When you have an intimate knowledge of many of the key players in a specific market, you’ve met their people, you’ve helped them hire for key roles and you’ve headhunted people on their behalf from their competitors, it gives you a unique insight into those companies, their people and their place in the wider market.
Here are some examples of how we’ve used that information to help customers solve problems they were still in the process of identifying.
“Our sales team isn’t up to it”
The new Sales Director of a software firm I know well told me: “I’m not sure about the quality of the sales team I’ve inherited.” I replied: “I am, they aren’t up to your standards.” He asked why and here’s what I told him:
“I have tried to headhunt some of them in the past and wasn’t impressed at all. They haven’t hit their target in the last two years – that’s why your predecessor got sacked. Morale is low, they all want to move on and if they were top performers they could command much higher salaries in this market. I do have some good news for you though.”
“Oh yes, what’s that?”
“I’ve known we were going to have this conversation since the day you told me you were joining the business and I’ve got some better people in mind for you once you are able to start hiring.”
So now we are working on bringing some of those people in to change the dynamic of the team. He’s working on developing the best of the people he’s inherited and has made some changes elsewhere.
Our insight gave him a head start.
“We need to focus on our customers”
We could talk about several organisations that aren’t investing enough in customer success. They work very hard to win those customers through competitive sales processes then risk losing them with poor implementation and adoption thereafter. Sound familiar?
We will focus on one solution vendor that we know well. I was aware of their specific problems and it was my view that they needed to hire the very best the market could offer to address the various issues their customers were facing.
When they came to me with a requirement to hire into their team I told them very plainly: “you aren’t paying enough for the people you need.” I gave them examples of the people they could afford and I presented two much stronger, more costly candidates that I thought they needed.
There was lots of discussions about budgets, talk of internal barriers and other challenges, all of which I completely understood. Eventually the hiring manager followed my advice to at least meet with the more experienced, stronger candidates to make the comparison. He hired the most expensive one.
When he called me to thank me for risking my relationship with his HR team by consistently telling them what they didn’t want to hear he said: “In the end, the additional cost on salary is a drop in the ocean compared to what this person will save us in lost revenue by keeping our customers. Thank you for your insight and putting him in front of us.”
“Our digital transformation is floundering”
A CPO told me that her adoption of a full-suite solution wasn’t going to plan. I said: “I’ve heard as much, that’s why I got in touch with you.” She asked how and I told her: “From people involved with competitor vendors and consultancies.”
One of the things you learn when operating in a niche market is that it’s a very small world and people talk, often to ex-colleagues in competitors. So word spreads fast!
She asked me what other CPOs are doing in similar situations. Of course every organisation and every transformation program is different, but I explained that what I was starting to see more of in the market is the hiring of a specialist in this area, someone who has been on this journey in their career before, someone who understand the challenges, the opportunities and the bumps in the road and who can guide you through it all.
We talked about the availability of such skills, the cost, the interim and full time options available. She’s now building a business case to gain internal budgetary approval to make that hire. I hope she gets it because the people I have in mind for her could make a big difference to the success of this project.