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

The Emotional Impact – move client to inside your story

Riven heart

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Business decisions in a stable world is to a large extent fact based. As we move into a dynamic world emotions play a bigger role. The fourth step of commercial teaching is about creating emotional impact. A task about making your client’s see themselves in your story.

Enable Emotional Experience

Asking as you talk to client’s about your story they will remain on the outside looking in. The first challenge you need to bridge is to secure your story resonates with your client. You need to make the see what you see.

The second challenge relate to s client agreeing to what you see, but swing their reality in a different way. You need to support your client to emotionally connect to your view up to a point where they make your view their map.

This transition is an emotional journey with a eureka moment followed by a buy-in for your view of the world. The ultimate goal with this step is to move client’s mind into a new territory and make their minds stay there.

Situation Story Scintillate Stakeholders

A story that ignite emotions among key stakeholders is hard to create. At a high level it is hard to offer revolutionary or disruptive alternatives. But as the devil is in the details this is were we search for the excitement triggers. Think Tabasco sauce rather than a ground breaking marinade.

The best excitement triggers connect to the gains and pains addressed in your warmer. As much as the warmer us opening up this stage is about to prepare for action.

Coming out from this stage your client’s is excited and a crisp opportunity context.

Limit Loneliness Likelihood

Clients who feel a strong connection to others with similar problems are comfortable to take actions. Clients who feel their challenges are unique see risk and are more cautions. Especially if they see competitors prioritizing other initiatives. Triggering cautiousness and rethinking.

Once you can convey a message your clients share a given situation with their peers you reduce their concern. A comfort level important to enable actions.

Support Stomach Shifts

Your contribution is to support recommenders and approvers to follow new instincts. Your facts and context descriptions allow for stomachs and gut feelings to work in a new direction you are suggesting.

When reaching this point you have convinced your client change us required. Up until this point you have been focused on talking with your client about your client only.

The open questions at this point is where shall we go from this cross road and how much better can we expect it to be.

Questions for you and your team

  1. What can we build the emotional experience around – our base hypothesis.
  2. Which emotional triggers have we identified – look for small sparks rather than big fires.
  3. Which clients can we refer to and give examples from – to secure your client don’t feel alone.
  4. How much to we aspire to move out client’s mind – sometimes we need to be prepared to work with small but significant shifts,
  5. Which gaps do we have in our emotional impact section – if not taking us all the way through we need to close the gaps quickly.
  6. Who can we detect if we have been successful in creating an emotional impact – a game played on the body language turf.

Additional reading suggestions

The Rational Drowning – relevant numbers move minds

100 euro banknote drowing in sea, close-up

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The third step in the commercial teaching model laid out by CEB is about leveraging numbers to move client’s minds. Numbers have always been important in business cases but the number game is different. Clients don’t lack data but love to find more relevant and more actionable numbers to build their decisions around.

Your clients’ new reality

In the new data driven world clients need numbers to back up their investment cases. The implementation options they recommend need to meet selection criteria defined by solid numbers.

Classic TCO models required a stable foundation in the form of solid revenues to be relevant. This a rare reality for most businesses today. This makes classic parameters of less value and triggers a search for new ones.

The search for new parameters and high quality data points is a multi-facetted challenge. First find good parameters, second build great models and finally find numbers to use.

Leverage numbers to win client mindshare

As a sales challenger you have the opportunity to increase your influence the process with numbers. New parameters your client has not been using up to date. Parameters coming in play for the solution you plan to promote.

The best stories and insights you can deliver to your clients come with the 0-9 keys on the top of your key board. Without a number a marketing statement or claim becomes empty.

Offer a larger pool of numbers to find resonating ones

The perhaps most difficult part to define are the parameters in play for your opportunity. Explore a larger pool of parameters in the early stages and listen for the ones making most sense to your client.

By offering many rational parameters you signal you are business focused and have done your research. Leading indicators allowing you to predict future business outcomes have the highest value. The art of finding relevant lead measures for a given opportunity is a real test.

Any business development activity in a new area should include exploring the underlying parameters.  The critical foundation for your business opportunity. Expect this to be a tedious job requiring a lot of efforts where lead time rather than work time generate results.

Ones you have defined a set of suitable parameters you need to find credible data points. A good number challenge your client’s current thinking. A good number also inspire your client to take actions now. There are no trends or TLAs in the world that can achieve the same impact as a great business parameter and a creative number to it.

Numbers drive follow-up sessions

By putting stakes in the ground around specific numbers you trigger thought processes. You don’t want your clients to agree to all your numbers from start. You want the numbers to trigger ideas. Your want to come back to discuss and refine both parameters and numbers. This part of the pursuit define the value you deliver as a challenger sales professional.

Questions for you and your team

  1. What are the super set of business parameters in play for the opportunity at hand – look broad from start.
  2. Which parameters have a business outcome correlation – what your clients ultimately look for.
  3. Which parameters can you back up with crisp and credible numbers – the numbers need to be clear and credible.
  4. Do you have exciting enough numbers to move your clients mind – just stating common knowledge wisdoms is not enough.
  5. What are the three most relevant numbers to focus your marketing around – you want flagship numbers lifting your story.
  6. Which parameters define how fast your business can grow – of critical interest to both you and your client.

Suggested additional reading 

The Reframe – provide tailored business predictions

Future technologies

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The second step of the commercial teaching framework addresses how to reframe an opportunity. It is hard to influence an opportunity in a well-defined frame. One of your biggest tasks is to provide a superior frame for the opportunity at hand.

Fulfill ask or deliver beyond expectations

Sales have been about fulfilling customer expectations and needs. This task is becoming more difficult in uncertain markets. Not only for you as a seller but for the buyer as well. This situation opens up a new opportunity to start influencing your clients mind earlier than in the past.

Set your ambition to deliver beyond your client’s expectations. This journey starts by defining a better frame for the opportunity. A frame that is better than your client’s original frame. As well as being better suited by jour agenda. The effort of reframing the opportunity and getting your client to buy in is hard. It only makes sense if you are better to deliver on the promises of the new frame.

The key elements to exploit are to focus on business aspects and aspects that are specific to your client’s situation. Non business aspects and generic situation descriptions is not enough as a foundation for a new frame.

What make reframes possible

To provide a better reframe you need to focus on new things. Underestimated problems result in a too low priority by the client. Unrecognized drivers can change the direction. Unrecognized problems and alter the problem box.

When defining a new frame you are dependent on new perspectives.  Not yet known to your client, or shared among all your client’s stakeholders.

Focus on specific business insights to make predictions of the future

Build the new frame on business insights tailored to your client’s needs. Insights derived from your insights about your clients’ expected gains and existing pains. Global insights applied and focused towards the most important gains and pains.

The most valuable insights are the ones built up by number and a hypothesis on what you transform from and what you can aspire to reach. The numbers are vital in turning statements into action.

An essential part of your task is to support your client in predicting the future. The best insights you can provide are the ones predicting the future for your client. Predictions of the future business outcome of actions you take today.

The art of moving your client’s mind

As CEB laid out in the initial model your task as a challenger is to move your client’s mind beyond their original thinking. A task that is tricky for individuals and get s more complicated as you target a buyer group.

To move their mind you need to be clear over where they are and how  you want to reframe their view of the future.

Your fact passed business predictions is your tool. Each prediction will be them closer to your end-goal for the reframe. And together they will be strong enough to mover your customers minds. Be aware of the vast some of your customers are best influenced by words, others by numbers and some by visuals. To successfully move their minds you most likely need to provide a reframe with elements from all three formats.

Questions for you and your team

  1. Which gains and pains are in play for the opportunity at hand – a reframe effort without a clear view of gains and pains is hard to pull off.
  2. What is unknown to your client – look for unonown problems, underestimated problems and unrecognized drivers.
  3. Which business insights do we have to map towards gains and pains – leverage you whole customer base when searching
  4. How can we make the insights specific for the client at hand – each client’s situation is unique and only part of the
  5. Which business predictions can we articulate – based on action taken now delivering a given business result in the future

Suggested additional reading

The Warmer – You need great rubber to hit client roads

Purple #26 - IMG_5863 Cropped

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The first commercial teaching step is about establishing comfort and confidence. Instead of cold talk you need a warmer built around insights to frame your client meeting. Take the opportunity to make this a crisp element supporting the end goal of helping your client to take desired actions.

Skip sweeping trends

Sharing market trends is a safe choice for the early stages of a client interaction. These trends are often high level and generic so they are “right” and fit with any client’s view of the world. Trend descriptions rarely bring insights which reduce their value to your client.

It is hard to take presentations of trends beyond the obvious “what” a trend is about to the critical “so what” and “now what”. As a commercial teacher your aspirations is to help your client to see why a trend is important. from their perspective and in a way where they take actions.

Bring outside-in perspectives

Start with an outside in perspective on your client’s business. You are not in the room to learn from your client. You are there to bring insights to the table.  You need to do your homework and find an outside in perspective on your clients business. Not for all but for the opportunity at hand you plan to address and influence.

Inspire customers to act now

You want to influence your client to take actions now. With that agenda you need to focus from start on insights that can trigger actions sooner rather than later. Skip all statements that are true but where the opportunity trigger is further out in time. Aim to aspire to areas of the nature created by record lottery stakes. “This week we have a record pool so buy a lottery ticket to be part of the draw”. Similar observations exists in most businesses.

Expected customer gains

A natural point to start is the positive gains your offering can create. By articulating the gains that shape the opportunity you start on a positive note. Focus on the expected outcomes rather than what create the gains. 2-3 gains is enough in your warmer.

Elimination of existing pains

Even though gains are great, it is the pains that most likely will trigger actions. A vital prioritization for any business is to decide which pains to support. By articulating your client’s pains you show and understanding of their business. The pains get even clearer when you articulate them with a number on the parameters in play. 3-5 pains is enough.

Questions for you and your team

  1. What do we know about our client’s needs – focus warming around their hot buttons on both pains and gains.
  2. Which major market trends force your client to take action now – select the topics that are most relevant triggers today.
  3. How much ice do we need to break through to establish a trustful communication – without trust the rest of your meeting will be tough.
  4. How do we best find more gains and pains – be humble in searching for gains and pains beyond your initial analysis.

Additional reading suggestions

Prioritized business expansion across a portfolio of opportunities

Checkered Background In Perspective

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On larger business transformation journeys it is hard to prioritize across multiple opportunities. The challenge increases when you pursue these opportunities across a diverse customer base. A simple chess board can support you in planning your expansion strategy.

Nail it before you scale it

What is in play here is an expansion of the generic challenge of how to develop one opportunity. A journey from an idea, via first customer to a successful ramp-up. The new element here is to manage a portfolio of opportunities. The end goal is the same for each opportunity. But the complexity grows when you are handling multiple new opportunities at the same time.

The issues you are likely facing are

  • Which customer/s you will target first for each new opportunity
  • How to secure that you don’t have too many new opportunities coupled to the same customer
  • How many new opportunities you can develop in parallel with available resources
  • How different the customer buying process is for these new opportunities compared to your core business
  • Finding the right balance between initial direct or sell-with channel and when to scale with channels.

Map out the opportunities and customers on a chess board

A common mistake is to rely on a combined funnel for all opportunities. One where you have both the opportunities you need to nail first and the ones representing scaling the business. This merged funnel can give you wrong perspectives on the resource needs when you have the two types in one funnel. Further it is not clear that the biggest opportunities are the ones you should aim for first.  They can be hard to streamline your execution flow around.

The proposed way forward is to limit your portfolio of business expansion opportunities.  Both in the opportunity and the customer dimension. A chess board with 8×8 fields represents the upper limit of what most organizations can master at the same time. To get a grip of the portfolio of opportunities you can create a two dimensional structure as follows

  1. One opportunity dimension. Aspire to label up to 8 customer opportunities rather than solutions or products you sell. Think about each opportunity as something applicable to more than ones customer. Your end-goal is to map out an opportunity where you both can win the first deal and as soon as possible to replicate success for similar opportunities.
  2. One customer dimension. Aspire to label up to 8 customers. Where each customer can be either the launch customer for a new opportunity. Or be a customer where you have good relations and can replicate successes from launch customers.

The simplest and fastest ways to scale a new business is to maximize traction across limited base of customers and opportunity types with limited resources.

Framing of opportunities

It is easy to believe each opportunity and customer combination to be unique. But business expansion planning is about framing opportunities in a way suiting both the launch customer and the expansion customers.

A suitable level of opportunity mapping is for a frame where need, solution and business model are similar. Your frame gets even stronger when you can articulate how success with one opportunity can bridge to another opportunity type in your portfolio. The work with the launch customers builds a solid understanding of insights for a given opportunity.

One aspect of the framing is the channel aspect. Even if an opportunity can be addressed via channels the initial opportunity will likely be of a direct nature.

Launch customers for each opportunity

For new opportunity types you expect a steep learning curve in the initial pursuit. The resources required to nail a new opportunity is high.  Needs, offering and business model aspects all need to be nailed. Launch customers can be of different types. A customer who is buying large volumes on their own. A customer who represents a high value as reference customer. A fast moving customer who takes you fast to your first customer reference. Or friendly customers close to home base. The launch customer for a given opportunity can be of all 4 types.  Expect the optimal type to vary across opportunities.

Even though you are resource constrained in early stages it is important to develop an idea of cross pollination potential.

Initial funnel for scaling in customer and channel dimension

In parallel with the work of succeeding with the launch customer you need to prepare for the scaling phase. The first handful of customers you can scale with. The opportunities where you plan to scale with indirect channels. Your go to market model need to include these initial scaling opportunities. Once you have passed the initial scaling phase you can move the opportunities into the business as usual bucket.

Few organizations business expansion ambitions that do not fit on a chess board

The reason for picking a chessboard as your frame of reference is multi-facetted. Few organizations have the potential to drive more than 8 new types of opportunities in parallel. Few organizations have close enough relations to 8 launch customer candidates at the same time. When concentrating to less than 8×8 customer/opportunity combinations you push  to maximize initial footprint. Such a strategy is likely to pay off well as a base for further expansions

Questions for you and your team

  1. Have we articulated the business expansion opportunities clearly – start from an outside-in perspective on each opportunity
  2. What are the commonalities across customers for a given opportunity – start with how you view needs, offerings and business models.
  3. How many new type of opportunities can we drive in parallel – Expect the first opportunity to nail to be most resource intensive and resources to be the limiting factors.
  4. What does the customer buying process look like to each opportunity type – expect new opportunities to be procured in new ways that your classic offerings.

Additional reading suggestions

Iterative learning – sales situation and needs, solution and business model

Be better 3rd degree

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In the past we defined needs, solutions and pricing in sequential flows. A vital enabler was market stability over quarterly or yearly horizons.  In fast paced markets we need to think and work in a more iterative way with all three areas in parallel.

The old sequential model and its shortcomings

Our previous assumption was customers had all answers and with a consultative selling we could figure it all out. We asked them about their needs. We tailored solutions to their request.  We addressed the pre-defined budget with a TCO or FCF centric business proposal. This work when there is a low level of change in the market with no/low business risks.

The old sequential model has limitation in volatile markets with a higher degree of change. Businesses face larger businesses risks due to changes in the market.  Digital is making inroads in all businesses. The importance of Software and service centric business logic is growing fast.

Transition to an iterative development model

The first aspect to address is the move from a sequential to an iterative development model. A model with parallel development of customer need, solution and business model.

In the past we had firm market and customer requirements from start. Now we can expect to start from a vaguer picture of the market and customer needs. Since we deal with both technology and business model innovations at the same time, we need to take both forward together. A technical innovation in prototype stage is often the starting point for engaging with the customer.

From that point an onwards we need to iterative our understanding in all three dimensions.   Across all three fields we will start with hypothesis that we gradually refine.  Until we reach a point where need, solution, business models and price-points meet the needs.

Refine understanding of customer situation and needs

Innovators need to define both the product and the commercial requirements for their offering. The challenge for the product requirements is to define the minimum viable product. An journey more about eliminating what you don’t need for initial market launch and feedback.  A goal you should not confuse with minimizing the R&D required for the first product prototype.

Your prototype is your ticket to play.  The most important aspect of the prototype is to enable conversations on how to guide the next development phase.

The second aspect is about understanding of the business situation and needs to address. A clear and crisp view of the expected business gains and the current paint points is the ultimate target. It is more important for innovators to understand how to eliminate customers pains than how the create gains.

A good recipe for a strong offering is 2-4 pain relievers and 1-3 gain creators. Then you are set-up for rapid success in the market.

Solution-smithing is growing more complex

The solutions offerings for the new world are becoming more complex. The offering is likely to involve both your own parts as well as third party additions. Your offering is part of a broader eco-system with components in your solution as well as leverage points in your go to market model. Beyond the pure product content professional services might represent a part of your offering. The solution iterations will take you from an early hypothesis to final offering. Your challenge is a bit like combining, dough, tomato sauce and toppings into an attractive pizza offering.

Iterations are vital to get the mix of product and services right as well as you long term mix of own and third party elements.

Business model innovations before you get to a price

The business channel for new innovations is both about business models and price levels. You need to address both aspect to maximize customer and share holder value.

Expect a key part of market shifts to be business related.  You own the task to capture the full potential of your offering with the best business model. In some cases the business model innovations is the key to market adoption.  . In other cases it is about strengthening your position in the value chain and maximizing your share of the value

Your insights on business gains and pains lay the foundation for the pain relievers and gain creators your model will build on. The icing on the take is to run your business model into priced offerings.

Set up your organization for iterative learnings

How fast you can learn and implement learnings define your innovation speed. The cost of acquiring this learning represents a large part of the cost in bringing new offerings to market. Learning too little too late with too many people is costly from both a cost and revenue perspective. The tools you apply across the three fields and how you refined your growing insights is a central part of the new process. It has to be iterative and learning at the same time.

Questions for you and your team

  1. Is our current DNA to develop new business in an sequential or a iterative model – most companies has a heritage in one of the two
  2. What changes do you need to implement to reach an iterative business development flow – this is table stakes for start-ups
  3. Who can mentor the team in making a transition from a the sequential to an iterative model – expect your team to need support in the transition
  4. Who is best in your team to set-up a hypothesis for needs, solutions and business model – a critical resource in the team
  5. How can you secure needs and business model is in alfa stage when your offering is in alfa – timing is a key parameter to work with when aligning the three areas.
  6. How do you capture and structure the learnings as an integrated part of your business development process – mails without tools will not cut it.

Inspirational reading

You can expect to start with vague information on the customers’ business needs. At the same time a solid understanding of the business need  and consolidation of multiple customers’ needs is the foundation for your solution development and your business model creation work.

Commercial teaching change the way you influence clients

Business colleagues working together and analyzing financial figures

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B2B sales has for a long time been about offering a product or solution with a better value than your competitors. This reality created inside-out driven propositions centered around the offering and its unique differentiators. Clients now struggle more with the understanding complex business contexts. And how solutions can solve their specific business needs in contexts. This drive demand for new sales approaches.

Vendor offerings with unique differentiators

Building engagements around offerings has become challenging.  The challenge is multi-facetted. The customer needs are less clear at the start of the engagement, pushing out solution choices in time. The needs are more business centric in nature. Where the buyer wants to buy business outcomes rather than solutions and products. And buyers’ needs are more unique calling for vendors to engage deeper on specific.

All these factors combined change the vendor role from selling to become more helping and educating. The essence is about educating client’s about their own business rather than vendors offerings.

Commercial teaching explained

CEB have conducted research of 6000 sales professionals in 900 companies after the market collapse in 2008. Among high performers an number of aspects stood out.

The best performers, “Challengers”, have an ability challenge clients beyond their own perspectives. Challengers differentiate themselves by using “Commercial Teaching” as a way of interacting with clients. The essence of commercial teaching is about:

  • An outside-in perspective starting with client’s situation
  • Focus on business/commercial aspects of the client’s business.
  • Specific and tailored to the unique needs of a client.
  • Vendors teaching clients about superior options rather than just following fulfilling client requests.
  • Sales and marketing combined into one holistic approach.
  • First build a case for taking action and leading towards vendor/solution preferences in a later phase.

Commercial teaching represents a big step for sales professionals. To execute well you need to understand your client’s business situation better than your client do. You also need to turn specific business needs into tangible outcomes your solutions can support. Perhaps one of the bigger sales development journeys you will go through in your career.

The DNA of a Commercial Teaching session

CEB has broken down the flow for Commercial Teaching into 6 distinct steps. With a clear structure you can expect a faster understanding of the concept and a faster path to implementation. The 6 steps start close to your clients and finish with solution benefits:

  1. The warmer – show your understanding of the super-set of customer needs shaping the opportunity. go beyond cold talk and make clients warm about your understanding of their needs.
  2. The re-frame – a specific business centric view of an new frame for your client’s challenges. Your primary value is to teach them something new about their own business. Disagreement is not a bad thing her. It is the nature of the conversation.
  3. The rationale drowning – Your client need input on the numbers driving the opportunity. Replace your market descriptions and trend articulations and with crisp numbers. Focus on the concrete business parameters in play. Commercial teaching is number driven.
  4. Emotional impact – Business decisions today are based on predictions about the future. Blended with emotions created by numbers. Your task is to make your client to see themselves in your story and to get emotional.
  5. The new way – The purpose of commercial teaching is to make customers pursue a different route. At this stage you need to help your client to see the critical choices between option A as a better alternative than plan B.
  6. The solution benefits – Less on how the solution work. More about which benefits and business outcomes your client can expect.

Commercial teaching in these 6 steps is a framework used for initial engagements as well as deeper dives. By focusing on 6 anchor points you can iterate and come back during the journey. This is the first in a series of blog-posts going deeper into how you can work with each step.

Questions for you and your team

  1. How much do we think we need to change our go-to-market model – The commercial teaching framework might be a too big step for your team. The foundation is a clear set of business insights to start with.
  2. Which parts of the Commercial Teaching idea resonates with our sales challenges – see it as a framework to choose from. It is not templates leading to instant success.
  3. Which sales professionals can be candidates to run a pilot – target Challenger Sales profiles as the model do not fit all.
  4. How large gaps do we need to close in understanding specific business needs for our client’s – expect this to be the single biggest success factor.

Additional reading suggestions

Good questions for great recruitment screenings

team of successful business people having a meeting in executive

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Managers are facing many new realities in recruiting the best people to their team. A large share of the process to attract and screen candidates takes place in the digital domain. Businesses are changing faster than ever and part of the change is to recruit for completely new roles.

Interview processes have at least two stages. Peer reviews can be as important as the interview with the hiring manager. A portfolio of key questions is a great support for getting the initial screening right.

Interpretation of the role at hand

An anchor point for a successful recruitment is a well-defined role and a matching candidate. As an interviewer in the first round you want to understand how well the pre-screening has worked.

By asking the candidate how they interpret the role you can find interesting perspectives. How well do they understand the role? Have they paid attention to details in the role definition? Is this the role that trigger their interest, or do they see this as an entry point to what they want?

You want someone who understands the role well enough to be both capable and excited.

Mapping of Curriculum Vitae / Resume experiences to new role

A Curriculum Vitae (CV) today is evolving throughout your career and available on LinkedIn.  Expect to see well-polished articulations of accomplishments.  Your role as a hiring  manager is to dig behind the cover.

The most valuable part of a candidate conversation is about how the CV/Resume relates to the future and specifics.

Which part of the CV relates to your biggest professional successes? You want to find winners. Which experiences in your CV are essential for the role at hand? You want strong capabilities to build from. Which of the bold written statements can be told face-to-face? Many wordings on a CV can come across in interviewes as exaggerations. Which gaps do you need to close fast? You want candidates with a good self-insight and aspiration to grow.

Don’t be satisfied with just a desk check of the CV.

5-year ambition

You recruit to fill a gap now and potential to develop further. An important part of the potential for a given candidate is tied to their ambition. Candidates with a clear 5-year agenda have high ambitions for their personal development.

A conversation with a 5-year horizon can cover a variety of angles. In which fields do you see yourself working? Signaling focus or desire to move around? What are your management aspirations? You want to identify strong individual contributors as well as management and leadership talent. How far do you want to go and grow? You want to know if a candidate is at or below potential. What is driving your aspirations around sales and client facing roles? You want to see if the drive is by desire or perceived value on CV.

Your best candidates have clear and tangible potential in a 5 year perspective.

Your best friend’s opinion

In a professional role you get to know and use a fraction of a candidate’s capabilities. Perhaps as little as 60 degrees of a complete circle of what they can do. In a world that requires more diverse capabilities in your team you need to look outside the obvious. Look for matches with the role description outside the CV too. .

By asking candidates about their best friend’s opinion you can find honest personality opinions. This is a question that is hard to rehearse and tend to bring out honest opinions. What would your best friend say about you if used as a reference? Your candidate’s best friends know him/her best. What are the difference between your professional image and your private profile? If these two worlds are too far apart you might only be able to leverage the professional one.

You look for candidates where professional and private capabilities support each other. The mix add largest value add to your team.

Your candidates question for you

Always leave time open at the end for questions to you. The type of questions a candidate ask can tell you as much as their answers to your questions.

Questions for further clarifications of the role signal interest to prepare better. Questions on qualification criteria and selection process signals the candidate push to get selected. Questions on compensation packages and “what is in it for me” at this stage are early warning signals.

Questions to you as an interviewer

  1. Do you use standard questions in interviews to allow me to compare candidates – assume to screen multiple candidates, often together with peers.
  2. Do you use different questions depending for the initial screening reviews versus later approval reviews – two types of interviews with different purposes.
  3. Does your company have a clear process for what you look for at different interview stages – it is hard to hire consistently without common guidelines.
  4. How do you need to take your interview game to the next level for the human capital transformation your company face – don’t expect it to be better than the capabilities of the interviewers.

Additional reading suggestions