Hans-Peter Klaey (HPK) is the chief revenue officer of Hitachi Vantara. His company is striving to be an important partner to customers and create a new way of consuming the solutions and products they offer. Customers want value, to reduce costs and increase revenue. Hitachi Vantara is there to help customers with that through their data innovations.
HPK joined an impressive lineup of speakers at the 2018 Chief Sales Executive Annual Forum and gave an impactful keynote on the Courage to Change. HPK shared some insights in this executive interview with Gary Tubridy of the Alexander Group.
Gary Tubridy: Hello. Gary Tubridy here, senior vice president at the Alexander Group. We are here at the 2018 Chief Sales Executive Forum. I’m here with Hans-Peter Klaey, chief revenue officer at Hitachi Vantara. HPK, welcome.
Why don’t we start off with a broad question? Tell me a little bit about Hitachi Vantara, it’s a big transformation that you’ve been going through. Tell us about the company, the products, and customers that you serve.
HPK: Hitachi Vantara is a data company. We’re all about data. We have a unique position in the market because we can move the data from storage, enrich the data, activate the data, and monetize the data. A lot of our competitors are actually working in just small spaces, we can work the whole data stairway to value. And we work with the largest enterprise around the globe, the Fortune 5000, as I call them. And we have a big presence in this market segment and that’s what we are focusing on.
GT: Tell me about the customers that you serve and a little bit of that that has changed over the last few years. Are you serving new and different customers and what are they after?
HPK: We are serving, as I said, the globals, the big regional accounts and enterprise accounts around the globe. And specifically also in the financial market, telecom market, and so on, we are very big. Our customers actually, they change, they are on a digital transformation. Their digital transformation is all about how they can take the data they have and make it more useful for them, for their decision making, for their approaching the markets and so on. I think the whole customer landscape has changed while we’re also with new customer and new segments, startups, for example, also customer of ours. It’s important to stay with your customers in their digital transformation.
GT: How have your products and services evolved to help enable this digital transformation of the customers you serve?
HPK: We need to go up the value chain. We need to make sure we can become the more important partner to our customers and we need to add services, different parts of services, professional service or manage services to actually giving a new way of consuming the solutions and products we have. Because in the end of today, customers want value and customer wants to reduce costs or increase revenue and that’s what we here for. Helping them, using our data innovations.
It’s all about outcomes. You want outcomes. Customers want three things: they want to know that you have the best solution that gives them the best outcome, they want to know they have return on investment that is the best they can get, and they want a long-term relationship because they want to go on a journey with a partner. And that is what the sales force has to make sure we can articulate the value proposition, we can articulate the return investment and the outcomes they can get, and how we give them the long-term relationship, and that’s their role. Now, if our solution set changes, they need to change as well because that’s our strategic direction we are going.
GT: Has this sales organization then had to evolve to be able to deliver those kinds of products and services and outcomes kinds of discussions?
HPK: Yes, absolutely. We are spending a lot of money, actually, enabling our people. They understand what is going on in the market. They understand what their customers are going through and they see it live every day when they interact with their customers, that digital transformation.
GT: Tell me about your role as the chief revenue officer?
HPK: Yeah, actually, the role is new in Hitachi Vantara, so is the company. Hitachi Vantara is one year old, we actually founded it in October of last year.
HPK: We brought three different operations from Hitachi together, from HDS to Pentaho, analytics platform to Lumada IoT platform, together into one organization because we saw that only when we bring it together we actually can drive this data stairway to value for our customer because we bring all this expertise together.
I think that’s all about this data story and what we did with the customer, with bringing the company together first and then also, defining a chief revenue officer is actually making sure we bring that all under one umbrella.
GT: You needed a chief revenue officer and the kind of authority that is inherent in that title, to bring all of that resource together and create something bigger.
HPK: Yes, exactly. But it’s also, we need to make sure we bring the entire company together on this journey because everybody plays its role, everybody can contribute to the success of our customers. And that’s what we are here for.
GT: Do you play a role in helping make customers aware – before perhaps they even conceive of the need for your product and service – make them aware of what is Hitachi Vantara, it’s a new company, it brings a broad set of capabilities?
HPK: We actually work very closely with marketing together but also with our strategy and product officers because we want to make sure that this message, what we give to the market, is first of all, authentic and brings value to the clients.
GT: The CRO certainly is working closely with marketing. What about after the sale? Is there a service aspect that the CRO also needs to keep his eye on?
HPK: If you’re not looking that your customers are successful in the long run, you will not make more business with them into the future. Our principle at Hitachi Vantara is always making sure we are working as closely with the customer as we work in the sales cycle, in the service and support cycle because in the end, we want a long-term relationship.
GT: Is there an interlock between sales and service, working shoulder to shoulder, at customers?
HPK: Yes, we have a customer success manager, we have all that you can expect on the support side, on the professional service side. We also do manage service, we manage to service on behalf of the clients, their internal services or external services. And I think that brings us very close together because I think sales and services, we just worked out this customer engagement model. Everybody needs to rally around the customer.
GT: HPK, what does a CRO, a chief revenue officer, need to be really good at?
HPK: You can say selling, you can say messaging, you can say build personal relationships, you can say strategy, you can say execute a strategy. I always think that’s very much a role that is general management like because you need to see the big picture. If you just see the revenue alone, if you just see the sales alone, you missed other pictures because to serve the customers, to work with partners – we have a big partner ecosystem as well – you need to understand the business, you need to understand the business model and then also, of course, you need to be authentic. Be able to message, positioning that, and also inspire people because a transformation is an event. Not everybody likes transformation but transformation is great, change is chance. And you need to inspire people to take them on a journey with you, internally, but also inspire your customers to make this journey with us.
GT: Somebody mentioned the other day that the chief revenue officer is someone who has to have influence beyond their title.
HPK: The biggest challenge you always have in our market, that’s the same for our customers, for our partners and for us, disrupt or be disrupted. And the other big challenge is actually, people think too much incrementally. They need to think, how can I leapfrog, because if they don’t do that, they will be disrupted. That’s why we transform. That’s why we change and we have the courage for change.
GT: Sales, at one time, with its execution orientation, was all about efficiency. Learn how to do it, and then do it a lot. And that works for a while but these days that’s surely not enough. The agility to leapfrog, to see the bigger picture, see opportunity and get onto it fast before somebody else does, that’s what a CRO is really all about.
HPK: Yeah, I would agree. It’s making sure your traditional business runs and it needs to run efficient, more efficient than before because you need to invest in new areas. And if you invest in new areas, you want to make sure you have the agility to make sure you have the right solutions, the right offerings in the market, and so on. But once you have it, you also want to scale, so that becomes the new core or the new traditional business and then you go beyond. Because you need to keep innovating and also I think, you said this right, sales is not only execution, it’s a lot about innovation as well. Sales can innovate. How we approach a customer, how we message, how we go about the dialogues.
GT: Sales is not often associated with innovation, yet great sales organizations indeed innovate every day.
HPK: They need to. They need to because innovation doesn’t stop at the door of the CRO.
GT: HPK, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.