The signing of a “Box” contract with the Stade de France Consortium has successfully met a crucial challenge: how to create bonds between Bureau Veritas senior directors and their counterparts among customers and prospective customers.
NO BUSINESS RELATIONS WITHOUT HUMAN RELATIONS
To leaders of major groups and mid-sized businesses, any opportunity of meeting one another in the flesh is priceless. While developing business streams is a significant issue, it is not the only one. Indeed, during formal meetings it is difficult, not to say impossible to explore such enriching aspects as another company's corporate culture, which sometimes can be similar to one's own, or to get to know one another, to share common values, to gain mutual respect for topics that have nothing to do with business. And while contracts are the result of the rational encounter of a need and a solution, implementing and extending them will depend in a big way on the efforts made by the men and women who are working together towards their success. In addition, quite a number of conflicts and difficulties can be smoothed over whenever the leaders have successfully created a relationship.
IT’S NOT EASY TO MEET WITH OUR SENIOR MANAGEMENT COUNTERPARTS…
Moreover, especially when it comes to key accounts, it has become very difficult for our sales people to get through the various barriers erected to protect the directors, even though they are the very people who have the final say in approving investments. So what can one do to gain access to such a sanctuary? It seems to me that meeting during a sports or musical event could be a particularly appropriate starting point.
SO ATTENDING EVENTS, OK. BUT WHAT KIND OF EVENT?
Suppose attending an event is the way, which one should we choose? The idea for Bureau Veritas was to find a prestigious programme, one that could generate meetings year round, providing diversified interpersonal programming, whether one likes football, rugby or music. In terms of a venue, it was crucial to offer our guests easy access, mostly by car. So programming, greeting and catering were all important. That is why taking a Box subscription at the Stade de France quickly proved itself to be the most interesting plan: an outstanding venue, about 18 to 22 events per year, offering the possibility of hosting over 200 high-ranking guests complete with VIP treatment: access via a nearby car park with reserved spots, gourmet catering served in the box, a welcome gift, a terrace featuring a unique perspective on the event… The entire Stade de France offer matches the philosophy governing the way relationships are conducted at Bureau Veritas: to enhance the customer, to create a friendly ambience, and to have enough time to foster genuine dialogue between the guests and with the directors and employees at Bureau Veritas.
WHAT ABOUT THE FINANCIAL RETURN?
While it did at first seem important to validate the financial return on investment, it quickly became clear that the scheme’s value could be measured in a far more lasting manner:
- 100% occupancy rate in the box for the entire year
- A delighted sales force, and the customers even more
- Company-wide unanimity that this initiative is useful
- Total involvement on the part of sponsors when it is their turn to enjoy the box
This anecdote will illustrate the success of the Stade de France box initiative far better than any statistics: “I just could not get to meet the boss of a major energy group any other way than formally. His deputy convinced him to come to a sports event. Well, we discovered we had a lot in common, and this has strengthened the relationship between both our companies.”
A BOX AT THE STADE DE FRANCE… A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
The success of a box at the Stade de France depends on those who organise it:
- Always start by bringing together the various potential beneficiaries in the company (those in charge of customer relations, the sales department, the key accounts department etc.) and sit them down around a table so that they can express their intent to take the lead in one of the events, and that afterwards they can commit to implementing the process.
- The presence of senior directors on site for every event is vital.
- A box is a meeting place, not a place where you negotiate contracts. You must make sure that the guests do not feel they are being “hounded” by the sales people from the hosting company. To do this, simply apply the following ratio, 2/3 guests and 1/3 Bureau Veritas.
- The guests must make up consistent groups, possibly even sparking off instances of mutual interest: every event has its own theme, for instance an evening bringing together leaders in the oil and gas industry, while another will host business leaders from Neuilly-sur-Seine, and a third be devoted to families.
- It is crucial to make preparations for the event:
- Every guest must feel that he is well-known: so the Communication Department will put together a profile sheet for every guest, intended for attending Bureau Veritas employees: his biography, his tastes if they are known, and an overview of his company. It also features a summary of the history of relations between Bureau Veritas and the guest.
- Exemplary invitations management: An email invitation – Confirmation by post together with the enclosed ticket for admission, the pass to the Box area and to the match, and a three-part flyer presenting the Stade de France.
A few words about the company
Headed by Didier Michaud-Daniel, Bureau Veritas is a world leader in auditing, certification and laboratory testing. Founded in 1828, the Group employs over 67,000 people in about 1,330 offices and laboratories located in 140 countries. Bureau Veritas helps its customers to improve their performance, providing innovative services and solutions to ensure that their assets, products, infrastructures and processes meet all of the standards and regulations relating to quality, health, safety, environmental protection and social responsibility. In 2013, the Group’s annual revenue was about €4b, serving 400,000 customers (100,000 in France, mostly major accounts).
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