“The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.”
– Henry Ford
This is the first in an ongoing series of posts using great quotes and applying them to the building products industry. We hope you enjoy the series!
As marketers, no doubt you’ve talked with the CEO or other leader of your organization and been told, “Competitor X is doing Action Y; why aren’t we doing that yet?”
In recent years, those conversations many times are related to technology like mobile websites/apps or social media. All too often, companies in all segments of business fall into the “me too” trap of simply copying what their competitors are doing, rather than examining their business and developing product or service solutions that truly move the customer forward.
Developing those solutions is the theme for blogs, conferences and books all over the world because it’s such a critical need for all organizations, but it’s incredibly hard to do at the same time because there are so many factors involved. However, I don’t think any single factor is more important in the building products industry than engaging the people out in the field (field reps, territory sales reps, territory managers, etc).
- They’re with your customers every day.
- They’re frequently younger and closer to the technology that drives so much innovation today.
- Because they’re out in the field and younger, they’re less likely to be bogged down by organizational structure and history, which can both be barriers to innovation.
So what’s the best way to engage them? Here’s five ways to start:
- Take the focus off sales (momentarily). While those field people are many times salespeople, they need to understand what a difference they can make for the organization, beyond just hitting their quotas.
- Shut Up and Listen. Building off #1 – by understanding & engaging with a customer’s business, they can understand what a customer means, not just hear what they say – your field people need to embrace that.
- Get them together. How often do your field teams have the chance to get together and figure out how to move the customer forward? You’ve probably got sales meetings, but do those meetings include time to brainstorm and discuss ways to improve the overall business?
- Empower them. As the CMO, people in the field may not be direct reports for you, and it’s easy for great ideas to get lost in the chain of command. Empower those people to contact you directly or develop a system to bring ideas to the forefront, such as a forum/message board on your company Intranet.
- Reward them. It doesn’t have to just be cold hard cash, though that’s great too. People need to feel valued and appreciated, especially if their idea is the big one.
- How to Drive Innovation Through Your Organisation by Norman Chorn
- Creativity & Innovation Driving Business Blog