Consultative sellers succeed or fail on their ability to ally themselves with their Box Two counterparts. They cannot sell without them because Box Two sells for them in ways that they cannot. Their alliances are founded on creating an ongoing stream of Profit Improvement Proposals for the customer managers to sell internally, thereby obtaining the funds to support the consultative seller's strategies. In order to act consultatively, the seller must conform to the requirements outlined in Figure 2-1.
Box One thinks, feels, and acts in ways that are standard operating performance for all Box One managers, emulated by all Box Two managers who interface with them, and virtually unknown to everybody else. Box One's position self-description is that of a money manager.
As a money manager, Box One is preoccupied with financial stewardship, the management of other people's money. This involves making prudent, duly diligent investments, the control and fractionalizing of risk into small, survivable bites, and a conservative management style that emphasizes certainty over the chance for a windfall, incremental gains over breakthroughs, and consistency over flashes in the pan.
Your alliances at the Box Two level depend on the same standards of performance as your Box Two counterparts' internal alliance with their own Box One: the contributions that you make to competitive profit making. When you work in partnership with Box Two function managers, the added contribution you make to them becomes incremental to the contribution they have committed to make to Box One. That is why they will partner with you. The incremental value of your contribution becomes their test of how much you are worth as a partner.
The definition of business partner is therefore the customer manager's definition: someone who can add incremental value to the manager's contribution to profits. If you are going to qualify as a consultant partner, you must make yourself incrementally valuable to a business manager. This means you must deliver one or more of three types of added value:
You must enable your partners to add more profits than they would be able to contribute without you.
You must enable your partners to add profits sooner than they would be able to contribute without you.
You must enable your partners to add profits with greater certainty than they would be able to contribute without you.
These "deliverables" set the standards of performance for consultative sellers. You will be judged for your partnerability by the manager's answers to three questions: How much value do you propose to add? How soon do you propose to add it? How sure can I be that you will add as much value as you propose as soon as you propose to add it?
These are very different questions from the traditional ones raised at the Box Three purchasing interface. When vendors make their sales calls there, they are asked how much performance they can propose and how little price they can charge for it. But Box Two managers do not buy products; they invest in value. They do not buy at all; they sell proposals to obtain funds for their own operations. The Box One managers they sell to are your customers' ultimate buyers. They buy investment opportunities that can put their money to work at the highest rates for the surest return within the shortest periods of time.
They judge their Box Two operating managers by how good they are as money managers. "If I give you one dollar," they ask in effect, "How much more will you give me back? How long before I get it? How sure can I be?" Managers who partner with you as their consultative seller are betting that you can help them enhance their performance by enabling them to return more money than they could alone, or return it faster, and return it more surely.
When you reduce one of the Box Two managers' critical cost factors, you can help them improve the contribution they return from their operation. When you increase one of their critical revenue factors, you do the same. These are the mutual objectives of your cooperative partnerships because they are the achievements that improve your mutual profits.
Customer managers who meet the standards of performance for cooperative partnerability are called the Alpha Managers, the consultative sellers' comanagers on the customer side. The Alpha Managers are the owners of the contribution from a customer operation. The Alpha's name is signed in blood on the operation's business plan. He runs, supports, or supplies a line of business and is not to be confused with vendor selling's usual list of barnyard suspects like the political fox, the coaching goose, or the gatekeeper gander.
There is only one Alpha Manager per consultative seller per customer operation. This makes it crucial to partner the Alpha Manager; once lost to a competitor, the consultative seller is effectively denied penetration.