A customer of mine had previously purchased our solution and delivered across the UK. Though successful it was at odds with the working culture of the company and was used with some reluctance, indeed almost resistance in some locations. The lesson here is that you must take everyone with you on a journey to be successful. Whoever you sell to there are people from top to bottom and across the entire width of a company that can make any project a success, or a failure. The previous sales team had not understood that lesson and now we had this as an issue to deal with.
Following the success in the UK the USA parent organisation wanted to deploy this same solution across several its major European operations. Although the UK was now a success operationally for the customer, word had already travelled and there was a reluctance to embrace the technology in countries that had only heard about the product and the 'war-stories' from the UK. In short; bad news sells, good news nobody cares about.
We turned our attention to the key target countries. Of these the most difficult to convince was France. Against a backdrop of bad press, we had representatives from the USA parent, representatives of the UK supplier (we were the culprits for the earlier project) and the customer. In a meeting, in Paris - in English. Already the odds were stacked against us and, to be doubly sure, the local customer sent a contingent of seven representatives of senior level, all to argue their case and to deny the project. Recent successes in another European country did not help, the focus was all on the lack of engagement and the resistance to change. To win over France, and other countries, we had to work hard to understand their needs, their market, their culture and to demonstrate that this would make a positive difference in ways that would benefit them.
In the two months leading up to this meeting I invested a large amount of my time to become my company’s "expert" in French Employment Law! Aside from the language challenges this is certainly not the most exciting subject to research. Armed with this knowledge now the challenge was to coax the customer to our way of thinking without undermining their knowledge. On several occasions the customer was less than accurate about their interpretation of CDD and CDI and I had to navigate that conversation without upsetting them, on a subject they should know best and in their native language.
We won the day, after two workshops. This opened the door for more countries to follow and soon the UK previous projects were seen as 'teething problems' and nothing more.
Knowledge is a very powerful tool and is vital in securing a win. Using it to educate the customer without undermining them when they have an alternative in mind can be a very difficult line to tread. However, a lack of knowledge will only ever deliver one outcome.