The Seven Keys to Effective Business-to-Business Appointment Setting: Unlock Your Sales Potential

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In , the company posted the first annual loss in its almostyear history. By the end of , Caterpillar had lost a billion dollars. Ironically, the way to ensure that the right information flowed to headquarters was to make sure the right decisions were made much further down the organization. By delegating operational responsibility to the people closer to the action, top executives were free to focus on more global strategic issues.

The functional general offices that had been all-powerful ceased to exist, literally overnight. Their talent and expertise, including engineering, pricing, and manufacturing, were parceled out to the new business units, which could now design their own products, develop their own manufacturing processes and schedules, and set their own prices.

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The move dramatically decentralized decision rights, giving the units control over market decisions. With this accurate, up-to-date, and directly comparable information, senior decision makers at headquarters could make smart strategic choices and trade-offs rather than use outdated sales data to make ineffective, tactical marketing decisions. Within 18 months, the company was working in the new model.

And that transition was very quick because it was decisive and it was complete; it was thorough; it was universal, worldwide, all at one time. Whether someone is second-guessing depends on your vantage point. Recently, we worked with a global charitable organization dedicated to alleviating poverty.

The Seven Keys to Effective Business-to-business Appointment Setting : Unlock Your Sales Potential

It had a problem others might envy: It was suffering from the strain brought on by a rapid growth in donations and a corresponding increase in the depth and breadth of its program offerings. As you might expect, this nonprofit was populated with people on a mission who took intense personal ownership of projects. It did not reward the delegation of even the most mundane administrative tasks.


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Country-level managers, for example, would personally oversee copier repairs. Second-guessing was an art form. When there was doubt over who was empowered to make a decision, the default was often to have a series of meetings in which no decision was reached. When decisions were finally made, they had generally been vetted by so many parties that no one person could be held accountable.

An effort to expedite decision-making through restructuring—by collocating key leaders with subject-matter experts in newly established central and regional centers of excellence—became instead another logjam. Second-guessing was an art form: When decisions were finally made, they had generally been vetted by so many parties that no one person could be held accountable. We worked with them to design a decision-making map, a tool to help identify where different types of decisions should be taken, and with it they clarified and enhanced decision rights at all levels of management.

All managers were then actively encouraged to delegate standard operational tasks. Once people had a clear idea of what decisions they should and should not be making, holding them accountable for decisions felt fair.

When information does not flow horizontally across different parts of the company, units behave like silos, forfeiting economies of scale and the transfer of best practices. Since scores for even the strong companies are pretty low, though, this is an issue that most companies can work on. A cautionary tale comes from a business-to-business company whose customer and product teams failed to collaborate in serving a key segment: large, cross-product customers.

To manage relationships with important clients, the company had established a customer-focused marketing group, which developed customer outreach programs, innovative pricing models, and tailored promotions and discounts. But this group issued no clear and consistent reports of its initiatives and progress to the product units and had difficulty securing time with the regular cross-unit management to discuss key performance issues. So the units were not aware, and had little faith, that this new division was making constructive inroads into a key customer segment.

But as the market became more competitive, customers began to view the firm as unreliable and, generally, as a difficult supplier, and they became increasingly reluctant to enter into favorable relationships. The customer division became responsible for issuing regular reports to the product units showing performance against targets, by product and geographic region, and for supplying a supporting root-cause analysis.

A standing performance-management meeting was placed on the schedule every quarter, creating a forum for exchanging information face-to-face and discussing outstanding issues. These moves bred the broader organizational trust required for collaboration. Rational decisions are necessarily bounded by the information available to employees.

They can hardly be faulted, even if their decision is—in the light of full information—wrong. We saw this unhealthy dynamic play out at a large, diversified financial-services client, which had been built through a series of successful mergers of small regional banks. In combining operations, managers had chosen to separate front-office bankers who sold loans from back-office support groups who did risk assessments, placing each in a different reporting relationship and, in many cases, in different locations.

Unfortunately, they failed to institute the necessary information and motivation links to ensure smooth operations. As a result, each pursued different, and often competing, goals. For example, salespeople would routinely enter into highly customized one-off deals with clients that cost the company more than they made in revenues. Sales did not have a clear understanding of the cost and complexity implications of these transactions.

Without sufficient information, sales staff believed that the back-end people were sabotaging their deals, while the support groups considered the front-end people to be cowboys. They standardized the end-to-end processes used in the majority of deals and allowed for customization only in select circumstances.

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For these customized deals, they established clear back-office processes and analytical support tools to arm salespeople with accurate information on the cost implications of the proposed transactions. At the same time, they rolled out common reporting standards and tools for both the front- and back-office operations to ensure that each group had access to the same data and metrics when making decisions. The four building blocks that managers can use to improve strategy execution—decision rights, information, structure, and motivators—are inextricably linked. Unclear decision rights not only paralyze decision making but also impede information flow, divorce performance from rewards, and prompt work-arounds that subvert formal reporting lines.

Blocking information results in poor decisions, limited career development, and a reinforcement of structural silos. So what to do about it? Since each organization is different and faces a unique set of internal and external variables, there is no universal answer to that question. The first step is to identify the sources of the problem. The more people in the organization who take the survey, the better. The options listed represent only a sampling of the dozens of choices managers might make.

All of these actions are geared toward strengthening one or more of the 17 traits. Companies can take a host of steps to improve their ability to execute strategy. The 15 here are only some of the possible examples. Every one strengthens one or more of the building blocks executives can use to improve their strategy-execution capability: clarifying decision rights, improving information, establishing the right motivators, and restructuring the organization.

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To help companies understand their shortcomings and construct the improvement program that will have the greatest impact, we have developed an organizational-change simulator. You know your organization could perform better. You are faced with dozens of levers you could conceivably pull if you had unlimited time and resources. You operate in the real world. How, then, do you make the most-educated and cost-efficient decisions about which change initiatives to implement? You can go to www. You begin the simulation by selecting one of seven organizational profiles that most resembles the current state of your organization.

This online survey automatically generates an organizational profile and baseline execution-effectiveness score. Although is a perfect score, nobody is perfect; even the most effective companies often score in the 60s and 70s. Ideally, these moves should directly address the weakest links in your organizational profile.

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To help you make the right choices, the simulator offers insights that shed further light on how a proposed action influences particular organizational elements. If you wish, you may then advance to the next round and pick another five actions. What you will see is illustrated above. The beauty of the simulator is its ability to consider—consequence-free—the impact on execution of endless combinations of possible actions.

Each simulation includes only two rounds, but you can run the simulation as many times as you like. While the simulator cannot capture all of the unique situations an organization might face, it is a useful tool for assessing and building a targeted and effective organization-transformation program. It serves as a vehicle to stimulate thinking about the impact of various changes, saving untold amounts of time and resources in the process.

Goodward was a successful company with strong capital reserves and steady revenue and customer growth. Still, its leadership wanted to further enhance execution to deliver on an ambitious five-year strategic agenda that included aggressive targets in customer growth, revenue increases, and cost reduction, which would require a new level of teamwork. The center might decide what technology applications, for instance, to develop on its own rather than set priorities according to what was most important to the organization.