This blog is written as a response to a comment we received on our previous blog Sales Storytelling on your feet. We highly recommend that you read Sales Storytelling on your feet to better understand the content shared in this blog.
A couple of few weeks ago we posted a blog titled Sales Storytelling on your Feet. Soon after posting the blog we got a comment from a reader expressing that it would have been good to know what were the challenges of the client and how did the sales person use stories to perusade the client that his company has value to add. Without this information the reader found the blog to be a generic.
Firstly, we want to thank our reader for sharing their point of view. Your views helps us better understand what our blog readers are looking for and that precisely is the reason we write blogs to share our experiences that people can learn from.
Secondly, Badri ( the sales person whose story we narrated in the original blog ) was kind enough to provide the details our reader was looking for. Considering Badri ( our client ) did not have to share the information but only did so to help us, we would like to thank him for sharing his insights and knowledge.
So, lets answer the questions asked.
Question: What were the challenges the client was facing?
Answer as narrated by Badri : In total there were 4 challenges written on the whiteboard. For the purpose of this exercise lets pick one that is understood easily and is free of industry specific issues which can be difficult to understand if you are not from the industry.
I was aware that globally this industry segment has an issue of an aging workforce and given the 24 X 7 X 365 operations, most of them faced an uphill task of retaining the knowledge & experience within the organization.
Managing client expectations is critical in this industry as it has direct impact on production output, which is linked to revenues. Companies often hire senior people to manage client expectations, which obviously increases the hiring costs.
I started off with an open-ended question to gain some insights on the current attrition rate. I asked, “ What is roughly the cost of hiring new, experienced employees and the lead time to have a new hire fully ready to do the job?”
The client (with some hesitation) gave his response. A quick math and my experience helped me to arrive at a figure I could propose to this client as the value we can bring to the table. This figure was
20% reduction in hiring cost and 15% reduction in lead time to have a new employee ready to do the job.
Now, normally what we would be tempted to say is
“ We have a product that can roughly bring 20% reduction in hiring cost and 15% reduction in time required to get the new employee ready to take the task on.
However, I knew that this is exactly where I needed to tell a story and demonstrate that we can help versus mention a percentage which will be ambiguous to my client.
This brings us to the second question asked.
Question: How did the sales person use stories to perusade the client that his company has value to add?
Answer : After making the decision to tell a story and not a fact, I thought of retrieving a story that mattered to this client from my mind based on 2 criterias – Who do I know who has had exactly the same issue as this client and is that client from a similar industry?
Once I found a story that met both my criterias I articulated the story.
Back in 2012 our team in the Middle East met Mr. Mohammad ( not his real name ), Production Head of a large plant just like yours. He faced a very similar challenge.
Succession planning was an area of focus because that was the only way to solve the never ending battle between driving revenue and hiring costs of senior people which was very frustrating for Mr Mohammad.
Because managing client expectations was critical we needed senior people, as senior people retired we replaced them with a new set of senior people from outside because it was risky to put anyone inexperienced to manage client expectations but what that meant was these new hires will get to a stage of retirement soon and another set of new senior people would come who couldn’t be in the role for long enough. As these people came and left the organisation our knowledge left us too and each time getting someone else ready for the role was taking time. Granted lesser time then an inexperienced person but still time was required.
So, our hiring costs were rocketing high, by the time people were really in the job they were ready to leave again and no knowledge was retained.
Succession planning had to happen but how?
Our team understood the challenge, asked a few questions and provided a commercial insight by saying
“Get to see Mr Mohammad what the experience of these senior people brings to the table is really their ability to predict accurate and realistic production timelines. Correct ? What if your team did not have to rely on experience but a technology that real time tells them what is a realistic production time. In your world managing clients is very much about managing timelines.
So, imagine your not so experienced staff is having a conversation with the client and need to talk about production timelines. What if he/she can look up his/her existing mobile device and confidently inform the customer what to expect. Wouldn’t client expectation be a breeze!
Mr Mohammad , this is not a succession planning issue , it’s a managing client expectations issue and we have a perfect product for you which will not rely on experience but on IP. This will be your knowledge hub and we will not see people walking away with the knowledge.
One year after the implementation, Mr Mohammad saw the following results
- Hiring employees with relatively less experience (saving hiring cost),
- Increase production uptime by 2%
- Reduction of maintenance cost by 4%
- ROI within 1 year.
And sir based on our discussions so far I am confident that we can achieve 20% reduction in hiring cost and 15 % reduction in lead time to have someone fully operational for you.
So this is how the sales person told the story. I hope we have not only answered our readers question but also inspired some of you to engage in a practical and methodical business storytelling for sales.
As I end writing this blog I can clearly see what makes a Badri like sales person a trusted advisors to their clients
Someone who researches
Someone who has insights to offer
Someone who articulates a value proposition via a Value Story on his / her feet
and by doing that achieves the desired outcome of becoming truly valuable to your client.
"I attended your story telling course some time back. And I've enjoyed keeping up my knowledge with your blog. You may not have realised however, that the Whole of Government is implementing Internet Seperation. Hence I'm not able to access the links to read your articles. Could I suggest including a QR code in your emails so that I can use my mobile to scan it and gain immediate access to the article? It would be most helpful"