It is rewarding and sometimes’ a huge relief when something that you have spent time doing in the past achieves validation and industry recognition.
When the idea of ‘solution selling’ first emerged, we were expected to talk about ‘solutions’ knowing full well that what we were really providing our customers with was hardware, software or components that, with a bit of luck, a following wind and the help of some clever tech guys, could become a solution to a business issue. Of course over time, real solutions became possible and the norm in our industry.
The world of selling and business relationships has become more complex – the key to success lies in collaborative selling – building alliances and partnerships with specialist skills, technology and service providers. No longer can any one party claim to offer the entire solution – not that we ever did but we perhaps liked to think so! However, this approach done well often requires a new mindset, a new set of tools and techniques, and higher level skills that test our way of working on a daily basis.
In light of the emerging ISO standard for Collaborative Business Relationships, ISO 44001, we need to think and act differently. According to extensive qualitative research conducted by TCC-Achieve and Masterclass, over 50 years of collaborative channel sales experience; and having trained having trained thousands of sales professionals including consultants, SEs, CAMs and Specialist sales Teams, Achieve & Masterclass are looking at what it takes to build really powerful collaborative alliances with both your partners and customers that grow revenues.
Isobel Rimmer is often quoted in her classes, “Serve your customers the best you know how, relationships come first – deal or no deal.” “I was working on a major deal with a large Financial Services organization. It was a competitive situation and we were looking to replace the incumbent supplier. It was high profile within the region (for that meant regular requests for updates from my Sales VP!) and it was exciting. But there was a problem, one part of the project was – in my limited technical view (luckily I had a great SE to support me) ‘overkill’. It would require the customer to buy over $250k of software and hardware – all of which would be redundant to requirements within a few months. I struggled with this and recall sitting in the customer’s car park, with my SE, trying to work out an alternative. We found one; it would involve a motorbike courier to provide an alternative physical back-up solution for a few months – but that meant waving goodbye to the $250k. I broached this with the customer, in fact while I was in his office rang couriers for him and we got a couple of quotes. I have never seen a CIO so thrilled. How he would dine out on this with his Board! For a few hundred dollars a week he could deliver what was needed for the next few months. So where did that leave us? No deal – at least not on that occasion. But here’s the thing – 2 weeks later the CIO called me. It was time to review their IT strategy and that could lead to a $2million + deal for us. The door was open and we were trusted. 6 months later we completed that 2M deal. What did I learn from that? The importance of collaboration, of relationships, the importance of serving your customer the best you know how and why trust matters for long term mutual benefit.
- What is the number one ingredient for successful partnerships? Trust
- What is the number one reason partnerships fail? Inability to mesh people and cultures; trust is the number one ingredient underpinning this.
- Trust is an attitude that allows people to rely on, have confidence in, and feel sure about other people in the organization.
- Trust and values are linked; it’s important to understand others’ values and align those in a partnership when possible.
- Trust building is focused on both the present and future cooperation of two people. In order to create trust, people must believe you are trustworthy. However, it can be destroyed in a minute often if earning trust is viewed as a means to an end versus a long term relationship.
In a 2016 article for HostingCon, Dave Gilbert, former CEO of SimpleSignal, talked about the lack of trust in IT organizations as a barrier to growth. “I believe the difference between companies that execute well and those that don’t make it is the leadership’s ability to build trust over time,” said Gilbert. “Companies with a high trust culture experience a far lower churn rate and much higher employee engagement with the enterprise.”
2017 gives us a new ISO standard that validates this ongoing conversation. However it’s more than that – it now give us the ability to turn the art of collaboration and trust into a science and repeatable model we can leverage in our businesses. We can deepen our trusted advisor status in customer relationships leading to more revenue. We can expand; our strategic vendor partnerships to be balanced and reciprocal. We can train our sales and sales engineers, consultants, and customer service teams in a globally proven success model.
About the Authors:
Isobel is a founder and Director of Masterclass (a European based company) and a lead trainer, client project manager and facilitator within the team. A graduate from University of Surrey, she worked in France before joining DEC (then the 2nd largest global IT firm after IBM) on their fast-track graduate program.
She has designed and led strategic leadership programs for Nottingham City Council, Lincoln City Council, Equant (France Telecom), Avis, London Borough of Bexley, Computer 2000, (part of the TechData Group) Xyratex and many others. These programs include executive coaching and mentoring – typically at Board, VP and senior management level. She works extensively in the design and delivery of business performance programs through the Masterplan™ brand. These programs have been used by Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), Information Resources – where they increased sales by £55 million in one year and achieved contract retention to a record high of 97%, Symantec in building their partner program and PricewaterhouseCoopers. She is also a business development coach working with Partners and Directors for a number of PwC’s global accounts including Sony, the BBC, Centrica and Nokia. She is retained by Accenture and CSC to coach their global bid teams these projects have resulted in business wins in excess of £1 billion.
She provides one to one coaching and mentoring to leaders in industry, trade and major political parties – this highly confidential work draws on her experience as a trainer, business owner/ manager and professional speaker. She is a regular contributor on Sky News providing insight and comment on political speakers and their personal image and impact.
Theresa Caragol is founder and principal consultant of TCC – Achieve Unite, LLC a strategic advisory & performance partnering firm that provides business acceleration services to global enterprises including partner and channel development, go-to-market planning, M&A channel integration and executive learning forums. She has more than 20 years’ experience in building and managing multi-million dollar indirect channel teams and strategic alliance business and programs from inception to sales success. Prior to founding TCC-Achieve Unite, Theresa held senior executive roles at Extreme Networks, Ciena and Nortel.
Theresa is passionate about coaching employees and mentoring young people into STEM fields. She is honored to be one of 15 women selected for the First Leadership Foundry in Washington, DC – an organization dedicated to mentoring and recruiting women for positions on corporate boards. Theresa has received numerous IT industry channel accolades recognizing her work including: 2014 CRN Top 50 Most Influential Channel Chiefs, 2013 CRN Top 10 Next Generation Channel Leaders, 2015 Golden Bridge Gold Award for Best Program Leader.
Theresa graduated with honors from Virginia Tech University. She has an MBA from the University of Wisconsin’s Lubar School of Business, and holds an Executive Master’s degree in Leadership from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.