Bring business acumen to your entire team

Nearly 40% of companies rely primarily on the involvement of their employees to improve their results and their relationships with customers. Everyone is affected, including those who do not engage in commercial activity. This figure, taken from the 2010 Cego Customer Relationship Barometer, reflects a clear change in companies in the way they design their sales strategy: after favoring IT tools to manage customer relationships and then marketing, they replace the human relationship with the customer at the center of their concerns. With the belief that all departments have a role to play, from IT to accounting to engineers. Teams that have put customer culture at the center of their action have improved performance. They are better able to understand strategic issues and certain decisions (especially in terms of cost reduction). But it is a big project to succeed in sharing business sense and performance culture with everyone.

Know how to convince yourself that selling is a noble activity

It is a very French exception, which not only offers benefits: the commercial function directly linked to money is often discredited. In order to instill business sense in your teams, it is therefore necessary to restore credit to the sale itself. Whether you are dealing with accountants, computer scientists or engineers, explain what the job as a salesperson consists of. Remember that this is an activity that is subject to ethical rules and that the sales force is crucial to the company and its sustainability.

To highlight the commercial dimension, whatever the activity allows, even within structures without a real business culture, to introduce it little by little. Thierry Houver, associate director of Halifax Management (commercial education), observed this among mutualists. Over the last ten years, they’ve changed their approach … and their vocabulary. Previously taboo terms, such as “insured” or “customer”, now replace the traditional “member”. In some telephony companies, the performance culture has also led to a redefinition of positions: Call center agents, whose function was very much centered on the concept of consulting, have seen the commercial dimension of their activity put forward.

Establish a customer-supplier relationship between departments

For several weeks, the consulting and training company CAA has arranged seminars in an insurance group, where employees from different departments rub against each other. The goal: using questionnaires about the professions to verify that everyone knows what the activity of others consists of, and to show that success depends on collaboration. The originality of the approach: establish a notion of “internal customer”.

One step that the Saint-Gobain group has already taken: the manufacturer has set up a common service center where human resources, accounting and procurement act as service providers for other group functions. Thus, the customer-supplier relationship replaced a more vertical organization, where everyone worked in their own corner. The skills sought now incorporate this new situation: the ability to work in a network, to be “customer-oriented”, counts more than before. For Thierry Houver, of Halifax Management, this mode of operation requires specific skills on the part of employees: listening to needs, evaluating the quality of service and anticipating problems.

Give employees commercial reflexes

Here’s what you should not do when talking about a performance culture: Let a service technician explain to a customer that his television works very well, but that it is he who does not know how to use it. To avoid such situations, each employee must be helped to understand what a customer has a right to expect. And to draw conclusions for his own activity. The famous technician can, for example, rely on a predefined list of questions that will allow him to provide the solution to the customer without incriminating him.

Another case: Before sending a threat letter, a collection manager will find out if it is a stand-alone incident or a habit. To be integrated by all, these commercial reflexes require simulations, even training. According to Yvelise Lebon, director of the marketing and sales unit at Cegos, the company must also provide the necessary human resources: It must hire staff to call customers instead of sending them automatic letters, and that it organizes a real follow-up on the files.

Establish numerical performance indicators

Do these behavioral changes sound obvious to you? Be aware that it is not that easy to get them. Raising awareness is not enough. Managers also have a role to play in setting up indicators that will translate employee actions into quantified results (profits, return on investment or, conversely, budget overruns, etc.).

Adherence to deadlines and procedures, the quality of a response or service, everything can be measured. Is the IT solution offered to a customer less efficient than expected? A discount of 5% is granted. A product left the factory two days late? It will be necessary to pay an additional cost to the delivery company so that it reduces its deadlines and delivers the customer on time. This “results” -oriented reading grid should change the mentalities and thus the practices of all employees.

Gaelle Ginibrière

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