• How your customers’ finance teams are dealing with the pandemic (2:08)
• Engaging the Finance team beyond Procurement (5:12)
• Don’t be afraid to bring your own finance people to customer conversations (11:07)
• Underrated: How risk factors into Finance’s analysis of your products and solutions (22:00)
• The four key aspects of cash flow (25:14)
• During discovery process, seek to learn your customer’s KPIs and how they are measured so you can express your benefits in their terms (32:11)
Harvey Dunham: Hello everyone. My name is Harvey Dunham. I’m the manager of strategy and marketing at the Strategic Account Management Association, and I’ve been here for four years, but that’s after a 35-year career with Schneider Electric, where I started in sales, I ended as a global solution VP, and, along the way, I was a SAM and a leader of SAM programs in three different businesses. So the topic we want to discuss today is one that I know is very important to Schneider Electric and to every company that’s practicing strategic account management.
And that subject is the importance of quantifying and validating the value that a SAM is delivering to the customer. And I’m delighted to say that Chris Ferguson is joining us. Chris is the VP of business development and delivery at The Summit Group, and he leads Summit’s practice in quantification and the monetization of value. In his career, he’s worked as an investment banker, and he’s held executive roles both in sales and in finance for startup companies and Fortune 500 companies. So he’s really got the insight, from the sales perspective, from the finance perspective, from the company perspective of how important value quantification is and what it means to run a business.
Chris Ferguson: Thank you, Harvey. We really appreciate our partnership with SAMA.
Harvey Dunham: Maybe before I jump right into the value quantification discussion, there’s a point I’d like to address because it’s so topical and timely, which is the pandemic. Maybe if you could just give our audience some insight into what are finance teams doing right now in the face of the pandemic, and how are they helping their companies navigate through this?
Chris Ferguson: I think we’re really what, from a SAM perspective especially, what people, what SAMs would want to think about is that not all companies will be in the same position during this pandemic. So there are some companies that are struggling to keep up with the new volume of business that they have. You know, if you’re in an IT sector and you’re making face masks or you’re making respirators…or others are at the exact other end of the spectrum, where they’re just struggling to survive. Their business has been completely shut down. They’re not able to make payments on, on their facilities that they have. They’re not servicing the debt that they have. And so I think from a SAM perspective — and we often say this about, really, in all environments — but it’s understanding, you’re taking the time to understand where your customer is and not thinking that it’s really one size fits all.
So most of the, obviously, you know, obviously if you think a lot of people are in that environment where business has been disrupted. I think in that environment, your CFOs and the finance team at this point, you know, they’re doing a couple of really key things:
One is they’re trying to figure out where they are from a cash perspective. They’re trying to figure out, “How do we, how do we keep the lights on? How do we pay the people that we want to pay? How do we make it through this pandemic and survive, so we’re able to thrive on the other side as a business and as an operation?” And some of the key parts of that are really touching base with some of your larger customers, right? So, you know, a lot of these companies have substantial accounts receivable balances. So if you have a 10 or 20% customer that is at risk of going out of business, that could really put — even if you’re doing okay — that could put a significant, you know, have a significant impact on your cash flow and on your ability to continue to function.
So I think one of the things from a SAM perspective, when you think about that, is really touch base with your credit department. Touch base with your own internal finance team. What you don’t want to have is your customer calling to place an order and finding out that they’re on credit hold because the finance team has made a determination that they’re a credit risk. So from the SAM perspective, you really want to get ahead of that. Talk to your finance team, understand what risks they are seeing, and connect with your customer and understand where they’re at. Maybe you can help educate your finance team that this particular customer is in a different position. At the very least, have these conversations up front with your customer as to the risks that you’re seeing and think about ways, creative ways about helping them mitigate those risks and continue to strengthen that relationship.
Harvey Dunham: Wow. Chris, that’s great advice. Thank you very much for that. So now let’s get into this value quantification topic. I think the first way I think about it is that, you know: You’re the CFO. You’re thinking that you’re going to make a substantial expenditure. Your team has been evaluating suppliers. And if it’s a big enough deal, I guess, it’d be interested to know how and when the finance team gets involved and what are you looking for when you, when you do get involved in these large procurement decisions?
Chris Ferguson: So generally speaking, the finance team broadly — so when we think about a finance team, all the groups that report up to the CFO, and often you have an accounting department, you know, led by a controller of the organization. You have a treasury department, which is really more of the cash management and managing foreign exchange and other aspects of the business. And then you often have a finance team, which is analyzing different deals, transactions, analyzing the business, providing, you know, advice and counsel on different areas. And procurement also often rolls up into that finance organization.
And so when you’re thinking about that finance team, really, you know, almost every procurement or every purchase that’s made, some aspect of that finance team is involved in, in that transaction. And depending on the complexity of, of that, of the transaction or the size of the transaction, you’ll have more parts of that finance team involved in the transaction. And as the team is evaluating, obviously the simplest one that we often think about is the procurement side of things where, you know, they’re sending something out to market, they’re looking for a low price. That’s really the, those are the easy transactions.
I think as SAMs, we’re often trying to find a way to avoid that situation, and often you can avoid that situation by getting engaged with other parts of the finance team. So that once it gets to procurement, they’re really looking for that low price, they’re trying to simplify the bid process so that they can really measure things purely based on price. Other parts of the finance team are going to be evaluating, “What are the benefits? What are the impacts on revenue? What are the impacts on the cost structure of the organization? Are we going to be eliminating other costs?” And really thinking about, you know — whether you’re looking at an ROI analysis, return on investment analysis, or an NPV analysis, which is a net present value analysis — thinking about those, both the benefits and the impacts and the benefits as well as the costs.
And I think that’s really, you know, if, if, as SAMs, if we’re able to engage some of those other parts of the finance organization beyond procurement, we can have allies inside that have a better understanding of both the cost side, which is obviously the one most people focused on, but as well as the benefits to the business. And those are the people that are often charged with trying to figure out “How do we quantify those benefits internally? And at the end of the day, do we believe what the SAMs are telling us? Someone’s coming in and selling me something. Do we believe that the benefits that they’re espousing will actually come to fruition? And what’s our expectation of completing this sale or this transaction or this partnership?”
Harvey Dunham: Wow. That’s really interesting. Maybe just a quick follow-up question on that, Chris: So I guess in your, in your past roles, you would be contacted by suppliers that were about to make a proposal and working with them a little bit to understand more what they’re doing before the final decision is made: That’s welcome? You have an open door to those kinds of conversations?
Chris Ferguson: “Open door” might not be quite the right way to describe it. But, you know, there are two ways that those interactions often happen. One is, you know, if, if you’ve been asked to look at and evaluate different options and maybe you think one option is better than the other. You’ve discovered some benefits. You’ve had an opportunity to be in on some of the initial meetings. And you’ve created a model that allows you to sort of see those benefits. The other is if there’s a senior leader within the organization that’s asked you to, to really create a model or evaluate two different options to make a recommendation to them.
And when that happens, you really are looking to get the best information. And if you, if you can find somebody…You’re not typically going to go out and seek out salespeople or SAMs to talk to, but if somebody has been able to make that connection and deliver that, that value of helping you understand, and, maybe, it might be them leveraging how they’ve used that product and solution with another customer and providing some real insights into your business in ways that their product has been used in the past and will have those impacts. That conversation can be a…, it’ll be very, very valuable.
Harvey Dunham: Ah, fantastic. Are there any other tips or quick wins, so to speak, for suppliers when they’re, when they’re getting, you know, your… I suppose by the time it gets to you, you’re starting to get to the end of the decision-making process when it gets to the high enough level in finance. So any other tips that you can offer?
Chris Ferguson: I would say if you can, I would, I would try to get it into some of the finance team or the CFO, if you have that access, earlier in the process. You know, a lot of times, one of the key things that SAMs do is reframe the conversation from one around purely cost of a particular product to one demonstrating that having a conversation around value, including some of maybe the unique benefits that you bring or your organization brings to the table.
Those conversations really need to happen upfront, and you may need a more senior person within your customer to make that case internally that these other benefits that you know you have and you know you can deliver should be included in the evaluation process. And so having those conversations earlier is really a critical piece.
Once the RFP has come out, it’s really too late to have those conversations. But early in the process, or even before the process is started, having those detailed conversations and then sharing what you know and sharing how you can help your customer think about that benefit. That’s the time you want to be having that conversation is early on.
Harvey Dunham: That’s great, Chris . It makes me wonder: is it…was it common? I mean, not, you know, I, I have to say, when I was talking to our finance people internally or at the customer, that was always a bit of an uncomfortable conversation for me because I wasn’t a career finance guy. And is it okay if you bring one of your company’s financial people to that conversation to help basically speak in the finance language?
Chris Ferguson: Absolutely. And I think it’s, in many cases, it’s safer to do that. I would say be a little bit careful who you bring on those calls, right? So, you know, one of the companies that I was at, one of the larger companies, that was part of my role. I would go with our sales team, some of our SAMs, and be that person to help structure the transaction, understand what the customer is thinking about, what their needs are so that we can have a much more detailed conversation.
And, and really, you know, we often talk about finance is the language of business. And so if you’re a, you know, a kindergarten level or first-grade level understanding of finance, some things in the conversation you might miss. Whereas if you bring an expert or bring somebody that is comfortable having those customer conversations, you will get much more out of what are the KPIs, what are the real things that your customer is needing and is interested in? What are the things that– what are the risks that they’re trying to manage?
And so having that conversation at a higher level will really provide a lot of value in how you want to structure your offer, how you want to structure your deal, and how you can find ways of finding a mutual win-win relationship with the customer. But there’s often not a lot of finance people at your company that you would want to take on a customer visit. And so you really have to be careful who you bring in and have some coaching with them. And once you find somebody who’s great at it, I would encourage you to take them as often as you can on those meetings because their insights coming out will be incredibly valuable.
Harvey Dunham: Well, that’s, that’s excellent. So, I mean, a couple of key points there. You’ve really got to have these conversations, the proactive conversations, let’s say, before the RFP, when you’re first starting to propose the deal and in the discovery phase, I would say, with the customer of trying to figure out what it is they’re trying to accomplish and what their goals are and those kinds of things. And it’s okay to bring a finance person, but they’ve gotta be customer ready, so to speak.
Chris Ferguson: Right. And you know, I think that’s often, we talk about that in most executive conversations, right? If you’re bringing your CTO and sometimes even your CEO into a customer meeting, you want to make sure that they are, they’re ready. You want to make sure that they are really, you know — as we often talk, you know, from The Summit Group — thinking about the “them” side. Thinking about your customer and not walking in and really changing the conversation, wanting to, you know, share all of the things that they know. It really needs to be about the customer. It’s an engagement where you’re looking to find out as much as you can about your customer and where you can really make an impact on their business.
Harvey Dunham: Right, right. Wow, that’s great advice. Thank you. The, you know, something else I’d be really curious about is it’s certainly not uncommon for us sellers to make a claim that you’ll get this much productivity or efficiency or energy savings or whatever it is that it might be. “How, you know, sitting on the finance side of the fence, when you hear a salesman say something like that, what kind of accuracy are you looking for and what would make you take that seriously?” is probably the question.
Chris Ferguson: So we say in the training that we do at The Summit Group, we often talk about them, us, fit and proof. So, you know, once you’ve defined the fit part, really the proof is where have you done this before? So if you can share an example where you’ve worked with another customer and you’ve been able to demonstrate the value that you deliver, then that’s going to be much more believable. If it’s, if there’s really no information, there’s no way to prove what you’ve done, then I’m going to have to discount that benefit that you are providing at a certain level.
And that becomes the art as opposed to the science of determining what the real benefit will be for our organization. I think that the second part of that is it’s really — if this is an early case for you — working with your customer to develop the mechanisms to measure the value that you’re bringing. And really, if you believe in the solution that you have, you want to know what those outcomes are, whether it’s positive or negative, you really want to know. Because if you are engaged with your customer, even if the outcomes are not exactly what you expected, you can work with them to make changes so that you are able to deliver what you have. You know your customer will figure it out, and what you don’t want them to do is figure it out and then the next time there’s an opportunity, they just exclude you from the opportunity because they think that you misled them in the first example.
And the second part of that is if you’re able to deliver that value, measure that value, when those executives are moving to another company? You’re not a supplier, right? You become, really, what we often talk about is sort of that trusted advisor or value co-creator, and you’ve moved up that pyramid of success and they’re going to bring you with them. If they know that they can bring you along and you’re going to bring in your solution and will deliver a measurable value to their new company, they will bring you along, they will refer you, they will recommend you. Because that’s an easy referral and it’s an easy process to do so.
So you want to really identify how you would measure that long term and work with your customer to be able to get the data that you need to be able to quantify that value after you’ve made the sale, because that then becomes not only a big benefit internal to that customer, but it becomes more proof to your next customer that you’re going out and having that conversation with.
Harvey Dunham: Wow that’s great. Chris. And you know, implicit in what you’re saying is if you were sitting on the customer side and the finance side, you’d be tracking after the procurement process is done and, and whatever you’ve bought is in place. You’re actually following up then to make sure that it’s delivering the value that was promised.
Chris Ferguson: Yeah. Especially if you’re doing a purchase where you’re not buying it based on the lowest price, right? If you’re buying something based on a defined value or on a promised value, you’ll be wanting to track to see if that value is delivered. But I think what’s also often interesting to think about is when you have, if someone’s making a claim that they’re going to grow revenue, and let’s say revenue is up 50%. Well, there’s probably a lot of people, you know, including the SAMs in your own company, but a lot of different things that have happened to cause that impact. And so I think one of the challenges is often to decide which part–which thing that you did caused the impact? So had I not purchased the new CRM, would my revenue have been up 49% or only 30%? Or would it have maybe even been up 55% because, you know, for some reason?
So that’s the part that, if you could, you’d want to be able to figure out: if I’m not a partner of yours, what would your business look like without us? And if you can really make that contrast, I think that’s something that drives a lot of value.
Harvey Dunham: Is it fair to say, following up on that, that it’s more reliable from a finance perspective to look at things that are a cost savings versus a revenue gain?
Chris Ferguson: If it’s a cost saving that’s directly related to that product, yes. If it’s a cost savings around, let’s say, efficiency of people? That’s a little bit more nebulous, right? Because there’s a lot of ways that that efficiency is being delivered. But I think you know as much as you can tie what you’re doing to that product. I mean, you know if you could do an A/B testing, for example. So if you could have one sales team that’s using your product, one sales team that’s not using your product and see how their revenues are growing, that’s a great way to measure the difference and the impact of what you’re able to deliver for that customer.
So you have to get, sometimes you have to get creative. And really, when we think a lot of it is really creating a hypothesis and then you’re trying to prove that hypothesis and creating, structuring, measurable goals and structuring the measurements that you need to be able to either prove or disprove that hypothesis and to benefit.
Harvey Dunham: Interesting. So, and it kind of gets me to a point because, you know, we asked, we certainly want the SAMs to be proposing innovative solutions, often it could be new to both companies. It could be something that’s hot off the presses, so to speak. And it’s, you might be our first customer for something like that. Is it, would it be a good practice in that case to say, to be honest about that, first of all, and to propose a pilot where you could set it up to measure, to say, you know, “This is what we expect. This is what we project to be delivered. And, you know, we’re going to do everything in our power, but let’s, let’s measure it and be sure that we’re, what we’re saying is, is true.” And what are the benefits perhaps that we didn’t anticipate and what are maybe some things, some negatives that we didn’t foresee? Would you look favorably upon something like that if you were making that…?
Chris Ferguson: Yeah. You know, a pilot is a great way to test, you know, test whether or not you’re going to get the benefits or the cost savings or revenue increase. I think most finance people are actually fairly adept at making assessments of things that we don’t know exactly what the outcome will be. So, if you think of a company, you know, any company. You know, if you looked at Boeing, for example, a year and a half ago, two years ago, and you were trying to project what would their revenue be in two years, I’m not sure you would have forecasted COVID, you probably wouldn’t have forecasted, you know, planes being grounded. So there are a lot of uncertainties that you may have to put into different models that you would have. I think the less risk there is in those outcomes, then the more value or the greater, basically, the more benefit you will get rewarded for in the benefits.
So if you have a…in the benefit analysis, right? So if you have your say, you’re going to deliver a million dollars of benefit, and it’s absolutely guaranteed. So you say to the customer, “If we don’t demonstrate we have a million dollars of benefit, we’ll write you the check for the difference.” It’s guaranteed so the customer can bank on that. They know they have that. If you say that we’re going to deliver you this benefit, and it works one out of 10 times, then arguably that benefit would have about a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of value. And so, you know, because that’s sort of the, that’s what the math tells you, right?
And what’s interesting is, is, you know, when you think about that, right? So there are ways of measuring that and determining that. So if somebody else comes in and says, you know, “I’ll give you the hundred thousand option.” Someone else says, “I’ll give you this guarantee.” I’m going to take the one, even though the expected benefit is the same, I’m going to take the one that has less risk. Right? So understanding the risk of your solution and the risk of obtaining the benefit that you are wanting to deliver are important.
Harvey Dunham: Interesting. Would you say just kind of generally that risk factors into almost everything you’re looking at from a financial perspective?
Chris Ferguson: 100%. So every calculation that you’re making, you often use what we call a discount. And so that discount rate is higher depending on the risk that you have. So if you think of, you know, it’s something often people understand, you know: bonds, treasuries have lower interest rates, lower risks. High-yield bonds, higher risk that have higher interest rates, higher risk. That’s in essence that discount that people factor into that.
Harvey Dunham: So keeping that in mind, I hadn’t really thought about this. So I guess a SAM, if they’re talking about sort of a cost-benefit approach, they should be thinking cost benefit and risks to you and how we’ll mitigate those risks. That should be a, if you will, a third leg of the stool to really make it stand up and be sturdy.
Chris Ferguson: Yeah. You know, I often, you know, when we do training sessions, we often help SAMs really think about four aspects of cash flow, right? So (1) Help your customer get more cash from their existing business. (2) Help them find new sources of cash. So new revenue opportunities. (3) Reduce the risk in the cash that they’re receiving. So finding ways of reducing that risk so it makes it more certain that their cash is available. (4) And then the final one is really getting cash in quicker. So, you know, we often tell people, you know, it makes a lot of sense, right? But you know, if you can deliver a dollar today, that’s worth more than a dollar in five years. Every customer would rather have that dollar today than a year from now or five years from now.
And so really what we’re doing is helping the SAMs as they’re engaging with their customer and understanding their customer, understanding those sort of four tenants, and how do you ask great questions and understand your customer’s business so that you’re able to co-create with them, how you can help them deliver on around those four.
Harvey Dunham: Fantastic. That’s great. Something else, Chris, I’d like to explore is that, you know, research says that what we’re seeing from procurement surveys and SAMA research, that decisions are increasingly being made by committees. And, you know, we even see figures that typically there’s six to 10 people on a significant procurement purchase item committee. So a couple of questions come to mind. How often would you say, based on your experience, would finance be part of that committee? And what are they , you know, what do you, what are they looking at? What are, what are they there for, so to speak?
Chris Ferguson: So I think, you know, finance is going to be part of that committee virtually every time. So whether it’s just the procurement people or you have other finance people from your organization that are part of that committee, they will be there, you know, really almost every time. You know, I often, when you think about the person that, that sort of generates the numbers, who does the evaluation on — and again, we’re really talking here where it’s not just low cost but you’ve got other evaluation criteria — for the person that’s running those numbers or creating those models has a lot of influence because there are a number of judgment decisions that you’re making as we just talked about. What’s the risk of one solution versus another solution? You’re making a judgment decision as to what the discount rate maybe should — if it should be different for a solution from one company versus another company. So that finance person, whether it’s in procurement or outside of procurement, has a significant influence on that, on that operation.
So if the finance team comes out and says, you know, “Option A is a $10 million benefit for our business and option B has a $1 million benefit for our business,” you know it’s possible that the business leads will overrule that, but it would take a, you know, you’d have, you’re really going out on a limb. Like you really have to believe that that’s the case because, you know, if, if you’re a business lead and you overrule the analysis that suggested that there was $9 million more benefit, if your solution doesn’t deliver that extra $9 million of benefit, then it’s really, you know, people are going to be looking at you and saying, “Well, you made a bad choice.”
So the finance people often have a fairly significant role in that conversation because they do control the numbers, and they’re often also the people after the fact that will be doing the measurement to determine how much of that value is there. So if they’re leaning towards a particular solution and they’re also creating the model that’s going to do any analysis afterwards to determine which one makes more sense, then you can sort of think about which one they might be favoring as they’re thinking about how they’re going to model something or how they’re going to analyze a few things. And it might be subconscious. Often, you know, we’re not necessarily going to look to be doing it intentionally, but we all have subconscious biases around things that we have historically supported or historically liked.
So the finance team often has a very big impact. Obviously it has to meet all of the hurdles, you know, deliver the technology solutions we need. It delivers all of the other requirements that the organization has. Once you get to that point, if you’re measuring against different levels of benefit, different levels of cost, the finance team has a significant role in that calculation.
Harvey Dunham: Great. Wow. I’m just curious because there’s a, obviously there’s the CFO and then there’s, forgive the term, a bit of an army that reports to the CFO. Who are the people that are most likely to be…what kind of titles would you see? Is that the CFO or themselves that’s in a buying decision? When would they show up, and when would they delegate that, and who did they likely delegate that to?
Chris Ferguson: So again, the procurement arm is going to be the one that’s doing most of the buying.,I think you’re going to find, depending on the structure of the business, or the comptroller group, often there may be a divisional CFO. So if you have a divisional president, you may have a divisional CFO. That relationship is often very, a very tight relationship because they’re doing the forecasting and the business. They’re, they’re really, you know, managing the cost of the business, you know, for that executive. And if they do their job well, that executive is often hitting their numbers, which in many cases is how they’re compensated.
So, you know, look for those divisional CFOs, divisional controllers, you know. Directors of finance might be their title, depending on the size of the, the size of the organization. And I think as you’re looking at that, it’s, it’s, you know, the people that you’re engaging with and your customer may often be able to give you some insights as to who are the people that are, have the opportunity to influence the decision, or who are the people that that will be doing the evaluations or measuring the success of a project.
Harvey Dunham: Interesting. No, that’s great. That makes a lot of sense. I’m just thinking about this — the key criteria, I mean, if you just kind of…it’s kind of the last point, I guess, on this substantial expenditure — you know, something where there’s a lot of money on the table….You mentioned, before, the four points about how cash issues, how it’s going to affect the cash. Are those really, typically, the key success factors that are going on in the finance evaluation and what’s driving the modeling and driving the view on the goodness or badness of a particular [project]?
Chris Ferguson: Yeah. So in short, yes, they may be measured in different ways, right? Companies will have different KPIs that they will use to get to those ultimate goals. So the KPIs that they’re measuring, maybe they may have different titles, they may have different terminology that they’re using within the organization. I think that’s, you know, as we talk to SAMs, that’s an important part, right? Is you need to understand what are the KPIs of the organization and make sure that any benefits you have that you’re putting into the language of the customer and helping them truly understand how you’re impacting the things that they have highlighted that matter most to them.
And then you may have great terminology that works with your largest customer. Somebody else might use different language internally. Make it easy for them, right? Change your analysis so it fits their language and fits their thinking so it’s easy for them to retell that story internally, inside that organization, and share your stories, share your benefit in the language of your customer.
Harvey Dunham: And, Chris, should I, you know, I’m a SAM, I’ve got this new thing that I’m going to propose to you. I’m doing some discovery within the customer to, you know, figure all this out. I should be asking those questions: What are the key KPIs? How will you measure them? These kinds of things. I should be asking again before the RFP goes out. These are things that I should make part of my discovery process. Is that what I’m hearing?
Chris Ferguson: They should be part of your discovery process. I think there’s a fair amount of that information if you have a public customer that you can find out from, you know, before you go into the meeting. I always found, you know, when someone came in and wanted to talk to me and, you know, they were asking me, you know, “What were our earnings last quarter?” That was a very short meeting because they clearly had no– they didn’t spend any time on our business. If they came in and said, you know, “Last quarter you earned X and you didn’t have as much growth as your peers or you outgrew your peers” and asked a question like, you know, “What do you attribute that difference to?” That’s a much better question. Somebody not only understands our business, but understands where we are relative to our peer set.
And, you know, listen to the earnings calls. There’s a lot of great opportunities to get information on both public and private companies. But definitely you want to do your homework. You want to be going in with a view and a set of information that you’re looking for people to confirm and provide non-public or more detailed information to you. And the best way to do that is to start with having a good base of information and then asking some great open-ended questions.
Harvey Dunham: Great. Great. Great. Well, that’s, that’s fantastic advice. I can see, I wish I could do my 35 years over again. There are some things I could improve on, I can tell. You know, maybe the last question I have, Chris, is that, you know, at this point in time now, you’ve trained a number of SAMs in your new role, relatively new role, in training and consulting –and from a variety of industries. Is there anything you can see broadly that SAMs should be doing that, you know, just good general advice, kind of as a takeaway from this conversation? What are the top two or three — well, I don’t want to limit you, but what are the top things they should be doing to make themselves better strategic account managers?
Chris Ferguson: I think really, you know, the first would be to understand that finance is the language of business. We’ve seen a trend over the last couple of decades where finance has played a much more important role within every organization. And so getting a good base understanding of that language so that you’re able to have higher-level conversations with your customer and better understanding of your customer’s metrics
So don’t be afraid to learn a new language. You know, as we get older, it gets harder and harder to learn new languages. But really, you need to take the time to learn that language and have– if you want to be truly a SAM and, as we often talk about, to being the CEO of your customer. You know, CEOs understand finance. They’re not CFOs. That’s a different role, but you need to be able to be fluent in it or at least fairly fluent in that language so you can have those conversations.
I think the second, really, the second big picture thought is: one of our core principles is what we call Third Box Thinking. So understanding your customer’s customer and that financial flow from your customer’s customer into your customer and into your business and how you can impact both your customer and their customer and the financials of both. And measuring that impact and measuring the value that you’re able to bring along that value chain. Most of the best ideas that we see in customers come from the outside in. A lot of those ideas come from listening to the customer’s customer and thinking about how they can then, how they can have those, the impact that you’d like to have.
And I think really the last point is as you’re thinking creatively and co-creating value with your customer, you want to quantify. So people that can quantify the value they have and can monetize that value… the SAMs that do that are going to make a lot more money for their companies. Those that can’t, the assumption is, on the other side is you don’t know what the value is that you’re bringing to the table. So we either have to figure it out or we should just be in a true procurement situation, where we’re going to go low cost because we don’t know what the benefits are. So if you can quantify that value, demonstrate that value to your customer and help them understand what’s the difference if they work with you or they work with your competitor or they just do nothing. What do those three different scenarios look like from the financial perspective? And share that story with them in their own language so that they can retell that story and be your advocate on the inside of their organization.
Harvey Dunham: Fantastic, Chris. Really, really great answer. Great session. Really enjoyed speaking with you today. I can’t thank you enough for everything that you do for the SAMA community. So thanks for your time and, you know, be safe and be well in these dangerous times and we’ll be talking to you again soon.
Chris Ferguson: Thank you.
Chris Ferguson is VP of Business Development and Delivery at the Summit Group and leads Summit’s practice in Quantification and Monetization of Value. He started his career at the Royal Bank of Canada in Toronto, worked in New York as an investment banker, and held executive sales and finance roles at both startup and Fortune 500 technology companies.
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