March 2011 Archives

As we explained in an earlier blog post on service chains, 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.

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Linkages are pre-planned connections from one offering that pulls through the next offering. The connections are made by carefully pre-planned and executed sales activities. Of course in reality, linkages do not begin at the end of one project and end at the beginning of the next. Linkages are positioning activities that take place during the initial sales process and during projects. The positioning may not only be related to the next project in the chain, but also can be made with regard to the entire chain.

For example, a business development or account manager might choose to paint the entire service chain picture in their first meeting with a client. The purpose would not be to begin closing deals for all projects in the chain. Rather, the purpose would simply be to position the entire value proposition up front and condition the client for future possibilities.

Linkages provide excellent integration points to other service chains. In fact, such linkages should be pre-planned in the service chain if it is likely that one chain could link to another.

In our experience, we see three types of linkages:

Organic Linkages
Organic linkages link natural follow-on projects. They are typically dictated by the methodology used in delivery of the work. These linkages serve as checkpoints for client review and approval before proceeding to the next project. The linkage is organic because it will naturally happen assuming good results are achieved in the prior project. Examples of organic linkages are architecture leading to design and design leading to implementation.

Proof Linkages
Proof linkages position the next project by proving a benefit or other projected result in the preceding project. The fact that a hypothesis is proven to be true creates a logical linkage to the next project to act on those results. Examples of these are assessments and feasibility studies. If an assessment proves out a weakness, there is an obvious linkage to a next project to fix the weakness.

Facilitated Linkages
These linkages should be designed into the service chain when it is believed the client will have difficulty understanding the linkage to the next project. In such cases, there is a need to educate the client on the merits of the following project. A classic example of a facilitated linkage is the creation of a Steering Committee. The official purpose of the Committee is to oversee the current project. The linkage purpose is to provide a forum to educate the client on the rationale for the next project in the service chain. This approach might be useful, for example, when a client is changing their go-to-market strategy to include partnerships, and needs to be educated on the benefits in an ongoing way.

I can't emphasize this point enough: service chains are opportunities to build long-term relationships with clients. They're the key ingredient in your Customer Intimacy Engine™ that will allow your services organizations to scale and gain the critical mass they need to become dominant leaders in the industry.

MORE INFO >> Download: Customer Intimacy as a Business Model by Dean McMann


Since it's so important to success, let's talk about messaging and the sales force. You must differentiate your business with clear messaging attributes which include:

  • An Idea Sellingstoryboard
  • Answers to key questions like:
    - "Why" they should do this
    - "How" they can do this
    - "With whom" should they do this
The Idea Sellingstoryboard must be complete.  Glean out a 2-3 minute explanation of why examining the Idea is so important for the customer group.  If the story takes 15 minutes to explain, it is by definition not messaged well or too complex for this stage of your journey. 

The early stage of the journey and the early stage of the portfolio are different from later stages of your journey, and later stages of your portfolio.  Also, what you take to market and what you pull through is different from your solution set.  Again, you must boil the message down into something that is clear, well defined and easy to talk about in 3 minutes.  The rest of the messaging for the Idea Meetings and the Stakeholder Meetings can be created off the initial messaging, but the primary mistake is never getting a clear, concise message to begin with.

Now, let's discuss enabling the sales force. Please remember that by nature, salespeople live in a different world than everyone else.  They have the need to be successful to support their families and much of their compensation is leveraged on success.  They spend much of their effort minimizing the chances of failure by working internally in their organization and out to their customers.  Over time, the tendency in the sales organization is to encourage the sales rep to do what he/she is good at, to stay with products and services they know really well, and to deal with those accounts and people they already have relationships with. 

Therefore, to change that - i.e. to call on different accounts or different levels in the organization - will work against all their risk aversion habits.  Thus equipping and enabling the sales force so they can be successful is a significant effort, and should be looked on as such. This begins with a game plan that fully explains the sales cycle for the offer.  This will include: the storyboard; how the Service Chain™ will work; how the Idea Meetings will work; how the Stakeholder Meetings will work; what they're going to draw; and how they will communicate.  The game plan must be complete, easy to understand, and supported with visuals and videos that can be repeatedly watched as they begin to learn the offer.  The next step in the journey is to provide education on the offer.  They will need direct educational support that is intellectual, including role playing opportunities, coaching, and probably someone to go to market with them to show them how it works by example.

In summary, I cannot stress enough the things that are necessary to create meaningful True Solutions™. If you do not pick the right offer and you cannot differentiate well, it is relatively difficult to make up for that without really good positioning documents and sales enablement.  If you do not invest heavily and do everything right in getting the positioning correct, and you do not invest heavily in getting the sales force successful, then you run the risk of being unsuccessful and not knowing why.

In the end, you have to remember that customer intimacy is about business model transformation, and the sales team is a key part of this change.

MORE INFO >> Download: Customer Intimacy as a Business Model by Dean McMann

MORE INFO >> Download: Customer Intimacy as a Business Model by Dean McMann

The following guest post is by Mark Slotnik of McMann & Ransford.

If you have been following Dean's blog, by now you know how we feel about the importance of True Solutions. Typically in the Form phase of building a Customer Intimacy Engine™ , you will develop the initial True Solutions™ sets and take them to market. Like product development, a framework and process exists to define, develop and take your Solutions to market in a deliberate and defined manner. This building block is key to your Intimacy Engine™ success, so it is important to recognize early on what is different about developing True Solutions™ compared to typical product development.

So what is different?

Let's answer this from two points of view: The Market, or external view and the Company, or internal view.

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Buyers of True Solutions™ progress through a series of business decisions before deciding and committing to spend large sums of money to implement significant change to their business. I call this the customer journey and it is your job to provide everything they need along the way. Therefore, from the Market/Customer Point of View, solution development is driven by the following actions:

  1. Interacting with the market (customers) quickly and spending less time defining it up front. In other words, define and validate the Customer Journey early in the process. To me, this is often the most difficult brick wall to break through for those companies in the Form Phase.
  2. Understanding that your customer's Solution inspection is on the significance of the problem or opportunity, not what the product will or will not do (i.e. feature and functionality).
  3. Designing Solution components to be modular to meet the needs of your customer's specific and unique problem/situation.
  4. Designing Solution components to help your company understand the customer environment to better scope, design and cost the solution implementation and manage customer expectations.
Solution development process phases and activities are the same and repeatable, but the final output and who builds it is different per solution. Therefore, from the Internal/Company View - Solution development is driven by:

  1. Cross functional teams that possess customer, industry, product, business management, and marketing/sales expertise. The intensity of resource involvement varies throughout different phases of development.
  2. Piloting Solutions prior to a broader launch is the norm. The speed to pilot must be fast to get to market quickly to learn and make changes. Note that you might even "kill" the effort at this point, which takes discipline but is crucial so you are not wasting scarce, valuable resources.
  3. Launch activities are primarily focused on training and coaching the specific solution aspects (e.g. who is the target buyer and what/how we communicate the specific Idea) to sales and delivery resources. Note this is not a "check the box" process of completing documents then throwing the book over the fence to sales.
  4. True Solutions™ typically include products and services, but both are not always required.
In summary, a well crafted and defined solution development process allows for continuous improvement, incorporating both inward facing and market based criteria to ensure alignment with the target customer's buying decision process, your customer engagement model and solution delivery. It is repeatable and has objective toll gates along the way.

Lastly, speed and momentum matter - the window of opportunity for both you and your customers only stays open for so long. It's critical to instill a sense of urgency in the teams involved.

MORE INFO >> Download: Customer Intimacy as a Business Model by Dean McMann


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