How Granta are increasing sales with a different type of customer conversation

How Granta are increasing sales with a different type of customer conversation

Granta Design is a world leader in materials information technology, based in the ancient university city – but more importantly the modern technological hotbed – of Cambridge, UK. Its software tools, materials data, and database solutions help engineering enterprises in industries such as aerospace, energy, automotive, industrial and consumer equipment, and medical devices, to understand the materials involved in their design and manufacturing processes, and so make better, safer, more economic and environmentally sounder decisions.

Unsurprisingly, it is a highly specialised and technical area: a strong differentiator for Granta, but a challenge for its sales force. The sales team has always been adept at understanding and discussing the technical aspects of its solutions with customers and prospects. But even the largest customer, in the aerospace sector, has only a couple of hundred expert materials specialists, and by no means all of them are influencers at the level to make large, strategic investment decisions about the kind of products and services that Granta offers. The growth of Granta’s business depends heavily on the development of credible commercial relationships with people at a senior level within their client organisations. To achieve that, they need to hold a different type of conversation and establish a different kind of need – more about the desired business outcomes for the company, less about the particular technical aspects of a Granta service offering.

Vice President of Global Sales, Richard Painter, is in no doubt that Granta’s technologies have the power to help customers make fundamental improvements in entire business processes; the question is: can enough customer interactions take place at that level? Could the sales people shape client discussions with senior people in the wider business and persuade them to make or influence decisions about materials design or analysis?

This is exactly the kind of task that the SPIN® Suite has been enabling companies around the world to address for nearly four decades.

Huthwaite International’s intervention began with customised training for sales people and their managers, using the world-renowned SPIN® model for call execution. It taught them how to sell consultatively, to frame questions in a way that led to a better understanding, on both sides, of the negative implications of trying to innovate without the assistance of Granta’s technology, and the massive improvements in outcomes if they did deploy them.

The implementation stood out from many other Huthwaite projects by virtue of the highly innovative use to which many of the Huthwaite tools and models were put – and one in particular.

So adept have the teams from Granta become at designing PCAs that they have been able to construct them at increasingly detailed and tailored levels, giving them what are essentially precision navigation tools not just for the sectors in which they operate, but also for the subsectors, for the individual customer companies, and for individual opportunities within those companies. “Yes,” says Painter, “of course our discussions will end up with a focus on the features of our solution at some point, but the PCAs help us to shape our questions so that the discussion is led by an in-depth understanding of the customer’s problems on one hand, and desired business outcomes on the other. It gives us a framework for our sales people to demonstrate a true understanding of the former, and the ability to deliver the latter. In Huthwaite language, it enables us to work towards a much higher order of Benefit Statement – one that is much more persuasive at the level at which we need to operate.

There are some real adherents of the SPIN® method and particularly of the PCA in Granta now. As Painter says, “It has given our salespeople the confidence to talk about pay-offs, and a platform on which to demonstrate experience and give relevant anecdotes of situations similar to the one they are discussing with a customer.

Guy Aston, who ran the original training at Granta, is most gratified not only by the skill the delegates have shown in understanding the principles and skills of SPIN®, but also by the way Granta has set up shareable repositories of exemplar PCAs, and has a well tooled process for developing new ones to meet whatever sales situation it might face. “They have become living, breathing documents,” he says, “and important components of the planning conversations between managers and sellers.

And on the basis that sales messages in front of the customer must be congruent with the broader marketing communications of the company, some of Granta’s marketing staff have been through specially designed SPIN® Marketing workshops, in which the PCAs have, naturally, been the centrepiece. This integration across the business shows Granta taking full advantage of the shared learning experience, elevating the collaboration with Huthwaite above the simple training course, into a fuller, more rewarding exploration of the SPIN® Suite.