Recently I spent a week in China visiting an electro-mechanical manufacturing, business services company to determine if there was a mutual interest and benefit in working together to grow the company. In order to do so, it was decided to focus on marketing and selling the company’s services to the North American and European industrial products markets. From the outset it was clear to me that in order to make a difference for this organization, I would need to truly understand several important things, namely:
- The company’s value proposition or positioning statement,
- A profile of the “ideal” customer,
- Company strengths,
- Areas of opportunity for improvement, and
- Strategic objectives over the next 5 years
In other words, to assist in the effective marketing and selling of the company’s services to its chosen markets, I would need to be grounded in its strategic direction.
To understand how to best strategically position the company to prospective customers, the first thing I did prior to my visit to China was to meet with the Chairman of the Board, the executive advisor to the Board, and two of the company’s client partners (i.e., customers). These “external” perspectives furnished me with insights into all of the areas listed above from a vested stakeholder point of view.
Secondly, I spent several hours over the week talking with the CEO (or Managing Director) about what he envisioned for the company over the next five years, what needed to be done to achieve his vision, and what he expected from me if we were to do business together. We met in his office, over morning coffee, lunch and even a few dinners – both privately and with members of his team. By meeting in informal social settings we were able to quickly build trust and consequently open up and deepen our conversations.
Thirdly, I met with key members of the CEO’s management team and discussed what they saw were the strengths of the organization and the “challenges” that needed to be overcome. Our discussions also covered the role of his/her department and how each contributed to creating the loyalty of their client partners. As with the CEO, we spent time in social settings (primarily dinner or “Chinese Banquets”) which helped me get a better feel for the company culture and determine whether I could add value to the team. During this phase of my discovery process, I took a tour of the operation asking any question that came to mind as well as visited a key supplier – very enlightening indeed!
Finally, I summarized my findings into a presentation and shared it with the CEO and selected members of his team. My “report” generated further discussion about how to best position the company’s marketing and selling efforts and better defined what types of prospective customers would benefit most from doing business with this company in China.
So, if you are a sales professional that is either gainfully employed or searching for your next employer, take time to clearly understand the strategic direction of the company you are working for or interested in. By doing so, you will be more effective in your sales and marketing role by bringing the “right” customers to your company and gaining the support of the management team. Just remember that most complex sales are closed through a team effort with its members being aligned with the strategic direction of the company.