The quote of the decade below is for all of you finance people who don’t set foot in your locations, visit a customer, or learn your business. Four major investors are criticizing the go-forward plan of DowDuPont, the $150 billion chemicals behemoth formed by the merger of Dow Chemical and DuPont.
Dow chief Andrew Liveris said “noisy” investors who don’t understand the chemicals business are trying to push him to create value in a spreadsheet.”
Businesses are more than a spreadsheet.
Go out and see for yourself before you “click here to update formulas.”
Brochures. Websites. Introductory sales calls. Presentations to a broad industry audience. These opportunities are far too often used by sales reps, marketing departments, and company leaders to provide a picture about themselves, what they make or do, how big they are, how many pins in the map they have.
And not often enough do the messages make a statement to the customer, buyer, prospect, or world at large that resonates with an internal need, a desire to understand “what’s in it for them” and to see value and uniqueness they’re hungry for.
When you look at a group photograph you’re in–don’t you look for yourself first? Don’t you want to see how you look? We’re all interested in ourselves, our needs, and “looking” at a company, product, or service we’re considering is no different.
“How would my situation be different if I used this?”
“What could I have or get from using this?”
“How has this helped other people like me be better or get an advantage?”
And yet so many companies still get this so wrong. We create brochures that quantify our size and locations, list out our products lines, but miss the opportunity to get the customer to see how their situation will be improved through their association with us.
So going forward, let’s start with the outside in. Let’s position our message, our pitch, our company from the customer’s point of view. And not make it all about us.
If you want to see a perfect example of this, watch Steve Jobs’ talk below made in 1997 a couple of months after his return to Apple. Textbook perfection on how to appeal to your audience.
Beating your competitor in the same market for the same customers under the same conditions.
Executing successfully against a strategic initiative.
Attracting great employees.
Hitting the top line and bottom line numbers.
Why do some “miss” on these while others hit it out of the park?
Beating the Competition in the Battle for Customers
Companies often plod ahead doing more of the same, and often just open more locations, make more acquisitions, sell for less, increase their service, go online, advertise and promote differently, distribute or manufacture a new product, or offer more purchase incentives. But in many cases the customer’s needs and wants were never placed at the center of the strategy.
Companies so frequently design their value proposition as a list of products, locations, and services that looks like a “line card” or brochure of how big and expansive they are. Or they sell on price, quality, or service alone–and don’t fully address problems the customer is experiencing.
The Challenger Model can be the turning point here. The Challenger Model drives companies to first develop insights in their target industry and bring those insights to their customers with sales reps who “challenge” their customers to consider new and better methods. These are methods the customers many not have ever heard of before.
Thus instead of the traditional process of asking customers “what keeps them up at night,” the Challenger Sales company “tells the customer what SHOULD be keeping them up at night–and how to solve it with their solution.”
But by far the most critical aspect winning against competitors is to know your customers better than they do, develop your value proposition around their needs, and place customer delight at the center of your focus. This is particularly critical for large companies where often the distractions of acquisitions and mergers, technology overhauls, and other internally-oriented initiatives direct the focus and energy away from going out to find, develop, and keep a customer.
MISS #1: Allowing more focus and energy to be spent on your company than the customer. You’ve always got to listen to the voice of the customer, place them at the center, and better yet–go stand in their shoes to help understand what they need, why they need it, and how to deliver it. Learn how to fix problems customers didn’t even know they had.
Executing an Initiative
First, begin with “why?” If you’ve never seen Simon Sinek’s “why” talk, or even if you have–watch it here now. Then come back and keep reading.
What is your purpose, your cause, your belief….and why does it matter to and help your customers? You’ve got to strike an emotional, then rational chord to achieve buy-in and acceptance. And it starts with asking “why.” What’s more, a company’s leaders have to communicate the same FOR IT’S TEAM MEMBERS helping execute the initiative. What’s in it for them when the initiative is achieved?
Just because “it’s our top initiative” and “we’ve found it’s important to customers” aren’t enough. You have to help employees see those same things for themselves, their own benefit and improvement. You have to help employees see how achievement of the initiative will bring them personal gain, upward opportunity, or other benefits important to them.
Aligning compensation up and down the organization is one way to do this. As a matter of fact, there are many that would tell us that it’s the ONLY way to truly align an organization to accomplish greatness. But no matter how it’s done, you’ve got to start with “why.”
MISS #2: Expecting your initiative will be seen as your team’s initiative. Help your employees see the personal benefit in achieving the initiative. Compensate and reward teams for successfully executing the initiative. If there isn’t a benefit for them…well–you get what you give.
Attracting the Best Employees
People don’t want a job. They want a purpose, a challenge, ways to advance and add skills, and achieve their financial goals.
So then why do companies advertise for jobs this way?
“We’re looking for employees in the our new market. Acme is a national leader with 127 locations servicing 23 states employing 10,000 people. We carry the leading brands of widgets and were named #2 on the biggest company list in our industry in 2016.”
Where do I sign up?
Here once again is an idea from Sinek, this time on creating a realistic picture of the position you need filled so that you’ll attract the right people for the job.
Hiring managers…it’s about the employees—not the company. Start with “why” and paint a compelling picture of what your company does from a “contribution to the world” standpoint. Same as you’d do in sales—make it about the customer.
MISS #3: Focusing exclusively on “what” instead of “why” when attempting to attract new talent. Tell a truthful and inspiring story about your mission, your company’s vision and mission, and what’s in it for the candidate.
Hitting Top and Bottom Line Numbers
So here we are at the bottom line…the numbers. If you thought I was going to write here about how specifically to hit the numbers…I’m not. The point I’m making is that 1) customer focus, 2) inspiring teams by connecting personal benefits and compensation to reaching initiatives, and 3) attracting the right people to your company by appealing to their needs for contribution will help build the strongest of foundations on which to build the rest of the strategy and execution plan…to help hit the numbers.