We will all need to come up with case studies for something or the other at some point.
A case study essentially answers the interview question of Can you give me an example of when you…?
So, why can they be so hard to write?
Perhaps it’s because we often default to thinking about ourselves – what we do and how we do it and start working on writing that up.
What is the end result we’re trying to describe? Is it that we made a customer happy?
Whether it’s for a business or a person describing how they did something in a particular role – the end result is that they made someone else happy about something.
Which means that they weren’t happy about something to begin with.
In Rackham’s approach, good salespeople act as consultants acting in their customer’s best interests.
So, what does a consultant do?
Well, we start by understanding the customer’s situation – where are they right now and what is making them unhappy about something?
Perhaps they have been surprised by an unusually large bill for a commodity that has resulted in a big negative impact on their budget this year.
This has resulted in the CFO firing the financial controller and cutting staff and now the Board wants to make sure that this never happens again.
The problem is that the company operates in a fairly traditional way and is suspicious of things like financial markets, so makes decisions about commodities in the same way as it buys furniture.
But a commodity market is not like furniture. Prices fluctuate daily and are volatile – so prices could double or halve while decisions aren’t being made.
The implications are that the chances of being surprised again are quite high – prices go up and go down but have a nasty habit of being too high just when we are ready to buy.
The way in which we resolve the needs of the company might be to engage with a third party that will monitor the commodity markets daily on our behalf and calculate the impact of market movements on our position against a budget.
Such a report, issued to the CFO and financial controller regularly, would mean that they see changes early and can take a decision to manage their position and stay inside their budget limits.
Also, by being informed, they can manage how this information gets to the rest of the company and the Board so that there are no surprises.
A case study, in essence, is a story about how we made someone else happy.
This format will help us get the words down.
Next, we need to make it look pretty, but that’s another story.