I had the honor of participating in a dynamic panel at the NASSCOM Technology & Leadership Forum 2019 in Mumbai on February 21st. The panel, CEO’s role in Transforming Growth in a Customer First World, included Accenture India Chairperson and Senior Managing Director Rekha Menon, Mindtree Founder and Executive Chairman Krishnakumar Natarajan and myself. LinkedIn’s Sales Solution Head in India, Edward Hunter, was the moderator of the panel, which focused on creating exceptional transformational value in a client-centric world.
Thanks to an awesome panel and great moderation, we had a lively panel discussion with some fantastic ideas discussed. I’m sharing some of my own thoughts in three key tenets on how to build a deeper connection with the client and be a part of the client journey of change to create real and meaningful impact.
Live the Value Yourself
I recently met with the CMO and CIO of a client that had started a significant, enterprise-wide digital sales transformation program. After the kickoff, I asked them, “Why did you select us as your partner in this program?” Their answer offers insight into one of the key tenets necessary to become a meaningful part of the client’s journey of transformation. They shared that almost all the companies who presented solutions around transformation offered a reasonably similar approach. However, in subsequent rounds of meetings with the final few shortlisted companies, they posed this important question: “Are you living this transformation yourselves?” The answer, if yes, required its own follow-up — demonstrate that it’s been your own journey. Not everyone could demonstrate that they were living the digital journey themselves. This was a reminder that almost everyone wants to change others but forgets to change themselves and their own processes or even organizations. One of the most powerful ways to create value is to live the value yourself.
Listen, Ideate and Develop Business Empathy
Business empathy is understanding that every situation is different and taking these variables into consideration instead of just putting across what we think we know from dealing with similar situations before. We must be discerning when it comes to advising from experience versus just putting across what we think we know. Ideating with the customer, drawing out multiple scenarios and clearly defining the business reasons why a few solutions would make sense is a critical aspect of listening and developing business empathy — and ultimately, creating trust. The art of storytelling, with clear and relevant examples aligned to stakeholders, goes a long way past simple business solutions presentations. It’s necessary to demonstrate real and tangible business impact from any solution that you jointly build with the client. It’s equally key to communicate in a far more meaningful and effective way to have that impact work.
The Power of I Don’t Know
Once the initial connects are established and ideations are being built, the power of “I don’t know” is a compelling and integral part of the change journey. While the power of “I don’t know” may be contrary to conventional wisdom, it can be a profound and meaningful bridge builder. It’s intuitive, particularly in the context of sales, to go with the view that, “I know everything.” It is absolutely okay, and often even helpful, to say, “I don’t have all the solutions” if you don’t actually have them. Nobody has all the solutions, yet very few people actually have the courage to state this. When you make that statement, you position yourself as open to ideas and willing to learn and adapt. Bringing in expertise is expected. Being upfront and honest can set you apart and help build business trust.