Rethink job pursuit, start by thinking 2 jobs / 5 years out

Happy New Year bright red text

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Making the leap to the next role is a challenge all career minded professionals face on a continuous basis. Most have a clear opinion about what they aim for next, but few have a clear for the role beyond your next one. By taking a grip on your goal 2 roles out in a 5 year perspective, you are likely to see more ways to get there. Here are my perspectives on how to structure such an activity.

Common career perspectives

A career plan often starts around basic aspiration Your management aspirations can be to grow your responsibility, e.g. people, money and type of roles. But the paths and ideas varies between professionals.

When discussing career ideas and paths three things stand out. First most mentees focus on what they want as next role and how to get it. Second mentees aspire to get experience from several areas. The third observation is few mentees have a perspective on the role after next. The result is often firm short term ideas with a high flexibility in the medium/long-term direction.

The alternative way of thinking I would like to suggest is to be firm on what you plan to do two roles out. A target built on aspirations, dreams and a clear understanding what it takes to get there. Once your target is clear you can be open minded about the different alternative routes taking you there. The pint of being firm about future and flexible about present is you will always move in the right directions. Near term flexibility is not to be open to anything short term. Rather to be open to consider different paths taking you towards your target.

Start with the end in mind

Defining your medium term career aspirations is hard. Pick a good note book. Collect ideas and thoughts over a period of time. Have serious conversations with yourself about what you love to do. Aspire to find some simple principles to guide you. One of the best examples I have heard was an Executive describing his principles as

  • FUN – I want to enjoy what I do to perform well
  • GROW – I want to grow my personal capabilities and never want to be fully capable in a role.
  • PAY – I want to get paid to support the life I want to live as a person and with mi family.
  • 3X – I want all three factors to be in place for any given role.

Build on the principles resonating best with you. For this part of your journey you might want to explore open conversations with senior leaders you have met and respect. A 15-30 minute conversation at this stage give you new perspectives beyond your own thinking. Most leaders your know are happy to share ideas with with you once you trust them to guide you in your career choices.

Your target two roles out

When you define your target you want to spend time thinking on both who you will be and what you will do. Professionals seem to be better at describing what they do and struggle in describing who they are.

What is the level of role you target, ranging from CEO down to an individual contributor. What is the core competence you associate yourself with? Perhaps with sales and development at the two extreme ends. In which part of the world do you see yourself? Not all parts of the world might suit you and your family.

Coming to an understanding of this direction is important. We tend to gain a reputation fast in our home organization. Tour superiors and peers tend to but you in a certain category. In narrow categories representing a share of your true capability. You want the “window to your peers” to represent who you are and what you want to do.

Flexibility in what to pursue next

Once you have defined your target role you are better equipped to direct your search for a great role. Make a list of roles with potential to take you towards your target. List what you can expect to learn in each role. Evaluate the potential to perform well. The next great job always starts with performing well in your current role.

Avoid tow move in one, both changing the field your work in and the level you operate is tough. Aim for lateral moves between functional areas or vertical moves in a filed you know.

Expect the unexpected near term. During one major re-organization I interviewed for 4 different roles at the same time, and landed happy in one of them. For another role the first contact was in the evening and the next day I have accepted. Neither of the two came out of slump. But an idea of where I wanted to go, and an openness to listen to options.

Questions to ask yourself

  1. What are the principles guiding your professional life – the start for great career planning.
  2. Who are the senior leaders you would like to ask for advice – aim for the best ones you have met.
  3. What is the role you aim for two jobs out – an approximation of a 5-year target.
  4. Which role openings do you expect to see near term – start to position yourself for the ones you want before they are listed.

Additional reading suggestions

The first time I applied this thinking I was coached to take input from the leadership team of our company to shape my own ideas. Thanks TM, it was one of the better things I have done to learn about where to focus my professional energy.

Aim to develop a T, π or #-shaped competence profile

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Businesses are putting increased focus on finding the right talent for their future challenges. A journey were most companies need to make a big leap. Starting from a combination of generalists and experts as the human backbone for their business. As the business complexity goes up and the need for innovation increase companies face a new reality. One where diverse teams with new competence profiles play a central role. And were you as an professional need to evolve to stay relevant.

What is T, π and #-shaped competence

Five main profiles can summarize the competence and experience profile of professionals:

  1. – Shaped, a generalist profile who now a little about everything but without deep skills in an area. Think professionals who often make large lateral moves between job areas.
  2. I – Shaped, having deep expertize in a narrow field of work. Think PhDs and gurus in your company.
  3. T- Shaped, a professional with deep technical or commercial competence. Combined with broad social and analytical capabilities.
  4. π – Shaped, a professional with both technical and commercial expertize and the above. or the capability to execute current and build new business at the same time.
  5. # – Shaped, true unicorns and the rock stars any organization need to stay competitive.

The three latter categories are what forward looking companies look for.  You need them when staffing diverse innovative teams.

Step up your game towards a T-Shaped Competence profile

The room for – Shaped generalists is shrinking fast. If this profile is your starting point you need to consider developing an expertize area that will be relevant in the future. Good news is there is many niches of future expertize that will be relevant. The difficult job is to pick the best one for you.

The I-Shaped specialists have often been groomed in silos. If you have been working a long time in the same field you are likely in this category. Especially if you consider your interfaces to adjacent organizations as stable.  You have an easier journey than your – shaped colleagues.  But you need to focus on how to create value with/through others rather than with own efforts.

The capabilities you should aim for is a T-shaped profile with one or several of the following:

  • A broad understanding of the market you operate in
  • A holistic view of how customers’ situation and their needs
  • Understanding of which questions to ask to understand how a given market/customer is unique from its peers.
  • Detailed knowledge about business enablers. Such as technologies, distribution channels, business models and marketing- & sales process.

The biggest challenge you are likely to see when moving from I-shape to T-shape will be your ability to collaborate.  where focus is on with experts in fields outside your own. In a market environment with high vulnerability, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). Expect a larger share of your work to be in grey zones rather than in crisp and clear colors.

Longer term goal of π- and #-shaped competence profile

The role of T-Shaped competence profile has grown in importance in innovation centric operations. Either in start-ups or in innovation departments of larger companies. But the T-Shape is now becoming a staple across lean organizations. And two new profiles represent the new targets for professionals with high career ambitions.

The π-Shaped competence profile refers to professionals who enjoy multiple expert status. Someone that excel in both the field of product development and sales. An excellent marketing professional with deep commercial skills. What make you qualify into this profile is how deep your skills are in different areas. Just having worked in varied areas is not enough. You have to match specialists in each area.

The #-Shaped competence profile is less defined. To me it is about a multi-layered broad capability. Your ability to work in different cultures, rather than a single market. Your experience from different industries, rather than a single industry or eco-system. And perhaps the most valuable capability. Your ability to influence across a chain of former silos to drive change and adaptability to new markets

Good questions to ask yourself

  1. What is my current competence profile – mapped to one of the 5 main types.
  2. Which areas represent my most valuable expertize assets – you need at least one are of deep expertize.
  3. Which new areas of expertize do my current business need the most – On the job training is the fastest way to grow new so focus on what you have within reach.
  4. How far down the development curve should I aim – set a high but realistic ambitions.
  5. Who could be my mentor to develop the profile I am for next – Learning from the best is not to cheat.

Additional reading suggestions

Company or people as digital advocates for your brand

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Businesses have realized the high potential of employee advocacy programs.  Your employees acting as a valuable marketing force using social media channels. Your employees’ friends, families and connections represent an untapped marketing potential. But how do Brands need to tune marketing to come across as people rather than a company when using employees as the channel.

Your customers are on social to engage with people

Many studies have pointed out people trust friends more than companies. So brads create employee advocacy programs to reach their employees friends, families and connections.

To leverage this higher level of trust you need to be selective in what to communicate in this channel. Messages resonating in broadcast marketing channels are different. The ones designed for employee advocacy programs are more personal in nature.

Skip talking about what you do and focus on how/why you can help

The transition from outbound to inbound marketing requires a shift from first to second tense. Talk less about we, I and what we do, and use messages centered around you to put customers in focus. You want your employees to come across as focusing on your customers rather than themselves.

Second us social channels to help your customers to learn. Communicate less about your product and how it works. More about your customers’ situation and why it makes sense for them to buy and use your products and services.

What is easy, but centered around you and your offering. Positioning messages towards competition are also more focused on you than your customer. When focusing on how and why centered issues you become more centered in your customers.

Write one liners to your customers from your employees

A personal tone works best for curated corporate feeds in employee advocacy programs. Expect most employees to relay the offered one liners as you publish them. Unless your one liners are exciting and personal your program will get a spam stamp.

See yourself as a headline editor for a newspaper. What would grab the audience attention. Your own social channels are a great testing ground to learn about what make your personal audience excited.

Low hanging fruits

Targeting a  low hanging fruits first to improve your employee advocacy program:

  • Skip links to press releases – outbound centric content don’t work well in inbound channels.
  • Change tense – from first to second tense, you want to come across as the one having your customers in mind.
  • Dedicate time to your headlines – word-smithing and numbers pay of well here.

Questions for you and your team

  1. What dominate our curated messages today – corporate preaching or valuable teaching.
  2. Do we promote what we do or how/why we can help – only the latter generate interest
  3. Are your one liners written to sound like crafted by an employee – the tone of voice must be personal.
  4. Is your program limited by content quality or employee reach – both are critical for success.
  5. Which content creation policy changes do you need to deploy first – all messages need to pass a headline test.

Additional reading suggestions

Build your executive capabilities along 3 trajectories

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If you aspire to build capabilities for executive roles you need to start early. Consider 3 main trajectories as your baseline. When mapping roles on these three trajectories some will allow you to grow in two dimensions at the same time. These three trajectories give you a sound platform for an executive career.

Grow the number of people you manage

A move from individual contributor to your first people management role is to manage a team of direct reports. Next challenge is to managing team of managers. The further up you grow the more multifaceted people leadership skills you need. Selecting team members, building teams and managing for performance are core skills. And each step of the ladder represents a significant step up in demand. Partly due to the demand, but even more so the narrowing pyramid of roles closer to the top. Consider mentoring early in your career. Staff development become a more and more central of your leadership skills.

Growth the budgets and sales quota you manage

The money management aspect is the second big trajectory. Your budgetary responsibilities grow with larger and larger roles. Detailed cost and sales opportunity tracking skills are key to run efficient operations. You excel by achieving an optimal balance between resource use and business outcomes. This aspect of your executive skills is coupled to how well you deal with pressure. Financial results and deadlines are table stakes. Aspire to pick up corporate governance skills as secretary as early as possible in your career. It is a valuable complement to feel the heat without being in the aim of fire.

Grow experience from different parts of the business

Executive positions require experience from different fields of the business experience. Sales is the most fundamental experience for executives. Customer facing roles develop a sense of urgency and foster an outside-in driven approach.  Marketing and pre-sales experience develop your skills in seeing markets beyond the deal at hand. Sourcing and supply chain roles develop your negotiation capabilities.  And how both sides of the deal table work. In service intensive businesses you need operations experience. In the same way as product houses promote a stint in product management or research and development areas. Last but not least you need experience from different countries. Business life requires executives to manage diversity well across professions and cultural borders.

Questions to ask yourself to develop in this area

  • What type of Executive positions should I aim for – your direction is likely set before 35.
  • Which people management skills should I focus on developing next – selecting and growing people is key to your success
  • How do I prove myself in steps for increasing commercial responsibilities – leverage both sales and sourcing roles to grow.
  • Which type of customer facing experience are central for my executive career development – B2B or B2C is a choice you do early
  • Which cultures do I want to work in – you quickly get an Americas, APAC or EMEA label and it can be hard to move in between.

Additional reading suggestions

Dynamic markets demand agile build of pursuit insights

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Agile development for dynamic markets cannot use classic product management processes. The increase in pace combined with a lack of initial clarity drive the need for a complementing process. This post will give you a few perspectives on what to attack as you try to bridge between a dynamic market and an agile development team. The perhaps most exciting art of the new realities most businesses face.

A typical starting point

Large businesses have well defined processes for dealing with market requirements. A process designed for rational and fact based decisions. The actual requirements are clear and hand-shaked with clients. The business quantifications is manageable. An aggregation of global demand can serve as a basis for portfolio decisions.

The classic product management process supports stable businesses well. But need a complement as you pursue dynamic and innovative segments of a market.

When you face a dynamic business scenario you need an agile product management process.  To bridge between customers and development teams. Centered around minimum viable products first and then rapid incremental additions.

All input is not available at the start of an opportunity pursuit. You will start design based on vague requirements. You will work with clients who are exploring options rather than having all facts on the table. At the same tie you will be guiding an agile development team. To bridge the gap you need to rethink the product management process in your company.

There are a few anchor points to consider for how to redefine your agile product management flow

  • Prepare for running two processes in parallel, one for completely new type of pursuits and one for proven businesses.
  • Build the agile product management process as an outside-in process. Designed around your lead and launch customer targets.
  • Work with your sales teams and clients about hypothesis of the needs. Rather than blank sheets of paper.
  • Take on the role of making a lot of thinking on your own. Especially when innovating in new opportunity fields.
  • Expect to learn daily at the front, and aim for a fast propagation back to your development teams.

Many small insights build-up the big picture

The devil lives in the details when you explore new types of opportunities. Your high level strategy and direction is easy to articulate. Your success depend on your ability to capture details. Each client conversation become a mine of valuable insights. Client interactions will generate a mix of information and insights, where the latter is hard to screen out early.

The customer facing teams need to excel in listening and capturing details. Expect your clients to be the source for the bulk of the insights your agile development team need.

Clear structure for documentation of pursuit insights

Blank papers represent a poor structure for capturing insights. Once you have a proven process you look for  specific things at different stages of a launch customer pursuit. One of your biggest assets is the structure of templates you put in place to guide the search for insights. With a clear structure in place covering your team captures ~10 most important areas of insights.

Daily build of your pursuit picture

The next significant different is the need for a daily build of customer insights. You need to secure the capturing and articulation of insights move at the same pace as the development. Classic product management processes praise clarity and accuracy over speed of sharing. An agile product management process is at the other extreme. Share from start but big picture and details.

The perhaps hardest part is to move from a territory of firm customer requirements to a gray world.  Where you build up the big picture of the pursuit in steps.

Evolve your insight repository

The last bit you need to review are the tools you use. Classic tools are not well suited.  Dropping tools completely and adopting outlook as insight depository is even worse.

The perhaps most important guideline is to design for easy entry and easy access for all team members. All the way from the customer fronting team to the development team. Aspire to adopt tools for a digital process with zero manual hand-overs.

Questions for you and your team

  1. Which product management processes and structures do we have in place today – build from where you are.
  2. Is your legacy process defined for a software centric world – expect the software part of your business to define the required pace.
  3. Which changes towards an agile product management process have you already implemented – driven by the needs from your agile development.
  4. What does an optimized opportunity insight flow look like for your business – streamlined from launch client to development teams.
  5. Which proven templates can you start with – Kick start the process with templates proven to work in reality.
  6. Which new tools do you need to introduce to digitize the flow – agile product management process have clear tool dependencies
  7. Which pursuits do we apply the new process on – use the new process selectively for the new areas where it make a real difference.

Additional reading suggestions

Low cost of learning is the enabler for fast moving markets

Young boy. Technology concept.

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In a world where the need for learning is increasing, and budgets are flat and declining, we have a new challenge. How to reduce the cost of learning in a material way. Both for the learning and insights creation end and the end where employees learn.

Low cost of learning

To survive in fast moving markets the reduction of cost of learning is essential.  You cannot control the pace of market development, but you can affect how fast you adapt. The more you need to learn to adapt, the lower the cost need to be to learn.

Cost measured as what it cost to gain the original insights. Cost of packaging insights in formats making it easy to consume. And cost for the next employee to access packaged insights. I use the word insights here to stress the importance of quality in the learning we will use as s base for teaching customers.

If I just knew what my company knows

Most companies don’t have a knowledge gap but a gap in sharing insights. You can assume all businesses today to be specialized in what they do. Specialist in a specialized company know what most sales people need to now.

A bigger problem is the fragmentation of knowledge. It often taken the combined insights from several specialists to get the full picture. It is common to see insights from different groups articulated and stored in different ways.   Finding and combining insights become a cost and time consuming effort.

Low cost at the production end

Your specialists are likely busy doing their day job. The job to extract specialists’ insights need to come at a low cost for the specialist. Since it is the deeper and more specialized insights we need, specialists and their situation is a good starting point.

Specialist are great on what they know, but often need support. Polishing structure and format for insights to fit the target audience. Writing longer documents cost a lot of time and effort for the author. A faster route to market is to use shorter videos. Video based insight sharing as a “Selfie movie recording” or a voice over to simple graph or picture is great. Insights that fit in a napkin is the poster child for low cost learning that is easy to transfer,

Low cost of learning at the sharing end

The second challenge of low cost learning is the cost of sharing the insights in your organization. A cost that can be both monetary for accessing the knowledge and time invested by the one learning. Low cost of learning, especially if sharing need to reach far or propagate fast, need to be in digital format.

In sales organizations the cost of invested time varies. The cost is high for longer sessions, tied to a specific time during the day, targeting your employees up time on a PC/Laptop. The cost is low for shorter sessions, available on demand and accessible on downtime via a mobile or tablet. The latter example represent the direction pursued by learnings optimized for low cost.

Questions for you and your team

  1. How do we capture vital insights today – how we document them, where we find them and how we share them,
  2. Who are our most valuable specialists – our internal source of insights,
  3. How do we package the insights from our specialists today – has to be efficient for both sender and receiver.
  4. Where do we have a low cost challenge, at the production, sharing or both ends. – focus on starting where you see the largest short-time pay-back.
  5. How can we crowd source insights from our specialist at zero production costs – a reality today for video recording savvy specialists.
  6. Which distribution vehicle is best suited for our low cost learnings – amount will grow fast.

Additional reading suggestions

Coach team frequently on reason and impact to drive change

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Leading change in an organization is about changing behaviors of both teams and individuals. At first leaders see a move from good to great. In reality it is about supporting your team to see reason and impact relationships. To succeed you need to coach both your team and individuals frequently.

Large change come in many small steps 

Change is hard and expect leading change to be a demanding task. Even if everybody want change, expect nobody wanting to change. Even if you have great reasons for the change, and have laid out an attractive path, your team need support.

Your team need support to start the change journey. Set goals for yourself as a leader that force you to make small visible changes straight out of the gate. Raise the bar weekly or monthly and talk about small achievements. When you as a leader test new things you encourage your team to act. Initial focus on small steps and activities create a sense of shift.

Your changes and the changes done early by team members signal to the whole team your journey has started. In the early stages you have varying commitment and contribution levels across the team. Your task is to support all team members to raise their game.

Individual coaching 

Coaching can help you to increase the capabilities of each member in your team. When you dedicate time to team members you get multiple benefits. You understand  how each team member has responded to the change agenda. You see who is leading and who is lagging in making individual contributions.

Your team is likely divided between members who see individual coaching as both positive and negative. Positive when a person see coaching as a way to change their own behavior to contribute to the team change. Negative when a person expect team to change without personal changes.

The outcome of coaching is dependent on a mutual commitment. You as a leader need to invest significant time with each individual. All individuals need to be on board on the positive value of coaching. With the aspiration to accelerate the change in the team through small contributions from all team members.

Focus on cause and impact without judgements

A fundamental principle of coaching is to stay away from judgements. Your role as a coach is to stick to facts for all behaviors you see in your team. Facts where you look for causes and their associated impact.

You want to support your team in delivering predictable impacts. If we do A, the result become X. If we do B, the result become Y. Team members with a clear view on the results delivered with different actions can deliver with high predictability.

It is very easy to fall in the trap of judging right from wrong, or better from worse. But all judgments are more coupled to subjective views on desired outcomes than an objective perspective. Your primary mission is to increase predictability of outcomes from actions taken by members in your team.

We all take coaching differently

Be prepared to tailor your coaching approach to each individual. Some members in your team will resist to take coaching, so start with others first. Some want and need weekly coaching, for others a bi-weekly schedule work better.

Based on team members previous experience of coaching results will differ. You might need to advance your coaching capabilities before you add value to all team members.

Don’t make coaching and obligation. It is OK to perform without taking coaching. Further it is OK to perform and change in the target direction without coaching. But be firm on the expectations you have on performance and change. And offer your team members flexibility on when to start and how frequent to coach.

Questions for you and your team 

  1. What is your team members’ receptiveness to individual coaching – Insights on who are Positive, Neutral or Negative guide your initial efforts.
  2. What is the optimal coaching cadence for each team members – expect it to vary and be flexible initially.
  3. What are the behaviors you want to change as a team –  focus on similar areas to maximize impact of change across the team.
  4. What are individual coaching insights the whole team can benefit from – expect issues and progress to vary but look for patterns in applicability.
  5. How do you as a leader need to develop your coaching skills to add value to all – your continuous change is key to drive continuous change in your team.
  6. Who do you have as a role model when coaching your team – Sports coaches are great example of coaches driving change for a team by being specific to individuals.

Additional readings 

Develop the skills to manage with multiple shades of grey

Sunglasses

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Numbers guide controller’s and their professions. Established laws of physics and equations define the Science, Technology Math and Engineering professions. A colorful world with clear facts as base for decisions. But the reality today for sales and business professional is different. A reality with large amounts of gray shades and unclarity to navigate across.

This blog-post is not about managing in the outskirts of ethical correctness. It is about the excitement about managing without all facts on the table in a world that is hard to predict.

The gray reality origin

The world has become more complex. B2B sales has shifted from selling solution that work to deliver solutions delivering outcomes. Solutions development take place in an iterative way with frequent customer feedback loops. The number of factors shaping the decision are increasing. At the same time the number of decision makers is going up to deal with the increasing complexity.

When we add up all these factors we can conclude decisions are less green and red in nature. A transition from clear decision points to decisions taken in steps. More decisions taken on vaguer grounds. Even if the underlying data is clear the combined picture can be difficult to interpret. And the ability to manage and take decision in this gray world is central for business and sales leaders.

Triggers to move from clear colors into gray territory

The reasons to consider evolving with the demands from your business varies. The following business shifts can push you from clear colors into a world with multiple shades of gray:

  • From product to solution sales
  • From stable markets through market inflection points
  • From waterfall to iterative development
  • From answers to question based leadership
  • From crisp business cases to clear business canvases.
  • From organizational silos to cross functional teams.

Question is king

The most difficult part to deal with is our pride about our knowledge and how we define our knowledge. We tend to believe we know more when we have more answers. And answers that are clear. But the new reality is more and more shaped by the old saying “When everything is clear the window of opportunity is gone”.

Our knowledge value is shifting from knowing the best answers to knowing the best questions. Questions that are relevant for our clients as well as our own business. Questions that are relevant in different stages of an engagement. Questions allowing us to prioritize agile development. And last but not least questions for the feedback loop to secure we adapt to micro shifts in market and customer directions.

Don’t expect clients to have all answers. Don’t wait until answers are clear. Start with questions and expect an iterative journey.

How to track progress as you move between shades

It is harder to see progress when you move between gray shades. An art critical to develop as a core skill.

Group questions in related logical buckets. The buckets might not be clear from start but should be visible after your first projects. Once answers in a bucket of questions are clear you can tick of that bucket.

Map buckets in a client decision journey. Projects in gray territory is about building insights and clarity for both you and your client. By the end of the day your task is to bring your client through a gray zone to a points where they can take interim steps towards final decision.

The first project/s for a new opportunity is extra gray in nature. For coming projects it is important to extract knowledge from the first project. To reduce replication costs and secure continues progress rather than re-starts.

Questions for you and your team

  1. What is driving the need to operate and manage in shades of gray – aspire to understand which of the root causes that is central for your team.
  2. Is the transition from colorful to gray permanent or temporary – the more permanent the more you need ways of working for a gray reality.
  3. Who is best in our team at managing uncertainty – perhaps the most valuable mentor for the rest of the team.
  4. Which questions are important for the task at hand – good questions is a starting point.
  5. How do we best track progress in a gray world – traffic lights don’t fit iterative progress in dynamic environments.

Additional reading suggestions

The Solution – Benefits offered by pursuing the new way

solution concept

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A common sales trap is where to center your time with clients. It is easy to talk about what a solution do, rather than the so what aspect of what it mean to your client. And no what, dealing with required actions. The sixth step of commercial teaching address the benefits a solution delivers.

Capture Created Context

Your work up to this point has focused on creating a new context. A context where you are better at delivering than any of your competitors. By defining redefining the context you have created a better fit for your proposition. And created a scenario where the benefits you offer are hard to match. But to win your clients mind you need to articulate the benefits your solution offer.

Bring Best Business Benefits

The most interesting aspect of your solution are the business benefits your client will get. Your focus on benefits and concrete measures for improvements is what finally win over customers.

The best business benefits

  • Have a strong connection to the most important pains and gains.
  • have crisp values for each benefit
  • represent 2-4 crucial aspects

Smart Solution Scope

The best benefits come from solution scoped as close as possible to your client’s needs. Not what your client desire but your insights about what they need. A tricky balancing act.

Be prepared to take risk in the scoping. Your scope need to deliver the benefits you are promoting, without excess cost. Exploit values with low cost vigorously. Be careful with how you offer parts associated with high cost.

At this stage you need to clear view of the underlying characteristics delivering the benefit you promote.

Prepare for Powering Proposals Past Procurement

Even if you are successful in influencing clients, expect a competitive bidding process. A process where a professional procurement team will drive the agenda

The major differences you can expect

  • a clear agenda to reduce prices
  • reversing to a context where many vendors can play
  • scope and volume increases designed to push prices

At first you might feel all your efforts are wasted when the opportunity goes into competitive bidding. But if the path you have laid out is strong, business owners have influence procurement to define the proposal along your path. Second you have more insights than competition about your client’s business drivers. Third the steps in a competitive bidding allow for influencing.

Questions for you and your team

  1. Do we have a clear view of the benefits of our solution – skip what the solution is and focus on what it does.
  2. Have we articulated the benefits in monetary terms – decision makers are more focused on business outcomes than ever.
  3. Can our solution deliver on the promised benefits – marketing is great but your pitch can be delivered in reality too.
  4. Have we scoped our proposition in the best possible way – smart scoping is key to current and repeat business.

Additional reading suggestions

The New Way – Call for action around different approach

Driving on empty asphalt road at idyllic sunny day

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The fifth step in commercial teaching is about providing customer with a new alternative. By articulating a cross-road and the nature of your alternative. Alternatives trigger choices and new choices trigger actions.

Creative Cross-road Construction

To build momentum for action down a new path you have already built a sense of urgency for change. You need to assure the client see a cross road. A choice built around an important business issue. Keep your mind focused on the cross road as your client would see it from their business’ perspective.

The right choice representing what you think is best and right for your client. It does not need to be very different as long as it a big enough difference to make the old path questionable.

The left or wrong choice representing the current path. This is the path you are challenging and at this stage it is a path well understood by your client and you.

Reap Right Road Rewards

The right road need to be so attractive it is worth switching to. The earlier you can get into the client buying process the better. The later you try to change the bigger the risk the old path is too entrenched in key stake-holder’s minds.

Aspire to articulate 3 strong characteristics of the right path. Test these towards 1 strong and 2 weak for the old path. Your strongest characteristics need to be better than the best of the alternative. But to win you need to show significant differences in 1 to 2 additional points. By picking 3 clear battles you have good odds to win owner clients to your new way.

Actions Advancing Alternative Agenda

At this stage it is crucial to introduce actions that help clients start moving from the old path to the new way.

Actions to establish the new way in their minds.

Expect your client to need help in defining the actions required. A delicate subject where a smorgasbord of possible actions or a few leave room for your clients’ detailed decision.

Good questions for you and your team

  1. What is the central business issue defining the cross-road – aim to put yourself in your customers shoes.
  2. What do we consider to be the right choice – outlining the best option for your client.
  3. Which 3 strong characteristics define our proposal – facts backing up the superiority of our way.
  4. What do we know about the details of the old path – crucial to understand what you position towards.
  5. What are the 1 strong point and 2 weak ones we play against – a good frame to craft a superior way.
  6. Which actions would we consider if we were in our client’s shoes – expect clients to need support in seeing required actions.

Addition reading suggestions