Drivers of Executive Decision-Making
expect you to have done your homework before meeting them. They
don’t want to educate you on information that can be readily
obtained from the Internet or a subordinate. And they expect you to
commit them to take action as a result of your call. Prepare
yourself for those career-defining executive calls by studying your
client’s internal or external business drivers. This helps you put
in context how your products and services can make a contribution
that’s better, faster or easier than the approach presently used.
What do these drivers of executive decision-making look like?
Every executive is
under financial pressure to perform. At the most basic level,
executives must do one of two things to produce a profit: increase
revenue or reduce costs. For salespeople to build business value for
an executive pressured by financial drivers, they must ultimately
help them move the needle on profit or cost, and to do so in a way
that’s consistent with how their industry measures success.
For example, in the
Airline industry, you’ll get on the executive’s radar if you’re
articulate about the drivers that are specific to airlines such as
load factor, a variable planning horizon, high seasonality, fierce
competition, excessive government intervention, high fixed costs and
low margins (while the airline industry generates billions of
dollars it has a cumulative profit margin of less than 1 percent).
Show how your solution impacts these financial or industry drivers,
and you’ll get their attention.
When selling to a
Bank, different drivers accumulate interest: organic growth,
maintaining customer loyalty, increasing customer transactions, risk
management, reducing fraud and bad debts, consolidating and
upgrading infrastructure, shifting from bricks (branches) to clicks
(online banking), industry reform and regulation, merchant alliances
and so on.
themselves trying to determine how to improve the internal
organization and affect the financial return based on that
improvement. At the most basic level, executives are concerned about
having the right strategy, and taking advantage of the latest
approaches, the right people, processes and technologies to execute
One executive in
our study looks to salespeople as gateways for
“expertise we don’t have, coupled
with experience for producing this type of capability.”
Look at how you can
help executives do a better job of making, quality controlling,
selling, and delivering their business plan. All will be impacted by
the effectiveness (doing the right things) and efficiencies (doing
things right) in the operation.
If you are an
executive on the buying side
of the supply chain, your concern is about reliability of supply,
quality, economies of scale, inventory turnover, shrinkage through
loss or theft, warehousing and distribution technologies, demand
forecasting and many of the same issues that trouble executives on
the selling side of the supply chain. There’s very much a level of
interdependence between the buyer and seller, so approaches to
real-time data sharing, shared infrastructure and shared risk
management remain compelling to discuss, especially when a
salesperson can cogently present how any of their solutions in these
areas do the job faster, better or with less risk than how the
executive does it today.
Your customers may
even now be evaluating their business partner relationships in light
of changing business environments. This represents another
opportunity to create value by demonstrating an understanding of
their pressures and offering solutions by orchestrating relevant
introductions to your company’s network of people, partners and
affiliates who have value to add. Solutions are sometimes about the
relationships you help broker more then the product or service you
growing their existing customer base, creating and enhancing
loyalty, and delivering value are of prime importance to most
executives. But how do you target the right customers? How do you
anticipate their needs? How do you develop new products that will be
ready when the market starts to demand them? As a salesperson, if
you can demonstrate how your product or service can add value in
these areas you will be seen as a resource who can help create a
competitive advantage, and executives will want to talk to you if
they recognize they have a problem in this area.
immerse themselves in their own company affairs, the fact that you
sell to many companies places you in a unique position to have
something those executives always look for: insight into marketplace
trends. So share your ideas and help them see beyond their silo
walls to how other companies are solving the same competitor drivers
they face. One caveat: don’t disclose specific competitor names –
these may also be your customers, and their activities with you
should remain confidential if you don't want to lose credibility.
Instead, interpret the trends you see across companies, and help
your customers see the future.
impacts executives in a variety of ways. As they face competition
from cheaper labor and production abroad, they risk losing market
share. Consequently to remain competitive they must drive cost from
their domestic infrastructure, or outsource production and services
to low-cost offshore providers. Either course of action creates risk
as well as opportunity. How do they find the right production and
distribution partners? How do they drive risk out of an extended
supply chain and hedge for multiple currencies? How do they recruit
and keep the right people? If globalization means closing domestic
factories, how will they manage labor laws, public relations and
finances? Do they have products that appeal to multiple markets?
anticipate and navigate these issues is a tremendously valuable
contribution, and to do so you need to have studied the customer’s
situation and weighed their options as judiciously as though you
were on their Board—it’s the value they’re looking for.
In response to
corporate scandals that have plagued the headlines in the past
decade, governments, industry regulators and shareholders are
demanding greater accountability and transparency from corporations.
Companies must operate under new regulations designed to maintain
stability in financial markets that are already under pressure, and
to protect shareholder interests by restoring investor confidence.
drivers that keep executives awake at night include financial
accounting compliance, workplace safety, labor laws, equal
opportunity, environmental emissions and carbon credits, anti-money
laundering and international tax. If you have a solution that helps
executives stay compliant with regulations and out of jail, and if
you can demonstrate how it will work in the context of their
business today, you’ll unlock the C-suite every time.
You can generally
be confident that after you study the drivers affecting the
executive’s world, connecting them to their role-specific issues
will give context to the discussion, and serve as an additional
framework for positioning why your products or services are relevant
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