Bob Skea, Head of Americas, Dun & Bradstreet
Keynote Topic: Upgrade the total customer experience
Gary Tubridy: I’m with Bob Skea, EVP of Sales for the Americas for Dun & Bradstreet. Bob, welcome.
Bob Skea: Thanks Gary, appreciate it.
GT: Thanks for joining us. Great to have you here.
BS: Thanks for having me.
GT: I think a lot of people know the brand, but they might not be as informed about actually what business and what services you provide. Could you give us a little background on that?
BS: Sure, happy to do that. It’s a great point because I’ve been in and around business for years. Dun & Bradstreet’s based in New Jersey and that’s where I’m from. I’ve known Dun & Bradstreet and people that have worked there forever. I thought I knew Dun & Bradstreet and in fact being here a year now, I clearly did not. We’re best known obviously for trade credit business and risk aversion business, but there’s so many other things that we do and are doing and continue to innovate with. It’s all based on this core database that we have. A commercial database of 240M companies globally, most of which actually are outside the US.
GT: That’s an impressive number.
BS: It’s a big number. It’s actually unparalleled. We don’t brag much, but that’s a big database to sit on. Certainly in the day of big data and analytics there’s so much we can do with that and we’re starting to do exactly that in terms of providing this data to our clients in new way. Not only trade credit, but in terms of supply chain, risk management or in terms of being able to target their best customers or being able to do various types of compliance checks with the firms they work with. Importantly the people and the context of those business. Analytics as a product. Analytics as a service. Sure we have data. What does the data mean and what does it mean specifically to you in terms of what you’re trying to accomplish.
GT: Tell me a little bit about the sales organization you deployed to bring those kinds of services to your customers.
BS: So the way we’re structured, we are regional focused. I run the Americas. Generally speaking, we have a global accounts program as an overlay, our top 25 or so accounts. Below that we have a strategic verticals organization, so the financial services industry. Government is a huge sector for us. High tech, telco, educational vertical, automotive, manufacturing very important verticals for us. That’s the next level of the pyramid and below that we have the heart of the order and that is our national account segment. The national account segment is more regionally focused and calling on firms on the next size down but that truly is our bread and butter in many ways. We have an inside sales organization that supports that as well which calls on what we call the emerging businesses. We have emerging businesses and we have the enterprise businesses structured in that way.
In terms of the way the sales organization is structured across those client dimensions, we have sales executives or relationship managers if you will who are more generalists and tend to know all we do with our clients across the spectrum of solutions. We support them with specialists who can come in and talk at a very specific way about what our clients are trying to achieve.
GT: You spoke earlier about; Stop selling and start educating. Could you expand on that a little bit for this audience?
BS: Sure, happy to. You know our clients are continually asking for us to bring value. Bring me value and it’s such an overused term, value, but what do we really mean by that. The old model of relationship and product leading with product doesn’t work. We really need to lead with insight as a selling motion as really to come in and understand what is you do Gary and how you run your day. I need to come in with insights and almost be provocative in terms of how well I know you personally. How well I understand your function. How well I understand your company and your business and how well you are doing vis a vis your peer group and then come with insights as to potentially how I can help you because I have helped your peer group. The education part of this we believe is … We say that in a modest way, but it’s really to reframe the seller. Our seller should be engaging with our clients in a way where the dialogue is constructive back and forth. Diagnostic in its approach, but informative in terms of what we know.
Now we’re in a unique position to be able to do that. We have this humongous very valuable database of corporate commercial information that’s unique to us. At the same time, we need to make sure that we’re using that to provide all the value that we can. So stop selling, start educating and make sure you truly understand what it is that’s going to help Gary to run his business.
GT: Has that philosophy changed who you try to educate? Are you calling on different people and trying to move them?
BS: Absolutely. We talked a little about persona-based training such that our sellers can understand each of the different types of people and their functional expertise because … The specialists we hire may have had a background in supply chain management, may have had a background in compliance. They truly come in as SM (subject matter) experts. Our generalists we try to train them on which type of persona they’ll be calling on based on the solution. Importantly, the way we go about doing that is to make sure that we embrace all of those disciplines.
The point would be that we actually embrace the procurement discipline. We have a persona based training around the Chief Procurement Officer which is often, candidly speaking with due respect to our procurement colleagues and brethren, can be the bane of the sales process in terms of getting through and getting appropriation of funding and such. Rather than try to avoid them we’re trying to embrace them because we believe b engaging them in a conversation where we can really draw out what they’re trying to get to, we stand a better chance of actually providing value. In my experience, where I’ve been that isn’t always the case.
The question, “Are we trying to educate certain types?”, we’re trying to make sure we look at the broad spectrum of those who can influence the value we bring to our clients, influence their growth and our growth and the partnership we have together. That’s all inclusive including everyone from procurement to marketing to Chief Information Officer, Chief Analytics Officer and everything in between.
GT: So you talked about improving the total customer experience and you’re defining customer broadly. It’s the number of influencers at the customer side and that includes procurement.
BS: Absolutely. There is no question that it includes procurement. We believe embracing that reality and making sure we’re smart about how we go about it and respecting that discipline because we have them at our company too right? Respecting that discipline is absolutely the way to go if we’re truly to build that partnership.
GT: Outstanding. There are a lot of executives who have assessed that they need to change. They need to move their sales organization from selling things to delivering value. You’re in that journey and it’s apparently going pretty well. Any advice that you might offer your colleagues who are considering this journey for themselves?
BS: I don’t know that what we’re doing is that unique frankly. We’re all constantly innovating, changing, trying to get better because the industry is. We’ve seen and heard things today where data is exponential to what it was and the pressures are exponential to what they were. Similarly, we all as sales leaders need to drive our organizations to keep in with that type pace of play. I don’t know that what we’re doing is unique. If anything I’d say be data driven. If anything I’d say go a little faster. Go with 80% of the information. Maybe you make a couple of mistakes, but the 90th percentile probably isn’t worth the return on that effort of waiting. The last thing I’d say is it’s all about the team. It truly is all about putting the right people in the right roles and engaging your client in the way that they need to be vis a vis where they are in the cycle. By putting the right people in the right roles, we set them up for success.
This is kind of a caring thing for us in terms of making our people are actually aligned with where they want to go in their career and that they can be successful. They’re set up for success because over the year people get in the wrong chairs by happenstance for whatever reason. They’re not quite feeling like they’re having that return, that self-actualization if you will and we try to help to set them up in a role that makes most sense for them. People are open to it when you engage them in a very direct way. I’d say be fact based, data driven, go a little faster, move on 80% of the information that you can get your arms around and then lastly get the right people in the last chairs and make sure you’re caring for them. Put your arm around them.
GT: Bob that’s great advice. Thanks for spending time with us today. Appreciate it.
BS: You bet, thanks so much.