There’s a huge amount of “wisdom” about calling at the top. At times, I think we have to change corporate structures, naming far more C-Level executives just to accommodate the clamor of sales people needing to call at the top.
Don’t get me wrong, we have to engage al levels that are appropriate for the solutions we present. But calling at the top for everything is just a foolish strategy. It wastes our time, it wastes customer time (those we really need to be working with) and it wastes executive time.
It’s natural for us to inflate the importance of what we do, after all, we are proud of our products and solutions. We want our customers to understand the real value and impact we can provide. But most of the time, we really don’t need or want “C-Level” attention.
But there is one thing about the top of the food chain that is critical to us. We need to connect the dots between the value we create and the top priorities of the organization. We have to know, qualitatively and quantitatively, how our solutions impact the goals of the organization as a whole. And we need to help the customers we are working with understand this.
“But Dave, that’s a whole lot of work, and the customers we deal with really don’t care. Why invest our time?”
That’s true, our customers care about their goals and objectives. They’re focused on what they need to achieve in their departments, functions, divisions. They challenge us to come up with business cases relevant to them. How are we going to reduce their expenses, how are we going to improve their productivity, and so forth. They care about getting their jobs done, but don’t want to be bothered by what it means to the overall company performance. Many customers may view “connecting the dots” as irrelevant and a waster of their time. “The impact is a few million dollars, but we’re in a company that worries about ten’s of billions!” What we are doing doesn’t move the needle of the overall organizational measurements.
But knowing how we align with the overall corporate priorities and investment strategies is critical to both us and our customer getting what they want. If we, collectively, can’t directly tie what we want to do to it’s impact on overall corporate performance, we won’t get what we want.
Corporations of all size are “skinnying down.” They are eliminating everything that is considered non essential. They are focusing all investments–that means people, structures, spending, on those things that directly contribute to the organization’s priorities. Anything that doesn’t is being eliminated–or in the least minimized.
So everything has to be tied to those key initiatives. If it can’t it won’t get done. And your customer may not recognize this or know how to do it. So it’s our responsibility to connect the dots for our customers, demonstrating how what we do impacts, even in a small way, the top priorities of the organization.
I feel like a broken record these days, but I’ve been using the old story, “For the loss of a nail, a horseshoe was lost. For the loss of a horseshoe….. a kingdom was lost.” Everything in the organization contributes in some way to the ability of the organization to achieve it’s goals, no matter how small. We have to be able to connect these things and communicate them in every sales opportunity.
Connecting the dots within your own organization?
Connecting the dots with your customers is critical. But it’s also important for you to connect the dots of what you do within your own organization. How are you contributing to the overall priorities and strategic initiatives for the company? What impact do you have? Can you demonstrate it?
Within our own organizations, we have to continually connect the dots of what we are producing and how they contribute to the organization’s initiatives and priorities. It’s not just about revenue, though that’s important.
Does the company have a high priority on customer experience and retention? What are you doing to contribute to that? Is the company trying to introduce new solutions into new markets? What are you doing to contribute to that? Revenue is good, but it has to be tied to the things that are important to the organization’s overall business strategies.