Purpose as a profit centre

13th December 2019 |   Alf Janssen


The world is changing, forcing companies to adjust their views, behaviours and business models. During the industrial era, companies focused on the core product. Today, in the post-knowledge era, consumers need to be able to relate to the brand. SAP’s purpose – “We help the world run better and improve people’s lives” – becomes crucial. If SAP is not able to transform into a purpose-led company, we will lose our relevance in the market and will not survive as a business. Hence, I analysed the following: How can I, with an improved understanding of SAP’s purpose and promise, support the Managing Partners (Global Account Leaders) to strengthen their business conversations?

Based on my research I concluded that a purpose-driven approach is the new normal. Purpose is a profit centre as it builds reputation, drives innovation and engages employees, customers and consumers. The lag indicators show a significant impact on business performance, employee retention and customer preference with a purpose-driven approach. The interviews with customers, partners and colleagues allowed me to implement the right lead indicators at SAP’s Platinum Customer Unit to secure success. The actions described in this report are implemented as per January 2019 and are already leading to change. The full research paper was originally produced in 2018.

How can we, with an improved understanding of SAP’s purpose and promise, support global account leaders to strengthen their business conversations and relevance?

During one of the meetings with SAP’s Corporate Strategy team we discussed the Maslow pyramid (Maslow 1943: 370-396) and how it links to the maturity of partnerships. We wondered if purpose is considered as the highest level in the pyramid? Looking at the self-actualization level of the Maslow pyramid it describes what a person comes to find as “a meaning to life” (Kotler 2006: 244). What do our strategic customers truly value, what is their meaning for existence and how can SAP support them in achieving this?

Sales & Strategy Lead at SAP | + posts

In 2020 Alf Janssen will join the Dutch Management Team as Sales Director Strategic Accounts for the Netherlands. He joined SAP in July 2000 and is currently the Sales & Strategy Lead of the Global Platinum Customer Unit, hosting the top 20 customers globally. Leading the Dutch Strategic Customer Program (SCP) sales team, he is tasked to build sustainable, purpose-driven and innovation-based partnerships with selected customers in the Netherlands. In previous roles he was Global Account Director for Unilever, Philips and ASML. Janssen is currently participating in the Consalia Masters programme at Middlesex University.