CUSTOMER-CENTRIC COMPANIES – WHEN 2 +2 = 22
Who is not a sales person?
If the goal of every company is to ensure profitable revenues, then it follows as the night follows the day, that each person in the company ought to be playing a role in selling profitably.
If some employees are incapable of perceiving this connection in the customer-centric world of the 21st century, they have simply no business holding on to a job which adds more drag to a company which is trying to go forward, rather than add value, speed and direction.
The simple, undeniable fact is that each and every employee of a company gets paid from revenues arising from sales. Hence, every employee must see herself/himself as a salesperson …a direct contributor to the sales effort.
Compartmentalization, belongs to the past
In the past, compartmentalization was the rule rather than the exception.
There were several reasons for this. Many large businesses were monopolies or near-monopolies. Sales was just one among many functions and it was possible to believe that production or design or finance was equally, if not more important to the success of the company.
Arising from this perception, there grew a feeling that the optimum success a company could achieve, was through competing departments operating in relatively self-contained spheres. Such competition it was believed would result in robust and optimum results.
It was not unlike the belief in parliamentary democracy, with a Government and an opposition, at odds with each other on most issues, somehow delivering the best to the citizens because of the checks and balances built into the system.
This, in practice led to many departmental heads behaving like petty tyrants and poaching into another’s turf or actually creating situations in which rival departments would fail.
All this was taken as part and parcel of running a business, with top management occasionally intervening to set things right when matters got out of hand.
Read my lips – It’s a new ball game
Do the same thing today and see what happens.
Take the case of Rishi and Raj who were close friends from the same college and lived close to each other. They shared a common career path and now work in the same company. However, the similarity and the bonhomie ended there. In the company they were at logger heads every day.
“I just wish that we are able to deliver on-time. We are constantly delayed. The market is already so competitive and winning deals is tough. We lose loyal customers because of delivery and service issues. But our targets remain the same,” says Rishi who is convinced that Production & Dispatch can do much better.
Raj is equally convinced that even if they jump through hoops, their effort will never be recognized by the sales guys. In fact, he thinks they seriously mess up.
“Sales always commits more than what is practical. They just bow down to every customer’s requirement without checking if it is practical or profitable. We work hard to save every rupee, but sales just discounts prices to achieve targets andhas us scrambling to somehow keep up commitments without losing money.”
Old habits die hard
This is an age-old story. There is a traditional rivalry between Sales and Production/Dispatch. While they service the same customer and earn their salaries from the same company, they find themselves sitting on the opposite sides of the table. Common misconceptions do not help the cause.
For example, salespersons are associated with quick, pushy, loose commitments and always cribbing about high prices.
Production & Dispatch is associated with cost cutting, inventory control, unnecessary processes, inflexible and always cribbing about time.
Finance is associated with constant expense cutting, holding back payments and cribbing about not having money. HR is associated with monitoring and chasing people, paying less salaries, tough policies and always cribbing about lack of talent……and so on.
Rishi and Raj along with their colleagues just finished a heated meeting in the conference room. It had been a tough two quarters and the company is threatened with low prices in the market. Existing customers are pushing hard on changes and additional services for free.
Meetings on such issues seem to be becoming common. However, over coffee, the two of them forget their traditional adversarial roles. They are back to discussing their evening plans.
One easily understands that there are no individual biases when we are discussing business. We are not fighting personal battles. These are role battles. So, why are two friends who share so much in common forced to fight? Inspite of sharing a common goal, why are different functions at logger heads?
Wake up, smell the coffee – Customer is King
Actually, there are no real villains here. The reality is that people behave according to the standard they are measured by……and good professionals will try to efficiently meet their goals.
It is an old-world, divide and rule kind of thinking.
The idea is that if people push their own agendas it will automatically create a system with checks and balances to ensure the best performance.
This worked at a time when there was a monopoly or near-monopoly situation, with demand far more than supply. All that had to be done was to ensure internal efficiency to maximize sales.
That world is gone. Today there is a completely different market reality. Customers have tremendous choices and companies are struggling to win business at good prices. But the changed market reality has not altered the way companies work. People still work to old realities, standards and measurements.
Actually, this is the time when internal teams should align and work together to address the common pain – market reality. They should not be working against each other, but with each other. New measures, new processes, new methods and most importantly, new beliefs are needed.
Learning from Start-Ups -A new paradigm
For a minute, let us change the scenario and look at new-age businesses.
Modern start-ups and tech companies seem to work to a completely new paradigm. Departmental boundaries are less defined and people work in cross-functional teams. Meetings are still heated…but, the energies are focused on ideas and thoughts that will build value for all. People take stake which further strengthens common goals.
Many traditional companies trivialize this culture and believe these things work for kids and new age culture. They think these are HR gimmicks and putting gyms in the work place is simply to attract people and not a significant change in cultural orientation.
They believe that these companies are blowing someone else’s money. But that is too simplistic an explanation.
We need to ask ourselves, why do other people invest in these companies while we are even unable to get banks to fund us with working capital? What is the value they see?
One way to look at it is that mathematically, 2+2 is always 4. However, when teams work, 2+2 is never 4. It is either 2 or 22!
Magic happens when people support each other, rather than work against each other. Trust is a long-term attitude. It starts from the top and it starts from the right goals.
Keep your eyes on the big picture
If a company’s goals are clear, then it needs to be translated into functional goals without losing its consistency. We can break down tasks, but we cannot always split the goals. It helps in a big way if we let people work out their approach to winning – without measuring each activity. There is no sense in having 20 KRAs that make them feel monitored and asking questions that blame them, rather than make them feeling nurtured.
A good starting point is to build a belief that each and every person is a sales person!
Each and every one of us should be committed to delivering our products to our customers and playing a role in making a customer happy. It means that everyone is making a commitment to the customer and promising to deliver it. Team work is a part of it because no one can deliver their respective promises without support from the other functions.
Everyone from the receptionist to the CEO is into sales. A security guard can play an active part of customer experience and saving waste. HR is selling the vision to a new recruit. A worker is selling his skills to build quality. Finance is selling opportunity to vendors to get better terms. Materials is selling better inventory management to improve working capital management.
Sales then sells what everyone else makes to the customer and the Owner is selling his vision to build wealth for the business.
So, are you yet sold on this?
Author: Ramas Krishnan
Ramas Krishnan is an original management thinker who heads Aspire Infinite, a consulting firm based in Mumbai and The Alternative Board, India, a peer advisory board, which works exclusively with Owner Managed Businesses in 18 countries across the world (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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