Creating Value Beyond Price within a Commodity-Based Business

Our client is both a regulated natural gas utility and a dynamic participant in all un-regulated competitive energy markets. Utility operations include the construction of natural gas pipeline infrastructure in order to deliver natural gas safely, reliably, and cost effectively to approximately 1.1M residential and C&I customers in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. The organization’s Retail arm also engages close to 150,000 residential and C&I customers by providing customized energy solutions to meet short and long term needs, such as energy reliability, environmental stewardship, planning and budget neutrality.

Business Challenge

While a utility’s physical footprint creates substantial brand recognition, it limits long-term growth. The utility makes money through the rate-of-return regulation on the capital deployed to support infrastructure expansion. While the utility remains a monopoly, their competition takes the shape of alternate energy options, such as electricity, solar, fuel cells and other distributed generation technologies that can be deployed faster and at a potentially lower cost.

The retail business faces a different challenge, one in which competition creates a price-driven sale. Within a commodity-based market, how does one differentiate their offering if they are not always the cheapest option? Up to this point, the client has successfully grown without a strong focus on building and deploying key sales operations and effectiveness components – standard operating procedures, coaching best practices, or sales processes. With aggressive growth goals and a competitive landscape, new sales leadership recognized the need to focus on these foundational components as critical to scaling the business.

Symmetrics Group Approach

Symmetrics Group assessed the organization’s current sales environment. Numerous internal interviews, meeting observations, and reviews of existing documentation were synthesized. Aside from gaining a clear understanding of the best practices of top performers, Symmetrics Group evaluated the organization’s readiness and commitment to change.

Through this assessment Symmetrics Group and Client Leadership agreed on five Standard Operating Procedures to provide immediate lift for both the Utility and Retail Sales Teams:

  • Opportunity Planning
  • Sales Call Planning
  • Win/Loss Review
  • One-with-One Meetings
  • Team Meetings

Along with the continuous engagement at the Sales Leadership level, the team was formally debriefed within a 1-day Coaching Session prior to Utility and Retail Workshops. This coaching session helped set expectations from the top down and provided each participant with a level of familiarity relative to the new cadence. Each leader also received hands-on training for how to leverage over 10 client-customized tools to be leveraged in support of the new cadence.

The two subsequent Seller Workshops provided an engaging and interactive course aimed at preparing both Utility and Retail sellers. The sessions armed each sales team with the necessary tools to have the right conversations with the right people at the right time. While the agenda focused on the five new Standard Operating Procedures, the content ran the gamut from appropriate questioning strategies to personal and professional development.

Results

Each session delivered on the major goals of opportunity creation and planning, pre-meeting preparation, cross-functional collaboration, communication, accountability, teamwork, and a standard go-forward cadence. By deploying a consistent approach to managing the business of sales, sales leaders are better equipped to effectively coach, model, and reinforce sales best practices. Additionally, sales professionals will consistently engage in key interactions with their leaders and customers that will improve selling skills and key sales metrics – pipeline, opportunity size, win rate, and cycle time. Over the next 12+ months, the client seeks to measure and report back on the efficacy of the sessions.

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