Solutions Success Story: How TELUS helped its sales force succeed in selling solutions

telusHere's a common scenario: A company spends significant time and energy create a new set of solutions for a specific market segment. A cross-business unit board agrees to support the new initiative and asks Marketing to put together a go-to-market plan for the new solutions. The marketing team rolls out the new program, including wonderful new collateral for the sales force. They brief the sales force on the new solutions and publicly launch their offerings with great fanfare. And then...nothing. The sales force does what it does best, which is selling what it is used to selling and can explain quickly and easily, which is not the new solutions. Marketing is left wondering what's wrong with the sales force.

TELUS, Canada's second largest telecommunications company, determined to avoid this scenario and make true sales force adoption of their new offerings a priority in the planning process. Instead of leaving the sales force to block solutions success, they focused on how they could position new offerings in ways that ensured rapid uptake by sales.

Developing a new solutions offering: FlexWork

TELUS provides a wide range of communications services, including voice, data, Internet Protocol (IP), entertainment, and video. The company has more than 800 separate offerings which makes it difficult for the sales force to adequately represent the entire portfolio to customers.

In the fall of 2010, the TELUS solutions marketing team decided to address the problems of selling everything in the portfolio head on.

The first step was to gain a deeper understanding of customer needs. Through extensive interviews and focus groups, the group discovered that one of the core challenges facing their enterprise customers was providing greater telecommunications mobility to their employees. They wanted to see an integrated, comprehensive approach to the problem.

Once TELUS had a better understanding of the business challenge, they designed a new solutions approach called FlexWork to address the full scope of that challenge, rather than focusing just on a client's perceived product requirements. With the assistance of sophisticated software analytics, sales people could now identify the right customized combination of TELUS products and services to provide individual enterprise customers with a "triple play" of business benefits: Increased employee productivity, cost savings, and a smaller carbon footprint.

Enabling the sales force: The Sunrise chart

Determined to ensure that the sales force could effectively present FlexWork solutions, the marketing team focused on two key selling competencies: understanding customer needs and operating characteristics, and mapping those needs to TELUS assets and resources that could be integrated in the new solutions.

The two sales support tools that marketing developed to help ensure these competencies were:

  1. A software-based analytical tool that allowed customers to describe both their current communications situation and what they envisioned for a desired future state. The resulting data was used to characterize each customer into one of four categories.
  2. A matrix, or "sunrise chart," that mapped nine different TELUS FlexWork solution sets against the four customer categories.

By applying these new tools, the sales force could quickly and accurately understand the gap between what their customers were currently providing their mobile and remote workers and what they aspired to provide them in the future, and then map the best FlexWork solution to fill that gap.

It's Working! 

While the approach to selling FlexWork solutions to enterprise customers is relatively recent, anecdotal evidence is piling up to suggest real success with the model. The sales force is having higher level business issue conversations with customers and using the new offerings to dramatically increase the scope of opportunities. Customers themselves have also applauded the new model, saying: "You're helping us solve a business problem and not pitching a product; this is a win-win approach." Although revenue and margin metrics are just beginning to come in, there seems to be no doubt that TELUS has turned an important corner in selling more customer-centric solutions instead of disaggregated products and services.

Lessons Learned

To implement an effective, solutions selling approach with sales, it is critical initially to support existing processes and directly address specific knowledge gaps within existing workflow and practices. Rather than marketing creating new material and approaches by itself and then handing off to sales, it needs to be a partnership approach to investing together to drive sales improvement. Over time, the improved business results will become the key to sustained success with the new model.

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