New CRO Culture Resonates Across Manufacturing and Distribution

By: Marc Metzner Distribution, Manufacturing, Sales Growth, Sales Leadership

An Alexander Group Research Brief, Part 2

Manufacturing and distribution are rapidly moving into a world of “Seller Beware.” The new buyer journey dynamics are dictating the need for “upstream” awareness building and relationship development. The same revenue generation challenge is also unfolding “downstream” in the form of upselling, migration to recurring revenue and service expansion.

The Alexander Group recently held Virtual Roundtables with Manufacturing and Distribution executives to discuss how they approach this new governance challenge, i.e., developing a clear go-to-market strategy, changing organizational structures to drive collaboration, and rolling out a well-defined change adoption plan. And…deciding who should lead these efforts.

In part one of this two-part blog series, we highlighted executives’ issues and best practices around the new buyer journey and a revitalized focus on the customer. Part two will discuss the “CRO Culture”–increasing collaboration across marketing, sales and service; who is taking on this new leadership role; and how to create a change adoption plan that actually works.

Increasing collaboration across marketing, sales and service

Participating leaders really resonated with the notion of a CRO Culture when they talked about using cross-silo coordination to manage today’s buyer journeys which stretch upstream before the “close” and downstream after the close into upselling and recurring revenue. They noted that creating high-value customer experiences is a process, role and culture challenge.

Many industrial and building materials leaders on the call noted that they were at least several years away from considering a single CRO role. But, they are using new governance models to create a CRO Culture of shared planning and accountability across silos. Moreover, this was often a C-suite and board-level imperative.

However, a leader from one of the world’s leading tech manufacturers stated it more urgently:

“We tried to dip our toe and convince marketing and sales to collaborate on their own. We wasted three years and lost our market window. We finally realized we need a single CRO or we won’t get the benefits of the collaboration. Politically it was tricky, but there was no alternative.”

Taking on CRO leadership responsibilities

Participants debated whether a CRO title was necessary, if a VP of sales & marketing was adequate or whether a tightly coordinated leadership team was capable of performing this role. They concluded that it depends on the company, the buyer journey changes underway and the skills of its leaders. They also agreed that their leaders must clearly understand how to foster a customer-centric experience and have the will to lead their teams there. Participants warned that in today’s marketplace, misaligned silos can lead directly to lost market share…a marked increase in urgency since our 2018 Roundtables!

As an example, they agreed that while many reps say that they love the new products and solutions, results show that they aren’t selling them. And worse, sales time analysis shows that they aren’t even trying! The group noted that reps are always more comfortable selling “products they know,” which help them hit their numbers. To overcome this inertia and sell newer solutions, they felt that strong leadership from a CRO role or CRO team must focus on modifying the behaviors of all customer-facing personnel. Surprisingly, they agreed that today’s leadership teams are increasingly accountable to the board for transitioning these behaviors, and will be out of a job if unsuccessful.

A global high-pressure cylinder manufacturer noted, “We recognized that marketing, sales and service all needed to get into a growth mode, but getting upfront alignment was difficult. The problem was that we were consistently doing well on the bottom line. But, we realized without top line, we would be shut out of the market, so the leadership team had to step up to make it happen.”

Organizing and managing a smooth Change-Adoption process

Participants agreed that smooth change requires a clear vision from the top, communicated collectively through the organization. Many participants also stressed (strongly!) that this must include shared goals and incentives. Per a building materials GM, this can’t be a “nice to have.” Others advised preparing in advance for likely hiccups, and maintaining strong communication that keeps everyone engaged with the new buyer-journey strategy. As one chemicals manufacturer noted, if you share wins with the field, it’s amazing how quickly the team will rally.

For additional insights, please participate in the upcoming AGI Manufacturing and Distribution Virtual Roundtables. This, and other relevant events, are part of Alexander Group’s 2019 Leadership Series that allow senior sales, marketing and sales operations leaders to share knowledge and take away best practice approaches. Sign up today for upcoming AGI Manufacturing and Distribution topics, which include:

  • Selling recurring services that drive customer success
  • Aligning sales compensation to solution-selling growth goals
  • Re-energizing partner programs for new product growth

Read part 1 of this series.
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Marc Metzner

Marc Metzner is a vice president in the Stamford office. He has over 20 years of experience working across media, software/SaaS, medical products, business services and manufacturing to improve sales and marketing strategy and effectiveness. As national director of the firm’s Sales Transformation and Benchmarking practices, he leads bi-monthly executive roundtables and benchmarking programs with Fortune 500 sales and marketing leaders on key sales strategy topics. Marc also frequently speaks and writes on best practices for optimizing sales coverage to stay ahead of disruptive industry and technology changes.


Prior to joining the Alexander Group, Marc was a manager in an international Big 5 consulting practice. There he worked on strategy development, market analysis and sales organizational redesign for computer, high tech and telecom companies, as well as strategy and market entry for international companies. Marc has a B.A. from State University of New York, an MPA from the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs at Princeton University and an MBA from the Yale School of Management, Yale University.


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