Archive for buying experience

How to Create “Sales Velocity”; Turn “Street Legal Salespeople” into Servant Salespeople

Posted by on October 1, 2013 with 0 Comments
It's not enough to just be "street legal"

It’s not enough to just be “street legal”

 

I am often asked by business owners and leaders; “What is the best way to create sales growth that becomes repeatable and predictable?” I prefer to phrase this somewhat differently to achieve what the business leaders really want;

How can I create real Sales Velocity?” 

When I hear someone say;

I want more sales

I need more sales

How do I increase sales quickly?

What I immediately think is ; how do we create sales velocity for this team? In this post I will share one way to insure you build a foundation for achieving and often surpassing your sales goals by creating Servant Salespeople .

 

So what is “sales velocity”? In a previous post I said;

 

Sales Velocity is Sales Acceleration, with Direction and creates Momentum.

 

Sales velocity is not just “more sales”. When you ask your team to “go get more sales”, or my favorite with regards to hitting their sales growth goals; “just make it happen you are in essence saying any sale is a good sale. We all know this is not true, but what will happen is sales will take a shotgun approach to the market and often bring in business you may not want and worse yet may not be able to execute effectively and create brand damaged buyers. In addition to often permanently damaging your brand in the marketplace you also run the risk of turning your salespeople into “snake oil salesmen” and they will make all kinds of promises your product or service was never meant to do. If left unchecked you will receive crazy orders you never should have received from customers you will never extend credit to and your team will jump through costly hoops to try to fulfill them.

 

When I used to conduct sales and marketing seminars, I would share the worst kind of business to win is one order. Once you win that “one order” you now have the liability of servicing it, hearing customer complaints (often now through social media), and sales assumes the position you want more orders like this.

 

I was in church last Sunday at Grace United Methodist Church and Pastor Don was talking about how it’s not enough to be a “street legal Christian”. Don does a great job of telling stories that have analogies to help people understand the message. In this message he shared how he and a buddy when they were 16 years old had this old beater of a car. He shared how the steering wheel had about 90 degrees of play in it and how the floorboards were all rusted out and you could see the pavement while driving. They had a rear brake light broken out so they covered it with cellophane and used red paint to make it look and somewhat work like a brake light. The car had all kinds of issues but technically it was “street legal”. The car met the basic requirements to be on the road, but really should not have been driven as it was an accident waiting to happen.

 

Don later pulled this analogy full circle and shared how Jesus taught us we are not to just be street legal Christians that go to church, maybe read a bible once in a while and go through the motions. As I drove home it dawned on me I have seen this many times over the past 30 years in leading sales turnarounds with “street legal salespeople” too. They have the title of sales and they go through the motions of sales but really do not have the heart to serve their clients and solve their customer’s problems.

 

What is a Street Legal Salesperson you might ask?

 

Received some basic product training.

 

They have some understanding of how to reach buyers.

 

They want to hit their sales goals and corresponding commission checks.

 

They often have some bad sales habits.

 

They come close to hitting their sales goal each year, not terrible but not sales super stars.

 

They try hard.

 

They are often commission junkies. (not their fault by the way)

 

At or below the acceptable targeted profit margin for your product or service.

 

Have problem customers, who complain, pay late or not at all.

 

When you hear them on the phone with a customer you cringe, but if it works… ah what the heck…

 

They go through the motion of sales…

 

The role of sales has evolved over the last 30 years from my perspective. At one time the salesperson was the keeper of the information keys. They did not need to be as good at listening and understanding customer needs as they needed to be aggressive and persistent and know their product inside and out. The salesperson had all the product information and used their sales product binders to answer questions as they arose. They worked hard on relationship selling. Back in the day we taught salespeople the objections buyers would probably make and how to overcome objections.

 

Next we saw sales consultants/ consultative selling emerge as product experts who would help buyers understand how their product or service might solve the buyers’ problems. In essence they were sales translators who translated what their products did in a language buyers understood once they found a problem they can solve.

 

Then the internet shifted the power from the salesperson to the buyer. The buyer now can Google almost anything and now has access to the product information keys. We have seen social selling emerge as buyers investigate products and their salespeople with tools like LinkedIn, blogs, online case studies and industry group forums where they openly share poor buying experiences. Buyers are connecting with companies who are seen as thought leaders and they make it their quest to understand buyer problems, criteria and buying processes.

 

I believe the next sales person emerging is  the Servant Salesperson.

 

What are the characteristics of Servant Salespeople?

 

They understand the various buyer personas in their market.

 

They understand why buyers buy and how buyers buy.

 

They understand the buying process and criteria buyers use to buy.

 

They are constantly sensing their market for any changes in how buyers buy.

 

They listen for problems buyers’ share that can be solved by their product or service.

 

They have a continuous improvement approach to both product and sales training.

 

They do online research prior to reaching out to a potential customer.

 

They have large social networks with many customer referrals praising their service.

 

They ask open ended questions to understand buyer problems.

 

They seek first to serve and believe if they solve customer problems income will follow.

 

The days of snake oil salesmen promising their products and services do whatever the buyer needs is over. Buyers are seeking authentic sales servants who seek to win their business by completely solving their problems,providing the best total buying experience, and salespeople who help them buy. Buyers today see a commission junkie coming from a mile away. Aggressive salespeople are blocked and filtered with email, voice mail and gate keepers. Buyers are looking for salespeople who are focused on serving them.

 

What stage of selling is your sales team in today?

 

Would a “servant salesperson” be welcome in your organization? Why or why not?

 

Why wouldn’t a buyer in your industry welcome a “servant salesperson”?

 

Just as we are not designed to be “street legal Christians” buyers today do not want “street legal salespeople” who go through the motions of trying to solve the buyers problems.

Servant Salespeople create sales velocity because they authentically seek to solve buyer problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Improve Sales: Stop Creating “Snake Oil Salesmen”

Posted by on September 7, 2013 with 2 Comments

 

making promises you can not deliver on

making promises you can not deliver on

 

 

The role of sales is a difficult one. You face more rejection than acceptance and have to break through the many roadblocks in connecting with potential customers you can solve problems for. We are paid to “make it happen” often in environments that are not conducive to sales growth both externally in our markets but also internally, in our own organizations. A common problem organizations face today is they are turning their sales consultants into “snake oil salesmen” because their operations is failing to do what they said they would do.

When you study why buyers buy as I have, you hear things like;

I buy from people, companies who take the time to understand my needs, the problems I am trying to solve, and who “do what they say they will do”.

… let’s boil this down a little more;

I buy from people who listen, hear, and I can trust.

We have seen many changes in our markets over the past 7-8 years in how buyers buy as I have discussed in past posts. The reality I hope everyone will agree with is that how buyers buy has changed. As I have shared ; If you have not changed your sales process in the last six months….it is broken and you are losing sales you should have won.

We have seen many changes within our organizations in the last 7-8 years;

Less People

Less budget

Less time to do our jobs

Less inventory of finished goods

Less product in work in process

Less inventory at our customers

Less time to deliver, just in time

…and more competition, often from competitors who are so aggressive it feels like they must not truly know their costs ( or they are that mush better than we are)

My challenge in this post is with all these changes do you really know , based on your capabilities and market realities of today, what your organization is able to do? able to execute regularly, consistently, predictably? If not your salespeople in the market working with you most valuable assets; customers and potential customers and making promises you can not deliver on. To put it another way;

When your company fails to do what it says it does and or will do, you turn your sales consultants into “snake oil salesmen” and it negatively impacts your trust factor.

Back in the days of the wild west there were traveling salesmen who would stop in a town and sell snake oil. When we Google the term “snake oil salesmen” we find;

“ a snake oil salesman is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is himself or herself a fraud, quack, charlatan, and the like.”

Snake oil’s origins are believed to come from an oil the Chinese laborers brought to America made from a Chinese water snake believed to cure joint pain.  However the snake oil salesmen of the wild west were known to plant people in the crowd who would lie and say how the oil cured their various ailments. Snake oil salesmen had a sales process of basically traveling town to town and never selling the same people twice because once you bought the snake oil and found it failed to do what you were promised, you did not trust that salesmen.

When your salespeople serve customers , win an order from buyers it is based on a foundation of trust. Buyers naturally , because they have been burned so many times over the years ( by other traveling snake oil salesmen) do not trust salespeople. So trust must be earned and the simplest way of earning trust is execution. ( doing what you say you will do in the small things and the big things, over and over again) When your operations team fails to execute what the sales people have been told to promise, it immediately breaks trust and creates brand damage.  This is particularly a urgent problem when you fail to deliver on promises to new customers as we only have one chance to have a “good first date”. ( first order experience)

The unfortunate reality in the world your salespeople live in day in and day out is their buyer’s perception is the reality they must deal with. The buyer rarely talks to your shipping department, plant operations group, your purchasing department, quality, and they are not aware of the internal challenges your team may be facing nor do they care. What they do care about is buying from companies who consistently do what they say they are going to do.

So let me ask you again;

Is your current operational performance turning your sales consultants into snake oil salesman in the eyes of your customers? 

Are your salespeople making promises based on a dated information set that was probably true five years ago but not true today?

Is your team aware of operational issue but treating them as politically incorrect secrets you hope your buyers and salespeople do not discover? 

Are the competencies you share in your brochures and web site still true today?

What expectations do your buyers have, and how is your team performing to those expectations? 

If your team is not focused on understanding what your buyers need, what your salespeople are promising, and what your organization is capable of executing today you need to be and you need to reboot your business.

In my next post I will share how to quickly access if buyers believe your salespeople are snake oil salesmen and how to quickly repair this perception.

 

 

Professional Services Marketing; a Must Add to your Business Book Library

Posted by on July 22, 2013 with 7 Comments

 

When I surveyed CEO’s years ago, I asked; what is it that worries you? A common answer was ; not knowing about something new that could help my business, help us grow quicker and more profitably. I have to admit that makes me anxious as well. What if what has my hair on fire today has already been solved by someone else (in my experience is always has) and I am suffering needlessly?Wasting time trying to solve a problem already solved?  I received a copy of of the book: Professional Services Marketing in the mail , second edition, and found it helps solve that common problem business leaders share as it relates to marketing.

 

 

I enjoy receiving new books, new thought leadership in the mail. I often have authors reach out asking me to read their book and talk about it in my network communities and in my blog. When the team from Hinge Marketing contacted me about their new book I could not wait to receive it as I follow their content on a regular basis and find it smart and easy to  apply. The good news when you love reading is that  you are always learning something new. I had a mentor at Frito Lay once say; remember Mark, Leaders are Readers, and that has stuck ever since.

 

 

A common problem in service businesses is marketing. I have served a number of service related businesses; marketing and advertising firms, a third party administration firm for retirement benefits, financial advisers, attorneys, the market leader in product management and marketing seminars for high tech companies, internet marketing and blog service providers, PR firms, a podiatrist, a chiropractor, a software company that helped doctor’s offices become paperless, and sat on church boards ( the ultimate service business if you ask me)…to name a few and marketing was always a struggle. The most ironic of those were the marketing and advertising firms as well as PR firms who sold marketing services and created strategies to help businesses grow for their livelihood, but they struggled to market themselves. This gives me pause ….why? and what can be done to solve this market problem?

 

You do not need to figure this one out on your own…

 

Read the book: Professional Services Marketing, How the best firms build premier brands, thriving lead generation engines and cultures of business development success.

 

The authors; Mike Schutz ( co-president of RAIN Group) , John Doer ( co-president of RAIN Group ) and Lee Frederikson ( Managing Partner at Hinge) are seasoned professionals who learned how to serve their clients in the trenches, out in the markets with the rest of us. They are not theoretical but practical in their approach and application of the principles they share in this book. Their content is research based and I have followed their thought leadership independently for some time.

 

I must say I was skeptical when the book arrived (sorry guys) as I am a huge fan of the first edition of this book and I wondered how they could make it any better. I still have my copy highlighted with notes to myself in the margins. I remember buying copies of it when it came out in 2009 and sending it to clients and would be clients who were are struggling with how to market their services. However what I found was this second edition was needed as the authors point out;

 

In the old days, professional service firms could survive without much marketing effort. Put together a team of good people, deliver strong services to clients, and you might get by just fine on repeat business and client referrals. ..today you also need smart, effective marketing and a culture of business development success to attract a steady stream of clients and grow your business in an increasingly competitive world.

 

The second edition continues their field tested , research based approach to providing advice you can apply but also adds content about social media marketing, the importance on line marketing plays and they share case studies by market leaders we all know and admire. In one chapter they discuss; The battle to attract and retain a quality workforce is a key success driver in many professional services firms. Having lived in this world, when the authors share their thoughts on topics like this it immediately makes them credible….they have walked in my shoes and their content resonates with me. In another chapter they share what I refer to as politically incorrect secrets of most service firms; they spend way too much time focused on their competitors and not enough time understanding their ideal client and their problems. Been there, done that, lived that, helped my clients through that.

 

After finishing the book I have only one criticism: what this book shares is not just true for “professional service firms” but all the companies I have served. Many industries face the same problems and all would value reading this book and applying its principles. I hear the authors saying; “what Mark did you miss the chapter on identifying and focusing on the best market?” No, I did not miss your point and I believe in what you are saying. However what I have found is businesses from large manufacturers of mechanical equipment in the B2B market to B2C consumer product companies would value the advice found in this book. The reality is none of us are in the widget making business, we are all serving our markets, solving their problems while identifying the new ones that arrive. The sooner businesses adapt to what I teach in my seminars; “serve don’t sell” the faster they will see rapid, profitable growth. I think every church pastor needs a copy of this book. You solve so many problems for people ….if they only knew….that’s a marketing problem that has already been solved in the wisdom in this book.

 

I highly recommend you add the second edition of Professional Services Marketing to your list of books within arms reach of your desk. You will find yourself reaching for it often for practical advice that works in the markets we serve today just like the book: Crtl Alt Delete that I shared a few weeks ago.

Sales Tool Helps Buyer Parrots Lay Golden Purchase Orders in Your Hands

Posted by on July 12, 2013 with 1 Comments

golden egg hand

 

In a recent post about are your salespeople calling on power or parrots I shared how your sales success or failure may be in the hands of the parrot buyer’s ability to present and sell your solution to decision makers and influencers within their organization. Time and time again a salesperson reports back after “good meeting’s” that they will win the purchase order. Weeks turn to months and the buyer has gone dark. What is happening with the order we expected? What can we do to shorten this sales cycle? What can we do to insure we win the order? In this post I will share one technique to help you, help parrot buyers lay golden PO’s in your hands.

 

Buyers today are doing a tremendous amount or research on the internet. It is estimated that as much as 60%-80% of the sales process is over before the buyer contacts your salesperson. Now more than ever we must find ways to help our buyers buy. Often buyers are actually trained buyer parrots that accumulate and repeat information they have heard to key decision makers and influencers in their organizations who have the power to buy. Here’s the problem; do you want your sales results, your team’s ability to achieve your sales growth targets, your income at the fate of a buyer’s ability to present and sell your product and or service? Ya…I didn’t think so.

 

How can we equip and empower buyers to effectively present and sell our products and services to decision makers who have the ability and power to approve purchase orders?

 

One technique I have used in a number of industries is to provide the buyer a presentation slide deck that speaks to the specific buyer persona’s of those who do have the power to approve the purchase. So what is a buyer persona? Per one of the leading thought leaders in buyer persona’s Adel Revella;

 

“Buyer personas are examples of the real buyers who influence or make decisions about the products, services or solutions you market. They are a tool that builds confidence in  strategies to persuade buyers to choose you rather than a competitor or the status quo… insightful buyer personas readily inform strategies for persuasive messaging, content marketing, product or solution launches, campaigns and sales alignment.”

 

If you want to learn more about buyer personas I recommend you download and read; The Buyer Persona Manifesto.

 

In one company we found we were presenting buyers and those buyers had to gain the approval of the; CFO, CEO, COO, and Engineering. We spent some time interviewing these key decision makers and identified what was important to each, the criteria they used to make decisions, and what they needed from us to make those decisions. For example;

 

CFO- they made decisions based on number, return on investment, mitigating risk for the least cost, insuring the investment supports the strategic vision of the organization. They hope and plan to be CEO one day. They want to make smart business decisions that demonstrate their ability to move into this job when the time is right. They want to avoid decisions that jeopardize or could limit their plan.

 

CEO- frequently from an accounting and finance background with strong understanding of operations. Sets the vision and is constantly looking for anything that could be a roadblock in achieving that vision. Responsible to shareholders, often the owner, they are about growing the company profitably and investing in equipment and services that support that growth.

 

COO – operations focused, key words; efficiency, production, productivity. Often grew up through the manufacturing ranks as plant manager, may have had some purchasing and quality control experience. Focus is on meeting the needs sales has sold as effectively and efficiently as possible. In this example we kept hearing the desire to reduce manufacturing variance.

 

Engineering- They have a laser like focus, all data no emotion to solving the problem to be solved with this purchase. Needs to make sure you clearly understand the problem they are solving. They not only need to see and hear your solution but also see the information and decision process you used to make this recommendation. They want information and ideally open communication with your engineers to have the ability to speak with someone highly educated like themselves and not someone trying to sell them.

 

 

Based on the above we created a slide deck of 10-12 slides. The first two slides were basically a requirements summary sharing our understanding of the problem to be solved. The rest of the slides provided what each key decision maker with power needed to commit to purchase. In addition to the slides we provided an appendix that included product data sheets, engineering drawings, key content web links, engineer contact information within our team, and a deep dive in data should an engineer wish this information. For example, we provided a ROI on the product and shared expected returns. We provided testimonials from other well known companies in the same industry. We established a cost on doing nothing and a weekly cost of not purchasing. The last slides clearly mapped out the steps and expectations of how to commit, what they should expect when. Ideally we always asked to present these slides in person, via web conference, but worst case we have now equipped the buyer with a sales tool to gain funding to support the purchase.

 

What will surprise you most is we did not talk a great deal about us, if all as much as the problems we solve, who we have solved them for and provided what we have learned others have needed to make informed buying decisions.

 

How about your company….

 

Do you provide tools to help buyers sell your solution internally? Or do you count on your brochures to do that?

Do you understand who the power decision makers are in the buying journey your customers go through? If so who are they in your industry?

 

What tool(s) have you created to help educate and inform key influencers in the buying decision?

 

While the statistics show buyers and influencers feel 97% of their interactions with possible vendors are not worthwhile, isn’t it time your company becomes one of the rare 3% who proactively provides useful, relevant , insightful information in a way and language your influencers need to lay golden purchase orders in your hands?

Are “Politically Incorrect Market Secrets” (PIMS) Stalling Your Sales Growth? Six Quick Questions to Find Out….

Posted by on June 28, 2013 with 6 Comments

 secret

We are at the half way point of your sales plan. How is your team doing to plan? I have heard statistics that state 70% of salespeople will miss their sales plans this year. Why? Can your team afford to let this happen?…I did not think so. In this post I am challenging you, right here in the privacy of your computer. If this post pertains to you and you are a driven, dominant type leader that is so focused on the vision you believe to be true, (that may have actually been true 10 years ago) this post is going to make you feel uncomfortable. If you are market leader it will reinforce the importance of why you must wake up each day humble seeking current market truth and create a culture where it’s safe to tell you what your asking the team to do or say  is nuts.

 

One of the reasons sales plans fail to create sales velocity is “Politically Incorrect Market Secrets” salespeople are afraid to share with you. Trust me, every business, (even yours) can do better. In the dynamic markets we serve today changes are occurring every day and sales teams that have a culture where it’s safe to share current truths, are agile, and they adapt and thrive. Sales teams with culture built in the shadow of a dominant leader(s) that lack the emotional intelligence to consider their vision may be wrong or dated fail. They fail because one of the key components of having an agile sales process is “stand up meetings”. The value of this process is shut down before it begins when your team is only sharing the politically correct answers and not what is really occurring. It’s that simple.

 

The role of sales is a tough job. Each day you will be rejected more than accepted and you need the internal strength to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and make another sales call. However when that fear of rejection is both external in the market and internal within your own team, sales people shut down. They stop looking, listening, sensing and communicating shifts in how their buyers are buying. They stop sharing customer complaints and problems and what they need to achieve their sales goals. When salespeople feel it is internally politically incorrect to share real current market secrets…you have already lost.

 

In a recent blog post that listed 10 reasons why great business plans fail to deliver the top reason was the plan itself was not a good plan. How can this be? You are smart enough…your did your three day get a way of strategic planning…you did not get to the position of senior management by creating plans that do not work. If your culture is one of Hippo’s (highest paid people in the room) leading by intimidation and making it very clear to you sales team what the “right” answers are before the questions are asked…you will fail to achieve your sales plan. As this post goes on to share; great plans count on a deep understanding of your customer’s needs and problems and not gut instinct and the tribal knowledge of your senior management team. I addressed this common problem in a blog post years ago titled; Attention leaders: Don’t look now but your lack of market knowledge is showing

 

 

In another post in the Harvard Business Review discussing “40 ways to crash a new product launch” the number one reason why your new product launch will fail, and sales will miss the sales plan is; no market research was done. Why? I believe smart people make good decisions and can shape market leading strategies with current unfiltered market data. If your team does not feel it is safe to share current data, you have a big problem.

 

How can you quickly tell if your sales team has tuned out?

 

  1. Do your salespeople openly share shifts in how buyers are buying on a frequent basis?

 

  1. Do your salespeople share buying experience problems your customers are having?

 

  1. Is it “safe” in your organization to be a Heretic?

 

  1. Have you asked a question and the room full of typically vocal salespeople and everyone becomes silent?

 

  1. Do your salespeople communicate ways your buyers are asking for new and improved service?

 

  1. Are salespeople who share “politically incorrect market secrets” welcomed or chastised in your sales meetings?

 

If you can not say yes to the above five questions, I promise you a number of your salespeople are going through the motions. If you can not say yes to any of the above questions you have a BIG problem. If you honestly can not say yes to all of the above your salespeople  have already shut down and like a robots are showing up and throwing up in front of customers what they hear from you and not listening to your customers. They have lost all accountability for their sales goals because you have emotionally beaten it out of them. Mentally they are saying; “screw it, nobody wants to here the truth, if I share the truth I am criticized in front of my peers and may risk my job security so I will do it ____’s way, I might not hit my goal but at least I will have a job”…and you have lost them. Is that who you want?…salespeople going through the motions or do you want and need sales super stars?

 

Ya, that’s what I thought….

 

The good news is you can change and adjust. The reality is there was a time you were tuned in to your market, your buyers, how your buyers bought and the criteria they used to make buying decisions. You did not achieve a senior leadership position based on luck but on hard work and achieving results. Let’s rekindle that spark that propelled your career and let’s position you to lead your team and blow your sales goals out of the water. Are you in? If so the quickest two ways I have used to help senior leaders clearly understand the markets they serve is booking what I call four legged sales calls. On these calls, working in the field with your salespeople your main goal is to seek to understand. You are to be a sponge listening and asking open ended questions. The second is from this day forward creating a sales culture that keeps and attracts sales super stars.

 

Don’t ask, don’t tell sales leadership is not a proven method to achieve profitable sales growth.”

- Mark Allen Roberts

 

Are you a salesperson who feels it’s unsafe to share the truth? If so please comment…

 

Are you a leader who feels I am totally wrong and your team is to do what you tell them to do?…bring it, share your thoughts…

 

Do you have sales meetings where its very obvious politically incorrect market secrets are not safe to share?

 

Are you a sales performance consultant or a sales coach and you have seen this problem? Please share how you have helped the leader and team create a culture where it was safe to share market secrets.

As the leader what do you really want more? to win and achieve your objectives?…or have a team of robots scared to share market truths and fail? …

When I find myself personally struggling with this, I am reminded of Proverbs 16 and how we are instructed; Pride comes before destruction.

 

Stop Making Your Salespeople “Assume The Position” …

Posted by on September 19, 2012 with 2 Comments

the buyer pat down without a positioning statement

By Mark Allen Roberts

In my last few posts have been about how buyers become “Brand Damaged” and this preventable disease will quickly eat away at any chances your team thought they had of achieving their sales goals. It is very difficult to heal damaged brands. Another marketing disease that frequents particularly large companies occurs when sales has to : Assume the Position of your product or service when presenting buyers. If your salespeople do not clearly understand your product positioning they are left to be pat down by buyers . Sales then assumes what it must represent to make this uncomfortable experience end,and the result is very dangerous. It is dangerous because you fail to close sales you probability could have won  and your sales team is promising things you can not execute.

I can hear some of you now, “ok, you have discussed branding and positioning in the last two posts, enough already!” My answer is no, I have shared branding and how your brand can become a damaged brand in the minds of your buyers. In this post I will discuss how far too many companies force their salespeople to ; Assume the Position their product or service has in the minds of their buyers and this results in lost sales that could have been yours.

Let’s go over a couple quick definitions;

Brand- Unique designsignsymbolwords, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors. Over time, this image becomes associated with a level of credibility, quality, and satisfaction in the consumer’s mind (see positioning). Thus brands help harried consumers in crowded and complex marketplace, by standing for certain benefitsand valueLegal name for a brand is trademark and, when it identifies or represents a firm, it is called a brand name. See also corporate identity.

Read more: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/brand.html#ixzz26NttsbS1

Position, Positioning, Positioning Statement -  Written description of the objectives of a positioning strategy. It states (1) how the firm defines its business or how a brand distinguishes itself, (2) how the customers will benefit from its features, and (3) how these benefits or aspects will be communicated to the intended audience.A positioning statement is a subset of a value proposition that optimizes it for marketing communications purposes. It identifies the target audience, the product and its category, a specific benefit, and is differentiable from the nearest competitive alternative. It is an internal, non-emotional statement that becomes the messaging cornerstone of an integrated marketing campaign.

Read More : http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/positioning.html

You can control your “positioning” by creating a unique selling proposition and using it in all your marketing communication. Over time, as people become aware of your products and services, you start building your brand in your prospects’ and customers’ minds. Positioning is something you can do now when you state the problems you solve and how you uniquely solve them. Branding happens over time. Branding refers to what your customers think or feel when they hear a specific word. Positioning refers to your position “relative to” or “in comparison to” your competitors. Positioning is sharing your distinctive competence with your market. Branding is your product’s identity established over consistently executing what you promised.

With that said…

Are your salespeople trained and aware of your product positioning? …are you sure?

When your salespeople meet with new prospects do they know your product’s distinctive competence?

Is your brand and position  true in the minds of your buyers?

Are some of your products; “positioning dated”?

Are your salespeople “assuming” they know what your product position statement is or sharing a dated position that worked five years ago?

Is it time to re-position your product(s) based on the market conditions and problems your buyers face today?

Salespeople are focused on closing new business and if you do not provide your product positioning that resonates with buyers, sales will assume and make their own tools to drive the sale to a close. The trouble is, from a buyer’s perspective, it feels very uncomfortable as they have to pat down salespeople to find products that may solve their problems. For a buyer it feels like the salesperson is playing feature and benefit BINGO. They keep tossing features and benefits expecting  the buyer to yell; “BINGO …I get it now, I know what problem you can solve for me.” The more this salesperson is left to find your product’s position the less credible they becomes in the mind of your buyer. The more salespeople you have on your team creating your positioning, trying to sell dated positioning, your market will lose trust in your company.

Don’t make your salespeople Assume the position when meeting with buyers.

Train your salespeople to seek unresolved market problems and understand your product’s position to solve those problems. The goal of positioning is when your target market associates a benefit with your company. When you fail to establish a strong foundation from a position that resonates with your buyers, you fail to create brands that create raving fans.

So hopefully you can see now that when salespeople are forced to Assume the Position of your product or service it creates an unstable foundation for a trust based relationship and is it any wonder buyers become brand damaged? A strong position in the mind of the buyer, reinforced over time connects to the buyers’ emotion and they begin to trust. It is at that point your positioning becomes a brand.

When salespeople are forced to assume the position of your product ;they make an ass out of you and your company.

How Do We Heal “Brand Damaged Buyers” and Get Them Buying Again?

Posted by on September 17, 2012 with 1 Comments

By Mark Allen Roberts

If you provide a product or a service you are going to experience buyers who have a bad overall buying experience at some time. Market leaders will take this opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade and actually improve their relationship with their customer. Market losers will play the blame storm game, refuse to take ownership, repeat the mistakes over and over again  and ultimately cause buyers to suffer  Brand Damage and stop buying all together. Once an account is lost it is very difficult to win their trust back, however it is not impossible. Once a market hears enough negative feedback from a variety of sources the market can become brand damaged.In this post I will share;

How Do We Heal “Brand Damaged Buyers” and Get Them Buying Again?

What is the best way not to break your buyer’s trust and lose future business? Well I see it proudly displayed in factories, lobbies and desk tops across the clients I served;

“Do what you said you would do”

Why do I like this simple no smoke and mirrors approach phrase so much?

  • I have seen it work time and time again
  • Market leaders all live by this rule
  • It is time tested
  • It’s biblical
  • It establishes trust and reinforces it every time you execute

However the reality is we all make mistakes. How do we rebound from those mistakes? Can we ever rebound from those mistakes? I recently read a great article: America’s Nine Most Damaged Brands. This article shares how; the true causes of drops in brand value are folly and arrogance. 24/7 Wall St.’s review of nine brands that were badly damaged recently shows that even the most powerful brand cannot survive horrible decisions. So an element of hubris plays a part in brand damaged markets.

My own personal experience has shown mistakes only become Brand Damaged Buyers when we refuse to admit we made them or correct them. Let’s face itwe all need to be tuned into our market and listen for unresolved problems, …even if we find we caused a few of them.

So let’s say you have been experiencing some of the symptoms I discussed in my last post of companies that have brand damaged buyers like:

Sales failing to meet plan objectives

Competitors sales growing

Decrease in market share

Profit decrease due to field discounting

Customers you have lost refusing to meet with you

You are losing large key accounts who have

…as well as others.

Let’s say you have decided you need to “Heal Brand Damaged Buyers” so they start buying from you again, where do we start?

First we need to go back to the fundamentals of building a brand customers can trust, we start executing the 10 Commandments of Marketing as discussed by Derrick Daye.  We need to clearly understand positioning and our desired intentional differentiation in the perceptions of our buyers. A lot of companies struggle in this area so I suggest you down load one of my friends and mentor’s books: Your Brands Position by Dick Maggiore. You can download a copy of my book: Branding Backwards that shares how we need to intentionally brand our product or service or the market will and we will be branding by default. You can visit the article ; 3 ways to build brand loyalty and start from scratch again. Last, make sure and watch Jack Trout’s “5 tests of obviousness.” Jack Trout goes on to share how we must never waste a crisis but use it to make tough changes that often results in re-positioning.

So you’ve done your homework, you feel pretty good about what you’ve seen and you want to experience the benefits of market leading companies like; sales growth faster than industry average , gross profits over 30% higher than the completion, and increased customer satisfaction and loyalty? Where do you start? Ask a simple question in everything you do:

Is it true?

I went and heard an amazing author, speaker, thought leader named Byron Katie speak and the foundation of her work is the simple question: Is it true? Her content was so simple yet so brilliant I sat for hours after the conference with my mind racing as to all the applications in the business world.

So let me ask you: Is it true?

Everything you say on your web site?

What your salespeople are trained to present about your product or service?

All your marketing literature?

What your salespeople say about your competition

Printed content on your product packaging and owners manuals?

What your marketing team believes are the problems your product or service solves?

What your mission statement and vision statement say?

Do you have a “passion statement” and are you walking the talk?

Everything your team is saying at sales meetings, strategy meetings?

Was the product you launched on time last week ready to be launched

Next you must start rebuilding trust with your buyers and one way to do so is admit your past mistakes and apologize and let the buyer know their relationship with you is important and you want to win back their trust. Ask your buyer how he or she would do that if the roles were reversed. (Their answers may surprise you)

Last you must build trust in all the small things;

Follow up when you say you will follow up

Under commit and over deliver

Arrive on time

Keep meetings to buyer approved time window

Follow up meetings with email that reviews they key points of your meeting

Launch new products when they are ready and tested

When we break the trust our buyers have placed in us we create Brand Damaged Buyers. If an error or an over promised feature and benefit go unresolved too long, we loose a buyer’s trust. If your team has been experiencing some of the above symptoms of brand damaged buyers it will be a very difficult path winning buyer trust back to where it once was. Trust is emotional and that is why it is so much easier to not violate it in the beginning of the relationship and so hard to repair later.

Have some of your products broken trust with your buyers?

Have any new products failed to perform to what you promised in sales presentations and your web site?

Are your sales people making promises right now ( as you are reading this) to close a sale, that are not true?

Have you discovered any other steps to rebuild trust and help heal brand damaged buyers?

As I shared, you need laser like positioning in the market today and as you consistently deliver on what you promise you build a brand. If you fail to deliver you are also branding and you create what I call brand damaged buyers. If you find yourself with brand damaged buyers you are not alone. The key is to clearly understand the market’s perceptions of what you offer today and if needed re-position your offering based on your buyers ,market and competitors today.  The first step is being humble enough to listen to your market and stop assuming your positioning is relevant and resonates with buyers today.

“Throw the Skunk on the Table” Early to Win New Sales

Posted by on March 29, 2012 with 2 Comments


If you have been in sales for any length of time you will agree one of the most difficult sales to make is with a customer who had a bad buying experience in the past. Inexperienced salespeople will hope this smelly past buying experience will not permeate the new sales opportunity they are selling. Experienced sales people know to “Throw the Skunk on the Table” early in your new sales process.

I have served a number of industries over the years and it is not uncommon to rely on your current customers to purchase additional products and services as well as new products to hit your revenue targets. It is inevitable you will have a customer (hopefully not too many) who had a bad buying experience in the past. Maybe they ordered a new product that failed to meet the buyer’s requirements or criteria. Maybe your new product launch was late and missed a critical delivery time? Whatever the reason…your buyer was unhappy.

What should you do if you know a buyer you are now trying to sell had a bad past experience?

“Throw the Skunk on the Table Early!”

Inexperienced salespeople will try to act like that smelly past problem is not still lingering with the buyer. They may dance around it, or if it is brought up try to dismiss it and stay focused on the present sale (commissions). As the recent post in Revenue Journal’s blog : Why Do Buyers Agonize? Because Sellers Lie and Minimize shares how buyers are trying hard not to be disappointed. If they have bought product for any length of time people have sold them products or services that did not meet their expectations. Buyers today in particular in what I refer to as a “cautiously optimistic buying environment” are even more careful. They do their on line research, checking the internet for comments posted about a company or product, and they have short memories.

Experienced salespeople know the worst thing to do is ignore the odor of a bad buying experience. Experienced sales people bring up the past experience, briefly discussed what occurred as well as the corrective action then, and since then to insure the buyer is not disappointed again. Failure to acknowledge a bad past experience violates trust. When you ask buyers why they did not buy, it often surprises people to learn “price” is not even on the list. The number one reason is a lack of trust. Specifically that the salesperson did not clearly understand the buyer’s problem and has proposed a solution that will not completely solve it.

If you are meeting with a buyer who was disappointed in the past, throw the skunk on the table early in the sales call and you may just win the new sales opportunity while re-building trust.

Get Your Sales Team in Shape For Profitable Sales Growth

Posted by on November 13, 2010 with 8 Comments

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Are your salespeople prepared to win in the market they face today? Are you sure? Market leaders are taking the time to clearly understand their markets, their problems, buyers, and buying process to make purchases. Market losers plan to work harder, doing more of what they have been doing that did not produce results. Losers believe it’s just an “execution problem” a “motivation problem” so they plan to “manage” their sales team’s activities even closer. Market leaders are getting their teams in shape for the market of today.

In March of 2009 I decided I needed to get in shape. Years of traveling two to three nights per week, poor food choices and lack of exercise and I found me in the worst shape I have ever been in. It was not something that happened over night, but over a long period of lack of focus. So the first thing I did was get moving. I started working out like a maniac. I took spin classes at 4:00 am and then I would lift weights and end my workouts on the elliptical machines. This went on for months, and although I did have more energy, I was not losing weight.

More Activity alone was not producing my desired results.

So I attacked this like a business problem; I started doing research. I found that I fell into the same trap many people assume when trying to get healthy; activity drives healthy results. Therefore we assume more activity should produce even more desired results right? Wrong! The more I read I learned that 65% of your health is determined by the food you consume (inputs) and 35% is activity (execution).

I was focused on activity with little attention to what I was consuming, what was going into my body. I found with the right focus on inputs, you don’t need to have 2-2 ½ hour workouts. A strong workout of 40-60 minutes produced greater results. Within twelve months I lost 80 pounds, became healthier, and I now have more energy and more time.

I find many businesses try to fix unhealthy sales results by demanding more activity without focus on key inputs.(strategy)

 

Managers quickly direct their sales teams to more activity although the current activity is not driving the desired results. (Einstein’s definition of insanity)

Just as there is a proven formula for creating a healthy body, I have found a similar model to create healthy sales teams that drives profitable sales growth.

65% of your profitable sales performance is driven by strategy (inputs)

 

35% of your profitable sales performance is the result of sales team execution (execution)

 

(Ironic most of us have this backwards…)

 

 

 

Strategy

 

To insure your salespeople are equipped to be effective and efficient in the market of today you must have a clear understanding of your market, market problems of today, and map how your buyers buy today. These inputs will strengthen the core of your sales team performance with a power that the majority of your competitors do not have.

So how do you get started?

Get out in the market

 

Ask open-ended questions

 

Meet with customers and those who you did not sell

 

Identify the problems they face today

 

Equip sales with a value proposition that resonate with buyer needs of today

 

Map the buying process buyer’s use

 

Create a sales process that mirrors how your buyers are buying today

 

Develop sales tools for areas in the buying process where the sale grows dark and stalls

 

Constantly review the buying process and adjust your sales process, add tools as needed

 

 

 

Activity

 

Once you clearly understand how your buyers are buying, how they are making buying decisions today, equip your sales team with a new sales process and tools. Manage their activity using the sales process that mirrors how buyers want to buy.

“Your focus must be on how your buyers want to buy and not on how you want to sell.”

 

How do we execute new sales process?

Share the buying processes you discovered with salespeople

 

Train your sales team with the sales process you developed to serve how your buyers are buying

 

Teach your salespeople how to, and when to, use the new sales tools you created

 

Create sales tools that share the problems you solve in the markets voice

 

Create key performance indicators that measure key steps in the sales process

 

Constantly assess your new defined sales process for areas the sale seems to go dark

 

Lead your sales team by managing sales opportunities through the defined sales process steps

 

Identify salespeople who may need additional, individualized training, or may not be embracing new process

 

The core strength of your sales team’s performance is based on clearly understanding your market…stay close to buyers

 

 

Applying a sales process that supports how your buyers want to buy will produce healthily results in sales revenues and profits.

 

“If you have not changed your sales process in the last 6 months it’s broken.”

 

“If you have not produced new sales tools in the last three months, you are losing sales you could be winning.”

 

 

 

How about your team?

Do you clearly understand the problems your buyers are facing today?

How are your buyers buying today?

How do your buyers shop today?

Who is involved in the buying decision, and what additional information do they require?

 What problem does your product or service solve for your market?

 

Market leading sales teams understand their buyers, buying criteria, and how they want to buy. They design sales processes that mirror how buyers want to buy and they equip their sales teams with sales tools to help buyers buy.

Delivering Happiness; Enterprise Rental Cars Knows it’s About Doing a Number of Little Things, Consistently Well

Posted by on July 14, 2010 with 28 Comments

 

 

Delivering happiness to your internal and external customers is not about just doing one big thing very well. Market leaders understand delivering happiness is about intimately understanding your customers and your market and consistently doing a number of little things exceptionally well.

Delivering happiness is the “golden rule” in action.

 

This week my work brought me to Chicago. As I discussed in a previous post about the buying experience as a differentiator , my preferred rental car company is Enterprise Rental Cars because of the amazing expertise I had at their Denver location.

I arrived at the Chicago airport, retrieved my checked bags and I was off to the rental car shuttle bus location. When I arrived I was happy to find the Enterprise bus waiting and I quickly boarded. The driver helped me with my bags and provided me a map to help me return the rental car when my trip was over. Another bus arrived and we were quickly off to the rental car parking lot. On the trip the driver (just like Denver) said “we will be arriving at your car in approximately 12 minutes”. As we drove the driver offered to provide us directions if we needed them. The driver radioed “we have two customers approaching and we are two minutes out”…great, I wonder if they will greet us when the van rolls up like Denver?

Sure enough, we were greeted by professionally dressed associates waiting for us. They introduced themselves and invited us inside. As I made my way to the counter, I was offered a cold water to drink. (How did she know I was so thirsty)? We quickly started on the paperwork and she asked how my flight was. Interesting, this is when Dollar or Hertz is typically trying to sell me a GPS rental or insurance, and she seemed to genuinely want to know about my day…

The reservation was pulled up quickly and she led me outside to pick out my car. I chose a small Kia and she walked around the car with her clipboard inspecting the car for damages with me. Again, how nice as this is my job with other companies and it never seems to fail I miss something. She asks about gasoline and insurance packages, but in a way as if she was concerned about my overall service experience and not like she was receiving a sales spiff like I have experienced with Thrifty and other rental car companies. Again she asked if I needed directions and she drew on my map the route to my hotel. She too offered me a map for returning the rental car and circled the directions I would use based on the location of my hotel in Shamburg. She quickly handed me my paperwork and said; “you will need to show this paperwork and your drivers license to the guard at the gate when you leave”. How did she know? How did she know one of my (many) travel pet peeves is if you need to see my drivers license again when I leave your lot, tell me. Don’t wait until I am in the driver’s seat, seat belt fastened and now having to retrieve my wallet and license again. Awesome, it’s like they shadowed me for the past 26 years of traveling and know each of my needs.

Another smaller irritant if you will is finding a radio station I like. Not a big deal mind you, but I often find myself trying to find a station , as I am driving at night in a strange place, trying to follow my Google Maps directions while keeping my eyes out for the right exit signs. When I sit behind the wheel of my Enterprise Rental car I look up and there, hanging from the rear view mirror is a list of radio stations…again how awesome.

After my work was completed I followed the circled directions and quickly found the rental car lot for my car return. When I arrived I was directed to rental car returns and found three people, professionally dressed again, waiting to help me. I would say from the time I pulled in, to the time I was back on the bus to the terminal was no more than 3-5 minutes. Again…awesome! They must know that travelers on their way home just want to get home. We seem to lack patience even more so on the return home than when we arrive and waiting in lines to drop off a rental car is not something we want to do.

Enterprise Rental Cars is in the delivering happiness business and they again reinforced my loyalty based on an amazing overall buying experience.

 

To deliver happiness you must intimately understand your buyers and not rely on your gut and intuition.

 

The test if you are truly committed to delivering happiness is the repeatability of the overall service experience.

 

Market leaders identify customer needs and build repeatable processes and procedures that insure a quality experience each interaction.

 

Market leaders committed to delivering happiness also instill a passion in their team members that is seen in authentic individualized service that reinforces the overall passion to serve.

 

So how about your team?…

 

Do you choose to deliver happiness to your internal and external customers?

 

Is your customer experience the same in Denver as it is in Chicago, Cleveland, or Miami?

 

Do you have processes and procedures in place to insure you consistently deliver happiness? (Market leaders do)

 

How can you instill a passion to deliver happiness in your organization?

 

Just as Enterprise Rental Cars has taken what historically was a matter of fact exchange of service in renting a car to an opportunity to deliver happiness, you can too. You too can get to know your buyers, your market and identify all those little opportunities to serve them that often cost very little but have a huge impact. To do so you need a culture passionately committed to the overall customer experience and an intimate knowledge of your buyers, their needs, and frequent problems.

Oh…as a side benefit, when you passionately deliver happiness customers are forgiving when things go wrong. When I arrived at my hotel I noticed my automatic door locks and truck release did not work. Given how many times I was in and out of the car and trunk over the weekend this would have normally been something that irritated me and tainted my overall buying experience. Since so many other parts of the buying experience were amazing I found the door and trunk release not working not a major problem. I was more forgiving of those inevitable occurrences that go bump in the night than I would have been having rented a car else ware.

Are you in the delivering happiness business?

 

If not now is as good a time as any to start!