On the latest episode of The Insiders podcast, hosts Simon Hazeldine and Richard Lane spoke with Neil Ritchie, Head of Global Marketing & Sales of ABB’s Motion Services.

Neil explained how to mediate between a global revenue strategy and its local execution to ensure international companies are close enough to their customers, to deliver an excellent experience in each geography.  

Neil shed light on how to simplify decision-making, implementing change while mitigating risks, and the importance of capturing individual definitions of value from prospective customers. He also touched upon current trends in the ever-evolving world of sales and how these relate to customer satisfaction. 

Simplification is key

Neil has worked for ABB for over 30 years, taking on various roles at the intersection of marketing and sales. Now heading the service division of the business, he stressed that simplification is a key component to execute a strategy successfully. For Neil, it all starts with selecting and enabling the right people to act on a global strategy: 

“I’m quite a simple person. I take that into the role and into the business, and I’ve generally followed three principles: get the right people; get those people to do the right things; keep it simple.” 

The people you hire should not only be qualified for the job but also fit within the organisation. They should occupy a role that creates an impact and be able to deliver on it. 

For every strategy, it is important to take a pragmatic approach and look at what you are offering from the perspective of the customer. For Neil, a sales and/or marketing strategy comes to life when you engage directly with your customers to understand their needs. Doing this will guide you to make the right decisions, mitigate the risk of dissatisfaction and implement change at the right time. 

 Often, things get overly complicated because we are not asking simple questions: 

 “I think asking a simple question might not necessarily get a simple answer, but certainly drives towards that objective.” 

Understand what value means 

One of these simple questions has to do with your value proposition. For Neil, this is the whole purpose of “directing globally, acting locally”: 

“What one customer values might be different to another. So being close to the customers locally is really important in terms of business development. We have to make sure that we join those two pieces together: that the global plan supports the local business, the local business follows the global strategy, and communications is the glue that brings that together and makes sure that the go-to-market activities are done in a consistent and harmonious way.” 

To achieve this, your sales reps and business development teams need to ask the right questions to identify the challenge of the customer and what value you can offer to them. 

 For this reason, at ABB, Neil tries “to develop solutions, services and tools that allow for localisation. While globally we are not directly hiring local people, we set in a framework for the local face of the business to operate within, and we do our best to give them enough trust and flexibility to work with”. 

 This approach might create some tension between the global and the local dimensions of a business, but for Neil, this tension can be productive if managed in the right way. 

Managing tensions

“Sometimes tension is good: it challenges, it raises questions that (if everybody agrees) might not be raised. But it’s all about managing it. We don’t try to destroy the world of conflict, but what we try to do is give enough flexibility and trust to work in it, and also provide a platform for people to raise their hand if they think that there’s some serious issue that we need to address.” 

Tensions can be productive in the sense that they can give rise to dialogue, uncover problems in the local execution of a global strategy and allow for their resolution through a series of progressive adjustments in one’s strategy. 

 Enabling international teams to work in this way though, solving tensions by actively communicating around shared goals, is the job of a great coach. Neil touched upon his passion for this component of the job and highlighted that, for him, coaching should be recognised as part of a manager’s role: 

 “We want to inspire and motivate people through coaching, get them to be the best they can be and develop solutions for themselves. Rather than telling people what to do, coaching involves spending time, giving advice but not necessarily answers, being a sounding board for ideas and thoughts, building confidence, and enabling teams to learn from each other.” 

Neil touched upon the importance of diversity in this specific aspect of internal collaboration and suggested allowing people to “take it personally” when it comes to their own development and customer satisfaction. 

Coaching a diverse group of sales development reps is a fundamental part of our success at durhamlane. Reach out to see how our international delivery teams can help you implement the best local strategy for your global goals. 

Listen to The Insiders podcast here for more insights into the world of business-to-business sales and marketing. 

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