For our April Webinar, Ole Iacob Prebensen shared his experience implementing a culture oriented on customer value at Elkem Silicon Materials, and the ways each initiative generated bottom-line results using real world examples. To conclude the webinar, he answered some questions from the audience. Here are his live answers:
What was your biggest challenge making the switch to a value-centric culture?
It’s the mindset. It’s the mindset within the organization by far. Getting the value based approach embedded into the DNA of the company takes a lot of time. Change management needs to focus on customers and customer value, first and foremost. In the past we had our focus almost purely on optimizing production and operational expenditures. The cost based approach was used, and little focus was paid to helping identify customer pain points. There was hardly any attention to our differentiation even though there are a bunch of products that are differentiating. So I would say that a lot of technical presentation, not value based presentations were done and customer needs were barely accounted for and we responded purely by technical support, which caused problems to materialize.
What is your experience in working with customer service to gather information about what customers really need?
I think the customer service that we have are mainly business analysts and some of the technical staff that I have met, first and foremost, the sales rep, these are our customer service people. We have a technical staff consisting of technical personnel or supply chain, but since we’re a manufacturing company, customer services are absolutely key. Sales reps are absolutely key. In order to obtain the data, we need to build these value models and customer meetings, no doubt about it, especially specifically on oil and gas industry, we need their input.
So it’s incorporating in the customer story. I would also say the numbers slowly also responding to objections. You’re going to face quite a bit of objections on value, objections on pricing, objection on your differentiators. Because everybody’s going to say you’re a commodity. Your competitors can do the same. Well, this is why you have to have responses and make sure that you have data that is well- prepared.
Can you share a little bit more detail on how your sales team uses the data that you showed in the presentation in their own customer presentations?
Well first of all, the benefit of using LeveragePoint is that data can be easily changed in the presentation during a sales meeting. It will change edit the Value Proposition according to the information provided by the customer during the meeting. As I mentioned in the end of the webinar, I do not recommend to talk too much about the technical content. Rather, use data we have obtained and generated in our value models. So customers, when they understand this, they trust you. They like this approach and I see that they’re more open minded when numbers are shown directly to them. And I have to also say that we try to focus on the we try to focus on the 10% message. We want the customer to remember after one week. What’s the 90% that they’ll forget. We don’t use the stuff that is easily found on the website. That’s key. And that is the value message: the cost savings that we can bring to the table of any customer.
How did you come up with different value drivers internally and were there any additional value drivers you may have found at some point after the deal was closed?
Yes, absolutely. To answer the first question, how do we come up with the internal value drivers theme? I would say that these are not internal value drivers. I would say that they are external. They are customer value drivers. In a way that we all we do is think like the customer and ensure that the customer’s pains are dealt with. As long as you pinpoint the pain points that they have and make gains, then you find the value drivers. And that’s why the customer unit of measure is so important because if you’re, in this case, an operator or a service company, buy a product and compare the price on an Excel spreadsheet, well you often buy the cheapest product, but if you actually get into a sales conversation and customer truly understand the value you provide, then it’s quite simple or should be quite simple for the buyer to understand which product in the long run is the cheapest.
At Elkem, which business teams own value and what sort of roles are involved in the value modeling process?
Our company consists of four divisions. We have numerous segments within a variety of different industries. We have a council of senior executives that are setting the stage for activities related to customer centric approach. And this is all sponsored by our CEO. There are experts in pricing, we have business analysts, value-based strategists and others that are working on the future of our reports to be much more customer centric. This also includes a new CRM. So everyone should be involved.