive from a number of sources: In 2001, GE Healthcare created its Performance Solutions group to sell consulting services wrapped around the company’s traditional Your Client hardware offerings, such as MRI equipment. Experience The company took this action in order to increase margins in the face of price pressure from government as well as managed health-care organizations.4 The Performance Solutions group took a point of view Product selling approach to starting new customer conversations, Marketing Management for example, with COOs of newly built hospitals in the Sources United Arab Emirates, who wrestle with bed-utilization of rates as low as 20 percent. The typical strategy for Ideas combating this problem involves throwing money at it by making brick-and-mortar and technology investments. In engaging the COOs, the Performance Solutions team led with a new idea: low bed-utilization rates are a result of failing to focus on underlying clinical and administrative Industry Analyst R&D processes that deliver outstanding care and so drive Reports patient satisfaction and loyalty. To address this issue, GE Healthcare often starts by delivering process improvement solutions (using Six Sigma and other methodologies)—Note that, in some organizations, a separate internal unit before addressing core hospital technology solutions.takes responsibility for gathering ideas and developing U.A.E. hospitals, such as Sheikh Khalifa Medical Centre inpoints of view. Other organizations take a collaborative Abu Dhabi, reported improvements in room utilization andapproach, across functional units, to articulate ideas and productivity as a result of taking GE’s approach.5solutions. Point of View Selling Works for the CustomerLet’s look at a couple of companies that have put and for the Solution Provider point of view selling into practice: In the 1990s, IBM transformed its go-to- For the Customer For the Solution Provider market approach from selling hardware „„ Provides insight into „„ Helps me to sell higher into selling services that “pulled through” hardware over my most important the organizationthe course of the customer engagement. This sales problems—or presents „„ Helps me gain customertransformation, which began in the tenure of Lou Gerstner, new opportunities I had insight and buildturned around the performance and perception of IBM. not thought of customer intimacyOnce a money-losing dinosaur, it was now the world’s „„ Introduces a “thinking „„ Positions me as alargest provider of computer software, services, and partner” to whom I can business partner andhardware.2 turn for advice—not trusted advisor—not just another vendor trying toAn example of IBM’s point of view selling approach can a vendor sell me somethingbe seen in its go-to-market strategy for solutions focused „„ Enables me to priceon radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. Rather „„ Reduces my risks products and services at as I choose anthan leading sales conversations with a description of favorable price points; implementation partnerRFID’s features and benefits, IBM’s Global Business minimizes the time IServices group starts with a customer problem or spend in “RFP mode”opportunity. For example, in Europe, Global BusinessServices cites the challenges and costs of counterfeit Point of view selling promises to significantly differentiateshipping containers to wholesale distributors. The those who learn to apply it from their competitors. It canproblem results in significant lost revenue and excessive position them as trusted customer advisors and generatemaintenance costs; an RFID-based solution might be an larger, more profitable deals. It is suitable for mostapproach to solving it.3 Now that is a story a distributor commercial sales organizations in all kinds of companiescompany COO might be interested in exploring—as around the world, from very young industries to the mostopposed to discussing the RFID technology itself. mature ones, from hot innovators to so-called commoditiesInterestingly, hardware sales per rep at IBM have doubled suppliers. Point of view selling is a game-changer.since the early 1990s, when hardware was the company’sprimary offering in the market. 3
  4. 4. point of viewEndnotes1. Corporate Executive Board, Executive Guidance for 2012: Drive Growth by Challenging Customers, Arlington, VA, 2012, Page 22. Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround. (Collins, 2002)3. “Container Centralen: Fighting counterfeiting—and transforming an industry in the process.” IBM case study ( Ranjay Gulati. “Silo Busting: How to Execute on the Promise of Customer Focus” (Harvard Business Review, May 2007)5. Sheikh Khalifa Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. GE Healthcare customer testimonial ( Reading:The Basis Group. “Thought Leadership Is the New Sales Pitch” ( is a recognized global leader in linking learning tostrategic business objectives. Our learning solutions helporganizations effectively execute their business strategies byfocusing on their most important asset: their people. We provideclients with practical and research-based advice and tailoredprograms that mobilize employees, accelerate business-initiativeimplementation, and improve agility. Forum’s 40-year legacy asa pioneer and thought leader continues with the release of ourlatest book, Strategic Speed (Harvard Business Press).For more information, visit© 2012 The Forum Corporation 4