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Closing the Deal: Strategic alignment is a win-win

May 02. 2015 4:56PM

ALL TOO OFTEN, companies look at other companies they do business with as "vendors." While the definition of a vendor may be appropriate in some situations, it's not an ideal way to view the companies you do business with.

And if you're the one doing the selling, being classified as just another vendor is not a good situation to be in.

I have this conversation with people on a fairly regular basis, and I have a statement I typically make that helps frame the conversation and put things into perspective. I find this helps to really understand the problem at hand. That statement is, "Companies don't just sit around and make buying decisions for the heck of it. Companies buy things to solve business problems." And that is reality.

But the problem comes when companies fail to recognize this. They don't look at buying things as solving business problems. Or they make buying decisions without realizing the impact and alignment those decisions have on the strategic business objectives the company has identified. And the same is true for sales people who sell things to their customers without truly understanding the business issues behind their surface level needs.

Let's take succession planning as an example. Succession planning is a major challenge for the vast majority of companies. And it's a business issue that most companies aren't good at addressing. Research from Bersin by Deloitte's 2014 Leadership Development Factbook supports this fact. According to Bersin's research, large companies fail to have successors identified for 90 percent of their front line manager positions. Do you think that's a problem?

So consider that business issue and let's drill down a little deeper. If 90 percent of front line manager roles don't have successor's identified, what would happen if 20 percent of the front line managers chose to leave the company in the next twelve months? How would that impact the business? How would it impact performance, employee morale and retention? How would the company handle a mass exodus of managers? This is an example of how you have to look at things.

If you're a salesperson, you have to drill down and truly understand these business issues in their simplest form. Once you do, you'll be able to effectively align your solutions and articulate the true value and impact of doing business with your organization. If you do this effectively, you will begin to be viewed as a strategic partner. If you show up and just pitch your products without truly understanding the business drivers, you'll just be another vendor.

But for companies who identify business issues and are searching for companies that have solutions to address those issues, don't look at them as just being another vendor. Look at them as a strategic business partner and go into the relationship with that mentality. Not all of them will make the grade, and some will disappoint you. But if you set that as an expectation and view the partnership in that way, you'll be able to weed out the people and companies that aren't capable of truly aligning to and supporting your company's strategic objectives.

Taking that approach and viewing it more as a business partnership will create stronger alignment, engagement and ultimately make the results of the work you do together that much better. And for all of the salespeople reading this, your number one goal should be to get as far away from being classified as a vendor as possible.

That's a bad place to be, and only you can influence that perception.

Christopher Thompson ( writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News. Follow him on Twitter @christhompsonnh.

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