March 2010 Archives

Thanks to those of you who asked me to elaborate on how to get a company motivated to embark on the customer intimacy journey, especially if you are not the CEO or the executive with the authority to directly move the organization. 

I have discussed how to make the case for change earlier, but getting employee "buy-in" is just the beginning.

path2intimacy.gifI believe there are three things to consider:

  1. Determine where your company is in the journey,
  2. Identify your next specific steps in the journey, and
  3. Motivate the organization to take action.
I am not minimizing the effort to accomplish this by trying to discuss all three in one blog post.  Further, this discussion is not indented to be exhaustive, but I wanted to at least provide an introduction to the topics and  some guidelines to assist those of you who asked.

Where Are You on the Customer Intimacy Journey?
Of course you must understand where you are in the journey before you begin to motivate the organization.  As you know not all companies are starting the journey without some experimentation with the concepts - many have taken tentative steps even if they do not fully understand the journey.  As you know, companies have been struggling with the drug of innovation for a long time. 

The following are a few simple questions to assist in assessing your progress on the journey. The point of these questions is to help you understand the scope of the transformation.

  • Have we undertaken the effort to determine if the Intimacy Engine is the appropriate business model for the evolution of our company?
  • Are we (as a team) interested in the future state model and do we have consensus on a shared-vision going forward?
  • Do we know what the journey requires to be successful?
  • Are we are willing to undertake the effort (resources, time, commitment) required?
  • Have established a competent professional services group? 
  • Is the professional services group growing at a sustainable, expected level?
  • Is the professional services pulling through enough product revenue? 
  • Are we focused on the right industry segments?
  • Have we developed key insights to the level to drive ideas or Service Chains?
  • Have we added bundling and product-related solutions?
  • Have we moved up the impact/intimacy scale with our target clients?
  • Are we implementing some form of solution-selling and has it impacted the business in a significant way?
  • Is our product "pull-through" strategy predictable and repeatable?
  • Are we still working in two different business models?

The Next, Specific Steps
This is much more difficult than determining where you are in the journey. It is not simply the effort of determining which phase you're in; this is a much more specific activity.  Remember this will be used to motivate the company to take action - therefore it must be specific, actionable, and important enough to capture the attention of the organization.

Examples of these are:

  • Evaluating and deciding upon potential move to Intimacy Engine model
  • Trying different customer relationship in key market
  • Leveraging our professional services group to pull through product 
  • Determining the segments that should be in the Intimacy Engine model
  • Develop detailed plans for the "Form" phase of the effort
  • Embark on pilot
  • Leverage pilot milestones for educating the rest of the organization
  • Determine post pilot next stage roll out - verticals, markets, etc.
  • Integrate the sales force into new business model
  • Reorganize the go to market business units 

Motivating the Organization to Take Action
Let's assume you have a clear objective - for the next phase of your company's journey - and you want to get the organization on board.  Either the change-champion is the key executive with the authority to take action or more commonly the champion is someone who must influence the organization to take an interest in the idea. 

The champion may be a key executive but not necessarily the one with the authority to make the decision, or she might be the staff executive that sees the organization more broadly and knows what must be done, or the champion might one of several roles but knows in their hearts that the Intimacy Engine must be evaluated as a possible road map for the company.  

I believe the process of getting the organization moving is in stages:

1. The viral stage - This is educational and interactive.  Others you respect must begin to share your views.  This can be accomplished by getting them into the discussion - reading what's being said about the Journey and its benefits, or conducting knowledge-sharing events (see earlier blog entry). 
2. The pro-draft stage - This is about getting the executive audience - usually the few key executives that can affect the organization into the discussion and turned on to your view.  This is accomplished by getting them into discussion and educating them about what you all are thinking, then commissioning a quick what would it look like benefits analysis.  By asking them to let you undertake an action you are gaining an understanding of their motivation,
3. Get the organization behind you stage - Get the broader audience - spread the discussion liberally through the broader organization - use all means available - discussion boards, new letters, blogs, wikis, etc  This makes again makes the effort more real and prepares the organization for action.
4. Draft a strategy stage - Get the key executives to entertain a proposal of drafting a strategy, planning document on the benefits, risks, etc of the idea. The specifics of the document must align with the way your company examines opportunities.
5. Executive focus stage - get the executive team focused on the idea in an in-depth way.  The best approach is to get them away for a couple of days - to first fully understand the idea of  Intimacy Engine, then present your findings, then do a working session selecting where to pilot the concept.  This provides them a detailed understanding - strategically, tactically and the work session allows them to guide the pilot and buy-in.
6. Get agreement to proceed to the pilot planning phase - Close stage 6 with the direct proposal of planning the pilot - budget, time-frame etc.

I have been asked by several people to spend a little more time on the goals, objectives and key activities of the Form-phase of the journey to customer intimacy.   The form phase can be stated as the proof-of-concept stage.  Think about it as getting the whole organization to see the new model - maybe not embrace it, but at least understand it.

The key steps in the model - some of which I have been taking about - include:

1.    Selecting the target of the pilot - This could be a vertical market - like pharmaceuticals.  It could be a sub-section of your customers - major accounts (a tough one to start with by the way).  Or, it could be a new target accounts or market - that you have not served previously.  It should be component that if successful the rest of the organization cares but not a jugular segment that will cause too much interference. Further, you will be going to the clients directly (must by pass g=current go to market to prove concepts) therefore it must be a group that you can do that without upsetting the effort from the start.

2.    Staffing the effort - This will require in addition to selecting a leader (covered in another discussion earlier) it will require hiring several consultants from the outside.  This is also introduced earlier in these documents, but it is important to get a team that has deep understanding of the market and are used to delivering the consulting front end projects your solutions will require.

3.    Creating initial Solutions - This effort is crucial and somewhat difficult.  Although you have added market expertise in your consultants - they most likely have not done this particular effort before - even if they think they have.  The most important thing to start with is the idea.  If you are comfortable that you have a few ideas that pass mustard, you are ready to begin the process of creating a Service Chain . As I explain, a Service Chain™ is a set of projects that work the way decisions are made (Whether to act, What to do, and Whom to do it with ) they also have built  in linkages so that they pull the next project and products (if appropriate) through. 

4.    Take Service Chains™ to market - This is an effort of getting in from of decision makers having idea meetings to explain the idea and encouraging them to allow a follow on meeting to evaluate the ideas applicability to them - this meeting is called a stakeholder meeting.  At the end of that meeting selling them on the first project in the Service Chains™ to explore the impact of the idea (quantify to impact for them).
5.    Manage accounts differently - This includes taking the account through a cycle of building intimacy and leveraging that intimacy to sell additional Service Chains, building a trusted advisor relationship, and pulling through product you used to sell.

6.    Doing all this in a repeatable manner - This includes ramping up the solutions effort in number of people, revenue, and accounts to prove it is repeatable.

Obviously there are many key capabilities that are needed to be successful at these steps.

Ability to obtain and retain consulting talent - Consultants did not wake up thinking about working for your company.  They must be wooed by your strategy and believe you have the fortitude to be successful.  Also, they must be re-molded into both your culture and to this particular journey - this may be just different enough from their experience to cause them trouble.

Ability to create Service Chains™ - We have been involved in the creation of over 1000 of these and they are easy to understand but very difficult to get both the impact needed and scalability.

Ability to identify/create big ideas - As stated the offer hangs on the quality of the idea. Also, the  quality of the implementation and impact on your business directly relate to the ideas applicability to you and your business.

Ability to sell differently - Taking ideas to market is a joint discovery process with your clients - it requires the ability to discuss business issues in great detail while still focusing on only selling the solutions you offer.  This ability is tough to master, but the good news is that with focus many can master it.

Ability to build a trusted advisor relationship and harvest the account - Clients' want to work with the advisors they trust multiple times.  Being trusted is not about building a friendship but being relied upon for honest tough minded business advice and the ability to deliver.  Harvesting the account is about getting the client to buy from the trusted advisor at a better price point the things you used to sell in a competitive situation.

I know this was a very fast and cursory introduction to the form stage, but I hope it sparks thought and continued dialog about the importance of the customer intimacy journey, the steps involved, and what must be done to be successful.  

As product-based companies embark on the customer intimacy journey, their success largely depends on how attractive the value propositions for their services are and how well they are presented to clients to convince them to buy. Unfortunately, far too many companies remain relatively opportunistic in their approach to the marketplace.

Service chains are a key building block to becoming less opportunistic and more deliberate in your go-to-market approach.

Let's examine what we mean by the term service chain.

A service chain is a pre-planned set of offerings that have an entry offering with linkages and methods that pull-through the other offerings. Service chains formalize implied client value propositions by providing a framework to aid in the transformation from an opportunistic selling approach to a pre-planned, deliberate selling approach that delivers to clients the total value proposition offered by your company.


The service chain framework consists of the following sequence:

Entry Offering:
a compelling idea that should apply to the client is presented,

Project 1: Proof that the idea impacts the client is developed and quantified,

Project 2,3...: The client's problem is fixed,

Managed Services: Ongoing support to manage the fix.

Service chains provide for greater client intimacy resulting in long-term, trusted advisor relationships. They maximize the pull-through of streams of work and minimize the sales investment, thereby enabling the sales team with pre-planned outcomes and predictable client revenue.

Here are some considerations based on our service chain framework:


  • It's in the client's best interest for us to provide our services over a long period of time.
  • It's the only way for the client to realize our total value proposition.
  • Clients buy based on industry. Therefore, service chains must always be industry focused, even though the actual services provided may well be 80-90% horizontal in nature.
  • One exception to the previous point regarding industry focus is pure technology services sold to the CIO organization (example - certain Microsoft services).
  • Initial projects in the chain, including the entry offering, should start relatively small and lead to very large "fix it" and deep "support it" engagements.
  • As a going in position, all service chains should lead to managed services engagements if that is the company's strategy.
Idea - Entry Offering

  • Ideas must be expressed in business terms, not technology terms. They must address a key business problem.
  • Ideas must be industry specific.
  • Results of the idea must "scream" for the client to take action.
  • The entry points into the client must be at the highest level, preferably the C-level, and the idea must speak to what they will be interested in - again, not technology.
  • Entry offerings do not need to be projects in a traditional sense. They can be white papersexecutive briefings, seminars, etc. Consideration should be given to what forum best fits the particular industry.
  • As a going in position, entry offerings should be paid for by the client. If their interest is peaked by a great idea, they will be willing to pay.
  • Thought should be given to legitimizing your idea by having an independent, recognized name in the field speak or comment on the idea.
Proof - Project 1

  • The proof must not only prove that the idea applies to the client, but it must quantify the results he/she will realize as a result of the fix. This serves as the linkage to the next, much bigger project.
  • Assessments are often very good proof projects. However, unless the idea is extremely unique and revolutionary, the proof project should not be named an assessment.
  • Assessments have been popular for over a decade and the business world is tired of being assessed. Think of unique, idea-specific names for proof projects.
Fix It - Projects 2,3..x

  • Fix it projects are often defined based on the methodology used to deliver the solution. Example - Architecture leads to design leads to construction leads to implementation.
  • Within the parameters for managing risk on large projects, it is usually best to minimize the number of fix it projects as the client often gets weary of too many phases.
  • Pilot projects are often excellent ways to deliver solutions, not only from a methodology standpoint but also from a service chain linkage standpoint. Value demonstrated in a pilot naturally links to much larger rollouts.
  • Additionally, pilots open up the opportunity to link to a managed services opportunity. Often, pilot projects are disruptive to a client's normal business infrastructure. If this is the case, you can offer to host the pilot for the client. This gives you the entrée to link to hosting the full rollout.
Support - Managed Services

  • Managed services is a logical extension to the fix it projects for companies with a managed services strategy.
  • In such companies, for every service chain the Practice Principal must challenge himself/herself to find a way to link to a managed services offering.
In summation, the service chain is a key driver of go-to-market activity for customer intimacy. It represents the best way to sell and deliver your company's value propositions to clients. When the model is properly executed, the results are:

  • increased pull-through revenue;
  • larger, repeatable deals;
  • reduced sales costs;
  • more profitable operations; and many more
Once again, service chains are opportunities to build long-term relationships with clients. They are the ingredient that will allow services organizations to scale and gain the critical mass they need to become dominant leaders in the industry.
Let's take some time and discuss the power of ideas and their importance as the central component of a True Solutions.  Good ideas facilitate the road to true customer intimacy. 

A solution is the embodiment of an idea - and how the idea can be realized.  The idea is the kernel of the change in the relationship from pushing products and discussing business opportunities.  Often conversations that are supposed to be about solutions are really about how to better use our products and get more bang for the buck in our relationship; these are valuable issues but not True Solutions™ discussions. 

As seen in the diagram below, there are many levels of impact from solutions.

The solutions that build intimacy above the line of safety are what we term True Solutions™.  These solutions are based upon ideas.

Using ideas as the focal point of discussions with clients immediately changes the dialog and therefore the relationship.

The power of ideas is that they immediately accomplish several things:

  • They focus the discussion on the idea - not the sales representatives (or consultants)  skills,  not the company or current relationship, but the idea.
  • They enable a more consultative conversation - discuss the merits of the idea in a particular environment.
  • They align with the way real decisions are made - instead of working against the process. 

What makes a good idea? 
Ideas for this discussion are focused upon seizing an opportunity for a company - be it business growth or protection, increase revenue or cut costs.  A good idea is not wishful thinking - but a challenge to see the business differently.  A good idea should be easy to summarize - to be expressed in a few minutes.  A good idea should be actionable, understandable and straight forward to evaluate for applicability.  Finally, a good idea should have a "wow" factor.

Granted some ideas are bigger than others - some require a bigger budget, some require more authority to move forward, but all good ideas should draw the client into a discussion about the possibilities.
How do ideas flow with the way decisions are made? 

Decisions are made by deciding:

1) Whether to Act,
2) How to Act, and only then,
3) With Whom to Act

Whether to Act - This stage is all about deciding if something should be done. Is it worth investigating this opportunity or issue(s)?  Only when this is decided does How to Act come clearly into view.

How to Act - How can this be done - What are the alternatives? Where are the risks? What's the game plan?  The staget is fruitful with analysis of how to get things done.

With Whom to Act - Can I do this alone, do I need help, who can I trust, etc.  This is about selecting partners for the implementation.  If you have assisted in Whether to Act and How to Act, then you are the partner for Whom to Act with.
How often have you been involved in a sales situation where all the discussion is about With Whom to Act - our product is better, cheaper, etc.? 

For clients to buy from these discussions they must have determined the first two questions without you - either buy themselves or with someone else's help.   Also, long sales cycles are often caused by selling With Whom to Act when the client is still deciding Whether to Act.

The importance of moving up the food chain is paramount - the true value of the relationship is created in the Whether to Act and the How to Act stages of a decision.   Also, this help must be paid for - yes paid for, otherwise it is not of any value to client.

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