The better you understand the customer needs, the more useful research services you can provide. That’s why VTT enlisted Verona Consulting to develop the solution selling skills of more than 250 of its experts.

”When customers contact VTT’s researchers, they may have a focused idea of the help they require. We should, however, understand whether we can create more value than customers expect when they approach us”, says Marko Koistila who runs VTT’s sales organisation.

The exploitation of full added value may have been slowed down by many things. Customers do not necessarily know VTT’s services so well that they are able to ask for all that they need. Sometimes customers are seeking solutions to a challenge in their own division but, by expanding their focus, they can open up surprising strategic opportunities for the whole company.

A researcher who may be unfamiliar with the company and its business from previous cooperation may find it even more difficult to gain a comprehensive understanding of the needs of the customer.

The better the researcher can establish the customer’s true need by asking the right questions, the better VTT can produce for the customer an effective solution that is based on its strategy. In that way, VTT can be involved in creating sustainable growth, jobs and well-being for the whole of society.

“We can aspire to this by combining our diverse expertise to produce surprising solutions for the customer,” says Koistila.

Skills in managing customer relationships

In order to improve the customer related skills of its researchers, VTT organised a training project in which more than 250 researchers participated over a period of almost two years. The VTT Commercial Excellence for Researchers programme consisted of a total of 21 groups.

The programme comprised three one-day modules, which included, among other things, solution centred thinking, building customer orientated solutions and preparing customer meetings. Methods were diversely sought for creating customer value and thereby improving the customer experience. That’s how to create a competitive edge, which is the sum of many factors and is difficult to copy.

During the first day, the participants considered what kind of role researchers should have in the implementation of VTT’s strategy. During the second day, they diversely reviewed the different stages of the sales process, and considered what value for the customer consists of. The third day concentrated on the different stages of customer meetings and challenging the customer in a positive way.

”The participants found understanding customer needs, constructing a solution and verifying value particularly difficult. These really aren’t easy things for anyone”,

says Koistila.

Improvement in B2B sales through customer understanding

According to feedback, the trainees learned to view projects from the customer’s perspective in a completely new way.
“The professionalism of the coaches endured throughout. According to the feedback questionnaire, no dip was even evident when the coaching had to be moved online because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Koistila.

Koistila appreciates that Verona Consulting responded to even small requests for changes during the journey, so that small enhancements were made.
“What’s more, a different trainer was found for each module, so that the best person in the company was there to conduct each issue”, says Koistila.

Through improved customer understanding, the experts now have better possibilities to anticipate even the hidden needs of the customers. At the same time, the experts are learning to engage in more cooperation within their own organisation. That way, they can come up with new perspectives, challenge customer thinking constructively and concretise value that can be created for the customer.

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