How B-to-B Sales Leaders View the Pressures of C-Suite Executives
Stephen J. Bistritz, Founder, SellXL
Business drivers – loosely defined as the key factors that create the need for change within a corporation – are typically behind a customer’s thought process when it comes to making significant investments with suppliers. In order to remain effective, b-to-b sales leaders and their teams need to have a baseline knowledge of their customer’s key business drivers.
Business drivers can be categorized into eight main areas:
1. Financial Drivers
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 who is pressured by financial drivers, they must ultimately help the executive move the needle on either profit or cost, and do so in a way that’s consistent with how their industry measures success.
2. Operational Drivers
Executives concern themselves with 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 with having the right strategy, taking advantage of the latest approaches, and having the right people, processes, and technologies to execute that strategy.
One executive stated that “he looks to salespeople as gateways for expertise we don’t have, coupled with experience for enhancing this type of capability.”
3. Supplier Drivers
Today, large companies are routinely reducing the number of suppliers they buy materials and services from in the hope that buying more from a smaller pool of suppliers creates less complexity, simpler accounting, and improved buying power.
There’s very much a level of interdependence between the buyer and the seller, so approaches to real-time data sharing, shared infrastructure, and shared risk management remain compelling issues to discuss, especially when a salesperson can cogently explain how any of his company’s solutions in these areas can do the job faster, better, or with less risk than the way the executive does it today.
4. Business Partner Drivers
At times, new alliances are created between former competitors in order to thwart a competitor they share in common. Your customers may even now be evaluating their business partner relationships in light of changing business environments. This represents another opportunity for salespeople to create value by demonstrating an understanding of the customer’s pressures and offering solutions by orchestrating relevant introductions to his company’s network of people, partners, and affiliates who have value to add. Solutions are sometimes more about the relationships that salespeople help broker than about the actual product or service they sell.
5. Customer Drivers
Maintaining and growing their existing customer base, creating and enhancing loyalty, and delivering value are of prime importance to most executives. But how to 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? How do you balance your business so that it’s not overly dependent on a small list of customers who do most of the spending? 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 that they have a problem in this area.
6. Competitor Drivers
Competitors are another significant source of pressure for the executive. There are the long-established rivals who engage in a tug-of-war over a few percentage points of market share each year. There’s a perennial stream of hungry new entrants with low overheads and niche expertise who poach the most lucrative contracts using the lure of price, flexibility, or innovation. There are disgruntled staff who resign, set up as competitors, and take a few plum accounts with them. There’s even unexpected competition when a large company whose brand resonates in one industry decides to expand their footprint into new industries. Any insight salespeople can offer on ways to remain competitive without dropping their price or cutting corners on quality will never go out of style with executives. Salespeople can often help executives see beyond their silo walls to learn how other companies are solving the same competitor drivers they face.
7. Globalization Drivers
Globalization affects 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 either drive cost out of 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 will customers in different countries enjoy a uniform customer experience? How will staff members in different countries experience a consistent company culture that still resonates locally? If a salesperson can help provide insight into some of these global drivers, they can provide real value to the executive.
8. Regulatory Drivers
In response to corporate scandals, industry reform, the advent of new technology, political correctness crusades, or shareholders and governments demanding greater transparency, new legislation is regularly introduced in different countries, industries, and professions.
Helping executives anticipate and navigate regulatory issues is a tremendously valuable contribution, but to do so, the salesperson needs to have studied the company’s situation and weighed the company’s options —that’s the value executives are looking for.
In 2016, John Stumpf lost his job as CEO of Wells Fargo after a corporate scandal in which thousands of the bank’s employees opened more than two million fake bank accounts to give the appearance of meeting their sales targets. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer had her pay docked by $14 million and the company’s head lawyer Ron Bell lost his job over a massive data breach involving hundreds of millions of user accounts in 2016. Such stories exist in every country.
Damaging stories about regulatory or ethical breaches now travel fast and are repeated through the megaphone of 24/7 news cycles and social media. When these stories break, boards treat their company’s reputation very seriously and can handle their executives harshly in an effort to restore shareholder confidence.
Salespeople who can develop solutions that help an executive address some of these key drivers will likely gain an audience!
About the Author
Dr. Steve Bistritz is the founder of SellXL and has more than 40 years of high-tech sales, sales management and training management experience. He just released the 2nd edition of his best-selling sales book, Selling to the C-Suite. Visit his website at www.sellxl.com.