The conference, held on April 2 and 3, featured well-known business leaders/authors as well as highly regarded academic presenters from Harvard Business School, Pennsylvania State University, Northwestern University, and UH.
Martha Rogers, of Peppers & Rogers Group, a well-known business guru and author, advocated “breaking the rules,” especially when it comes to the well-known business concept of ROI, or Return on Investment.
Businesses that operate with a focus on ROI run the risk of infusing their company with a focus on short-term profits. “There is a ‘this quarter trumps everything’ emphasis,” Rogers said. “The pressure of short term-ism is great.”
Focusing instead on Return on Customer, or ROC, involves building a business with a customer-focused, long-term strategy, she said.
Some of the same themes emerged in a panel discussion which focused on challenges in the selling environment. The talk included Bill Smith, Director of Sales for 3M; Gareth Lewis, General Manager of Marketing Organization South for Hilti; Ralph Oliva, Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Business Markets, Pennsylvania State University; Randy Webb, UH Executive Professor, Director of Undergraduate Sales Studies and retired CEO of Uncle Ben’s Rice; and Joe Bento, Vice President of Sales for CEVA.
Smith noted the need to resolve compensation issues for those invested in long-term sales relationships. “We get confined by borders – measuring success by years, or quarters, when really, selling cycles are well outside of that.”
The fragmentation and explosion of various sales channels has also complicated the issue. Customer interactions are complex, with multiple points of entry – sales representatives, e-marketing sites, etc. – and tend to vary according to the length of their relationship with a company.
“How do you measure relationships?” Smith asked, noting that there’s been an evolution in sales leadership “from tactical, to strategic.”
When Hilti decided to restructure its compensation package for sales representatives, it was a three-year investment that has paid off for the global construction industry giant.
Despite some dire predictions, only a small percentage of Hilti’s sales people decided to leave the company during that transitional period, Lewis said.
Divisions within a company also must be addressed and resolved and are often impacted by organizational structure and differing incentives, said Bauer’s Randy Webb.
“You get people collaborating if they’re rewarded in the same way,” he said.
Sales and marketing departments, two segments of business that are often at odds, can’t afford the luxury of not working together anymore, the experts agreed.
Creating synergy, or interdependence between the two could be one of the positive outcomes to emerge from this dark economic crisis, Smith said.
“Historically, there’s been a gap in alignment of the two functions,” he said.
By Julie Bonnin