Interviewing Influencers: Making Creative Connections with Denise MalloyOctober 31, 2014 | By Kevin Cray
When trying to make strategic connections to improve sales, it can be easy to get stuck in your industry silo. Connecting broadly and creatively with businesses in other industries that touch your customers can give you insight and customer connection points that you never knew existed.
Today on Interviewing Influencers, we talked with Denise Malloy about the power of making connections outside of your vertical.
Terri Hoffman: What is your current role and how have you been connected with Wayne in the past?
Denise Malloy: I am a Senior Solutions Account Executive with Johnson Controls. That simply means I am a business development professional responsible for the greater Houston market area. Effectively what we sell is a service to our customers to help them reduce their energy consumption – so we really sell energy conservation.
I met Wayne O’Neill about 4 and a half or 5 years ago. Our Regional Vice President at the time, entered into an agreement with Wayne to assist us in getting better market penetration here in the Houston area. So Wayne effectively served as a broker to connect us with other businesses in the area and other key business leaders in the area to help us sell more of our products and services here in Houston.
The thing that resonated with me most at the time is that my base was primarily local government, so I had carved out a really nice niche here in the Houston area – good relationships, good clients – and it was at this time that I met Wayne. Wayne had a totally different approach to the market and it was really about connecting you with lots and lots of different people. It wasn’t just the local government clients it was individuals who touched the local government clients.
So as a result I found myself spending time with other firms who had insight to share about working with local government clients. Having the different business leaders in the room around the table talking about what they did for the customer really did create some synergy. And we realized that though our businesses were totally separate, distinct businesses , there were so many different opportunities to overlay each other and actually help each other along in several our accounts.
The approach was refreshing. It’s a ground-breaking approach. It’s not something I had thought about before, and quite frankly it’s not something most people I have interacted with have thought about. We think about our own vertical, our own customer base, our own market and we don’t move far from there. Wayne’s approach forces you to approach the business in a non-traditional way.
TH: I know the type of session you were talking about Wayne refers to as a “blitz meeting.” It sounds like it’s something you may not have participated in before. Were there other things you learned from Wayne that were surprising and impactful?
DM: The first thing that really stood out was that you have a whole lot more in common with other businesses than you realize. So while you might not be in my vertical space of energy, you may be a vertical space of technology, office supplies or construction, we have a whole lot more in common than we have differences. We found that, for a really large, high-dollar decision, that we had relationships with many of the same people. By the mere mention of someone else’s name in a favorable light with the decision-maker could save volumes of meetings just based on that personal, warm reference from someone that they trust. So, we started to do a lot of that.
Previously, I just hadn’t given a lot of thought to someone that has the janitorial contract with the same customer, forming a relationship with them and understanding who their key contacts are. That’s some additional business for us.
TH: Wayne also emphasizes information intelligence gathering. Was that a set of behaviors that changed for you or maybe grew?
DM: No, that was par for the course for me. Read a lot, ask a lot of questions, talk a lot, that piece wasn’t new for me.
TH: Why is that important for you to do?
DM: You become a trusted advisor to your client. I can only advise you on things that I have more knowledge about than you. If you are already an expert and I’m not, it’s going to be difficult for me to add value to your life in that specific area. I’ve always got to be a step ahead of my customers in terms of what the offering is in the marketplace and what is going on in the marketplace.
One of the tidbits of information that resonates with the customer more than anything else is having a leg up on the competition. Knowing what their competitors are doing. How they are benchmarking against their competitors. A lot of that comes from reading. What’s on the wire today, what’s in Bloomberg? What’s the new trend? I want to be sure that, in every interaction with my client I am adding value.
When you are in the services area – and I’m not pedaling a product, I’m pedaling an intangible – then it’s imperative that I have the best and the most up-to-date information to help my customer make an informed decision. You can’t do that without having lots of key information resources and gleaning that information on a daily basis.
TH: What are some of the most important information sources that you really rely on to keep up with learning and to stay ahead of your client?
DM: The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Houston Business Journal, the Houston Chronicle, all the wires – CNN, the news wires. Believe it or not Huffington Post is a good place to go to get good information.
Connect with Denise Malloy on LinkedIn.