Delivering Differentiated Customer Value

By Neil Baron
August 15, 2016

When leading companies combine organizational alignment with an ability to evolve with the market, they greatly improve their odds of remaining competitive.

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Football teams succeed when they
call the right play and all 11 players execute their role to the best of their ability. Even if a team has the most talented group of individuals, if everyone does what they think is best, rather than following the play, the result will be chaos.

Orchestras succeed when musicians play off the same sheet of music. If an orchestra has world-class musicians but everyone plays what they want, the result will be unlistenable noise.

In the competitive worlds of sports and music, organizational alignment is taken for granted, but it can be rare in business. Too many companies with talented employees fail to execute on their collective ability. Too often employees are busy managing their daily activities, and organizational alignment gets put on the back burner. This can result in suboptimal performance, leading to unhappy customers, missed market opportunities, frustrated employees and disappointed stakeholders. It also inhibits a company’s ability to maintain a competitive edge.
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But when leading companies combine organizational alignment with an ability to evolve with the market, they greatly improve their odds of remaining competitive. Eagle Investment Systems recognized its need to change with the market. As a 20-year-old company and the market leader, Eagle is not resting on its success. Instead, it is looking to capitalize on the many opportunities to continue increasing the value it delivers to customers, growing its primary markets and penetrating new ones.

Eagle clients value the deep relationships they’ve developed and consider Eagle to be a critical component of their business success. When Diane McLoughlin, a 15-year veteran at Eagle, was named chief client officer in 2015, the company’s client retention rate was an impressive 95 percent. And while Diane and senior management were proud of that statistic, they also recognized that the needs of Eagle’s clients and the marketplace were evolving. Spending on financial-services technology was shifting from IT departments to business units. There was also a shift from pure technology to cloud solutions, managed services and outsourcing. To appeal to the business units and C-suite, Eagle recognized the need to change its go-to-market approach from focusing on product features to communicating the impact its products could have on a client’s business.

In Diane’s own words: “Today clients are looking for Eagle to provide guidance and insight on how to solve business challenges. Rather than present a set of features, we must consult on how organizations can meet their business objectives, such as managing asset growth, launching new investment products, understanding exposure to market events and managing data to support global trading activities.”

Key Realization

While Eagle’s management team recognized the need for change and the importance of introducing best practices, they also acknowledged the need for external expertise to help make the transition. The head of product management recommended that Eagle enlist a partner to help evaluate company processes and challenge its view of value delivery. As a result, Baron Strategic Partners began working with Eagle’s marketing and product management teams to evaluate their processes and explore opportunities to better equip the sales team.

Leveraging a Proven Approach to Deliver Client Outcomes

Eagle followed a five-step process to shift its focus. Eagle began by developing a deep understanding of the pressing market problems, exploring opportunities to deliver differentiated value with key internal stakeholders and clients, and then articulating how its offerings could help customers solve these problems.

1. Value Exploration (Internal Discovery)

A combination of internal interviews, document review, sales-call participation and working sessions helped Eagle see that it had several different opportunities to deliver meaningful customer outcomes and make a difference in the business of its customers–and ultimately, in the lives of those supporting the investment process.

Since many at Eagle are football fans, the company chose to refer to these opportunities as “plays.” Eagle then went about trying to determine the best, most valuable plays that would align with the company’s goals. Of course, value is determined by the customer, not the vendor, so the next step was to listen carefully to what the market needed.

2. Value Validation (Market Validation)

Eagle set out to collect market insights that would help prioritize a list of more than 20 potential plays. The focus during the value validation phase was to answer three critical questions:

  • What are the problems that, if left unsolved, could have significant impact on companies and key stakeholders?
  • What are the opportunities for Eagle to improve the lives of key customer stakeholders?
  • Which plays deliver the most value to Eagle’s target customers?

In order to understand the market, you must know how to listen and engage in an effective conversation to uncover the proper opportunities. Unfortunately, these barriers often get in the way:

  • Sales and relationship managers sometimes feel threatened when others talk to their accounts. They may introduce roadblocks to protect customers or preserve opportunities, or inadvertently prevent access to the proper customer stakeholders.
  • Sales and relationship managers may question the value of product teams talking to “their” customers, fearing that they will be left to clean up the mess of an awkward interview.
  • Customers view any person in the room as “the vendor” and naturally want to draw the conversation into product-oriented discussions.
  • Vendors may let their natural biases color the conversation; it’s easy to fall victim to confirmation bias as we naturally seek to confirm what we already believe to be true.
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About the Authors

  • Neil Baron is an internationally recognized authority on selling and marketing innovative products, services and solutions sold to risk-averse customers. He has served in a variety of senior marketing and management roles at companies such as IBM, Digital Equipment Corporation, Sybase, Art Technology Group, Brooks Automation and ATMI. He is passionate about involving customers throughout the go-to-market process. In 2009, he started Baron Strategic Partners, a consulting firm focused on helping organizations launch groundbreaking productsand services and reenergize older ones. Contact Neil at nbaron@baronstrategic.com or through www.baronstrategic.com.



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