Achieve Sales Goals: Turn “Sales Rep’s” Into “Trusted Advisors”

Achieve Sales Goals: Turn “Sales Rep’s” Into “Trusted Advisors”

 

 

On average 48% of salespeople fail to achieve their sales quotas…why? The number of salespeople not achieving sales plan continues to grow year over year…why? Why do 58% of buyers surveyed share meeting with the sales rep today added no value to the buying process? We have 79% of business buyers share it’s absolutely critical or very important to interact with a salesperson that is a trusted advisor.

 

It is time we turn “sales rep’s” into “trusted advisors “ and the book: The Trusted Advisor by David Maister gives you a roadmap to accomplish this objective.

 

The author starts the first chapter with a simple yet critical question I want you to think about.

 

“What benefits would you realize  if your customers trusted you more?”

 

Maister then goes on to share a list of benefits your company and your sales associate will realize when your buyers trust you more. There is a list of 16 benefits and below are three I have personally experienced.

 

  1. They reach out to you for advice
  2. They bring you in on more advanced strategic issues
  3. They share more information that helps you help them

 

This is not the first thought leader to discuss the importance of trust. In Stephen Covey’s book: The Speed of Trust he shares the specific financial impact to your companies’ bottom line when you have high trust.

 

Where do your salespeople fall on the client advisor relationship spectrum?

 

First we have salespeople who sell on price. It drives us nuts, we have taught them to sell based on the value our product or solution provided but the reality is they sell on price.

 

Then we have product experts, subject matter, and process experts. If a client shares a problem with them (big if) then they connect the dots to solve the problem with a product or service.

 

Next we have the subject matter expert problem solver. This type of salesperson clearly understands their customers, markets and common problems they have. They hunt for customers with those problems and help clients solve them. They are a valuable resource for their customers.

 

Last and the level very few salespeople achieve is that of the Trusted Advisor. They have product, market, and application knowledge. They also know how to help solve problems. The big difference is they also know the customers business of their business. They have a strong grasp of financial business drivers and business acumen. They ask questions and help customers find better more efficient and effective ways to run their businesses and they have a measurable impact on their customer’s bottom line.

 

This level of sales professional is seen as a trusted advisor to their customers because they use a value based sales approach.

 

As you can tell I like to share sales and marketing research findings on why buyers buy and must have in our markets of today to make buying decisions. (Sorry)

 

To paraphrase the research results from a report by The Rain Group…

 

“85% of buyers today expect salespeople to present their solution and identify the value it will bring and less than 15% of salespeople today actually meet this key buyer need.”

 

So how you feeling right now?

 

Are we hitting a little too close to home?

 

From my experience with business owners and investors they usually admit this conversation makes them feel a bit uncomfortable.

 

They know what they want: profitable repeatable growth.

 

They have invested in a sales team, marketing, operations and often product development to achieve what their shareholders want.

 

They have invested in sales training but are not seeing sales behaviors change to meet what buyers require today.

 

Quietly …on their drive home or when they are taking a shower, or if they are like me at 3:00 am a thought interrupts your peace.

 

I don’t think we will hit sales plan and I need to fix this problem

 

If you are a salesperson where do you fall in the Client Advisor Sales Spectrum? (be honest its just us)

 

How much of your day is actually spent helping your customers solving problems? If you are like most salespeople today less than 20% of your time is spent selling.

 

If you lead a sales organization where do most of your salespeople fall on this spectrum?

 

From my experience teams typically hover in and out of product experts and problem solvers. Each team has about 10% of salespeople selling based on price and they are significantly underperforming.

 

If you own a company what impact would it have to have your typically 60% of salespeople on your team who are mid-level sales performers coming in under plan every year produce the results your top 20% of sales performers produce?

 

When your team is trained to understand market problems and sell with a value based sales model they will become trusted advisors to your customers.

 

If you want (need) your salespeople to fix their sales problem of not hitting sales goal and profit objectives I highly recommend you buy the book The Trusted Advisor and follow the author’s roadmap to help your team move from “sales rep “ to “trusted advisor”.

Increase Sales Profitably: Put A Collar On Non-Selling Behaviors

Increase Sales Profitably: Put a Collar on Non-Selling Behaviors

 

 

What % of your salesperson’s time is actually spent selling today? (are you sitting down?) The average salesperson is spending less than 20% of what I call “sellable time” actually doing sales behaviors today. That’s a problem, a big sales problem we need to fix to keep our sales leaders, owners and shareholders happy. In this post we will discuss how to put a collar on non-sales behaviors.

 

Meet Duke, pictured above. He is our current Lab rescue. Our family fosters Labs, and Lab mixes for the Lake Erie Lab Rescue. (an awesome non-profit organization of people who love animals) When the rescue found Duke he was a hot mess: two ear infections, could not put weight on a hind leg, underweight by about 20 lbs., lime disease, and also anemic.

 

For the last few months we developed a plan to bring him back to health so we could find him a forever home. Our plan had very specific behaviors we executed, tracked and even logged on medical forms. We gave him various medicines and a special food. We slowly started walking him and exercising him including water therapy. We put drops in his ears and basically loved on him. He was not thrilled about all these new behaviors but is a gentle old soul and went along with it.

 

The last thing we always do before adoption is spay or neuter. The surgery went great and Duke came home. To insure the incision healed we had to make sure Duke did not bother it. We corrected him many times but his nature was to lick the incision and it started to get infected. So we collared this behavior with a cone he wears for a few weeks.

 

So what does a lab rescue with a cone collar have to do with growing your sales profitably?

 

I thought you would never ask!

 

If you want to increase your sales profitably and create sales velocity for years to come you need to reinforce the sales behaviors you have seen that drive profitable sales and collar non-selling behaviors.

 

Like what?

 

If you read my content you know I have served many companies in a variety of markets both domestic and international over the last 35 years. At the fear of sounding like an attorney, the answer to what behaviors drive profitable sales for you depends. It depends on your company, markets and what your buyer’s journey looks like. That is why we do voice of the customer work and data analysis before we develop strategies and plans.

 

If you have done your voice of the customer work you understand what your buyers want and need in their buying journey. You know their buyer personas, and the value drivers for their businesses.

 

I have worked with 1,000’s of salespeople that have been on my teams and on distributor sales teams and some of the common behaviors I have seen salespeople doing include:

 

Lead Generation

Building and leveraging relationships

Qualifying opportunities

Qualifying prospects

Qualifying leads

Follow up

Making presentations

Servicing customer needs for information on deliveries

Account management

Networking

Trade shows/ Industry conferences

Territory management

Creating monthly email newsletter blasts

Training and education

Training accounts and distributors

Handling Quality issues

Helping AR collect past due funds

Searching for content

Driving and transportation

Creating new customer target lists

Lead nurturing campaigns

Writing content for industry articles and trade publications

Weekly reports

Call reports

CRM updates

Phone calls

Emails

Social Selling

Customer visits to your plant or corporate office

Applications advice

Helping customers sort parts that may have quality issues

Visiting end users with distributors

Tracking order status

Expediting ship dates

Finding out why orders did not ship on time

Dealing with product damages that occurred in shipping

Reviewing plant inventory

Personal Social Media

Personal emails

Webinar training updates

Team sales meetings

Product demonstrations

Creating content

Working with field service to resolve customer problems

Entertaining customers

Booking hotel rooms

Booking airfare

Booking rental cars

Expense reports

Family time

Workout time

Plant tours with customers

Driving late orders to customers

Picking up material and driving to your plant to help make late order re-promises

Meeting with customer engineers and influencers

Meeting with other buyers at key accounts

Meeting with C-suite executives at key accounts

Product installation and repair

Monitoring and helping with product tests

Distributor training

Distributor management

Customer audits and assessments

Computer and IT issues

Booking advertisements

Managing point of purchase

Ordering content for customers and distributors

Company vehicle cleaning and maintenance

Ordering and stocking sales tools

Creating new sales tools

Customer events and outings

 

And you thought you had a lot to do…

 

Is it any wonder when we ask salespeople why they are not prospecting for new business at current and new accounts say it is because they are too busy?

 

Is it any surprise we find the below statistics for sales teams today?

 

The Average Salesperson spends less than 20% of their time selling today

 

30% + of time searching for sales tools (or building them and that’s really scary)

 

40%-50% administrative

 

10%+ non-selling activities

 

Multitasking decreases productivity by 20-40%

 

Workers waste an average of 40% of their workday because they have never been taught organizational skills and how to focus on behaviors that matter.

 

I have yet to meet a salesperson that is not busy. We are all hard working competitive people and the top performers are seen as strategic advisors by their customers.

 

The question becomes: is your sales team busy doing the behaviors you know drive profitable sales based on the VOC work and sales analysis data, or are they just busy?

 

Here’s the deal…some salespeople believe if they are busy they are safe. So they get real busy. How do they determine what to do? There is a high probability they are doing what their sales manager did when they were in sales. They are prisoners to an out-dated sales process…Let that sink in a minute or two.

 

“You mean to tell me my salespeople are doing the behaviors my sales team did say 20 years ago? 20 years ago before we had a customer service department, the Internet, a CRM system, a formal sales process? Before we spent all that money with the consulting firm? Before invested in new IT systems? Before we invested in a marketing department?

 

Yep!

 

Salespeople, like all of us, will gravitate to their comfort zone of behaviors they like to do. If someone has been in sales for any length of time they likely spend a great deal of time in service and relationship activities.

 

One last consideration is fear. Sales people have been managed (not led, true leaders inspire and motivate they do not use fear) by fear for years. If you are fear filled the creative and strategic part of your brain shuts off. So they do not see what behaviors drive the best results so they do what they are told and stay “busy” to feel safe. They are in fight or flight mode.

 

The shame is busy salespeople lack focus and they often experience problems and not hitting their sale numbers like 70% of the sales people and then what do you do? We put them on a PIP…performance improvement plan and share what happens if they don’t improve. Then we see behaviors that really hurt the bottom lines like unnecessary discounting, extended payment terms, promises our products and services could never meet. This results in more fear, even more busy behaviors, more stress, altercations with other departments and so it goes.

 

How do we put a collar on non-sales behaviors?

 

Do your voice of the customer work

Create buyer personas

Map buying journey and what buyers need today to make a buying decision

Mirror your sales process to the buying process 

Determine the behavior your data shows drives sales velocity today

Determine the top 5 behaviors that drive the sales you want

Train your sales leaders 

Train your sales people 

Train support departments on new sales process and how they help

Establish / reinforce service expectations for support departments

Track support indicators weekly

Create leading indicator behaviors sales must execute

Measure those behaviors

Have sales report on those behaviors weekly and in each coaching discussion

Coach those behaviors on four legged sales calls with your team

Coach sales to eliminate, put a collar on non-selling behaviors 

Inspect what you expect

Reinforce behaviors you want

 

When we implemented the above in a number of companies we experienced:

  • Sales growth exceeding 20%-40% year over year
  • Gross profit increases of 6%-10% in 18 months
  • Customer satisfaction increase
  • New business increases at current accounts
  • New customers (one company realized over 200 new large accounts in 12 months)
  • Sales close rate increases of 30%-50%
  • Improved moral inside sales team
  • Improved sales efficiency
  • Reduced cost of customer acquisition
  • Improved relationships with other departments
  • Reduced marketing expense
  • Improved engagement form entire team
  • Reduced turnover
  • Reduced recruiting expenses

 

If you want profitable sales increases you must focus your sales teams behaviors on those activities that drive the maximum return. When your sales team is aligned with what buyers have shared they need and you deliver it when they need it in their buying process your team too will experience the healthy sales results above too.

 

As for Duke, he is meeting with his new forever family today. He is happy, healthy and not only walking on his hind leg but running! He did not want to do everything we had to do get him strong and healthy but we coached and trained the behaviors that would lead to this day where he will be placed with a loving family, and put a collar on those behaviors that did not support our long term goals.

Fix Buyer Problems With Value Based Sales

Fix Buyer Problems With Value Based Sales

 

 

In my last post I shared how a Value Based Sales approach helped a marketing and positioning serve firm land a whale account. This was an example of how to sell a “to buyer”. A  “to buyer” wants to move to a future state. In this post I will share how a value based sales approach helped “away buyers”, buyers who want to move away from pain and how it resulted in a $38 million sales increase in just 18 months.

As we meet with buyers we need to quickly determine if they are a “to buyer” or an “away buyer”.

A “too buyer” wants to improve something, wants to be innovative and has an emotional attachment to a future state. As a salesperson our job to create a value based sales proposal to help them get to this desired future state. In my last post I shared how we helped a client enter a new market and increase incremental sales and profits.

The other type of buyer is the “away buyer”. An away buyer wants to avoid risk, pain if you will. They are singularly focused on moving away from current problems and avoiding future ones. As a salesperson once we clearly understand what they want to avoid it is our job to create a value based sales proposal that helps them move away from problems.

In the 1990’s I was the VP of sales and marketing for Alpha Enterprises Inc. We were a plastics injection molding company that provided plastic packaging and mechanical security devices for the music retail industry. (you know those plastic boxes and devices that have to be removed at the checkout counter? That was us)

In the mid 1990’s the music industry experienced a significant shift in how music on compact discs were going to be packaged. Prior to this time music on compact discs were distributed to music stores and other mass merchants in a 12” cardboard package. This cardboard package was designed to easily fit in what were once record album fixtures. This original packaging also added size to the compact disc jewel case to prevent and or slow down retail theft. Alpha Enterprises manufactures mechanical security devices in plastic for audiotapes and videos at the time. We had a design for a compact disc package, but we had very little sales prior to this market-packaging shift.

Recognizing this large shift in how compact disc music was going to be distributed, we hit the road meeting with as many music retailers, mass merchants and other companies that provided music to locations like book stores and so on and did voice of the customer research.

In our meetings we discovered a number of people in each organization that influenced the purchase of mechanical security products:

 

Merchandising

 

Loss prevention

 

Store design

 

Purchasing

 

Operations

 

We met with purchasing and all the other people who helped influenced the purchases.

 

We found each influencer was also primarily concerned with theft, since compact discs could easily be hidden in someone’s clothing. We also found each influencer had specific requirements and criteria they were looking for as well as pain and problems they needed to avoid.

 

For example: Loss prevention’ main goal was protect the small CD packages in some way to reduce theft and if possible help them reuse security tags that were costing them 6-11 cents per purchase.

 

Purchasing at mass merchants and music stores wanted devices that protected their product at the lowest cost. (and that was not us) They told us they did not have budget to buy loss prevention Keepers.

 

We took a value based sales approach to fix this sales problem.

 

Value based sales is about understanding the business of your customer’s business so we asked a lot of questions:

 

On average how many compact discs do you plan to merchandise per store?

100,000

 

What is your current loss due to theft for audiotapes and videos that have no security protection?

About 15% without a security package but we expect CD’s could be as high as 25%

 

We have heard some theft is internal, other words your employees, and do you have an estimate for those occurrences?

Yes about 2%-3%

 

One solution is to lock the entire product offering behind glass. Have you studied the impact on sales for product displayed live verse behind glass?

Yes, sales increase over 70% if product is merchandised live

 

Talk to me about those security tags you buy. What one do you use, why, and how do customers defeat them?

We use this brand and the customers defeat them by pealing them off or deactivating them.

 

And every security tag is deactivated at check out and leaves with the purchased product?

Yes

 

If I might ask, what do those little security tags cost you?

I won’t give you my exact cost but lets say around 6-11 cents

 

Help me understand your inventory turns how many turns do you want, do you see today?

They shared this number

 

We took all their data and created a value based sales proposal that included risk dollars based on their own numbers. And cost dollars of security tags.

 

We calculated the cost of security tags based on inventory and anticipated turns and shared that number.

 

Then we shared our hypothesis, a creative business idea as their business partner helping to solve this huge risk they wanted to avoid.

 

We created spreadsheets for buyers to plug in their actual numbers in each field to calculate their projected losses and some of those meetings became emotional. (this tool helped establish the cost of doing nothing)

 

Then we shared what we learned in our VOC work and how we redesigned our product to protect and reuse security tags as well as the compact discs.

 

We shared the test results other retailers like them experienced when using our devices and how it drove down their theft %’s.

 

Our buyers to win budget internally to fund our product purchases used our spreadsheets. Our presentations demonstrated the ROI for purchasing our products and it was often a 100% pay back within months.

 

When our competitor mass mailed a sample and a cover letter bound with a rubber band (really, I saw their direct mails on buyers” desks), we spent the time clearly understanding the pain this market shift would cause and the businesses of our customer’s business.

 

What was the result of gathering the “Voice of the customer”?

 

What was the sales growth impact from creating a value based sales proposal and not just selling on price?

 

We experienced a $38 million dollar sales increase in 18 months!

 

Or to put it another way: Market Dominance!

 

What happened next was even more fun.

 

Retailers started calling us because we did such a good job with music CD’s to solve other high theft problems. They shared other products they wanted to see 70% sales increase for but are behind glass but they wanted out live. They shared items in their store that had high theft rates that they needed to lower.

 

 

Large companies like Nintendo, Microsoft, and so on heard about us and asked to meet to understand how our products could increase sales for their retailers.

 

 

This led to many successful new product launches. Eventually this division was acquired by one of the world’s leading security tag manufactures at a high multiple and is thriving today with products.

 

Why?

 

We listened to our customers.

 

We qualified their fear and risk into real $’s.

 

We spoke the language of their business: sales, profits, ROI, inventory turns, shrink (how they described theft)

 

We had business discussions about how our products could impact their sales, reduce theft, reduce the cost of labels and increase net income. (Create value)

 

We showed them how to avoid a problem and pain.

 

After the sale we quantified value.( shared the impact of their purchase decision)

 

We did not “sell” our customers we “helped” them.

 

So how about your company….

 

Do you understand the voice of your customers today? Are you Sure?

 

Is someone on your team asking questions and listening for buyer pain? Who?

 

Have you turned the buying process into a value based business discussion and share how you can impact their bottom line?

 

Do your salespeople understand how to help “to buyers” and “away buyers”?

 

What sales tools have you provided for each buyer type?

 

What impact would an incremental $38 million sales increase have on your bottom line with high gross margins?

 

What shifts are your markets experiencing right now or in the future you can help solve?

 

What if your largest competitor is doing this process right now? (Ouch now that you’re your attention)

 

 

PLEASE take the time and dedicate the resources to clearly understanding what your buyers want and need to buy today, and the process they use. Once you do.

 

PLEASE create a repeatable sales process that mirrors what your buyers want and need to buy today.

 

The above is a value based No Smoke and Mirrors process I have used for over 35 years and it has always driven profitable sales growth. When one client converted to a value based sales approach their close rates went from 42% to over 80% in 18 months.

 

What impact would it have on your bottom line if your sales close rate were over 80% with profitable sales?

 

This strategic business development process always ends with a value based sales proposal and we discuss how what we are selling solves their pain and problem and we connect the dots to how what we are selling impacts their bottom line.

 

Do not “sell” buyers I “serve” them buy with a value based sales methodology!

 

 

Increase Sales: Sweet Sales And Profits From Value Based Sales

Increase Sales: Sweet Sales and Profits from Value Based Sales

 

 

In my last post: The Oscar for Best B2B Sales Methodology goes to Value Based Sales I shared why a Value Based Sales method is by far the best B2B sales method. Over the last 34 years of solving sales problems I have observed sales teams using a variety of sales methods. In this post I will share how one team I served leveraged value based sales into sweet sales and profits and created a lifetime customer.

 

If value based sales produces more profitable sales faster why do so few salespeople use this sales method?

 

From what I have observed in the field on four legged sales calls coaching my sales teams the average B2B salesperson is much more comfortable discussing their products features and benefits than the customers’ market and business issues.

 

However when you ask buyers what they value and how salespeople can become more important they want B2B sales representatives discussing and sharing solutions that are relevant to their business.

 

 

According to SBI, on average 87% of the revenues in complex B2B sales environments are being generated by just 13% of the sales population.

 

Value based pricing adds value in B2B sales.

 

As Value Based sales thought leader Bob Apollo shares:

 

This terrible mismatch has profound consequences. There’s abundant evidence to suggest that one of the most significant differences lies in their ability to systematically create unique value to their customers through the disciplined application of value-based selling techniques across their entire sales and marketing organization. And the results can be seen in top line revenue growth that far exceeds market averages.”

 

In 2000 I was asked to help a company Innis Maggiore. Back then they were called an advertising and marketing company. They had been my vendor partner for years. Today they have evolved into one of the top strategic positioning firms in North America. They wanted my help landing large accounts with the focus on creating lifetime customers.

 

The trouble is all large accounts have marketing departments who own strategy and already have relationships with advertising firms. What most business development salespeople do is try to wear down the buyers with features and benefits of their services, all the awards they have received and so on.

 

Our team created a list of large accounts that matched our ideal customer profile and one of those accounts was Harry London’s Chocolates just 4 miles from our corporate offices. Harry London’s Chocolates are a premium chocolate supplier and we wanted to serve their team because everything they did demonstrated a value for quality and providing their customers a strong buying experience.

 

We tried sending brochures and examples of our work. We called their marketing department with a regular cadence  and dropped of creative demential mailers…nothing. We heard “ we are happy with what we have, and if we ever need your help we will call you.” (They even say no thanks in a quality way…we have to work with this company.)

 

What if we took a Value Based Sales approach?

 

We did market research into possible new markets for Harry London’s. Our firm had experience serving the floral industry for many years and about 30% of a florist’s revenue are non-flower product like vases, candles and even …chocolates. (Interesting)

 

We did more research and used our relationships in the floral industry and found:

 

Number of florists: about 33,000 retailers

Revenue of industry: $7 Billion

Approximately 30% of revenue not flowers: $2 Billion

Estimate of possible Chocolate sales: $750 Million

If we won just 10% of market share: $75 million in incremental sales

Estimated Gross Profit impact to Harry London: $25 Million

 

We interviewed three local florists on tape and asked them about their business, their challenges and how they increase sales and profits. Each business owner mentioned adding non-floral  products to their services. We asked about chocolates and they all admitted they use chocolates as an added value offering to bouquets. (Back then the interviews where on VHS tapes and the cameras were so big we looked like a news crew). We asked what brand of chocolates they were using? None could share the brand. (sounds like an opportunity for a leader in quality chocolates to position themselves) We asked if they ever heard of Harry London’s chocolates and what that brand meant. They all shared yeas, and their perception was it was one of the top quality chocolate manufacturers, We asked if they thought using a premium brand chocolate supplier like Harry London’s would give them the opportunity to increase their selling price and increase their gross profits because their consumers would value this brand and each agreed it would.

 

I reached out to the CEO of Harry London’s chocolates.

 

First he received an amazing custom floral bouquet with his chocolates in the arrangements with a short note: “we found a sweet new profit opportunity for your company, I will be calling you this afternoon to discuss it. Mark Allen Roberts , Innis Maggiore”

 

That afternoon I called the CEO and my call went through to him. I asked for 20 minutes latter that week to share a new market opportunity, and I asked if we could have a TV and VHS player in the room and he agreed, …but just 20 minutes.

 

We started the meeting exactly on time and shared the size of the market opportunity and our estimates and some of his senior leaders baulked at our hypothesis. I remember sharing : “tell you what, lets say we are wrong, lets say we are off by as much as 20%…that would still be a huge amount of incremental revenue wouldn’t it?”

 

“Nothing speaks louder than the voice of customers”

  • Mark Allen Roberts

 

About 10 minutes had passed and we could tell they were interested but skeptical.

 

You know that look like …if this was a good idea we would already be doing it …look?

 

We put in the VHS tape the player and you could have heard a pin drop.

 

The senior leaders were listening and watching florists share how they would value buying their high quality premium chocolates.

 

I looked at my watch, about 18 minutes had passed so I took out the tape when it was over, closed my portfolio and said: “we promised to only take 20 minutes, thank you for your time, and we would appreciate the opportunity to help your team add $20-$25 million in incremental profits in the floral market, a market our firm has served for over 20 years…” and I started to get up from the conference table.

 

Their CEO said: “where are you going?…please sit down lets discuss this more and tell me more about your company.”

 

After following up and some negotiating we won their business back in 2000 and even after they were acquired years later , Innis Maggiore still has their business in 2018. Why? Because when all the other ad firms (and there are many of them) came in talking about their company and all their awards and cutting their hourly rates, we came in and gave Harry London’s Chocolates a new business opportunity that would increase sales and ultimately add net income to their bottom line.

 

That was a Value Based Sales Approach.

 

Lets break it down to its key components:

 

  • Determine your companies value drivers, how you create value for your customers’ businesses
  • What possible new customers match your ideal customer profile
  • Research the company
  • Research their leaders
  • Take time to understand their value proposition, brand and positioning
  • Take time to understand the business of your customers’ business
  • Know your customers’ markets
  • Create a challenge, a hypothesis, a way to create value for them
  • Present the hypothesis in the language of business
  • Build trust in every aspect of communication
  • Follow up
  • Negotiate after you establish value
  • Close with clear next steps
  • Follow up and verify the value created
  • Ask for another opportunity to create value

 

 

How do your salespeople sell today?

 

Why do you win sales?

 

Why do you loose sales?

 

Does your team use a value-based model?

 

Why wouldn’t a value-based sales model work for your salespeople?

 

That CEO is now the CEO of a custom candle company. Maybe my old team at Innis Maggiore needs to send another custom floral bouquet with a candle made from bees wax?

 

Like I shared in posts about the value of doing voice of the customer work in a number of posts sharing examples, I will share other value based sales examples in the next few posts so stay tuned.

 

 

The Oscar For Best B2B Sales Methodology Goes To: Value Based Sales

The Oscar For Best B2B Sales Methodology Goes To: Value Based Sales

 

 

 

What is the best sales methodology for B2B sales today? What are the most popular sales methods and why do so few B2B salespeople use Value Based Sales? In this post we will review a number of sales methodologies used to improve sales performance and why the Oscar for best B2B sales methodology goes to :Value Based Sales.

 

Sales has changed over the years. Salespeople and the companies they serve are constantly searching for the best sales method.

 

As I watched the Oscars the other night I thought how we need Oscars for sales and marketing strategies.

 

To understand why a Value Based Sales methodology outperforms other sales methods we need to briefly unpack how sales people sell and how sales has evolved over the years.

 

What are the sales methods salespeople have used and are using today?

 

Selling on Price

 

This is not a method most CEO’s and business owners want to hear. In this method you must have the lowest cost to manufacture and your team leverages this low cost-manufacturing competency to win and keep business.

Salespeople sell on price when they do not know or believe your value proposition or no one has trained them how to connect the dots between what you sell and the value proposition for customers.

Why this method is so common is it is what buyers want.

Buyers want to commoditize all products and services so the only differentiation is price. Just as we train our salespeople, companies like Karrass teach buyers to dismiss sales pitches and gobbledygook sales and marketing teams spew and quickly make the key buying decision all about price. If you have the lowest price you win today. When the vendor you displaced finds they lost the business what do they do? They drop the price and you loose. This starts a gross margin death spiral and the only one who wins is the buyer.

If you have never hear the term “gobbledygook” it means all those things we say and share on our web sites that no longer mean anything since everyone we compete against claims them too like:

Innovative

Best in class

Best Quality

Top performance

Flexible

Groundbreaking

Scalable

Robust

Cutting Edge

If you would like to learn more I encourage you to download the Gobbledygook Manifesto

What I have found disturbing over the years when I ask salespeople why we lost a particular sale or account for that matter they say “price.”

When I conduct Win-Loss interviews with buyers, “price” is rarely one of the top reasons why a buyer buyers or chooses not to buy.

In this model your salespeople do not understand or believe your value proposition and they do believe the only thing that matters to buyers is the lowest price.

Sales finds all kinds of ways to sell , selling on price internally like : volume discounts, sales incentive rebates, volume purchase discounts, blanket order discounts and so on.

All of these and more are sales based on price.

 

 

Relationship Sale

It is true people buy from people they like. Buyers will have an impression of you within 7 seconds. In this model the salesperson strives to be liked by the buyer. They work hard to build a friendship through social lunches, dinners, and ball games. As one relational seller told me years ago: “I was the only rep invited to this buyer’s daughter’s wedding. “

In meetings you often wonder whose side the relationship seller is on? The buyer’s or yours? This seller believes their relationship with the buyer is their value proposition not your product or service.

A relational sales methodology is all about building a relationship and reinforcing that relationship through acts of service.

When I work with relationship sales people they often bring donuts and bagels and “check in ” with buyers and purchasing decision makers. When the relational salesperson is in the customer’s building everyone loves them. Rarely do they close the sale, or ask for the sale for that matter. They never have a pre-call sales plan and believe they will win whatever business the buyer has based on their relationship.

After a sales call with target accounts you will hear a relational salesperson share “it was a good meeting” although the sale did not advance and they did not win an order.

We find relational salespeople in sales farmer roles because they are terrible sales hunters.

Do you have relationship salespeople?Look where your salespeople spend their time. Are they selling and creating sales presentations? Or, are they checking on orders, when orders will ship, how we can ship them earlier, following up  with customer service to determine when something will ship? If so, you have a salesperson using the relational sales method.

This is the least effective sales methodology, but unfortunately the one most underperforming salespeople rely on.

 

Product Sales

In this methodology the salesperson’s product knowledge is leveraged to win sales. The thought here is your salespeople are trained in features and benefits of your product or service. As Mike Shultz President of The Rain Group shares “If your people cannot speak fluently about your product and service offerings and ask the right questions to uncover specific needs that your solutions fulfill, then they are leaving money on the table and losing you deals.

Here you will find companies that are often very inward looking and not customer centric. They design and manufacture products but their salespeople are not trained on what specific types to customers to call on and what problems their products solve.

As I have shared in the past, I have observed salespeople trained in the product methodology “show up and throw up”. It’s like they are playing feature and benefit Bingo with buyers just hoping one buyer will jump to their feet and yell: “BINGO! I know a problem you can solve for me!” When you are working with a product salesperson they speak 80% of the time in the sales call and do not ask many qualifying questions. After all what they are selling is so amazing a buyer would have to be an idiot not to buy right?

Every seller must understand their products and services. However today , with as much as 70% of the buying process being over before the buyer speaks with sales this method is not as successful as it once was. Back in the day, before the internet of things, buyers had to meet with sales to learn about products and services. Today this buying criteria is just one mouse click away.

Product knowledge is a part of a top performing salesperson, but can not be their sales method today if they want to achieve quota.

 

The Lone Wolf / Sales Mercenaries

In this sales method the salesperson relies on their personal sales skills, abilities and experience to close the sale. They have been through the school of hard knocks, feel they have been there, done that and nothing will surprise them. They are very self-confidant and often deliver results even if they can’t share how they do it.

The Lone Wolf / Sales Mercenaries are often the product of a poorly designed compensation structure and a culture that does not value salespeople. They are hired sales guns that sell their sales services to the highest bidder. Salespeople who use this method are masters at following their own instincts, and writing the rules as they play the game. They win various games but often leave sales, money, on the table because they are only focused on what benefits them the fastest personally.

I had a friend share once:

Salespeople are like water, they find the path of least resistance.”

Lone Wolf Mercenaries are often found at inward facing companies who believe their product or service is so smart “even a monkey in kakis” could sell it. Their company not only does not value and appreciate the salespeople; they treat them like a necessary evil. Salespeople are treated like they are only as good as their last…sale. Their compensation plan creates commission junkies looking for their next fix not strategic partnerships with clients.

Lone Wolf’s have a high utilitarian trait. Other words if I do this I expect to get that.

The shame is these folks could create much more value if they were valued and appreciated.

They will get-r-done many times but how they do it will leave a mess to clean up and they are very hard to manage.

 

Consultative Sales

In this sales methodology salespeople are trained in product features and benefits and how to  find buyer pain and solve the pain. Salespeople are trained in markets, and common problems their products solve in these markets.

In these buyer calls the salespeople speak about 50% of the time and ask open-ended questions searching for a problems they know they can solve. They are problem solvers.

When you observe salespeople using this method it feels like the child’s game we played in the pool “ Marko Polo”. “Marko… do you have this problem?” “Polo…yes we do” and sales races to tag the buyer and close the sale.

This model produces results if the buyer can connect the dots from the product or service to how it will impact their business drivers.

 

The Challenger Sale

This methodology became popular in the book The Challenger Sale, authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson present a sales model to give buyers new ideas to solve problems they may or may not be aware they have. In this book the author shares 40% of high sales performers use this model. More than 50% of sales superstars use this method.

In the for what it’s worth column this was my sales method for a number of years.

This model teaches the selling to take control of the sales process.

You will find some sales calls feeling more like a debate than trying to solve the buyer’s problems. In this model you uncover issues the buyers may have they are unaware of that need solved.

I continue to recommend this book to business owners and salespeople wanting to improve their skills.

I have some advice if you choose to use this model:

First, it requires you to have some experience and knowledge about your customer, their industry and the business of their business. When I have seen young salespeople try to use this model is when they lacked the emotional intelligence and situational awareness to pull it off. They failed to earn the trust early in the relationship so their challenge felt like a canned marketing pitch not a real solution.

Second, I don’t want salespeople feeling they are in charge of the buying process. You are not. You can influence the buyer’s process but if you think and act like you are in charge you will fail. Top performing salespeople clearly and intimately understand the buyers buying process and criteria and they help move the sale by giving buyers what they need at each step of their buying process.

Don’t believe me?

Ok, how many of you reading this like to buy stuff? Almost all of you right?

How many of you like to be sold? Oh, big difference yes?

Enough said.

 

Agile Sales

A recent article in Selling Power shared how Agile Sales is the best method. You can read this article here and it shares the methods top sales performers use. The article is basically saying don’t get all hung up on one sales method or another. Top performing salespeople have situational awareness and they adapt their sales method based on the situation and buyer.

This thought leading article poses the question: what if we taught our sales teams 4-5 top sales methodologies and trained them to know what to use when? The author’s share having agility, flexibility does not imply we want sales teams “winging it”. We want them to have the EQ and situational awareness to be agile within defined parameters established in sales training.

I guess what gives me pause, is so many sales teams I have been asked to help lacked a formal repeatable sales process. Their leaders and owners thought they had one. How would we implement 4-5 when sales is not even executing on the one you thought they were using? Secondly, companies often provide very strong product training and little if any situational and sales scenario training. Companies will need to do voice of the customer work prior and identify the most common sales scenarios before training their sales teams.

I have adapted my sales method based on the industry, buyer, buying process and buyer personas over the years.

The difficulty is in tracking what worked when and where and in what scenario so it is difficult to scale throughout the sales team.

I believe Agile Sales Methodology is a smart strategy but is has so many moving pieces it will be difficult for most companies to implement and scale.

 

Value Based Sales Methodology

 

This is by far the best sales methodology I have experienced over the past 34 years of leading sales and marketing teams.

In this model you know your product or service. You know your market and ideal customer profiles. You have built rapport with the customer so you can have a meaningful business discussion. You know the problems your product or services solves and you have content and case studies to prove it. Your salespeople understand business acumen and speak in the language of business. They help buyers connect the dots between their proposed solution and how it impacts one or many of their key business drivers like…

Increase Sales

Reduce Costs

Increase Net Income

Improve Efficiency

Increase Market Share

Reduce the Cost of Sale

Increase Sales Close Rate

Increase Gross Margins

 

Salespeople who use a value based sales method are about creating value for their customers and in so doing win the sale today and create lifetime customers.

Don’t get me wrong, these salespeople are likable, but they are also not afraid to challenge customers. They help buyers connect the dots to how their product or service speaks to one or many of their business drivers.

This sales method has seen tremendous success and when used properly you will see it impact your business by:

 

Faster selling cycles

Higher Gross Profits per sale

Higher lifetime value of customer revenue

Higher sales to close %

Higher customer satisfaction

 

… but admittedly it is not easy!

 

From my own experience less than 10% of salespeople use a value based selling method. The reason why so few salespeople use this model is they too often struggle with connecting the dots between what they are selling and the value impact their customers receive.

As I have shared before salespeople who are not adequately trained in your value proposition assume the position of your product or service. The value based sales method requires mastery in commercial sales skills, business acumen, product knowledge and understanding of your value proposition, knowledge of the customers’ industry and common pain points, competitive analysis and the ability to propose innovative ideas professionally.

In this sales method you qualify and identify ways your product and or service can impact one or more of your customers’ business drivers.

Is that why so few of salespeople use it? They lack an understanding of how to impact a businesses’ bottom line?

Salespeople have told me this model is hard and takes way too long.

My argument is how can you enter into any negotiation with a customer until you understand and establish value? Or is that why so many salespeople resort to relationship and selling on price? Salespeople trained in value based sales know how to impact the customer’s bottom line so they can establish and reinforce value.

 

What Sales Methodology do you want your salespeople using?

 

What Sales Methodology are they using?

 

How do you know?

 

When was the last four legged sales call you went on to inspect what you expect?

 

Is there any scenario value based sales would not be the best sales method for B2B sales?

 

Congratulations… the Oscar for the Best B2B sales methodology goes to Value Based Sales.

 

Best supporting Oscar without any drama goes to Sales Enablement.

 

Fix A $75 Billion Sales Problem: Product Launch

Fix a $75 Billion Sales Problem: Product Launch

 

 

 

 

Why are we consistently missing our ROI targets for new product and market launches? Why can’t salespeople help us launch into new markets? Why can’t salespeople sell new products? These are just a few of the questions I have heard over the last 30+ years. Yes you heard me correctly this sales problem of new product and new market launch has been around a long time. I wanted to help solve this common sales problem so I called the top expert in product launch: David Daniels and he agreed to an interview. David and I worked together in the past and he has helped many companies like HP, VMware, Dell, Schneider Electric, and Optum, and NetApp: I was particularly interested in how product launch techniques in the fast-pace technology world could apply to manufacturing companies.

 

Hi Dave, let’s start by getting an idea of how big the problem of launching products is in general.

 

Hi Mark, I like to look at the problem as quantitatively as possibly. Unfortunately, there isn’t any single organization tracking the impact of failed product launches. I did some research and extrapolated a financial impact.

 

Clayton Christensen from Harvard estimates there are 30,000 new products introduced each year. He also estimates there is an 80% failure rate of those new products. I’ve seen these numbers thrown around and I can’t confirm their accuracy, but I trust the work of Clayton Christensen.

 

The failure rates seem high to me too. Is there any more data available?

 

As a matter of fact, there is. There are estimates that the average cost to introduce a new product is $5 million. That includes the cost to design, build, and launch it. Another group, the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA), has more conservative numbers. They estimate the failure rate of product launches to be between 35% and 49%. These failure rates seem more rational, and they break it down by industry.

 

Assuming 30,000 new products, a 50% failure rate, and $5 million to introduce a new product we can do some basic math to find how much failed product launches cost organizations worldwide…

 

30,000 x .50 x 5,000,000 = $75 billion sales problem

 

$75 billion sales problem. That’s huge. Let’s say I’m off by 50%. That’s still an $37.5 billion problem.

 

Wow that is a huge problem negatively impacting sales and ultimately the bottom line.

 

Exactly. But I want to point out that the definition of “fail” isn’t consistently defined. There aren’t 30,000 complete flops every year (as in selling zero products). There are 30,000 new products that don’t achieve their business objectives and ROI targets. Selling a few products to a few customers can be worse than not selling any at all.

 

Why is that David?

 

It looks attractive at first, but when you look at the long-term cost to support customers, the numbers can get ugly. Many companies double-down too. They want to believe they have the right product, at the right time, and continue to throw money down the drain.

 

In the world of software it seems companies can absorb failed product launch. For manufactures the cost is very real. How would you apply your technology experience to the manufacturing world?

 

You’re right. Software companies don’t have inventory. The variable cost to deliver the next product to a customer is nearly zero. The stakes are much higher for manufacturers who have to inventory raw materials, design, build molds, manufacture the product, inventory products, and ship them. The work to identify a market need has to be every bit as rigorous for manufacturers as it is in tech.

 

What advice from the technology world would to give to CEOs in manufacturing companies?

 

First, the world of technology functions around disruption. It’s able to do that much more nimbly than manufacturers. From a technology perspective many innovations from manufacturers would be viewed as incremental improvements by comparison. But the stakes are just as high.

 

The key to successfully launching a new product (or launching an existing product into a new market) is to quantify, quantify, quantify. The level of work is commensurate with the level of risk you’re willing to accept. If the cost of a launch failure can easily be absorbed, less quantification is needed. If the cost of a launch failure is high, more quantification is needed.

 

What, exactly, do you mean by ‘quantify’?

 

I mean to really understand what you’re about to get into and have a good idea of the barriers to success. Here are some questions you should ask your team:

 

How many potential customers are there for the new product?

 

Who are the buyers involved in making a purchase decision?

 

Do we have access to those buyers?

 

Will those buyers trust us? Will we need to build our credibility?

 

Do we have expertise in this market segment?

 

Those are great questions! I have seen over the years many companies launch before doing the market work, I even coined a term for it: ”Mullet Marketing”. Teams spend way too little time in the front in marketing research ,building sales tools, and training their sakes managers and sales teams but once the product is launched, it’s all hands-on deck to figure out why we are not hitting our launch ROI targets. Its as if you are wiring a house with the power on and getting zapped all the time.When your team has not completed the strategic upfront marketing work, as a salesperson the new launch feels like we are pushing mud uphill. I can’t tell you how many times my teams were told to ” just make it happen“.

 

Yes, I remember when you wrote that article about “Mullet Marketing” it resonated with a number of people in my community. What you are describing is unfortunately happening right now at a number of companies. They launched a new product or service, had very high expectations for sales and ultimately the impact it would have on their bottom line, and their launch was not successful. This is when a number of companies bring me in to help. After their sales teams have been ‘Zapped” a few times as you put it, new product , new market launches are in real danger of missing their ROI’S.

 

I wish they would bring me in much earlier, before the millions and millions are spent on launch assets. I have a Launch Diagnostic Process I have used for over 20 years and I can tell you before a launch what is needed to assure the launch meets the ROI targets.

 

Obviously that’s what so many companies pay you to fix: product launch sales, launch into new markets. Can you share maybe some high level steps in your process?

 

Yes, I have a Launch Process I have refined over the years and I have taught for over 20 years. From a 45,000 ft view it looks like this:

 

First and foremost: Have you defined the goals of the launch and do you have a way to track progress toward the goals? Our initial reaction is to focus only on a sales number but there are many supporting metrics that lead to a sale. If you don’t have a defined goal how do you know you will get there? This is what I ask first. I usually get blank stares.

 

For example, if the launch goal is to get $100 million in sales, I want to know WHEN we will hit the goal. If it’s open-ended there’s not much sense of urgency except from the sales team. I also want to know what it will take to reach the goal. What resources are needed? How long is the sales cycle? What is the expected close rate? How deep of a pipeline is needed?

 

Next, I assess the risk of one of 7 launch choices a company will make:

  • Launch a new product into a familiar market (medium risk)
  • Launch a new product into a new (unfamiliar) market (high risk)
  • Launch a new product into a new product category (highest risk)
  • Launch a version of an existing product into a familiar market (low risk)
  • Launch a version of an existing product into a new (unfamiliar) market (medium risk)
  • Launch a complement into a familiar market (low risk)
  • Launch a complement into a new (unfamiliar) market (medium risk)

 

By ‘complement’ I mean a product or service that adds to or enhances an existing offering.

 

You would think that the decision of which path to take would be made BEFORE the product was designed, but I’ve seen too many times where that isn’t the case.

 

Next, I look for an understanding of the problem a potential buyer actually has. In particular, I want to see if the company has actually quantified the impact of the problem and to whom. It’s easy to rationalize internally that a problem exists. It always exists on a PowerPoint slide. I want to know if the problem has been quantified and there’s data from the market to support it.

 

There are more steps below 45,000 feet, but the three steps above should be enough for any executive to get uncomfortable if they don’t have answers to those questions.

 

What is the current reality? What have you learned so far?

 

What did you plan to happen? What has actually happened?

 

What is the Delta? The launch sales gap?

 

What unresolved market problem does your new product or service solve?

 

Who has those problems?

 

Do they have budget to solve those problems?

 

Are they willing to use their budget to solve those problems?

 

What is your value proposition?

 

Is that proposition resonating with your targeted customers? Why, Why not?

 

Conduct voice of the customer work.

 

Write a Launch Plan that achieves ROI expectations.

 

Work with Marketing to create the sales tools to support launch.

 

Train sales managers about and when to use these sales tools.

 

Train sales team about and when to use these sales tools.

 

Constantly listen to your target customers and use an Agile process to adjust and refine.

 

Thank you David for helping us quantify how big a problem new product and new market launches are. As you shared you have over 30 years experience in the tech market. I am confident your product and new market launch process will have a huge impact with manufacturing companies. The market I have served is the manufacturing market and what I have seen is new product launch and new market launch is a much larger problem due to sunk costs that you indicated earlier. I believe the $5 million estimate is conservative in the manufacturing world when we consider tooling, equipment, time of engineers, inventory, building sales assests, sales training and the possible brand damage when a launch goes bad.

 

If someone is reading this and wants to connect with you, learn more about your services, how can they reach you?

 

My web site is : BrainKraft.com (with a ‘K’)

My email is : daviddaniels @ brainkraft dot com

My contact phone is : 205-677-8120

If your readers want to read more of my advice and experience with strategic product launches that drive a positive impact to your bottom line they can subscribe to my blog :

BrainKraft.com/blog

 

Thank you David for your thought leadership in Strategic New Product, New Market Launch.

 

David also has excellent short video trainings that can be found here.

 

 

 

10 Sales Enablement Resources To Improve Sales Results

10 Sales Enablement Resources to Improve Sales Results

 

 

 

In my last post I shared how teams want to fix common sales problems they need to break free from the prison of out dated sales processes.  We shared how to determine if your sales process is out dated and  how voice of the customer work helps understand your buyers, how they buy and what they need to buy today. Sales enablement is about strategically giving your buyers the right content at the right time in the right format to help sales close faster and at higher gross margins.

 

I received emails and calls from past clients wanting to learn more about the topic of Sales Enablement since it has such a large impact on increasing sales revenue and having a greater ROI on the marketing assets you create.

 

Below are 10 resources I found particularly useful on the topic of Sales Enablement.

 

1.Sales Enablement Infographic 

 

2.The definitive guide to sales enablement

 

3.Sales Enablement Best Practices

 

4.Sales readiness technology buyers guide 

 

5.The Value Shift eBook: Designing and Implementing A Mobile Sales Enablement Strategy 

 

6.8 keys for a successful Sales Enablement Program

 

7.What is Sales Enablement?

 

8.Sales Enablement buyers checklist

 

9.Use Buying Process Exit Criteria to IncreaseYour Sales Effectiveness

 

10.GARTNER’S MARKET GUIDE FOR DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGEMENT FOR SALES

 

 

Sales Enablement is about providing the right information, in the right format at the right time in the buyers buying journey.

 

When your team does your voice of the customer work to understand the buying process and criteria your buyers must have, and implement a sales enablement business development strategy your team will experience:

 

Sales revenue increases

 

Gross profit per sale increases

 

Increase in sales close %

 

Higher customer satisfaction

 

Sales will close faster

 

Increase in engagement in your sales team

 

Improved retention of sales top performers

 

Sales will hit forecasts

 

Increase in Brand value

 

New product launches that meet or exceeds ROI targets

 

Open new profitable markets

 

 

If you have found other useful articles and or EBooks and web sites that share useful Sales Enablement information please share the links in the comments below.

 

Has your team implemented a sales enablement strategy?

 

What impact has it had for your business?

Are You A Prisoner To An Out Dated Sales Process? Break Free With VOC And Sales Enablement

Are you a Prisoner to an Out dated Sales Process? Break Free with VOC and Sales Enablement

 

 

In my last post I shared how to determine if your sales team is following an out dated sales process. If your team is experiencing declining sales, lower profit per sale, losing orders you should have won and a decline in your sales close % you have a out dated sales process. If your sales team can’t seem to open new markets or sell new products you have an outdated sales process. In this post I share how you can stop being a prisoner to an out dated sales process and break free of poor sales results.

The first step in solving any problem is clearly defining the issues and impacts or as I like to say: “ throwing the skunk on the table”.

Sales is a changing process in today’s markets and we must constantly be sensing those changes and adjusting to them.

Some sales problems sales teams are experiencing today include:

  • Buyers going dark, you thought you had good sales meetings and now no feedback
  • Longer sales process from first meeting to close
  • More influencers involved in purchase decisions
  • Gross margin per sale declining
  • More competitors
  • Strong price pressure
  • Buyers commoditizing products and services
  • Up to 70% of buying journey is over before buyers speak with a salesperson
  • Buyers choosing to do nothing
  • Buyers choosing to solve their needs internally
  • Difficulty in having discussions with buyers
  • Faster service requirements
  • Buyers wanting JIT and not large stocking orders
  • Buyers needing 100% on time delivery
  • Higher quality expectation
  • Real time conversations – wanting answers now when they have them, immediate response

The above are some challenges sales teams are facing with buyers today and there are many more.

When sales, marketing, customer service, Hr and operations align sales teams break free of the above sales problems and win more business.

The trouble is sales and marketing are often not working strategically together and this leaves them both in a prison of their own making.

Are you familiar with what is referred to as : The Prisoner’s Dilemma ?

I found the below explanation on Wikipedia in case this is new to you.

 

The prisoner’s dilemma is a standard example of a game analyzed in game theory that shows why two completely “rational” individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so. It was originally framed by Merrill Flood and Melvin Dresher working at RAND in 1950. Albert W. Tucker formalized the game with prison sentence rewards and named it, “prisoner’s dilemma”

Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of communicating with the other. The prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge. They hope to get both sentenced to a year in prison on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the prosecutors offer each prisoner a bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to: betray the other by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent.

The offer is:

  • If A and B each betray the other, each of them serves 2 years in prison
  • If A betrays B but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve 3 years in prison (and vice versa)
  • If A and B both remain silent, both of them will only serve 1 year in prison (on the lesser charge)

It is implied that the prisoners will have no opportunity to reward or punish their partner other than the prison sentences they get, and that their decision will not affect their reputation in the future. Because betraying a partner offers a greater reward than cooperating with them, all purely rational self-interested prisoners would betray the other, and so the only possible outcome for two purely rational prisoners is for them to betray each other.[1] The interesting part of this result is that pursuing individual reward logically leads both of the prisoners to betray, when they would get a better reward if they both kept silent. In reality, humans display a systemic bias towards cooperative behavior in this and similar games, much more so than predicted by simple models of “rational” self-interested action.[2][3][4][5] A model based on a different kind of rationality, where people forecast how the game would be played if they formed coalitions and then maximized their forecasts, has been shown to make better predictions of the rate of cooperation in this and similar games, given only the payoffs of the game.[6]

So what does the “prisoners dilemma” have to do with fixing the above sales problems teams are facing today?

A great deal!

When I helped sales and marketing teams in the past, I always heard the same things…

Marketing would share…

  • Sales is a bunch of “prima donna’s” and they want everything served to them spoon fed on a silver platter
  • Sales has no appreciation for marketing
  • We spend so much time and money creating sales tools and we latter find no one is using them
  • I can’t produce great content if I don’t know what’s going on in the market and sales will not take me on calls
  • We give sales leads and they can’t close them
  • We are crushing our leads generated goals but sales can’t seem to close them
  • Why can’t sales sell new products?
  • Why can’t sales sell more of what we have?
  • Why can’t sales win new business in new markets we identified?

Sales would also say….

  • Marketing has no idea what its really like out here..Selling today
  • Marketing spends all this time and money on new brochures and new sell sheets but they are all ”company speak” I can’t use them.
  • Marketing feels so distant from what is really going on out here today its like they think our customers are like they were 10 years ago
  • Marketing gives me “lists” not “leads” ( there’s a big difference) to chase and they are worthless. It takes time to follow up on each and none of them are actually leads.
  • My buyers say they can’t find what they need on our web site
  • I can’t find the sales tools I need quickly in our system
  • We have the worst web site in our industry
  • I spend more time building sales tool than selling anymore
  • if our product had just one more feature I could sell it
  • Marketing launches this new product, or asks us to open new markets but we don’t have the tools to do so

 

The Prisoners Dilemma…instead of working together many teams choose to stay in a poor performance prison for years to come.They betray each other and in the process lengthens  their time in poor results prison.

 

What if Marketing and Sales would stop complaining about each other and defending their silos and work together? If they did they can both break free from the prison of poor performance metrics and in about 8-12 months be free to be the market leaders they were meant to be.

How do sales and marketing teams break free?

Voice of the customer 

Sales Enablement

 

Since I have shared close to 20 articles on the voice of the customer and shared the financial the impact this work has on sales and bottom line, in this post I will discuss the power of sales enablement.

What is Sales Enablement?

 

Lets quickly review 5 definitions…

 

A strategic, cross-functional discipline designed to increase sales results and productivity by providing integrated content, training and coaching services for salespeople and front-line sales managers along the entire customer’s buying journey, powered by technology.

Brain shark 

Sales enablement is the technology, processes, and content that empowers sales teams to sell efficiently at a higher velocity..

Hubspot

“Aligning marketing processes and goals, and then arming sales with tools to improve sales execution and drive revenue.” 

 The Pedowitz Group

Sales enablement is the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content, and tools that help sales people sell more effectively.

TOPO Blog

Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips sales teams to have consistently effective engagements with prospects and customers throughout the buyer’s journey.”  – Highspot

From my experience, Sales Enablement is about intimately knowing how your buyers buy today and what they need to buy today. Secondly it’s about having the right content at the right time in the buying journey, in the right format that helps your buyers buy. Sales enablement is about teaching your salespeople a sales process that mirrors how buyers are buying. It is about serving your customers .It is about training and coaching salespeople on what you have, where they can find it and when they should use it.

How about your sales and marketing teams?

Are your teams hitting “their goals” but your overall company is losing?

Do you have a sales enablement? How is it working?

Is there any reason why sales enablement would not work in your sales and marketing efforts’?

When sales and marketing teams start working together strategically with voice of the customer and sales enablement, sales and profits increase, new products achieve ROI targets and customer satisfaction scores climb. Sales becomes less of an art and more of a science. 

In future posts we will unpack sales enablement and how you can use sales enablement to break free from a prison of outdated sales processes and grow sales profitably.

 

 

Is Your Team Using An Out Dated Sales Process?…answer A Few Short Questions To Find Out

Is Your Team Using an Out Dated Sales Process?…answer a few short questions to find out

 

 

Many sales teams will have a sales problem this year. They will fail to achieve their sales and profit goals. Is it a sales team motivation issue? Compensation issue? Sales is not working hard enough?…Maybe… but from what I have experienced in most cases sales teams are failing to hit their goals because they are using an out  dated sales process. They are working hard (probably harder and longer than ever before) to execute an out dated sales process that no longer works with how your buyers buy today.In this post I help business leaders quickly determine if they have a dated sales process so you have time to adjust.

 

Everyday salespeople are hitting the streets working hard to achieve their sales goals with the tools and training they were given. Some will hit their goals and have a great year but unfortunately most will not. For those who fail to achieve their sales targets they are often resorting to what I refer to as “Bare Knuckle Selling” . They don’t understand what their buyers want , what criteria buyers are using today, and they do not know the buyer’s buying process. They resort to old out dated sales processes and they will have sales problems this year too if things don’t change quickly. For your sales team members it feels like they are pushing mud uphill and not making any progress.They are doing what they were told to do, using the tools and training they were given but nothing seems to work.

 

In this post I offer 15 questions for business leaders to help you determine if your team is using a dated sales process and what to do if you need to update it.

 

Let’s agree the buying process our buyers’ use has changed significantly in the past 5-10 years and continues to adjust and evolve. If you believe your buyers have not changed how they buy, they are not needing new criteria and there are not more people involved in the buying decision, and your buyers are not doing research online before they buy…you are wrong.( sorry)  It is like your salespeople are playing darts blindfolded. Once in a while a dart may hit the target, but most of their attempts fail to achieve sales velocity. They resort to selling on price and we all know the impact that has on your margins.

 

Sales and marketing teams who recognize strategic shifts in the buying journey and adjust increase sales profitably.

 

Unfortunately most sales teams either lack a sales process or  they are executing an out  dated sales process and they will experience sales problems this year. The severity of the sales problem you will experience is directly related to how far your sales process is disconnected to how buyers are buying today. Luckily most companies just need to make a few minor tweaks to their sales process and build a few new sales tools. However some teams struggle needlessly each year and are selling like their company did 20 years ago.

 

A friend who owns a manufacturing business asked me out to dinner and shared the following :

 

“What keeps me up at night is wondering…will we have a good sales year this year? How can I be sure? As you know I am not a sales guy, my experience is in  in operations and finance. My team assures me this will be our “best year ever” but how can I know for sure? (They told me the same thing last year and we missed our financial metrics significantly). What bothers me most is ….are there any better ways, strategies our team should be using to insure we meet our plan this year? I wish sales was more logical like operations, more of a scienceOur top competitor grew last year and we did not. My gut says there has to be better and smarter ways are out there. Sales should not be so variable, so hit or miss. I can’t have another year with our investors where we find out third quarter our plan did not work.”

 

I asked a question:

 

When was the lat time you and your sales team reviewed your repeatable sales process?

 

If you are like most teams you either lack a formal repeatable sales process or the one you are using is out dated.

 

It sounds like the selling process your team is using feels more like an art than a science?

 

“How can I know if we have an out dated sales process?”

 

Answer a few questions for me…

 

  1. What events trigger your buyers to shop today? Please list at least two.

 

  1. Where do your buyers go when they are looking for a new supplier, new product to solve a problem?

 

  1. When buyers in your industry shop what criteria do they use to make their buying decisions? List and rank the top three.

 

  1. How many people at your ideal customers are involved in the buying decision today? List at least 4 and what each needs.

 

  1. What sales tools, process and or content did sales use to open your last three new accounts? List three.

 

  1. List at least 3 urgent buyer problems your product or service solves for buyers in your industry.

 

  1. What % of the buying journey is done online prior to your fist meeting with a new customer?

 

  1. Why do your current buyers buy from you?

 

  1. In the last 10 quotes that did not buy from you? What were the top three reasons?

 

  1. What is your product’s value proposition that resonates most with your buyers today? Explain the specific financial impact to their business.

 

  1. Who are your top three competitors? what are their value propositions?

 

  1. When buyers choose one of your competitors over your company what is the reason specific to each competitor? List two per competitor.

 

  1. When a new buyer contacts your company, how (what process) and where did they find your company?

 

  1. When a possible net new customer visits your website, where do they spend the most time and what content bought them to your site?

 

  1. Can you describe your top 4 buyer personas? What are they and what does each need to make a buying decision today?

 

We went through the questions and for many he assured me “someone” on his team knew the answers but I could tell he felt uneasy.He asked if I wouldn’t mind emailing these questions and he would ask them at his Monday senior leadership team meeting. I shared how I used to qualify and coach new clients with these questions to help me know where to help most.

 

He suggested I should share our conversation on my blog to help others who may be thinking and feeling the same way as him, which prompted this post.

 

Below are some guidelines for you to consider based on how your team answers these questions and what the probability is your will hit your sales goals this year.

 

If your sales and marketing teams could quickly and confidently answer 13-15 of the questions…congratulations! Your team is in the top 10% of sales and marketing teams. You know your markets and buyers intimately. You know your buyers’ key criteria and the buying journey they take to purchase products. The plan you have should be market focused and customer centric and you will, if your team executes the plan and uses your sales process and sales tools at the right time in the buying process, have a good sales year.

 

If your sales and marketing teams could quickly and confidently only answer 10-12 of the questions… your team is doing good and with some voice of the customer work and a few win-loss calls your team can be a top performing sales team in your industry. You need to do some research over the next 30-60 days and adjust your plan, sales process, create new sales tools and train your teams how and when to use them. You could still have a very strong sales and profit year.

 

If your sales and marketing teams could quickly and confidently only answer 7-9 of the questions… your team has been experiencing some sales and profit challenges over the past few years. You have seen your sales success be highly dependent upon the purchases from large customers your team has sold for 10+ years but you have not been successful at opening net new customers in your markets. You have seen your gross profit margins erode at your large accounts over the last 5 years and if you Google problems your company solves you may not be found in the first two pages of a search. If your customers have a good sales year your team should have an OK sales year, but your bottom line may see some continued erosion like the last few years. Your team will continue to work on operational efficiencies as in the past but they will not contribute as much this year. You have a outdated sales process and you need to update it quickly. You need to do voice of the customer research quickly and map the current buying journey your buyers go through and create a new sales process that mirrors what your buyers want and need today. If you do this quickly your team could have a good sales year.

 

 

If you and your sales and marketing teams could quickly and confidently only answer 6 or less of the questions… Your team will have a sales problem this year and will not hit sales plan and significantly miss your net income target. Sales are flat if not declining for the past few years. Your top sales and marketing leaders may have said when asked about the poor performance:“ our markets are down and we are waiting for the business to return to normal again.” I am sorry to be the one to tell you this is the new normal and you must adjust, you and your team must adapt and quick. Like a ship at sea with a strong wind but no rudder to strategically steer your sales and marketing teams, sales feels more like an art than a science. Your senior leaders meetings are not fun and your company owners and or investors are looking to make changes if the performance does not improve. You will miss plan this year and you will likely see some of your key sales team contributors “just leave” to the surprise of the rest of your team. You will see at least one maybe two of your top customers fade away in the next 12-18 months. You need to quickly do voice of the customer market work, win-loss work and develop a new strategy and new sales process with the right tools at the right times for your buyers or you will have a big sales problem.(again)

 

I was happy to hear in a voice mail message my friend’s team could answer 11 of the above questions. He went on to share what bothered him though was how long it took some of his team to answer these questions.I shared if your team needs hours/days/weeks to answer these questions, they are probably tracking dated performance indicators and not the right KPI’s that drive success today and he may want to adjust what they report on each Monday.

 

How would your team answer the above questions?

 

Are the answers based on current market conditions or “ the way we have always done things around here”?

 

Can your sales and marketing leaders quickly answer these questions or do they need to do some homework?

 

I hope this post helped you do a gut check with your sales and marketing teams to see just how much they know about your markets, buyers, and the buying process your buyers are using today.

 

In my next post I will share how market-leading teams are constantly sensing for shifts in how their buyers buy and the criteria they use to buy, and they adapt.

 

One strategy market leading organizations are using to adapt, align and improve their sales is Sales Enablement.