"Wow!" That's how fans respond to Reliant Stadium, home to the Houston Texans football franchise. According to Steve Patterson, senior vice president and chief development officer for the Texans, once people get to the building they are awed. "It's been an overwhelmingly positive response, whether it's the open-air stadium keeping fans cool with the air control systems, the media and their access to state-of-the-art communications, or the safety and security of the facility. We tried to make this building the best it could be in every aspect, and it turned out that way."
Patterson credits much of this success to the company that won the bid and became his "technology partner," Siemens. Siemens is a network encompassing more than 426,000 people in 193 countries. It provides customers with a "business portfolio" of solutions in the fields of information and communications, automation and control, power, lighting, transportation, and medical. But rather than send in representatives from each of its divisions to sell individual products and services as independent units, the company approached Reliant Stadium as one organization with an integrated solution across its multiple product lines. The integrated solution that the Siemens sales team developed for Reliant Stadium included all of its technologies from throughout its vast organization. Moreover, Siemens proposed that it be the infrastructure general contractor on the project, which would lead to further cost savings during construction. This was an innovative sales approach developed and led by the sales team, starting with its vision for the stadium, which came from understanding the customer's business needs.
Owen Arkison, one of the Siemens sales executives who oversaw this sale, said: "The Siemens sales team developed a vision for how its systems could save money and enhance revenue for the stadium's owner and tenants. The sales team did this by seeking to understand not just the customers' technical needs, which you'd expect, but by also understanding the customers' businesses and their individual needs. The various Siemens companies worked together to present a plan for an integrated solution, one that would not only save money, but that would also enhance the complex's ability to deliver the best sporting experience possible."
The sales team went through a detailed process over a span of more than a year to understand the unique business situation and each of the stakeholders' individual needs. It was a special situation because there is one owner of the facility (the county) and two tenants (the Houston Texans and RODEOHOUSTON, the world's largest rodeo), each with distinctly different needs. In trying to understand their needs, Arkison said the question became, "How can we help them do their business and generate income?" In the case of the Texans, for example, an important source of income is suite sales. The county, on the other hand, wanted a high-tech facility that would operate at a reasonable cost and that would bring in convention and other entertainment business.
Siemens's vision for the project was to provide a state-of-the art facility that would enhance revenues for the tenants, give fans a spectacular experience, and save money for the owner and tenants during both construction and operation.
Steve Patterson believes that the Siemens team accomplished its objectives:
"We had significant cost savings because of the great efficiencies of combining the different systems. The ‘one-stop shopping' also helped in terms of timing, meeting tight schedule deadlines. We anticipate even greater savings in the operation of the stadium. Siemens understood how to integrate the various operating systems and provided a more holistic approach to managing the construction and the operational side. It would have been much more difficult if we had had to coordinate all of the subcontractors."
Reliant Stadium was designed to be an advanced entertainment center. The stadium is located in a campus-like setting of 350 acres. The stadium and its companion exhibition hall, the 1.4-million-square-foot Reliant Center, both use state-of-the-art telecommunications, fiber-optic networking switchgear, and intelligent control systems for comfort, fire safety, security, and lighting, each provided by Siemens as part of its integrated solution.
Arkison knew that developing this highly competitive proposal would be a team effort: "Each member of our team did as much research as possible within our respective specialties to build a sound, cohesive, and smart proposal. We went beyond the customers' requirements in preparing for the presentation because we were trying to create a different approach to selling in this market. We knew we could no longer cut prices. We had to be creative in how we sold the project, maintaining a reasonable profit for Siemens while providing good value to the customer. The key was combining all of the divisions of our company. By doing this, we took ourselves out of the competitors' realm."
The team held fifteen- to thirty-minute face-to-face or phone meetings at least once a day to update everyone and identify and address potential problems. They asked three questions:
What do we know?
What has happened?
What do we need to do next?
The team leader was the one point of contact with the customer.
According to Arkison, "The most important thing we proved to them was that we had the team in place with the depth and breadth that was needed for a project of this scope. We presented to the whole construction team and proved that Siemens had an understanding of the project that went far beyond that of other companies. And we brought more advanced and sophisticated technology to the project.
"Our value proposition was that Siemens would provide the customers a single point of contact and develop a partnership, not just a contract. This evolved to the point where the customer considered our ability to manage a complex project within a tight time frame as the strongest value of our proposal."
Steve Patterson supports this contention. "They coordinated a complicated project on a fast track while the rest of the complex was also under construction—not an easy task."
When the Siemens team first started out, they were enthusiastic about their approach. But one of the challenges they faced early on was that the customers, and even Siemens's own internal people, had reservations about whether the integrated approach was a realistic idea.
Owen Arkison said, "We needed to create a new mind-set with the customer. We spent a year trying to convince them that we had a good approach, and then we realized we needed to adjust what we were saying slightly, to fit it into the norm they already accepted and practiced. Later, we approached the business the same way: instead of trying to change the whole process, we tailored it to fit within their existing mind-set."
While the Siemens team was ultimately successful, success wasn't guaranteed. Internal barriers were potentially a big issue because the sales team was creating a new approach. Like many organizations, Siemens had people who were comfortable doing things a certain, perhaps traditional, way, but Arkison said they were able to overcome this resistance. "First we started picking people who had the vision and the right attitude, then we broke the vision down into smaller components, so they saw they could do it. Otherwise, the big picture was too big. We had to keep it in their comfort zone. We had to adjust our approach internally just as we had externally."
According to Arkison, there were two fundamental elements that inspired success: the team was highly motivated, and they had the right attitude about the project. Their attitude, he believes, was created by the exciting vision, their commitment to that vision, their creative thinking about how to achieve it, and the excitement of actually doing it. "These people have been in business a long time, and have done the same thing over and over. In this case, it was something different, something new." Arkison said he hated to use the term, but "thinking out of the box" and then making it happen was what enabled them to succeed.
Siemens had just begun offering this kind of integrated approach to its customers, and developing a full-scale plan of this size and complexity was different for the company. It was an ambitious departure from the existing way of doing business for them, for their customer, and even for their industry. Sales executives had discussed bringing their many different divisions under one contract at other times, but they found that people needed time to accept the idea. "It's a credit to management and to the people here that, as large a company as Siemens is, once we made the decision to go to market this way we were able to make this change and do it quickly," Arkison noted.
As a result of the innovative approach and success with this project, Siemens now looks to its sales professionals to be business development managers for integrated solutions. They have also created a new company, Siemens One, to coordinate such integrated designs.