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Solutions Centricity

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					Solutions Centricity - A white paper
A critical issue for Businesses with Growth Aspirations
Headline How important are your revenue streams to your business? Is your whole organisation focused upon delivering the right solution to your customers? How secure are your client relationships in today’s competitive marketplace? Opening Key Messages These are the critical questions that are keeping many senior Executives awake at night! Consider for yourself - What would be the impact if your customer base decided to move away from you? Whether you are operating in a B2C or B2B market, your client relationships are at risk each and every day. What do you need to do, not only to retain & enhance your client existing relationships, but also to lock out your competitors from the new business you must attract? Setting the scene As the world becomes smaller and the cost of entry into new markets reduces, competitive forces grow greater by the day. Innovative business models are being developed right now that could cripple your core business in a matter of months. I’m not joking. Consider what has happened to the airline business with the advent of low cost carriers. Okay, so the low cost carriers haven’t wiped out the traditional players – however they have forced them all, to significantly change their strategy. In the US a number of the traditional players have been forced into Chapter 11 in order to protect themselves from bankruptcy. In the UK, BA have recently sold off their short haul routes to concentrate solely on long haul. What would be the impact on your business if such a significant change to your marketplace were to happen this year? If your client base was plundered so deeply, would you be nimble enough to survive? Would your relationship with your clients be strong enough to win through? I believe that the main reason why many organisations fail to see the early signs of such a major transformation within their industry is that they are too inward focused, concentrating upon short term quick wins rather than developing longer term solutions that are geared towards what their clients/ customers actually need. In nautical terms, the focus is on keeping the ship afloat, rather than charting its course. In many respects, this short-termism forces companies to look for ways to minimise costs, maximise revenue and drive up profits to meet the increasingly persistent demands of their investors. I suggest to you that there is one certainty in business life – if you are not consistently meeting the needs of your clients/ customers, then someone else will and your relationships will have ended before you know it.

Copyright – Tony Lockwood 2008, All Rights Reserved

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Solutions Centricity - A white paper
In the sales world “Solutions Selling” strategies have been around for some years now and we are all aware of the need to understand/ discover the real issues facing our clients on an individual basis and to structure our solutions to help them to overcome these issues. We may be aware of this need, but I would challenge you to look into your business and see whether this fundamental approach is being followed (i.e. people, processes and information geared to providing solutions to clients). I suggest that it will not be the case in the vast majority of organisations. So if your sales activity, and the client delivery processes that back up your product, aren’t solutions focused, what chance have you got? Sadly, the answer may be founded on your confidence that your competitors (some that you know and others that you have never heard of) are not looking to understand your clients’ issues and structuring their solutions to meet them either! But how confident can you be about such inertia, now and in the future? Think of the competition as icebergs – 87% of what they are doing to undermine your business is invisible to you. The internet has revolutionalised the way that we buy things. Everyone with access to a computer can undertake a thorough search of the marketplace to determine what meets their needs most effectively. Through blogs and podcasts, information flow has never been greater or easier to collate. Within a matter of minutes, anyone can identify other organisations offering the same or similar products and services to you. So how can you protect yourself from this revolution and more importantly how can you embrace it to significantly enhance your business in the future? The answer, I believe, is to transform your business into a Solutions Centric organisation.

Why is Solutions Centricity so important? Before looking at the importance of Solutions Centricity, let’s understand what it is and what it isn’t. Solutions Centricity isn’t a sales process or sales strategy, it isn’t a management fad or a clever bit of software. Solutions Centricity is a core belief that needs to run throughout every aspect of your business. It is a belief that everything that you do is focused upon (i) understanding the real needs of your clients/ customers, (ii) helping them to understand their real issues and (iii) structuring your solutions to meet these needs and issues to deliver significant value to them, both in the short and long term. It is a belief that needs to run throughout your company, within every function whether internally or externally focused. It is the belief that everyone within your business understands what their role is and how this affects the solutions they deliver to your customer base. Whether they are in a support role or a front line role is immaterial. They need to realise that they are responsible for delivering the needs of their ‘customer’ and before they can be assured of this, they need to establish what these needs/ issues are.

Copyright – Tony Lockwood 2008, All Rights Reserved

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Solutions Centricity - A white paper
So why is it so important? I believe that you are constantly at risk of losing your customer base a solution centric approach can and will significantly reduce the loss of clients/ customers to competitors. If everything that you do is focused upon understanding your clients’ needs and issues and then structuring your solutions to most effectively meet these needs and issues, the value of the relationship between company and client will increase and be more sustained. If the relationship value is high, then the propensity of the client to move to a competitor will be lower and their willingness to repurchase from you, and to recommend you to others, will be greater. By embedding greater value in the client relationship, your business is set to thrive and prosper, even through the inevitable hard times that the economic cycle will cause. Designing a Strategy Before you start to design a Solutions Centric strategy, you must first determine your motives for doing so. If you are looking to implement such a strategy to gain only quick wins, then you will be disappointed by the outcomes. In certain circumstances you may also create longer term problems which far outweigh the early gains. A Solution Centric strategy has to be seen as the approach to secure the long term future for the business, it has to be very essence of the business philosophy, one that directs every action by everyone within the business. So, when starting to design a Solutions Centric strategy, you must be prepared to review every activity of every function within your business. You must be prepared to change the way that your business undertakes activities. You must be willing to challenge every facet of the status quo. Remember, this strategy will be the bedrock on which your future success is determined so you – as a leadership team - must be prepared to invest the time and energy on getting the strategy right, and implementing it. Areas to consider How do we go about reviewing internal procedures and activities in order to assess & validate them against a Solutions Centric philosophy? The obvious place to start may appear to be the sales function, but for many organisations, I believe that this can be absolutely the wrong place! Typically a salesforce will sell what they can offer and the way that they undertake the sales process may well support the concept of Solutions Selling. However, they cannot be Solutions Centric if their support structure (i.e. the rest of the business) isn’t able to deliver against “what it says on the tin”. The critical areas to consider when starting to implement a Solution Centric strategy are; 1. Product development – Do your product development teams really understand the need/ issue that their products are designed to meet and are these fully understood by the rest of the business? 2. Operations – Do your internal procedures prevent you from delivering true Solutions Centricity? 3. IT – In many cases, IT is the tail that wags the dog (the business). This can be down to the business leaders not specifying well enough what they want new/upgraded IT to achieve for them, and/or the IT specialists making investment or development decisions in isolation. Before any technology is developed/ procured, a Solutions Centric Organisation will have undertaken a

Copyright – Tony Lockwood 2008, All Rights Reserved

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Solutions Centricity - A white paper
full review of what the business needs/ issues are and what are the options available to meet these. Only when this has been concluded and the design fully assured by the business will IT development take place. Finance – Do the governance procedures allow for true Solutions Centricity and what are the risks of facilitating such an approach? Service – Do you have the capability at every interaction (F2F, Web, Phone etc) to deliver true Solutions Centricity? People – Are they rewarded and recognised on the basis of their contribution to customer value? Sales – Do your salespeople really understand the Solutions Selling approach and does your sales process facilitate such an approach?

4. 5. 6. 7.

Keeping focus where it belongs Many people see Solutions Centricity as Customer Centricity under a different banner and in some cases they are absolutely correct. However, although at the very core of a Solutions Centric Organisation is the external Client/ Customer and all activity is geared towards meeting their needs, it is the core philosophy that differentiates the Solutions Centric organisation from the Customer Centric one. This philosophy encourages the Solution Centric Organisation to question and validate every activity to see whether it is meeting the needs of the specific client/ customer, whether internal or external. This constant evaluation generates cost savings by reducing the level of waste, improves longer term revenues by providing a solutions that is required, improves service efficiency, improves client/ customer retention, improves staff motivation and loyalty and delivers long term value to the investors.

Analysis of what gets in the way There are many things that can get in the way of delivering a truly Solutions Centric Organisation, the main one being ‘appetite for change’ Without a doubt to move towards Solutions Centricity, any organisation needs to be willing to challenge itself, its viewpoints and its ways of working. The second area that gets in the way is arrogance! Do you believe that your market is so secure that you don’t need to change! Other areas to be aware of include; 1. The FD who will want to put a business case against this – it is possible to do but the real business case comes from protecting what you have and in many cases that is harder to value – you never really value something until you have lost it! 2. The need for short term results – many organisations have an investment portfolio where change programmes are approved/ rejected – in some cases, the short term business case for other initiatives will be greater than that developed for the Solutions Centric programme. 3. The inability of each area of the business to (i) own up to what the critical issues are and (ii) to be able to effectively analyse what they require to overcome these issues. On the face of it, they may well be able to provide many reasons or ‘excuses’ for not delivering sustained performance, but when pressed and fully analysed, many of these are often lame excuses and the core issue is as a result of bad management – and who wants to own up to that! 4. Engagement within the business. Every change programme will encounter challenges with engagement – all too often those ‘that know better’ have the loudest voice and significant influence with the masses and quickly become the

Copyright – Tony Lockwood 2008, All Rights Reserved

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Solutions Centricity - A white paper
terrorists preventing the desired change. Let these terrorists lead the way and it will be extremely difficult to implement true solutions centricity. 5. Alignment within the senior Executive team and across all major business areas within your organisation. Implementation of Solutions Centricity requires senior level sponsorship – it should be lead by the CEO. However, there will often be individuals within the Executive Team not fully signed up to the concept. Don’t let these cracks prevent the introduction of a core belief that will ultimately save your long term future. In summary Solutions Centricity and the Solutions Centric Organisation is the future – it has to be! Consider the alternative – you continue to deliver solutions that are not appropriate for your internal/ external clients. This is costly, ineffective and disables long term relationship management – doesn’t sound like the perfect formula for success! On the other hand, the Solutions Centric Organisation aligns everything to ensuring that every part of the business first identifies the core issues and then helps their clients to identify the ‘right’ solution, this drives deeper, stronger relationships, efficiency in service delivery and long term repeat business.

Profile of Author – Tony Lockwood Tony Lockwood is the founder Business Growth Mastery – www.BusinessGrowthMastery.com, an online resource dedicated to helping you to grow your business. Together with a number of highly successful entrepreneurs, he has developed an eight week e-course, The Business Growth Mastery Programme. This is available to download at www.BusinessGrowthMastery.com/BGMPv2.html Read my Blog at www.BusinessGrowthMastery.wordpress.com

Action To understand how you can embrace Solutions Centricity within your organisation, call now for a FREE, no obligation consultation with one of our senior consultants. This will help you to discover the challenges and critical issues facing your business and we will assist you to determine a suitable solution. By doing this, you will see Solutions Centricity in practice – you can feel what it is like and will quickly get an understanding of the impact that it can have on your business. Contact Us Web – www.BusinessGrowthMastery.com Email – tony@BusinessGrowthMastery.com Tel - +44(0) 208 144 0254 Skype – tony.lockwood

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Copyright – Tony Lockwood 2008, All Rights Reserved

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