Creating Synergy to Achieve Sales Growth
This month’s Expert Speak comes from Pierpaolo Bertocco, MD, CPM Italy
The outsourcing of the sales force is more relevant than ever. This sales approach is gaining ground amongst both medium-sized local companies and multi-nationals because of the constant need for cost containment and the need to update their internal organisation with more flexible goals and better performing models in the medium term.
But the question “What can be done with an outsourced sales force?” is still key for each organisation which is facing this sales approach. CPM can offer a simple but strongly effective answer: “Exactly the same as you do with an in-house field force, but with a better control on goals, focus and ROI.” Essentially, outsourcing the sales force means we define, manage and monitor a direct relationship between costs and results. But if we want to go more in depth, the competitive advantage of the CPM sales outsourcing approach can be summarised in three key pillars. First, the greater focus on sales goals and results. Second, the possibility of creating a strategic mix of human resources engaged directly and those outsourced, thereby ensuring greater flexibility in the size of the sales force and consequently an optimised return on investment. And lastly, an unquestionable advantage in terms of costs and results, plus greater flexibility in the management of the budget.
In this article we would like to feature a sterling example of how a strategic sales plan based on the synergic co-work of field force and telesales resource can lead to a sustainable sales growth.
When DKV, the European provider of a wide range of services aimed to help transportation and fleet companies, felt the need to activate new customers and promote new services within small & medium businesses in the Italian market, they made contact with us here at CPM Italy.
After setting sales targets, we defined a dedicated field specialists team, focused on improving DKV Fuel Card sales through phone contacts and appointments with fleet managers. The results achieved in terms of sales growth and ROI convinced DKV of CPM’s outsourced field sales force solution. Thus, we were appointed for an even more challenging project which aimed to deliver a brand-new sales approach based on a synergic team working between a focused telesales team and a strongly skilled field sales force team.
The final outcome of the roles became the opposite: the telesales team supporting the field sales force team in closing the deal meanwhile autonomously appointing new clients, speeding up the process and doubling the new clients acquired.
The result? A huge increase of the number of clients and turnover – with over 35% success rate and 30%+ turnover year on year –, over 66 million euro of annual contracts in less than 5 years and a minimum small drop-out rate which confirm the quality of the clients acquired.
Marco Berardelli, Country General Manager, DKV EURO SERVICE Italia, talking about this encomp
assed sales service project stated: “Outsourcing a part of the sales force was a weighted and innovative decision. We have focused on the prospecting activity and we have achieved in a short time, after a first phase of learning of our Services by the new outsourcing sales agency, a considerable increase in contracts signed through a strong motivational drive, high productivity and flexibility of resources and a convinced result orientation. But that’s not all, what most surprised us was the highly professional and proactive attitude of our outsourced sales partner in proposing new innovative sales solutions and communication methods, in order to multiply, with success and in perfect synergy, our sales potential!”
Contact us today for more information
Outsourced Field Sales Team – What happens at night….
This month’s Expert Speak comes from Bastiaan van Houten, MD, CPM Netherlands. In 2001 Bastiaan started his CPM career with a field sales job at Diageo and in 2004 moved into CPM’s Dutch head office for a role in direct sales. After various roles and positions Bastiaan started Cosine Benelux in 2011 and merged this business in 2015 with CPM Netherlands.
In this article we would like to showcase a new solution for our logistic process and the path we followed to get there. We all know the challenges in our Industry, clients asking us to improve ROI by driving efficiency whilst on the other side we experience increasing prices and a tight labour market. Let’s take you to the situation that triggered this new business innovation.
Imagine yourself; a client with an outsourced field sales team, the sales representatives are working on a maximum workload (#locations and #tasks per store). The client wants to expand the number of locations, without budget for extra resources. They ask CPM for a solution. We all know these challenges, drive efficiency and improve ROI.
On the other side the project manager has the same challenge. The labour market is tight, suppliers are raising their prices on a yearly base and we’ve already implemented several efficiency plans with this client. Expanding stores means expanding the team or downsizing the tasks.
CPM organised a brainstorm and investigation session and it became clear: the big bottleneck in the efficiency was the time the team spent driving to the storage location and then to the first appointment. We knew if there was a way we could do things differently we could create more time in-store, which would result in achieving an increase in ROI.
Now that we had identified the bottleneck we were close to the solution. How can we improve? What is not used yet…..? Exactly, the night! Yes, we can do an overnight car delivery and forget about our traditional storage! Whilst the team sleeps we can get all materials delivered to their cars, so when they wake up they can go straight to their first address, eureka!
But would this be cost efficient? We put all the elements in a calculation module. The cost for cost calculation ended up equal, but we were able to increase in-store coverage by 6% to 8%. By switching to overnight car delivery we found a cost and time efficient solution. We managed to expand the stores, using the same quantity of people and tasks, without raising the costs. Case Closed!
Overnight car delivery
How it works: The driver picks up the materials at a dropping point. The cars are equipped with a high tech GPS system that allocates the cars they need to supply and directly calculates the most efficient route. The car boot can be opened with a smart lock, which locks again automatically. Returns can be picked up by the driver at the same time. A flexible solution, that’s scalable when needed.
At this moment we’re rolling this out with our first client and expect many to follow. Overnight delivery is a cost effective solution for areas with a high density and raising salaries, small countries with many inhabitants or the bigger urban area’s in low density countries.
As an outsourced sales agency we need to keep looking to the future and what the future is bringing us. The time we live in is very exciting; of course clients & employees are more and more demanding. However on the other side the world is changing so rapidly there are innovative solutions everywhere. Let’s explore them, find out how we can use and implement these new solutions in our daily business. Embrace new technologies and continuously be that innovative and flexible partner that looks one step ahead.
The Means Matter – Improving Sales
Our latest CPM Expert Speak comes from Mandeep Singh; MD & CEO, CPM India.
The process of closing a business at CPM India is akin to any other business pitching to win. Upon receiving the requirements, we prepare extensively by discerning the pain points of our prospective client, strategise masterfully the exact method of execution, and present stunningly to secure the client and win the business.
Moments of celebration later, a conventional business would begin the process of delivering on the promised key performance indicators and commence the execution of the won project. This is the output phase where a company gets lost in the daily grind of achieving the end results of increasing the share of shelves, improving sales numbers, etc.
A vacuum is created between these two phases which is what separates CPM India from the conventional business. We, at CPM India, believe that ‘the means matter’ and we put the same amount of efforts in this input phase as any other phase. How do we do that?
We do it through PERFORMICS which is nothing but performing retail execution by building better insights and capabilities for improving sales. We essentially integrated CPM’s brand essence to create a product that puts us on the retail intelligence map.
PERFORMICS is a tool-aided process to synergize the efforts of different silos and smooth the flow of information from the top to bottom and vice versa. It enables the client teams to plan activities such as merchandising activities, target tracking, and route planning through a customized web portal, the information from which directly flows to the android applications available with the field sales force which can use it to easily capture data and carry out the planned activities and also provide the client sales teams access to real time information. PERFORMICS includes compliance and analytics modules to audit the work and transform the available data into actionable retail insights. The whole process accelerates the performance and improves the sales manifold.
PERFORMICS has been a great enabler for us to look at the quality of inputs and focus on some data points to ensure that the end results are achieved. All in all,
PERFORMICS is a way to fill the void that existed in a client-agency relationship and has opened the doors for CPM India to venture into the retail intelligence space and make a huge impact. More importantly, PERFORMICS lets CPM India work more effectively for its existing clients to create insights that create the influence to drive sales.
The Key to Delivering a Successful Regional Sales Activity
Delivering Success Across the Region
Our latest CPM Expert Speak comes from Martin Ryan; Chief Development Officer at CPM Group of Companies Asia Pacific. Martin has worked for CPM for eighteen years and has over twenty five years industry experience. He has overseen numerous regional projects, experienced great success, but also some crushing disappointments.
Here’s his candid overview of how to deliver regional success based on personal hard lessons learned.
Delivering Regional Success
Winning regional business across a diverse geography is a special thrill. Within the space of a few hundred miles, languages, cultural norms, and currency can morph into something wholly different. Navigating across regions is always tricky and although better communication tools may have made distance seem smaller, the secret of successful regional sales activity lies in how we combine the efficiency of modern technology with other more human tools.
The Starting Line
Start by defining your team’s purpose. When CPM Singapore embarked on a regional project with a leading tech client we spent time completing a detailed analysis of their particular vision of success. What were the common threads applicable to all countries? What were the precise elements of measurement?
If possible, look for insight to those who are already delivering. A major factor in CPM Singapore winning a regional project with another tech giant was the time invested in understanding how the established Australian team delivered their strong track record of success. They were hugely generous in sharing their knowledge and we made substantial effort to join the dots so we could apply their established procedures across the region. This knowledge also gave us deep insight into the client’s culture and their expectations of an outsourced field sales agency. I believe this was a significant differentiator between CPM and our competitors, and a critical part of our successful bid.
You Need a Detailed Contract
Once the team’s purpose is clearly defined, time must be taken to draw up a robust contract. Of course, it’s always hoped that everyone will play fair, but when crossing country boundaries it is crucial to state any legal liabilities, payment terms, and other obligations. Painstakingly outlining these clauses is something I learned the hard way. Relationships built on trust are important, but when other departments and countries get involved you need an unambiguous written agreement that balances transparency with what you may normally be take on trust.
You also need a clear process to manage billing and currency fluctuations. Having this in place in advance makes billing seamless and revenue easier to forecast. Outlining obligations when the contract ends is also important as different employment laws exist in different countries and you don’t want to be exposed to large redundancy payments.
This is also the time to set some ground rules for communication and response times, and all KPIs should be stated. Clearly outlining these before the activity starts will set realistic expectations and avoid mission creep.
Build Credibility by Building Key Relationships
A regional team must ooze credibility and to do this they must be capable. Some of the leadership attributes required include a good dose of self- confidence, the ability to think clearly and make decisions, being self- driven when remote, endowed with brilliant communication skills, technically astute, and not scared to present both to groups and in front of the camera. An underrated skill is the ability to communicate over the telephone, both one to one and in a conference call.
To make regional activity fly you also have to be a relationship ninja.
Start by knowing the client’s country by country structure. How does it differ? Who are the key people and what do they do? Have a clear understanding of which relationships to concentrate on and then put the time in to make them work.
Part of this includes an attitude of transparency and openness which can go beyond your working life. Trust people and give them access to your calendar, include details like holidays and children’s events at school. We live in a time when the boundaries between work and life are blurred and a regional role means you will be working outside of your own time zone’s conventional working day. This is the new norm so embrace it and make it part of your life. Inject a genuine and vigorous enthusiasm.
Once you have established this human connection and built key relationships at a local level you will know who to contact in each market, you will build respect, save time and avoid potential misdirection.
Make Your Field or Contact Centre Team the Most Important Aspect of the Activity
Your most important customers are the team delivering results. They’re the ones generating sales and smashing targets. They’re also spread over a large geography and making them feel part of a unified, emotionally connected team is a critical priority. Involve them, talk to them face to face whenever possible and painstakingly understand their needs and frustrations. Take the time to really listen and make sure you paraphrase what they are saying to prove you have heard them.
A regional sales project requires a global vision to set the strategy, but management of it needs to be carried out regionally utilising a deep insight into local processes. It takes dogged determination and patience to unravel and understand each step of the data collection process and collation of reporting. Acquiring this knowledge ensures a strong foundation, and facilitates informed decision making. Applying this rigor along with an understanding of where existing CPM solutions can fill gaps means you can make informed and creative decisions on what to adopt, or if it almost works, what to adapt, and only as a last resort do you revert to reinvention.
Grow Your Capabilities and be Innovative
Regional sales activity is not rigid; it is an iterative process that requires a solution that’s nimble and responsive. Knowing how to leverage existing solutions and apply the best of what is available locally is a fine balance, as giving teams too much freedom can compromise results. You need to know what’s non-negotiable and apply a rigorous application of continuous improvement. When you spend time understanding how people work you will know when it’s time to use the carrot, and when use of the stick is more appropriate.
To summarise, here’s what I’ve learned about running a successful regional sales activity. Start by really knowing your purpose, both regionally and in each country. Once you have clearly defined your objectives, assemble the reporting structure around them. Adopt processes that work elsewhere in your business, adapt them to give local relevance, and only reinvent as a last resort. Make sure you have a detailed contract and include clauses that define liabilities.
Build key relationships. Success stems from open human trust. When possible be available across the region’s working day but also let people know when you are not available. Embed yourself into your client’s organisation and become indispensable without being arrogant.
Build credible and capable teams, culturally adaptable and results focused. Understand and connect with your sales team. Make sure they feel you are involving them and understand their needs and frustrations. Grow your capabilities. Solutions are iterative and constantly evolving. Be energetic and responsive and don’t become complacent.
Branching out from the local to the regional can be bewildering and at times maddeningly frustrating, but it can also be richly rewarding and joyous, transforming your understanding of both yourself and the hyper connected global world we inhabit. Fully embracing a deep knowledge of your client and becoming a trusted indispensable regional partner is one of the best things in our business.
Welcome to our latest edition of Expert Speak, ”How about we tell you how much we can accelerate your sales?” which comes from Véronique Motte, President CPM Group of Companies in France
How about we tell you how much we can accelerate your sales?
A few weeks ago, our teams organised a conference during the 2018 edition of the MPV trade show which took place in Paris. The title of this conference was “The 4 drivers which really influence sales demos performance”. CPM France teamed up with L’Oréal France to present real-life feedback from this innovative approach.
True fact: sales demonstrations are a sell-out driver for brands
Deployed on a large scale over 40 years ago, at the same time as mass-market retailing, demonstration days are one of the most popular marketing drivers for brands and also one of the most outsourced. Interestingly, according to a study done by EY in France, it is also one of the most preserved media spends:
For a long time in France, sales demonstrations were a sell-in incentive. Nowadays, being a media in its own right, it is therefore central to the concerns of marketing and sales departments.
Measuring sales demonstrations performance: an innovation on the market
Using sales data provided by L’Oréal and a mathematical equation defined by CPM France’s Business Intelligence team, we were able to build a robust statistical model based on linear regression. That’s how the ROI-focused approach for L’Oréal Consumer Products Division came into life.
We found out that in order to achieve a specific ROI, four drivers that can influence performance must be taken into account: the product display, the store environment, the promotion and the ambassadors themselves. This proved that when all the right drivers are aligned, the sales demonstrations performance can be accelerated by over 300%.
Reaching new heights…
I cannot express how proud I am of the teams at CPM who have made this possible. We are reaching a brand new level: we were famous for the quality of the field work execution we provided, which has never and will never be easy, but the right people with the right tools help… we are now able to measure for our clients the performance of the activities they outsource with us.
In other words: at CPM, we make demonstration days work. Oh, and by the way we also measure the performance of our other solutions too…
President CPM Group of Companies in France
Merchandising Online- Is there a secret recipe for how to sell an invisible product online?
No. We are sad to say that there is no known solution nor secret recipe for that. No-one is going to buy a product online if it isn’t there. Sorry.
That’s why making sure a product is visible to consumers should be the most basic requirement of any retailing activity. Online more than ever. Despite this, a recent study found that, on average, FMCG suppliers only have 60-80% of their products visible at their online retailers. Even when shoppers are actively searching for their specific brand or category. So clearly this basic requirement is harder to fulfil, or a lower priority, online than it ought to be.
This valuable insight was shared in a White Paper from category and shopper management specialist Bridgethorne (UK) in early February 2018. According to this report, too many suppliers fail to check what is happening to their products online the way they would in a bricks-and-mortar store. And because they’re not looking for it, they aren’t realising there’s a problem and therefore aren’t investing in putting things right.
This shows that all these suppliers and brands are missing out on a massive sales opportunity that’s there for the taking – both in terms of revenue and market share – if they could only find out where they are unlisted (and thereby invisible) and sort it out.
And this study only looks at FMCG suppliers in the UK. What about invisible products in other markets and industries? If we went looking for it, we would probably see a similar problem wherever we looked.
We believe it’s a waste for suppliers and brands to risk not being visible and not being sold online, when there’s a solution out there. We can’t help you to sell invisible products, but we can easily scour the online retailer landscape to find the needle in the haystack and help fix the problem by ensuring that your products are visible where and how they should be.
Please drop us a note if you want to know more and we’ll be happy to help.
The global Detail merchandising online team
Our solution for merchandising online is probably the most targeted solution in the market for sales and marketing teams, built to embrace this specific challenge – seeking out and finding lost sales opportunities online, fixing them and winning overall sales. With our state of the art technology, we currently cover 50 countries all over the world. Read more @ www.detailonline.com
Leadership #IWD2018 by Lorraine Butler
International Women’s Day creates time in our busy lives, for awareness and reflection on women’s efforts and achievements. It reminds us to stop and reflect on the progress women have made, our contribution and our successes. In turn, it reminds us to continue our future strides to create future success both individually and collectively.
Personally, I have very seldom been comprised in my career because of my gender. That is not to say that I have not seen others (of both genders) who have been less fortunate. I have always taken the approach of the ‘best person for a role’. However as I have matured through business and life, I see that personal circumstances have to be considered and accommodated in order to help the best person be the best they can be. My management team live by this philosophy and I ask that we seek out leaders in all layers of our business who will embrace this philosophy. This philosophy doesn’t happen by accident, it takes time to nurture, develop and appreciate.
The principles of leadership can be taught yes, but it takes a person with leadership inherent in their personality and DNA to truly and naturally lead and embrace leadership principles. I believe leadership can be improved upon and learned over time, even for those who don’t have a natural leadership tendencies. But in order to become an effective leader, one has to truly want to lead, for the right reasons and needs to believe in the cause – only then will you win trust of your people, which is an absolute requirement of effective leadership. And of course you have good and bad leadership; The concept of Shadow Of the Leader is something I have always embraced – being mindful of the shadow that your leaderships casts, considering others are likely to follow in the same steps.
People skills are critical to any leadership role in our organisation. Our greatest asset is our people and leaders at all levels need to continuously inspire and motivate our employees. Good empathy and intuition are important skills – and knowing when to dial up or down each. In order to lead teams, you have to build a good team around you, realising that often others on your team are better at certain things than you yourself are. A good leader will show the potential to embrace diversity within a team and take ownership of developing their people – where people grow, business grows.
My advice to women today at all stages of their careers – Anything is possible ! Whatever you want to achieve, it is achievable, but you are responsible for your own journey and destination. Surround yourself with good people. People you instinctively trust and can learn from. Regardless of whether you realise it or not – every day you are being interviewed! Do what is expected of you in your current role with excellence, but adopt practices and behaviours of the role you want next! Work to identify and secure a mentor who you respect and will learn from – but ensure to take heed of their advice –they haven’t achieved the success they have without learning a thing or two along the way – so listen, observe and action on their guidance, it will speed up your journey to success
Welcome to our first edition of Expert Speak for 2018, ‘Storytelling’ which comes from Mike Hughes, Chief Executive Officer, CPM International Group.
Last year we lost a client – something I am not used to, something I take personally and something that bothers me. Since then I have spent time reflecting on what went wrong and how we need to be better next time.
Part of this process led me to reflect on the current trend for ‘storytelling’. Storytelling, we are told, is the best way to create chemistry with people, to get you more airtime with customers, colleagues and leaders; apparently, that’s because a great anecdote hooks people, takes them on an emotional journey and conveys a memorable message……stories that resonate with people inspire them to take action.
I completely buy all this and successful pitch meetings need to do all of those things but I think there is one word that is missing which is particularly important in challenging economic times…and that word is ‘true’….because stories need to be true stories backed by evidence, fact and testimonials. Donald Trump has introduced the world to fake news and the blurring of fact and fiction and in a world where performance pressure has never been greater, where the sales director’s door revolves ever faster and where experience is at a premium, it is easy to believe the hubris of a new supplier pitch.
Ideas are easy but execution is difficult and the stakes are high when execution falls below the required standard. I hear increasing numbers of stories where clients are on the receiving end of over promising and under delivering suppliers, for example, thinking they are getting a state of the art reporting system from day one only to find it doesn’t work or where they are told they should not worry because their sales team will transfer to the new supplier only to find out that they have lost 50% within the early months because promises are not matched by delivery. This matters because poor performance stains the image of our industry as well the individual company delivering it and the short term pressures our clients are under means they can’t afford to lose a single sale.
Clients need partners who are going to do what they say they will and this year if you ask CPM to pitch for your work, you can rest assured our stories will be true stories.
4th December 2017 – Barcelona
CPM Barcelona takes home Silver Best Customer Service Team of the Year Award at the European Contact Centre & Customer Service Awards
We are thrilled to announce that CPM’s International Contact Centre in Barcelona took home Silver in the Best Customer Service Team of the Year Award category at the European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards last night; recognising its revolutionary approach to Social Media and Customer Service!
Speaking about the awards, Tom Johnston, Business Unit Director – Sales through Service, CPM Barcelona said, “I am delighted that our ground-breaking and innovative approach to growing the online community, serving our millennials via their channel of choice and truly monetizing Social Media through customer service excellence, has earned the accolades of so many industry experts.”
“CPM is committed to innovation in consumer engagement and embracing digital channels as part of our industry-leading approach to omni-channel customer service. This award acknowledges the amazing success and commitment of our social media team in delivering best-in-class customer service. I am extremely proud of the team,” says Fiona Whelan, Managing Director.
This award recognizes CPM Barcelona for its forward-thinking and innovative approach to social media and social customer service. As customer experience specialists, CPM Barcelona delivers omni-channel customer service solutions for our blue-chip client portfolio, spanning 22+ languages and 65 markets.
Following a multi-stage award submission process, which included a face:face finalist presentation competing against 9 other shortlisted agencies; CPM were awarded Silver medal category winners at the awards ceremony held at the impressive Evolution venue in Battersea Park, London.
CPM Barcelona’s Social Media Team had already triumphed at the UK Customer Experience Awards earlier this year, scooping the prestigious Best in Class – International Social Media Award.
The European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards (ECCCSAs) are the largest and longest running awards in the customer contact industry. Highly regarded for its robust judging process, the ECCCSAs recognise organisations that are leading the way in delivering exceptional service to customer.
About CPM International Contact Centre – Barcelona
CPM Barcelona, as part of CPM Group and a member of the Omnicom Group, is an international contact centre delivering outsourced customer experience and sales solutions on an EMEA-wide basis. CPM specialises in the delivery of omnichannel customer engagement solutions for global clients spanning High Tech, Consumer Electronics, FMCG, Retail and Travel industries and currently covers 22+ languages across 65 markets.
For further information, contact:
How can an Outsourced Agency Demonstrate Value in a Competitive Marketplace ?
Providing a service to clients that manifestly increases sales will always be the cornerstone of a strong value proposition. Pricing this significant service at a rate that represents fair value for this impact on a client’s business is an increasingly difficult task in today’s competitive marketplace. But I strongly believe it is more important than ever to focus on the value of the offering and clearly articulate what difference this can make to the client’s business. Admittedly, and realistically, price is not irrelevant. Mickey Drexler, ex-CEO of J. Crew, says “The real price of goods is always the selling price. The best price is to sell it for what it’s worth.”
So, how does an outsourced agency demonstrate worth, maintain a keen pricing structure, and avoid a negotiation where the only outcome is a spiraling descent to the bargain basement of both price and value, a process I describe as ‘the race to the bottom’?
Before even venturing to introduce a pricing model, an agency must start each relationship by making strenuous efforts to understand the client needs and then clearly demonstrate the value of their agency’s creativity and wisdom.
Understand what problem the client needs to have solved? Be clear about what insight the agency can bring to the table? Ask searching questions and encourage the client to really define what success means to them. All of this helps to establish a level of trust and to forge common alignment.
It also embraces transparency and a deeper understanding on both sides. Interestingly for the potential client, a closer evaluation of their needs helps the client to evaluate potential providers on their approach and capability rather than solely on price.
What about the spectre of procurement? For many sales or new business teams, the mere mention of procurement evokes a rolling of the eyes or worse!
In my multifaceted role as a Global Chief Operating Officer, Asia President, and Senior Accounting Officer for the CPM Group of companies, I’ve endured many negotiations with zealous procurement teams, watching each element of our service being systematically broken down and assigned a price instead of a value. It’s a very straightforward, almost mechanical, process to place a price on inputs with no bearing on the benefits.
However, the procurement team/individual that can relate those inputs to the value created in the outputs, embraces the real added value the organisation seeks. The procurement professional can help demystify the challenges of internal budget structures versus real output based pricing, and work collectively with marketing and their agency to build a cost model that rewards good work and demonstrates value.
This can be the huge benefit of procurement done well. Yes, they often force agencies to examine their costs and present them in a more transparent manner, but this can only benefit any business longer term. Understanding the price of service delivery is essential for agencies to then realise profit whilst ensuring clients get value.
PepsiCo has recently eliminated procurement from marketing negotiations, but 53% of companies still involve procurement and the onus is on sales teams to embrace this and positively influence the decision-making process, defending their value proposition by clearly demonstrating its impact whilst working in an open and transparent manner, building trust with its procurement client as well as the marketing teams.
If business is negotiated on the correct footing, with the service framed as an investment not an expense, then both the client and the outsourced agency can harness the power of synergy and create a mutually successful outcome, based, not simply on cost, but on value linked to insight and a robust ROI.
Winning business that has a miserably low margin while voraciously consuming precious resources, leads to an inevitable and sometimes bitter parting of the ways, which can have a big impact on the agency’s business overall. It takes courage to hold your nerve around the negotiating table and look for new ways to add value, but it is imperative that your service is not viewed as a mere commodity. I’m afraid to say that all too often agencies have nobody but themselves to blame as they agree to commercial arrangements that are best described as suicidal. Who can blame client procurement, they are merely doing what we all try to do, which is secure the best product at the lowest price. I’d like to purchase a luxury car for the same price as a mid- range sedan, wouldn’t you? The fundamental issue here is procurement will keep asking for more concessions until the agency says no! The agency must find ways to say yes outside of simply cutting price and leverage the value-added aspects of the work the agency can and does do for the client.
The world is our marketplace and communication is getting faster. Whole industries, including retail, have undergone tremendous disruption. To be competitive, agencies must be agile, able to simplify process and embrace diversity. Rigidity is a thing of the past. Linear thinking and acting is hopelessly outdated. We must all work on a broader commercial approach. Business is global and it has never been easier to communicate and harness global learnings.
I recently attended a regional conference in Asia where teams from six countries pitted their collective problem-solving and creative skills to put forward several workable project plans designed to roll out across the region for a major client. The client was in the room and was electrified by the sheer energy and practical application achieved in a breathtakingly short amount of time. This was a clear demonstration of how enhanced service can be collectively achieved by harnessing the synergy of truly diverse teams.
Agencies must foster and encourage mental agility and flexibility amongst their people as they are the drivers of value. Business can’t be exclusively conducted from the isolation of a desk. Client service teams should actively network and absorb thoughts and insights from a diversity of sources. We all must keep up with current trends in the market and strive to be thought leaders, the respected “go-to” person in our field. This is especially important if we are going to master and exploit change and not be left an irrelevant colossus, too big and bloated to adapt in the face of fundamental upheaval.
In an increasingly digital world, the distance between clients and the field has never been closer. Agencies must manage their reputations, earn respect and nurture authenticity in all areas of our business. Actions and character must be in-sync and agencies must align what they do with what they
say. Relationship building has always been central to a successful campaign and now it is critical to get closer to clients. This means actively involving field teams.
Communication, like a fountain, must flow upwards as well as downwards. Agencies must inspire everyone to take responsibility and be heard, not mumble in the corner if things are not right. In a world where word of mouth is king, agencies should empower all employees to be advocates, the field teams are brand evangelists and a powerful manifestation of value.
Agencies destined to survive and thrive will be rooted in strong foundations and adaptable in the face of change. Always listening and globally aware, not complacently locked in silos. Not intransigent in the face of a problem and not taking the easy route of pointing fingers and blaming others. Instead, they must strive to think creatively about how to clear roadblocks as a team, with each member taking responsibility. It’s too easy to say no constantly; find ways to say yes that make commercial sense, add value and bring creativity to the solution required.
The pressure of today’s marketplace will always make it attractive for clients to go for a cheaper option. But business is rarely won on price alone. Competitors can undercut, but it is up to each agency to demonstrate they can offer an intelligent, consistent depth of service, delivered by a committed, energetic and engaged field team. Cutting corners and spiraling ever downwards leads to a race to the bottom and is ultimately unsustainable. Instead, focus should be concentrated on insight and people as they adapt, thrive and make evangelists of clients. There will be no better way to demonstrate value and as a positive by product, earn a decent margin.
Paul Woolley, August 2017