Susan and Bill have Relationship Problems! (Part III)

The last time we met Susan and Bill, they were discussing survival tactics. Thankfully, they have managed to get the company back on an even keel – excuse the boating pun – over the past few months and now have a new challenge to face.

At the last board meeting, the CEO asked them to prepare a strategy that would transform the company from an ‘Even Keel’ company to becoming a ‘Leading Edge’ company.

“I don’t want us to be competing on price. I want us to be seen by our clients as unique, innovative, really easy to do business with. Now it’s up to you two to make that happen. Get back to me by 23 September with a strategy. And it better be good.”

Unfortunately, Susan and Bill are at loggerheads trying to plot a course towards that Leading Edge organisation that their CEO so desperately wants to become.

Different Views from Sales and Marketing

Susan“Leading Edge is a simple sales concept. Leading Edge = More Sales. It really is as simple as that. We can become Leading Edge if Bill provides me with market-beating products. That’s the thing he can’t seem to grasp.”

Bill:“Leading Edge is a complex brand concept. It’s how you are seen vis-à-vis the competition. We’re a services business and the differentiating factor is the quality of our service and account teams, not the products. That’s what Susan fails to grasp.”

Susan’s view is (as usual) plain and easy to grasp: “Give me decent products/services and I’ll sell them. If the products/services are Leading Edge, we’ll sell more of them. It’s not really my job to DESIGN them, so don’t go asking me about transforming this company into a leading edge organisation.”

Bill has a slightly more nuanced view. He accepts that it’s his job to translate customer needs into the sorts of products and services that the clients will love and buy, but he also makes the valid point that he and Susan are in a B2B services business, and that Susan’s account teams (as well as the Service/Delivery teams) have a key role in making the service a Leading Edge one in the client’s mind.

Bridging the Gap

As usual, Bill is half-right. And so is Susan.

But let’s start by bringing a little clarity on the terms we are using. Let’s begin with a definition of what a ‘unique’ brand is in the business-to-business world.

In the B2B world, the uniqueness of your brand is dependent on a combination of whether you provide a unique Solution for your clients and whether they find the Experience of working with you to be uniquely satisfying.

Deep-Insight defines Solution as a combination of innovationleading edge and value-for-money. These are three related but slightly different concepts but if you score well on all three, the chances are that you have an offering that can help your clients improve their standing in the marketplace in a way that none of your competitors can provide. When we talk about ‘solutions’ we’re not just talking ‘product’. As Bill says, it’s as much about how the account managers, sales and delivery teams position your company’s product or service, as it is about the product/service itself.

Experience is a measure of how easy you are to do business with and if you are seen as a trusted partner. You can have the best products or services in the world but if your clients can’t work with you and don’t see your people as trusted partners, your brand is going to suffer.

So when Bill and Susan’s CEO talks about wanting to be a unique, innovative, leading edge company, he’s really talking about building a B2B brand that excels at all the different elements that we group under the headings Solution and Experience. And that means the Bill and Susan need to work together to get all those elements right. But as the methodology above shows, you can’t build a unique B2B brand without having an excellent service to underpin it. So Bill and Susan and going to have to rope in the Operations Director as well. We wish them well on their journey.

Ultimately, the real definition of Leading Edge will be dictated by your customers. But you’ll never know if you don’t ask them.

Susan and Bill have Relationship Problems!

The Susan & Bill Trilogy

When we launched Deep-Relationship-NPS in early-2014, we created a storyline around two fictitious characters called Bill (a thoughtful but somewhat introverted Marketing Director) and Susan (a more aggressive low-attention-span Sales Director). They may be fictitious but they bear more than a passing resemblance to some sales and marketing directors we have met in client organisations in the past.

Episode 1 finds Susan and Bill having relationship problems. Well, their problems are primarily related to understanding the relationship their company had with its main corporate clients but there is also some evidence of tension between Susan and Bill themselves – the sort of natural tension that exists between Sales and Marketing in any large organisation.

EPISODE 1: Susan and Bill have Relationship Problems!

Susan. Sales Director.

“I want some real customer feedback that helps my sales managers manage their key accounts for the long-term. All Marketing are interested in is some box-ticking exercise for the folks in HQ.”

Bill. Marketing Director.

“I need to provide HQ with Net Promoter Score (NPS®) metrics. It’s our corporate policy. For some reason, Sales just don’t seem to get it. NPS is a useful tool if they would only figure out how to use it properly.”

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a simple easy-to-use metric for measuring customer loyalty. Many large, well-known companies now use it as a key business metric. The concept behind NPS is simple: loyal customers are more willing to recommend you to a friend or colleague. To find out how loyal your customer base is, measure their willingness to recommend; the higher your NPS score (% willing to recommend less % not willing to recommend), the more loyal your customer base is.

The problem is that while NPS is easy to calculate, many sales directors find it hard to turn the answer to a single question “Would you recommend Company XYZ to a friend or colleague?” into a clear set of actions that can be used to improve a complex web of relationships in a large corporate account – or across your full customer portfolio.

Does NPS work for B2B Organisations?

Yes!

NPS provides a good starting point for understanding complex B2B relationships but it must be supplemented by other metrics that help account managers take action at an INDIVIDUAL account level, as well as helping senior executives focus on a small number of strategic initiatives across ALL accounts.

Deep-Insight already has a unique B2B methodology – Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ™) – that helps Sales Directors identify which of their major accounts are its greatest Ambassadors, and which on the point of defection (Ambivalents, Stalkers and Opponents).

More important, the CRQ methodology identifies – for each account manager – what needs to be done to transform an Opponent to an Ambivalent, and a Rational to an Ambassador.

Deep-Relationship-NPS combines the power of our CRQ methodology with the internationally-recognised NPS benchmark. NPS tells you if you have a problem, CRQ tells you what the problem is and how to address it.

Back to Susan and Bill

Bill needs NPS data in a comparable format to data from other parts of the organisation, with feedback on brand, image, product and pricing. With Deep-Relationship-NPS, Bill gets his NPS data in exactly the way he needs it. That keeps Bill and his Marketing team happy.

On the other hand, Susan gets detailed account-level customer relationship feedback for her sales teams, and by looking at levels of trust and commitment, Susan can avoid any surprises when contracts come up for renewal. That keeps Susan and her Sales team happy.

Join us next week for Episode 2.