SPIN® helps create a customer centric climate for Zehnder Zehnder - SPIN case study

Zehnder confess to be on a journey of continuous improvement, based on innovation and solid technology, which is resulting in pride in their products, an enviable ethos for their people – and above all - a position as leader in their field.

The ingenuity and design of their products and services is something worth talking about. Extolling the virtues of controlled indoor ventilation and enthalpy heat exchangers (or bells and whistles to those of us not familiar with the technicalities of this industry) is a comfortable conversation for the sales force to have with their customers. But how well does this fit with customer requirements? Can the customer see the true value of the products and services for themselves?

Beauty, or in this case value, is in the eye of the beholder. So the seller must see the situation through the buyer’s eyes if they are to have a persuasive dialogue between the two parties. When Zehnder sellers had value-based discussions with customers, calls were far more successful. Zehnder wanted the customer experience as the starting point for the product cycle and envisaged clients having a deep understanding of the real value of product development, communication, pricing, selling and experience.

To encourage their people to be more customer driven, the requirement for a value proposition (VP) was introduced into the sales process. Creating a persuasive VP sounds simple on the surface, but without having a thorough knowledge of a particular customer, how do you know if your proposal is truly convincing to the individual, or others within the decision making team for that matter? Zehnder recognised that they needed an alternative approach to selling to help them realise their objectives.

Zehnder looked to Huthwaite International for help and set up a pilot programme for the management team to assess the suitability of the SPIN® Suite. Dr Jean-Marie Schmid, Head of Group Marketing at Zehnder explains “We could see how SPIN® would be a full change initiative for us, a life changing experience, not a quick fix solution. As SPIN® itself teaches us, this wasn’t going to be something that we could simply push out to our sales force – we had to work closely with our people so they could see that SPIN® is a friend to them.

Armed with the clear ability to demonstrate their SPIN® skills, management achieved an excellent level of buy-in from sellers – many volunteering to take part in the sales training.

Post training, SPIN® is now in day to day action.

First signs of return on training investment

As SPIN® is embedded within the Zehnder sales community; initial results are good in many ways. For example, the sales process is now shorter for both ‘sale’ and ‘no-sale’. Making the decision to go for a piece of business or walk away can be tough. Having the tools by which to evaluate the viability of that business can be reassuring and in some cases, liberating. Not to mention the benefits of having more effective allocation of time and resource.

Not all Zehnder sales are direct. Distributors and intermediaries such as architects and construction engineers work closely with the sales force. As the sellers use SPIN® within their channel, partners are starting to see the full value of working with Zehnder which in turn is giving them more confidence to communicate the true benefits of Zehnder products and services to their clients. Better communication doesn’t stop with partners or clients.

Having SPIN® as a common sales language and process is proving effective across borders within Zehnder too – comments of practical, simple, evidence based, multilingual, measureable and customer-centric were repeatedly reported at a recent Zehnder sales meeting.

Early evidence of return on training investment is all well and good – but how can this be sustained?

Sustaining a change in behaviour

There is only one possibility to be successful with SPIN® - for the sales captains (managers) to apply the SPIN® method from A to Z themselves - leading from the front and demonstrating SPIN® in action,” agrees Schmid. “Coaching is very important. The sales managers must demonstrate that they are in the driving seat, both applying SPIN® and supporting the sales people through coaching. To achieve a high adoption rate, they need to be good coaches. How can you coach your people without using SPIN®?

One thing they are all agreed on is that without sales coaching, long-term skills transfer just won’t last.

The experiential value of SPIN®

Both seller and buyer are feeling the benefits of a more consultative conversation. Schmid explains “Sellers are learning how to really listen to their customers, to deepen the understanding of their requirements by asking questions, going right to the ground with the customer by digging into their problems. We feel that customers are valuing and welcoming such conversations and we are getting them on-side. Having a better understanding of the customer gets the seller closer to them and helps to shorten the sales cycle.