In 2012, Global Partners launched the CEO Insight Series, a quarterly publication of interviews with leading and greatly admired CEO's. The first in our series is with Dr. Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic is a multi-specialty healthcare system which is rated as one of the top 4 hospitals in the US and number 1 for cardiac care by US News and World Report. In addition to being a renowned cardiac surgeon, Dr. Cosgrove is an inspiring and innovative business leader. We feel that regardless of your industry, Dr. Cosgrove's ideas on the application of technology, funding innovation and maintaining brand values while pursuing global growth will provide relevant and thought-provoking insights for your business.
We are not the first company to interview CEOs of course, but we believe we are the first to do so with a specific goal: Demonstrate that once companies understand insights from CEOs of their key customers, they can put this learning to use in building Trusted Business Partnerships.
In our 20 years of experience working with leading global companies such as GE, Merck, Boston Scientific, Johnson & Johnson, Philips and others, we have found that their customer-facing people in sales, marketing and service are usually good at cultivating peer-to-peer relationships.
However, they often miss out on making the connection with the critical issues and core beliefs of customer's CEOs, Division Presidents and other CXOs. Imagine how much more effective business relationships would be if people clearly understood their customers' most important issues across all levels?
In our experience, this causes a fundamental shift in customer relationships, from simply good suppliers to Trusted Business Partners.
Our first CEO Insight Series E-book has many valuable insights for your company and it's free. Simply click here to download the ebook.
At the end of the ebook we have also provided a description of a Partnership Insight Lab, which is our process to discover customer insights, starting with those of senior executives, and cascade and apply them throughout your own organization. If this sounds interesting to you, we would be happy to discuss the Insight Lab or the ebook with you at your convenience.
We frequently hear Account Managers complain that they have very good relationships with their customers, but they are at too low a level. Account Managers often feel trapped in relationships with existing customer contacts that are not high enough in the organization to influence decisions at an early stage. As a result, they are relegated to 'good supplier' but not considered to be value-added outside of their own limited area of expertise. Opportunities are missed because they can't get to the people higher in the customer's organization who would think of them more strategically.
Getting to the right Value Buyer with the right Value Message is essential. Communicating Value to the different levels within the customer requires understanding how each Buyer defines and quantifies value. How can we use Value Selling techniques to move higher within the Customer's organization? Which techniques help with existing customer contacts?
To answer these questions, we thought it would to useful to provide an example of an approach, starting at the C-Suite level so you can then put the learning to use at any level. We took the example of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and used the CMO C-Suite Study, conducted by IBM, in which they conducted face-to-face conversations with 1,700 Chief Marketing Officers worldwide.
Here is a 3-step approach to change customer perceptions at the C-Suite level that you can apply the learning in every peer-to-peer Value Selling relationship.
1. START WITH WHAT’S HURTING MOST. What are the main sources of concern for CMOs? When asked to identify the key market factors that CMOs feel most underprepared to manage, they identified these top 11:
- Data explosion
- Social media
- Growth of channel and device choices
- Shifting consumer demographics
- Financial constraints
- Decreasing brand loyalty
- Growth market opportunities
- ROI accountability
- Customer collaboration and influence
- Privacy considerations
- Global outsourcing
Getting the attention of the CMO requires talking about what is most important to him/her, irrespective of what your company offers. This immediately lets the CMO know that you know what’s on their mind and you are prepared to discuss how you can help address their urgent business challenges.
2. PROVIDE UNIQUE INSIGHTS. Of course, identifying the CMOs urgent business issue is not enough to create Value. This requires providing a unique perspective, new information or data about the issue. For example, on the number 1 key issue of DEALING WITH THE BIG DATA, the IBM study revealed that CMOs are also overwhelmingly underprepared to take charge of the growing volume, velocity and variety of data. The majority of respondents recognize this. More than two-thirds believe they will need to invest in new tools and technologies, and develop new strategies for managing big data.
Managing big data is certainly high on their list of “must-dos.” Four-fifths of respondents plan to use customer analytics, customer relationship management (CRM), social media and mobile applications more extensively over the next three to five years.
At this point you are engaging the CMO in a Business Dialogue, a conversation that is focused on creating real Value for the CMO. How do you now connect this to what your company can provide to enable the CMO to address the challenge you are discussing?
3. LINK TO YOUR SOLUTION. Now comes the critical step of describing how your solution will enable the CMO to address the issue you have been discussing. Here again, you can focus on one of the key barriers to change, raised in the IBM study. Most CMOs have not traditionally been expected to provide hard financial evidence of their ROI. But given the current economic volatility and pressure to be profitable, organizations can no longer afford to write a blank check for their marketing initiatives. CMOs recognize they now need to quantify the value they bring to the business, be it from investing in advertising, new technologies or any other activity. At this point in the dialogue, you describe how you measure the impact of your solutions in a way that clearly demonstrates the Return on Investment for the customer.
In Value Selling, understanding the issues people at the top are facing influences every peer-to-peer selling relationship. That’s how you get to be a trusted business partner. Try answering these 3 simple questions at every level of customer contact:
- What are the top 3 challenges for this customer?
- What unique insights can I provide?
- How does my solution help this customer address the challenge?
To help companies answer these questions and become Trusted Business Partners to their customers, Global Partners has created a CEO Insight Series. Each quarter, we interview an admired CEO to find the insights that drive their companies to outperform their industry. You can download a FREE Ebook of our latest CEO Insight Series with Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove.
Image credit: LauraLewis23