5 Minutes With Michael Lister

Michael Lister on the increasing importance of taking a solutions approach to customers in the technology space, the value it adds to everyone involved and how to do it successfully.

Michael, you have been involved in the technology space for some time, holding sales leadership positions in some very reputable organisations. How has a typically successful sales approach changed over the years?   
We are now in the 4th industrial revolution – the data revolution.  Customers are faced with the task of transforming their business or being left behind.  Key transformations include:  IT, digital, workforce and security which impact all facets of the enterprise.  With the required speed of change, silo’s within the enterprise are collapsing and the need to drive automation, risk reduction, and savings across the business to fund more strategic investments is top of mind.  One of the more significant changes I have seen is the IT organization is now getting a seat at the table when it comes to how and why the enterprise requires transformation.  This more inclusive “buy-in” approach from each segment of the business (IT included) is fuelling the speed of transformation.  Successful sales campaigns account for this dynamic and as part of the plan to help an enterprise succeed in their transformation journey.

What are the benefits on offer to an organisation and its customers when adopting a solution led approach?
Candidly I believe that if a solution led approach is not taken - it is a miss and will likely manifest itself in the future as a replacement.  As mentioned above, customers are now required to transform and need to be looking at how they serve customers more efficiently and effectively from end to end.  As such they need to identify how they can streamline and optimize their investments with the same end-to-end approach.  Complexity reduction, reduced risk, lower cost and increased velocity to revenue are all benefits that are at the heart of any solution-based approach.

I am sure you have seen good and bad examples of adopting this approach. What in your experience is the key to being successful?
It may sound rudimentary, but the key always starts with listening and understanding what the customer is trying to achieve and the outcomes they desire.  Through meaningful collaboration with key stakeholders, a mutually defined solution can then be crafted.  This often results in the customers “buy-in” to the solution and ensures that when a proposal is delivered the value is clearly understood and supports the investment.

We are in strange times; how do you anticipate the current pandemic will influence the need for organisations to truly understand their customers and be flexible with the solutions they offer?
In the current environment it’s not about the solutions we traditionally offer - it’s being there for customers personally and professionally.  It’s about understanding what they need to help their customers through these times.  It may not at all be about a product, but everything to do with donations to support essential workers with masks as an example.  How we respond and help our customers during this pandemic will always be remembered.  Sure, a robust supply chain to help fulfill a work from home initiative without question has a positive impact, but it’s the human element – understanding and doing what it takes to help one another get to the other side of this pandemic – that is where we need to be flexible with what we define as a solution to help our customers.