The Means Matter – Improving Sales
Our latest CPM Expert Speak comes from Mandeep Singh; MD & CEO, CPM India.
The process of closing a business at CPM India is akin to any other business pitching to win. Upon receiving the requirements, we prepare extensively by discerning the pain points of our prospective client, strategise masterfully the exact method of execution, and present stunningly to secure the client and win the business.
Moments of celebration later, a conventional business would begin the process of delivering on the promised key performance indicators and commence the execution of the won project. This is the output phase where a company gets lost in the daily grind of achieving the end results of increasing the share of shelves, improving sales numbers, etc.
A vacuum is created between these two phases which is what separates CPM India from the conventional business. We, at CPM India, believe that ‘the means matter’ and we put the same amount of efforts in this input phase as any other phase. How do we do that?
We do it through PERFORMICS which is nothing but performing retail execution by building better insights and capabilities for improving sales. We essentially integrated CPM’s brand essence to create a product that puts us on the retail intelligence map.
PERFORMICS is a tool-aided process to synergize the efforts of different silos and smooth the flow of information from the top to bottom and vice versa. It enables the client teams to plan activities such as merchandising activities, target tracking, and route planning through a customized web portal, the information from which directly flows to the android applications available with the field sales force which can use it to easily capture data and carry out the planned activities and also provide the client sales teams access to real time information. PERFORMICS includes compliance and analytics modules to audit the work and transform the available data into actionable retail insights. The whole process accelerates the performance and improves the sales manifold.
PERFORMICS has been a great enabler for us to look at the quality of inputs and focus on some data points to ensure that the end results are achieved. All in all,
PERFORMICS is a way to fill the void that existed in a client-agency relationship and has opened the doors for CPM India to venture into the retail intelligence space and make a huge impact. More importantly, PERFORMICS lets CPM India work more effectively for its existing clients to create insights that create the influence to drive sales.
The Key to Delivering a Successful Regional Sales Activity
Delivering Success Across the Region
Our latest CPM Expert Speak comes from Martin Ryan; Chief Development Officer at CPM Group of Companies Asia Pacific. Martin has worked for CPM for eighteen years and has over twenty five years industry experience. He has overseen numerous regional projects, experienced great success, but also some crushing disappointments.
Here’s his candid overview of how to deliver regional success based on personal hard lessons learned.
Delivering Regional Success
Winning regional business across a diverse geography is a special thrill. Within the space of a few hundred miles, languages, cultural norms, and currency can morph into something wholly different. Navigating across regions is always tricky and although better communication tools may have made distance seem smaller, the secret of successful regional sales activity lies in how we combine the efficiency of modern technology with other more human tools.
The Starting Line
Start by defining your team’s purpose. When CPM Singapore embarked on a regional project with a leading tech client we spent time completing a detailed analysis of their particular vision of success. What were the common threads applicable to all countries? What were the precise elements of measurement?
If possible, look for insight to those who are already delivering. A major factor in CPM Singapore winning a regional project with another tech giant was the time invested in understanding how the established Australian team delivered their strong track record of success. They were hugely generous in sharing their knowledge and we made substantial effort to join the dots so we could apply their established procedures across the region. This knowledge also gave us deep insight into the client’s culture and their expectations of an outsourced field sales agency. I believe this was a significant differentiator between CPM and our competitors, and a critical part of our successful bid.
You Need a Detailed Contract
Once the team’s purpose is clearly defined, time must be taken to draw up a robust contract. Of course, it’s always hoped that everyone will play fair, but when crossing country boundaries it is crucial to state any legal liabilities, payment terms, and other obligations. Painstakingly outlining these clauses is something I learned the hard way. Relationships built on trust are important, but when other departments and countries get involved you need an unambiguous written agreement that balances transparency with what you may normally be take on trust.
You also need a clear process to manage billing and currency fluctuations. Having this in place in advance makes billing seamless and revenue easier to forecast. Outlining obligations when the contract ends is also important as different employment laws exist in different countries and you don’t want to be exposed to large redundancy payments.
This is also the time to set some ground rules for communication and response times, and all KPIs should be stated. Clearly outlining these before the activity starts will set realistic expectations and avoid mission creep.
Build Credibility by Building Key Relationships
A regional team must ooze credibility and to do this they must be capable. Some of the leadership attributes required include a good dose of self- confidence, the ability to think clearly and make decisions, being self- driven when remote, endowed with brilliant communication skills, technically astute, and not scared to present both to groups and in front of the camera. An underrated skill is the ability to communicate over the telephone, both one to one and in a conference call.
To make regional activity fly you also have to be a relationship ninja.
Start by knowing the client’s country by country structure. How does it differ? Who are the key people and what do they do? Have a clear understanding of which relationships to concentrate on and then put the time in to make them work.
Part of this includes an attitude of transparency and openness which can go beyond your working life. Trust people and give them access to your calendar, include details like holidays and children’s events at school. We live in a time when the boundaries between work and life are blurred and a regional role means you will be working outside of your own time zone’s conventional working day. This is the new norm so embrace it and make it part of your life. Inject a genuine and vigorous enthusiasm.
Once you have established this human connection and built key relationships at a local level you will know who to contact in each market, you will build respect, save time and avoid potential misdirection.
Make Your Field or Contact Centre Team the Most Important Aspect of the Activity
Your most important customers are the team delivering results. They’re the ones generating sales and smashing targets. They’re also spread over a large geography and making them feel part of a unified, emotionally connected team is a critical priority. Involve them, talk to them face to face whenever possible and painstakingly understand their needs and frustrations. Take the time to really listen and make sure you paraphrase what they are saying to prove you have heard them.
A regional sales project requires a global vision to set the strategy, but management of it needs to be carried out regionally utilising a deep insight into local processes. It takes dogged determination and patience to unravel and understand each step of the data collection process and collation of reporting. Acquiring this knowledge ensures a strong foundation, and facilitates informed decision making. Applying this rigor along with an understanding of where existing CPM solutions can fill gaps means you can make informed and creative decisions on what to adopt, or if it almost works, what to adapt, and only as a last resort do you revert to reinvention.
Grow Your Capabilities and be Innovative
Regional sales activity is not rigid; it is an iterative process that requires a solution that’s nimble and responsive. Knowing how to leverage existing solutions and apply the best of what is available locally is a fine balance, as giving teams too much freedom can compromise results. You need to know what’s non-negotiable and apply a rigorous application of continuous improvement. When you spend time understanding how people work you will know when it’s time to use the carrot, and when use of the stick is more appropriate.
To summarise, here’s what I’ve learned about running a successful regional sales activity. Start by really knowing your purpose, both regionally and in each country. Once you have clearly defined your objectives, assemble the reporting structure around them. Adopt processes that work elsewhere in your business, adapt them to give local relevance, and only reinvent as a last resort. Make sure you have a detailed contract and include clauses that define liabilities.
Build key relationships. Success stems from open human trust. When possible be available across the region’s working day but also let people know when you are not available. Embed yourself into your client’s organisation and become indispensable without being arrogant.
Build credible and capable teams, culturally adaptable and results focused. Understand and connect with your sales team. Make sure they feel you are involving them and understand their needs and frustrations. Grow your capabilities. Solutions are iterative and constantly evolving. Be energetic and responsive and don’t become complacent.
Branching out from the local to the regional can be bewildering and at times maddeningly frustrating, but it can also be richly rewarding and joyous, transforming your understanding of both yourself and the hyper connected global world we inhabit. Fully embracing a deep knowledge of your client and becoming a trusted indispensable regional partner is one of the best things in our business.
Welcome to our latest edition of Expert Speak, ”How about we tell you how much we can accelerate your sales?” which comes from Véronique Motte, President CPM Group of Companies in France
How about we tell you how much we can accelerate your sales?
A few weeks ago, our teams organised a conference during the 2018 edition of the MPV trade show which took place in Paris. The title of this conference was “The 4 drivers which really influence sales demos performance”. CPM France teamed up with L’Oréal France to present real-life feedback from this innovative approach.
True fact: sales demonstrations are a sell-out driver for brands
Deployed on a large scale over 40 years ago, at the same time as mass-market retailing, demonstration days are one of the most popular marketing drivers for brands and also one of the most outsourced. Interestingly, according to a study done by EY in France, it is also one of the most preserved media spends:
For a long time in France, sales demonstrations were a sell-in incentive. Nowadays, being a media in its own right, it is therefore central to the concerns of marketing and sales departments.
Measuring sales demonstrations performance: an innovation on the market
Using sales data provided by L’Oréal and a mathematical equation defined by CPM France’s Business Intelligence team, we were able to build a robust statistical model based on linear regression. That’s how the ROI-focused approach for L’Oréal Consumer Products Division came into life.
We found out that in order to achieve a specific ROI, four drivers that can influence performance must be taken into account: the product display, the store environment, the promotion and the ambassadors themselves. This proved that when all the right drivers are aligned, the sales demonstrations performance can be accelerated by over 300%.
Reaching new heights…
I cannot express how proud I am of the teams at CPM who have made this possible. We are reaching a brand new level: we were famous for the quality of the field work execution we provided, which has never and will never be easy, but the right people with the right tools help… we are now able to measure for our clients the performance of the activities they outsource with us.
In other words: at CPM, we make demonstration days work. Oh, and by the way we also measure the performance of our other solutions too…
President CPM Group of Companies in France
Leadership #IWD2018 by Lorraine Butler
International Women’s Day creates time in our busy lives, for awareness and reflection on women’s efforts and achievements. It reminds us to stop and reflect on the progress women have made, our contribution & our successes. In turn, it reminds us to continue our future strides to create future success both individually and collectively.
Personally, I have very seldom been comprised in my career because of my gender. That is not to say that I have not seen others (of both genders) who have been less fortunate. I have always taken the approach of the ‘best person for a role’. However as I have matured through business and life, I see that personal circumstances have to be considered and accommodated in order to help the best person be the best they can be. My management team live by this philosophy and I ask that we seek out leaders in all layers of our business who will embrace this philosophy. This philosophy doesn’t happen by accident, it takes time to nurture, develop and appreciate.
The principles of leadership can be taught yes, but it takes a person with leadership inherent in their personality and DNA to truly & naturally lead & embrace leadership principles. I believe leadership can be improved upon and learned over time, even for those who don’t have a natural leadership tendencies. But in order to become an effective leader, one has to truly want to lead, for the right reasons and needs to believe in the cause – only then will you win trust of your people, which is an absolute requirement of effective leadership. And of course you have good and bad leadership; The concept of Shadow Of the Leader is something I have always embraced – being mindful of the shadow that your leaderships casts, considering others are likely to follow in the same steps.
People skills are critical to any leadership role in our organisation. Our greatest asset is our people and leaders at all levels need to continuously inspire and motivate our employees. Good empathy and intuition are important skills – and knowing when to dial up or down each. In order to lead teams, you have to build a good team around you, realising that often others on your team are better at certain things than you yourself are. A good leader will show the potential to embrace diversity within a team and take ownership of developing their people – where people grow, business grows.
My advice to women today at all stages of their careers – Anything is possible ! Whatever you want to achieve, it is achievable, but you are responsible for your own journey and destination. Surround yourself with good people. People you instinctively trust and can learn from. Regardless of whether you realise it or not – every day you are being interviewed! Do what is expected of you in your current role with excellence, but adopt practices and behaviours of the role you want next! Work to identify & secure a mentor who you respect and will learn from – but ensure to take heed of their advice –they haven’t achieved the success they have without learning a thing or too along the way – so listen, observe and action on their guidance, it will speed up your journey to success
Leading Merchandising as Something Bigger, by Andrew Potter, MD, CPM Australia
As a business who has been deploying merchandising services on behalf of national and multi-national clients for over 20 years, we’re always trying to challenge the status quo and ensure we are leading best practice. We are constantly re-evaluating, re-inventing and re-calibrating the ‘old’ processes and systems and asking ourselves “Is our merchandising model optimizing the best deployment of resources and costs – plus are we creating value for our clients?” These questions keep us in line with our mantra of helping our clients ‘sell more for less.’
Whether it be merchandising, direct sales or customer service, we’re continually rethinking the way an activity can be structured and managed so that it delivers value not only to our clients, but also to retailers and their customers.
One of the best examples of where we got to lead best practice and to trial merchandising as something ’bigger’ is the merchandising work that we’ve implemented and still manage for our national telecommunications client.
In 2016, our telecommunications client recognised that their current field merchandising structure was underperforming. Their ineffective call cycles and below-average compliance results were just a couple of signals that their field approach needed an overhaul. To increase market share in the highly competitive prepaid category, they appointed Retail Safari in Australia to help drive operational excellence and to assist in bridging the gap between their merchandisers and third-party retailers.
The key challenge was to build better retail conversations amid non-branded stores Australia-wide and to undertake this exercise, our first step was to reinvigorate the merchandising function by introducing a sales-led approach.
To ensure higher brand presence than their competitors, the newly formed sales merchandising team were tasked with both traditional and non-traditional merchandising responsibilities, with the main focus on ensuring their in-store influence maintained a positive halo effect post their store visit.
By reinvigorating the merchandising function with this sales-led approach, our client’s product has never been more prominent and as a result their service and sales numbers are at an all-time high. Their time and reach provides valuable engagement time that allows our people to: foster in-store relationships, ensure higher brand presence against their competitors and promote product benefits.
Since the inception of this program, we’ve been arming staff with the appropriate sales skills and value drivers. With this know-how, our field team continue to have meaningful sales conversations in-store with key stakeholders in the retail environment. These informed conversations stem from an insight-led approach where staff can access real-time insights and post-sale data which in turn results in driving orders and incremental in-store space, plus the ability to articulate the latest product features and benefits.
Andrew Potter, Managing Director, CPM & Retail Safari, Australia.
Welcome to our first edition of Leadership Team Blog articles for 2018, from CPM International Contact Centre, Barcelona ” Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning: Demystified ” which comes from Emanuele Ceppelli, IT Director at CPM International Contact Centre.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most significant transformational break-throughs – and perhaps least understood – in modern times. In many ways, the charm of AI is that we don´t realize we are using it when we use Siri, Alexa, or when the phone automatically corrects your grammar.
In very good company with the more notorious innovations like the steam engine, electricity, and the combustion engine, AI is the most important general-purpose technology of our era. But, what is AI doing and how quickly is it improving? Two are the areas of progress that best support the AI journey to improvement: perception and cognition.
With regard to the “perception”, some of the most practical advances have been made in relation to speech. Voice recognition is still far from perfect, but millions of people are now using it — think Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant as an example (by the way – this article was dictated to a computer and transcribed with sufficient accuracy).
These advances in voice recognition have evolved into the ability of a computer to recognize the human natural way of speaking. This ability is known as Natural Language Processing, or NLP. Rather than face limited touch-tone or rigid Directed Dialog, customers can now speak naturally to the device in use.
A study by the Stanford computer scientist James Landay and colleagues found that speech recognition is now about three times as fast, on average, as typing on a cell phone. The error rate, once 8.5%, has dropped to 4.9%. What’s striking is that this substantial improvement has come not over the past 10 years but just since the summer of 2016 (source: Stanford Education Research)
We are also assisting to a rapid improvement in the machine’s ability to recognize images.
An app running on your smartphone will recognize almost any bird in the wild. Image recognition is replacing ID cards and customers analytics, access control; public safety has also started counting massively on facial recognition.
In terms of “cognition” on the other hand, the improvements are going as fast as those around “perception”.
Machine learning (ML), is based on learning from examples rather than a rigid code telling the software what to do and at what time. This is an important break from previous practice.
In a world where DATA are produced at an astonishing rate and machines can learn from examples, we have served the perfect loop for constantly feeding AI engines with relevant information to exponentially grow the ML capability.
A system using IBM technology automates the claims process at an insurance company in Singapore, and a system from Lumidatum, a data science platform firm, offers timely advice to improve customer support. Dozens of companies are using ML to decide which trades to execute on Wall Street, and more and more credit decisions are made with its help. Amazon employs ML to optimize inventory and improve product recommendations to customers. Infinite Analytics developed one ML system to predict whether a user would click on a particular ad, improving online ad placement for a global consumer packaged goods company. JPMorgan Chase introduced a system for reviewing commercial loan contracts; work that used to take loan officers 360,000 hours can now be done in a few seconds. And supervised learning systems are now being used to diagnose skin cancer (source: JPMorgan, Bloomberg)
Let´s see how AI can help our Contact Centres to deliver a better service more efficiently.
Powered by ML and NLP, an Intelligent Front Door replaces and upgrades traditional IVR routing. It allows offering the ease of conversational communication, with Natural Language intent capture at the outset of every call.
An Intelligent Front Door can provide benefits in:
Customers are still calling and every year their expectations are higher than the previous year.
AI helps to offer a proactive and personalized experience from the start. With AI and the right data, customers are recognised and their needs anticipated.
More than half of the customers liaising with a Contact Centre wants to “self-serve”.
With an AI engine and the right DATA, it is possible to provide a personalised and efficient self-service to customers starting from a natural conversation. Many are the processes that can be automated thanks to AI.
By removing the initial contact steps thanks to an intelligent front door, Agents are talking only to the right customers and at the right moment, those that need them most. Customer experience success and failure often revolve around customers’ experiences with Agents.
Since routing and self-service can be automated for the repeatable tasks, Agents are likely to be more engaged. They have access to calls and the most updated customer data through CTI and/or screen pops; warm transfers become the norm thanks to AI and as most of the customers hate repeating information, the Agents do not have to make them.
In summary, AI is likely not a fake and the first to use it effectively will reap the most benefits. Whilst still in its infancy phase, the pace of innovation is exponential and the signs of progress will never be so slow again. Speech recognition has reduced the error rate by 50% only in the last 12 months. This means that in a blink of an eye many Contact Centres will run AI engines as they have configured IVRs until now. But it is only through trial and error that businesses can reach effectiveness in using AI.
To find out more or if you have any questions, please contact Emanuele Ceppelli on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Outsourcing, How do you make 1+1=3
The pace of change has never been so fast, with all businesses, markets and sectors being challenged by where to invest to grow, skills shortages, new entrants and margin erosion. The need to partner and have a flexible cost, skills and asset base has never been greater, however if you believed the headlines about ‘Outsourcing’ you might take the view, is this model outdated and time for a change…
With so many clear benefits of Outsourcing should the debate not be about how to make Outsourcing a success and why Outsourcers are in the main seen as Suppliers rather than Partners….
Is the term Outsourcing in itself the issue? Should in future the objective be ‘Smart Sourcing’ where Clients identify partners that bring investment in assets that deliver value and agility in a world where the pace of change demands the need to compete with new entrants and start ups that are disrupting their markets.
The benefits of Outsourcing are clear if done well:
So if the argument to ‘Smart Source’ is clear, how do you make this your competitive advantage? The truth is as ever with every partnership both parties have to play their part and work hard at the relationship, however the sentiment has to move from Supplier to Partner!
So, how do you make 1+1=3:
The Partners Role:
Seeing clear value in any Outsourced engagement is key in ensuring that the relationship can be seen as a partnership rather than a Client/Supplier arrangement. Given the recent examples of poor Outsourcing is now the time to re-examine your current relationships and ensure you gaining the value and competitive advantage that is required in this fast paced business world.
CPM are experts in Outsourced Sales across sectors such as B2B, B2C, Automotive, FMCG, Utilities and On Trade. ROI for our Clients is core to our DNA, therefore our continued investment in Insight and data intelligence is key to deploying Sales resources to where the greatest return will be delivered. CPM are Omni-channel experts with the ability to blend F2F, Contact Centre and Digital to deliver a seamless Sales experience.
If you want to discuss how to partner to achieve Sales success please contact Phil Roberts 07739 301187 email@example.com
Welcome to our first edition of Expert Speak for 2018, ‘Storytelling’ which comes from Mike Hughes, Chief Executive Officer, CPM International Group.
Last year we lost a client – something I am not used to, something I take personally and something that bothers me. Since then I have spent time reflecting on what went wrong and how we need to be better next time.
Part of this process led me to reflect on the current trend for ‘storytelling’. Storytelling, we are told, is the best way to create chemistry with people, to get you more airtime with customers, colleagues and leaders; apparently, that’s because a great anecdote hooks people, takes them on an emotional journey and conveys a memorable message……stories that resonate with people inspire them to take action.
I completely buy all this and successful pitch meetings need to do all of those things but I think there is one word that is missing which is particularly important in challenging economic times…and that word is ‘true’….because stories need to be true stories backed by evidence, fact and testimonials. Donald Trump has introduced the world to fake news and the blurring of fact and fiction and in a world where performance pressure has never been greater, where the sales director’s door revolves ever faster and where experience is at a premium, it is easy to believe the hubris of a new supplier pitch.
Ideas are easy but execution is difficult and the stakes are high when execution falls below the required standard. I hear increasing numbers of stories where clients are on the receiving end of over promising and under delivering suppliers, for example, thinking they are getting a state of the art reporting system from day one only to find it doesn’t work or where they are told they should not worry because their sales team will transfer to the new supplier only to find out that they have lost 50% within the early months because promises are not matched by delivery. This matters because poor performance stains the image of our industry as well the individual company delivering it and the short term pressures our clients are under means they can’t afford to lose a single sale.
Clients need partners who are going to do what they say they will and this year if you ask CPM to pitch for your work, you can rest assured our stories will be true stories.
Location, location, location! The importance of share of shelf online ? Detail, online merchandising tool
Holiday shopping is continuing to set new sales records, especially online. In Sweden for example 1/3 of all gifts are estimated to be purchased online. That’s a 14% increase in e-shopping over just last year, according to the prognosis from the Swedish Trade Association Quite a lift. And most other markets are looking the same. Is your brand ready to profit from that? Are you visible online? How are your SKU’s looking? Your digital share of shelf? Do you know? A lot of brand managers don’t. That’s where Detail, our online merchandising tool can help.
Online visibility is crucial for your brand
The digital shelves are where the customers find your product, read about it and compare it to other products. Studies show that over 80% of all shoppers turn to their smartphones to find information about a product, while in a physical store.* This means that your visibility online is of double importance – for information and awareness as well as for actual shopping. But while physical retailing has been studied for decades, the strategies for online sales are quite new.
Consumer behavior – nothing new under the sun
A comforting notion for brand managers wondering how to reach customers online is that people are pretty much the same as before. It’s just the channels that are different. People still prefer products at eye level, which in the digital era translates to being in the top spots of the search result page. Because that’s pretty much the attention span we have. The majority of shoppers who enter a site use the search function (roughly 70% of all shoppers) and the rest rely on menus and navigation to find what they are looking for. Research suggests that shoppers using the search function are the ones most ready to make a purchase. Hence the importance of being in the top tier of the search results. People buy what they see, the only difference is that they now do it from the couch. Hence the rise of “couch commerce”**.
Your keywords – your brand
Since people don’t scroll through page after page of products looking for just your brand, keywords have become increasingly important. Not only for visibility in big search engines like Google and Bing, but also onsite at the different retailers. The modern brand manager needs to be observant about which keywords different brands and products appear under, both generic as well as more specific. Detail helps with this by letting you choose which keywords you would like to keep track of, and gives you clear information on how your brand ranks in relation to the chosen keywords as well as current and historical trends and competitors.
Be visible, be in stock and be purchased
Successful brand managers make sure that their brand is at the top of the digital shelf by bidding on the right keywords. And the products get bought if they are in stock. This is where Detail comes in. Detail is a revolutionary new way to supervise your brand’s online visibility, the in-store availability of your products, the past and present price and consumer ratings and feedback. Detail gives you a comprehensive ranking of your brand’s and products’ position on each retailer site. It even lets you keep track of what your competitors are up to. An easy-to-read interface gives you an instant overview of the current situation … and lets you dig deeper into products or retailers that you wish to investigate more thoroughly.
Stay on top of your game (and the digital shelf)
We have several different packages ranging from a simple status check to the full standing of your brand’s presence online. And once set up, Detail provides daily reports on how well you’re performing. Detail helps your brand to stay visible and on top of the digital shelf wherever you want.
How can an Outsourced Agency Demonstrate Value in a Competitive Marketplace ?
Providing a service to clients that manifestly increases sales will always be the cornerstone of a strong value proposition. Pricing this significant service at a rate that represents fair value for this impact on a client’s business is an increasingly difficult task in today’s competitive marketplace. But I strongly believe it is more important than ever to focus on the value of the offering and clearly articulate what difference this can make to the client’s business. Admittedly, and realistically, price is not irrelevant. Mickey Drexler, ex-CEO of J. Crew, says “The real price of goods is always the selling price. The best price is to sell it for what it’s worth.”
So, how does an outsourced agency demonstrate worth, maintain a keen pricing structure, and avoid a negotiation where the only outcome is a spiraling descent to the bargain basement of both price and value, a process I describe as ‘the race to the bottom’?
Before even venturing to introduce a pricing model, an agency must start each relationship by making strenuous efforts to understand the client needs and then clearly demonstrate the value of their agency’s creativity and wisdom.
Understand what problem the client needs to have solved? Be clear about what insight the agency can bring to the table? Ask searching questions and encourage the client to really define what success means to them. All of this helps to establish a level of trust and to forge common alignment.
It also embraces transparency and a deeper understanding on both sides. Interestingly for the potential client, a closer evaluation of their needs helps the client to evaluate potential providers on their approach and capability rather than solely on price.
What about the spectre of procurement? For many sales or new business teams, the mere mention of procurement evokes a rolling of the eyes or worse!
In my multifaceted role as a Global Chief Operating Officer, Asia President, and Senior Accounting Officer for the CPM Group of companies, I’ve endured many negotiations with zealous procurement teams, watching each element of our service being systematically broken down and assigned a price instead of a value. It’s a very straightforward, almost mechanical, process to place a price on inputs with no bearing on the benefits.
However, the procurement team/individual that can relate those inputs to the value created in the outputs, embraces the real added value the organisation seeks. The procurement professional can help demystify the challenges of internal budget structures versus real output based pricing, and work collectively with marketing and their agency to build a cost model that rewards good work and demonstrates value.
This can be the huge benefit of procurement done well. Yes, they often force agencies to examine their costs and present them in a more transparent manner, but this can only benefit any business longer term. Understanding the price of service delivery is essential for agencies to then realise profit whilst ensuring clients get value.
PepsiCo has recently eliminated procurement from marketing negotiations, but 53% of companies still involve procurement and the onus is on sales teams to embrace this and positively influence the decision-making process, defending their value proposition by clearly demonstrating its impact whilst working in an open and transparent manner, building trust with its procurement client as well as the marketing teams.
If business is negotiated on the correct footing, with the service framed as an investment not an expense, then both the client and the outsourced agency can harness the power of synergy and create a mutually successful outcome, based, not simply on cost, but on value linked to insight and a robust ROI.
Winning business that has a miserably low margin while voraciously consuming precious resources, leads to an inevitable and sometimes bitter parting of the ways, which can have a big impact on the agency’s business overall. It takes courage to hold your nerve around the negotiating table and look for new ways to add value, but it is imperative that your service is not viewed as a mere commodity. I’m afraid to say that all too often agencies have nobody but themselves to blame as they agree to commercial arrangements that are best described as suicidal. Who can blame client procurement, they are merely doing what we all try to do, which is secure the best product at the lowest price. I’d like to purchase a luxury car for the same price as a mid- range sedan, wouldn’t you? The fundamental issue here is procurement will keep asking for more concessions until the agency says no! The agency must find ways to say yes outside of simply cutting price and leverage the value-added aspects of the work the agency can and does do for the client.
The world is our marketplace and communication is getting faster. Whole industries, including retail, have undergone tremendous disruption. To be competitive, agencies must be agile, able to simplify process and embrace diversity. Rigidity is a thing of the past. Linear thinking and acting is hopelessly outdated. We must all work on a broader commercial approach. Business is global and it has never been easier to communicate and harness global learnings.
I recently attended a regional conference in Asia where teams from six countries pitted their collective problem-solving and creative skills to put forward several workable project plans designed to roll out across the region for a major client. The client was in the room and was electrified by the sheer energy and practical application achieved in a breathtakingly short amount of time. This was a clear demonstration of how enhanced service can be collectively achieved by harnessing the synergy of truly diverse teams.
Agencies must foster and encourage mental agility and flexibility amongst their people as they are the drivers of value. Business can’t be exclusively conducted from the isolation of a desk. Client service teams should actively network and absorb thoughts and insights from a diversity of sources. We all must keep up with current trends in the market and strive to be thought leaders, the respected “go-to” person in our field. This is especially important if we are going to master and exploit change and not be left an irrelevant colossus, too big and bloated to adapt in the face of fundamental upheaval.
In an increasingly digital world, the distance between clients and the field has never been closer. Agencies must manage their reputations, earn respect and nurture authenticity in all areas of our business. Actions and character must be in-sync and agencies must align what they do with what they
say. Relationship building has always been central to a successful campaign and now it is critical to get closer to clients. This means actively involving field teams.
Communication, like a fountain, must flow upwards as well as downwards. Agencies must inspire everyone to take responsibility and be heard, not mumble in the corner if things are not right. In a world where word of mouth is king, agencies should empower all employees to be advocates, the field teams are brand evangelists and a powerful manifestation of value.
Agencies destined to survive and thrive will be rooted in strong foundations and adaptable in the face of change. Always listening and globally aware, not complacently locked in silos. Not intransigent in the face of a problem and not taking the easy route of pointing fingers and blaming others. Instead, they must strive to think creatively about how to clear roadblocks as a team, with each member taking responsibility. It’s too easy to say no constantly; find ways to say yes that make commercial sense, add value and bring creativity to the solution required.
The pressure of today’s marketplace will always make it attractive for clients to go for a cheaper option. But business is rarely won on price alone. Competitors can undercut, but it is up to each agency to demonstrate they can offer an intelligent, consistent depth of service, delivered by a committed, energetic and engaged field team. Cutting corners and spiraling ever downwards leads to a race to the bottom and is ultimately unsustainable. Instead, focus should be concentrated on insight and people as they adapt, thrive and make evangelists of clients. There will be no better way to demonstrate value and as a positive by product, earn a decent margin.
Paul Woolley, August 2017