BackgroundThe company has a multi-million pound turnover and contribute to the parent company’s triple A rating on the stock market. Service specialists, they have been recognised as the fastest growing supplier in their field. The industry’s trade association have found them to have the highest levels of customer satisfaction and their senior managers have been recognised as the highest performers in their sector.
ChallengesThe market is highly competitive with major international companies bidding against each other. There is increasing pressure on margins and higher customer expectations of service levels. Consequently success is dependent on innovation to maintain differentiation in the eyes of the customer. The company has to increase profit on assets employed. Cost of sales represent a significant overhead and team performances require more consistency. The head of sales has decided to review the structure of the business development team in consultation with an external qualified and experienced specialist.
ActionThis review resulted in restructuring the salesforce, removing a regional management layer to save costs. An initial step was to perform an audit of current performance and behaviour involving an independent qualified consultant, in observation of individuals at work. Team projects allowed those involved to assess each others strengths and weaknesses. This produced a commitment to improve core competencies in planning and managing resources, create a development plan, and agree the most appropriate way to grow the business.
Learning events were co-designed and co-facilitated by managers and the external consultant. They included discussing new goals and processes to ensure commitment from all. A new core competency was identified by the company’s explicit promotion as a “Business Partner” to every customer. The team wanted a more active demonstration to clients of this Partnership approach and held a series of events focussed on attitudinal and behavioural change. This included outdoor development activities helping link personal communication styles and resource management skills with corporate and customer values.
OutcomesThe practical outdoor tasks on resource management, styles and values has shown the team how to adapt and modify their communications both internally and externally to build stronger business relationships. This in turn has resulted in more interdependent teamworking and greater trust enabling the managers to avoid a command-control style to one of supporting and facilitating change. The increased number of direct reports, instead of diminishing management effectiveness, has improved it. More trust between individual managers and improvements in teamwork has led to a widening of the portfolios offered to customers. This extra capacity has stimulated new business, as well as increasing customer loyalty.
SummaryThe translation of the concept of Business Partnering into active reality perceived by customers and staff has created a unique factor to differentiate the supplier. Starting the process of change by addressing the fundamental values of individuals established a firm foundation and desire for change. Converting sets of values into identifiable behaviours and developing specific skills ensured new attitudes were reflected by new behaviours. These competencies then became visible to customers whose satisfaction was manifested with more business.
The head of sales commented, “A planned and structured programme related to winning both hearts and minds has been key to a successful internal restructuring and external repositioning of our sales and customer account managers. Relationship management initiatives must start with the values of Business Partners.”
They have increased profits by 22% despite a downturn in their industry and last year posted a 40% increase in new business volumes. Their strategy of values-based relationship building has won them new customers with recognised brand names who, like themselves, do business with people they trust.