17 Benefits Of Voice Of Customer

 

 

 

 

Understanding the voice of your customer is critical to achieving your sales and profit objectives today. Taking the time to clearly understand your buyers, how they buy, what they need to buy and why they don’t buy today is critical in developing a strategic business development growth process.

 

Below are 17 reasons why companies who capture and leverage the voice of their customers consistently win year over year.

  

1.Fix Sales: Knowing Buyer’s Journey is like Creating a GPS for Your Sales Process

 

2.Fix Sales Problems With The Power in the  “Voice of the Customer”

 

3.Leverage Customer Voice into “Explosive Sales Growth”

 

4.Who Owns the Voice of Your Market and Voice of Your Customer? . Hint (not sales!)

 

5.Voice of Market Identifies “Roundabouts” in your Sales Process

 

6.Voice of the Market Identifies Key Buying Triggers

 

7.Increase Sales: Key Buying Seasons Surface in “Voice of Market” Work

 

8.“Voice of the Customer” Increases Profits…Lesson from a Christmas Ham

 

9.Voice of Customer Finds “Sales Secret Weapons”

 

10.Voice of Customer: Understanding the Entire Iceberg of Purchase Decisions Today

 

11.Improve Sales Productivity With Voice of the Customer Research

 

12.What is The Biggest Threat to Customer Voice Research? (It may surprise you!)

 

13.Give Salespeople More Time to Sell With Voice of The Customer Research

 

14.Customer Voice Research Identifies Content Buyers Need Today

 

15.Identify Purchase Influencers with VOC

 

16.The End Of The Greatest Show On Earth and What We Can Learn About Training

 

17 Voice of your customer identifies new markets and channels

 

How does your team capture the voice of your customers today?

 

How often do you conduct this research?

 

Is there any reason you feel you should not understand the voice of your customer today? (please share)

 

Have you experienced other benefits from capturing the voice of your customers?

 

We serve dynamic markets today. How buyers buy today is much different than how they bought 5 to 10 years ago. How buyers buy tomorrow will likely change as well.

 

Market leading organizations understand the importance of capturing your customer voice today and leveraging what they learn to increase sales and profits.

Give Salespeople More Time To Sell With Voice Of The Customer Research

Give Salespeople More Time to Sell With Voice of The Customer Research

In my recent post I shared that capturing the current voice of your customers has many benefits as listed below. One of those benefits is improved sales efficiency. In this post I will share how understanding the current voice of your customers reduces non-selling time for your salespeople and gives them more time to sell.

Capturing the current voice of your customers has many benefits as I shared in a guest post recently.

  • Increased sales
  • Increased Profits
  • Increase in market share
  • Improved sales close rate %’s
  • Identify new product needs
  • Improved operational efficiencies
  • Increase in current customer sales
  • Increase in new customer sales
  • Strong overall buying experience for your customers

One side benefit I failed to share is customer voice work reduces non-selling activity for your salespeople freeing more time to do what you pay them to do…sell.

With the various Internet tools and social networks there is no excuse for a salesperson not to be prepared for a sales call with a current or potential new customer, and your salespeople know this.

When you study what salespeople do with their time as I do, I would argue all of the social networks and Internet search capabilities actually hinders their sales performance. It’s human nature to feel overwhelmed when we have too many options. In my experience salespeople are spending way too much time searching for information your company should already have.

In a recent report the authors shared the average salesperson spends approximately 30% of their time selling today. I have helped teams where I observed sales was spending less than 15% of their time in what would consider sales activity so I guess this report did not surprise me…but it was still disturbing.

What was the next time allocation? The next one surprised me in a way and confirmed my fears at the same time.

Salespeople today spend 30% of their time search for and or creating content to help them sell. (As much time as they spend selling)

Is that really how you want your sales teams spending time? …Yah, I didn’t think so.

I am a huge believer in sales having prep time before making a sales call. As leaders I see this as an opportunity to serve our salespeople and help them become more effective and efficient.

My what if questions are …

What if you had a repeatable sales process that mirrored the buyer journey your buyers take today?

What if your company had a content library, a library of tools, your sales teams knew how to find, and you trained them when and where to use those tools based on your customer voice research?

What if you clearly understood common problems your customers and prospects like your customers had today?

What impact would it have on your sales if your salespeople spent 15%-25% more time selling?

When my family moved back to Ohio from Arizona (yes on purpose) we found a beautiful older home built back the 1970’s. It has as the TV shows say “great curb appeal” but the inside was dated. Back in the 1970’s dark oak wood must have been the main design feature. Over the past couple of years we have been slowly bringing the interior of our home up to date. We took our dark oak kitchen and painted it white. We painted all the woodwork white.

I saved the painting jobs that take a lot of time for last like our stairway spindles. Anyone who has done painting will tell you just like sales the most important part of painting is prepping the area to be painted.

I had put this stairway off too long so imagine my surprise when I returned home from meetings to find my wife prepped the stairway as the picture above illustrates. A project that probably would have taken me 4-5 hours I now completed in two hours!

This reminded me how market-leading team’s work as a team. Sales sells and marketing owns understanding the voice of the customer and how buyers buy today.

What if marketing did the sales prep work through voice of the customer research and created the needed sales tools for your team?

What if your research shared how your buyers buy today and the criteria they must have to buy?

What if your salespeople where trained in a repeatable sales processes that helped buyers buy?

When conducting voice of the customer research you want to answer the following questions:

Why do buyers buy from your company?

Why don’t buyers buy from your company?

What does the buying journey look like today?

What criteria must you buyers have today to make a purchase?

In addition you are listening for common roundabouts as I call them where a sale stalls and or spins away from you. Each roundabout is a place you need a new sales tool.

Once you have completed your customer voice work I highly recommend you adjust your repeatable sales process to mirror how your buyers want to buy.

Create a digital library of sales tools based on what buyers told you in your research.

Train your teams to use the new sales process and where to find the tools quickly.

Monitor and coach salespeople to insure the new sales process and tools stick.

Salespeople will still need to do some research and prep prior to the sales call but you will increase selling time between 15%-25%.

What would your sales results look like if your team spent 45%-55% of their time selling?

Speed Of Trust And Sales

Speed of Trust and Sales

 

 

In my last post I shared why most sales are lost is: Trust. Although salespeople and even buyers may say price, the real reason you did not win the sale in most cases is the buyer did not trust that your proposal would solve their problem. In this post I will share an excellent book: The Speed of Trust, the one thing that changes everything, by Steven Covey and how to apply its wisdom to increasing your sales.

 

How much time and effort does your team dedicate to establishing trust with your customers and markets?

 

Companies that understand the importance of building trust with their internal and external customers thrive.

 

Could growing sales and leading people really be that simple?

 

From what I have experienced over the last 30+ years I believe it is.

 

I have been read the book: The Speed of Trust, by Steven Covey over the holidays. I highly recommend this book to anyone who leads a team, and anyone who sells products or services.

 

The Harvard Business Review just published an article referencing this book focused on how if your employees don’t trust you its up to you to fix it.

 

If that is a problem you have in your team I recommend you read this article.

 

In this post I want to discuss how to build and leverage trust to help your team win sales quicker and more profitably.

 

Steven Covey shares:

 

“When trust goes down (in a relationship, on a team, in an organization, or with a partner or customer), speed goes down and cost goes up.… The inverse is equally true: When trust goes up, cost goes down, and speed goes up.”

 

I can confirm this is true based on my experiences. When I have served leaders who trusted their teams, and teams who trusted our leaders we accomplished record setting accomplishments in sales, market share gains, increased profitability, quality, buying experience and overall team morale. If things went wrong or not as expected, (and they often did) we had a culture that focused on the problem not the person. One outcome of this culture was employees freely sharing mistakes they made and we all learned from them and made corrective action. In our meetings we discussed things that mattered and were not weighted down by hiding political secrets that were an issue but no one wanted to touch them. The same is true with customers. I have served some large accounts and once trust is built we talk about things that matter. Customers who have trust buy more and openly share new problems that often turn into new products an services. As i shared in one post, a new market problem turned into a $38 million sales increase in 18 months.

 

Covey does an excellent job of discussing how a lack of trust adds friction. Friction can be caused by unethical behavior or ethical behavior that that was not executed properly.

 

In companies with low trust they see friction that slows down or even halts their progress.

 

The author shares;

 

Low trust creates hidden agendas, politics, interpersonal conflict, interdepartmental rivalries, win-lose thinking, defensive and protective communication – all of which reduce the speed of trust.”

 

On the other hand, when trust is high you loose friction and realize speed.

 

the greatest trust-building key is “results”. Results build brand loyalty. Results fire up a winning culture. Consistent results also put suppliers under the main tent as strategic partners, which is so vital in this new world class, knowledge-worker-based, global economy

Steven Covey

 

What can we do to build trust with our customers to drive results?

 

                                                                                                              Work on a trust culture in your business

I have seen companies identify in their value statements the importance of integrity and ethics in everything they do. Where the rubber meets the road is when something goes wrong. How does your company behave internally? How you behave sets the tone, and your salespeople carry that behavior into the market place.

 

Some sobering statistics on trust:

 

  • Only 51% of employees have trust and confidence in senior management
  • Only 36% of employees believe their leaders act with honesty and integrity
  • Over the past 12 months 76% of employees have observed illegal or unethical conduct on the job
  • So chances are you have some degree of trust issues too both inside and outside your organization
  • Less than 20% of sales teams hit their number in 2016 ( buyer trust issues?)

 

                                                                                                                                  Hire the right people

Make trust, ethics and integrity a key part of your hiring process. One bad hire can contaminate an entire department and if left unchecked your whole company over time.

 

                                                                                                                                              Training

Train your teams to act in a manner that builds trust. For example I am amazed how many salespeople feel they must have all the answers. So when asked a question they wing it and it often breaks trust. If you train your teams it is OK (safe) to admit they do not know the answer but they will follow up with the answer. I have seen sales people commit to a delivery date there is no way their team can execute so they don’t lose a sale. Be honest, if you can’t make this orders arrival date tell them what you can do. Even if you lose this order, you will be able to quote future business. Lie, and you have broken trust with that buyer and you may not ever have another sales opportunity. Train your teams to understand how your buyers buy and the criteria they need to buy today.

 

                                                                                                                                              Coaching

When trust is seen as important it is very easy to recognize situations that violate trust. Should one occur it should be handled immediately. Discuss what just happened, why it was wrong, reinforce your companies focus on trust and integrity and share a better way this situation could have been handled. Using a coaching tone also builds internal trust and reinforces that trust and integrity is not just today’s buzz words and will fade away. They are seen as a critical component in our team’s success.

 

                                                                                                                                              Content

One of the quickest ways I have seen teams build trust with new customers is understanding their buying process and criteria and providing content that supports what the buyers need. Most web sites for example spend way too much time talking about …best in class, best quality, we have been in business for 80 years and so on. Buyers want solutions to their problems and companies who have experience solving their problems. That is why I advise the teams to update their web sites and all sales tools designed to share the problems they solve. I recommend this be done with data sheets, third party studies, case studies, customer testimonials and past customer success stories. This content will also be used as sales tools for your salespeople when prospecting new customers.

 

                                                                                                                              Do what you say you will do

Trust is built over time. In a sales environment it’s about doing what we say we will do. If you say you will follow up on next Tuesday, do it. If you promise your order will arrive on the 15th make sure it does. A big part of this is your sales teams clearly understanding your company’s capabilities. If a salesperson does not understand your company’s capabilities today they run the risk of promising something your team cannot execute and this breaks trust. Salespeople run the risk of promising something that was once true and may not be true today. If you ask for a 20-minute meeting to present your company end the meeting at 20 minutes. If the buyer wants it to go longer that’s fine, but you are doing what you said you would do.

 

                                                                                                                                                  Truth

Take a hard look at all your company’s communication and make sure it is true…today. Nothing breaks trust quicker than stating something that is no longer true. I was in a meeting once and the salesperson said, what he was trained to say 15 years ago…”our company is the only company in North America with these capabilities”. That statement was true 15 years ago, but the buyer had completed her research and shared 3 other companies now offering it in North America. Make sure all your communications are true today.

 

The above are ways I have helped teams improve their trust with their customers and markets and increase sales and profits. The author shares 13 behaviors of high trust in his book.

 

Steven Covey does an excellent job of bringing home the financial implications of trust with the concept of a trust tax. Many of the teams I have served were led by someone who grew up through the organization in the accounting and finance side. I think this chapter will really get their attention.

 

in many interactions, we are paying a hidden low-trust tax right off the top-and we don’t even know it!”

 

Covey shares that the trouble is low-trust taxes are not a line item on your financial statements, if they were many more companies would focus on reducing their trust tax.

 

“- in a low trust culture, it’s possible that your being taxed 30,40,50 percent or more for something you didn’t even do

 

…and that impacts both sales and profitability!

 

The author also shares the upside of high trust…

 

“ When trust is high, the dividend you receive is like a performance multiplier, elevating and improving every dimension of your organization and your life

 

I hope you buy The Speed of Trust and apply it to your company and how you serve your customers and markets.

 

As we begin a new year why wouldn’t you make building trust in all you do a key priority?

 

Personal and professional credibility are key in winning in our markets today.

 

Make it a key objective of yours to build trust and watch your team thrive.

 

 

Voice Of Customer Finds “Sales Secret Weapons”

Voice of Customer Finds “Sales Secret Weapons”

 

 

 

In my last series of posts I have been sharing how powerful capturing the voice of your customers (VoC) and voice of your market ( VoM) is in growing your business profitably. In this post I will share how to leverage customer voice into a “sales secret weapon“.

 

In my last post I shared how critical it is to understand the criteria your buyers use today as well as how those criteria rank in order of importance. You may be providing services and features that cost you margins that your customers no longer value. Or, you may be leading with a dated value proposition and not sharing the most important buying criteria your buyers are shopping for today and losing sales you could have won.

 

First we need to meet with our customers and prospects and understand how they shop, the buying journey they take, as well as the key criteria they must have to make a purchase. With out this information your sales team is playing what I refer to as: “feature and benefit BINGO”. They are calling out features and benefits in hoping the buyers jump up and say… yes, I need that one…BINGO! In this sales model you are relying on your buyers to figure out the problems you solve, or could solve for them. In todays market you must intentionally share the problems you solve for your customers.

 

Sales teams who have been trained to understand how buyers buy, what they need to buy, and are equipped with the right sales tool for each twist and turn in the buyer journey win sales.

 

I read an interesting article in Adweek this week concerning how sports teams use various give away items to increase ticket sales as well as encourage fans to arrive earlier to the ballpark. Fans who arrive early spend more money; it’s as simple as that.

 

What does ballpark giveaways have to do with your business?

 

Great Question!

 

Please answer the following questions:

 

What buying criteria must your buyers have today to buy?

 

What is the order of importance for these criteria?

 

How does your overall service offering compare to what buyers want and need today?

 

Some common giveaways I see companies offering include:

 

  • Time of shipment
  • Service level
  • Free freight or FOB freight
  • Payment terms
  • Packaging specifications
  • Quality specifications
  • Added value engineering
  • Marketing tools
  • On line order entry/ EDI
  • Customer sales force training
  • Technical support
  • Material recommendations
  • Discounted material costs based on your total buying power
  • Returnable freight packaging
  • Quality guarantees
  • Out going product inspection
  • Product testing

 

The list can go on and on based on your specific industry.

 

Based on your industry you have heard a number of requirements from buyers. Obviously the job of a buyer is to ask for as much as they can receive for the lowest price. The trouble occurs when your salespeople do not understand how they key buying criteria rank in order of importance for your buyers.

 

Market leading sales teams are trained to ask.

 

What I have observed more often than not is sales teams spill their candy in the lobby. They “show up and throw up” until the buyer agrees to buy. It is not your sales team’s fault. They are trying to use the tools they were given. My challenge is what if you could have sold the buyer with the ability to execute three key buying criteria and not all 12-15 your salesperson listed? If this occurs your team is incurring costs and performing features, benefits and services that are costing your team margins and are not of key value in the buying decision today.

 

For example I mentioned the recent AdWeek article. In this article it shares how major league baseball teams have taken the time to understand the voice of their customers, the fans, and in doing so identified a direct sales increase on the game nights they give away bobble heads. Bobble heads produce more results than any other giveaway.

 

Major league teams have given away all kinds of things (just like your business may be doing now) in the hopes of increasing ticket sales and getting consumers to arrive at the ballpark earlier. Things like tote bags, T-shirts, baseballs, baseball cards, towels and bobble heads.

 

When fans arrive earlier, they spend more money. It’s as simple as that.

 

The article shared the following:

 

  • Bobble head giveaways increase ticket sales 15%-30%
  • The Cubs realized a 71% increase in fans arriving more than an hour before the game

 

What I like about this information is it is simple, quantifiable and easy to execute.

 

What impact could your sales and profits see if you identified your one to three top “bobble heads” secret sales weapons your buyers need to buy today?

 

Do you agree how powerful this information would be to increase sales and profits?

 

With this kind of focus do you feel your team could execute in delivery? (I bet they can)

 

The trouble with most businesses today is they are providing a laundry list of features, benefits and services and are often not sure the top one or two that truly drives sales behavior. So what do most teams do? …. They offer them all. Just like giving away tote bags and baseballs fail to move ticket sales dials, your team may ( more than likely is)  giving things away that buyers do not value today, or do not value as much as they did in prior years.

 

How can your team know what buyers value today?

 

Capture and leverage voice of the customer and voice of the market.

 

How about your company….

 

Do you know the key buying criteria your buyers must have today?

 

What are all the features, benefits, and services your team is offering to win sales today?

 

What impact would just offering what buyers need today have on your operations efficiency?

 

What impact could knowing and ranking buying criteria have on your teams’ sales close rate and gross profit margin?

 

What additional profits could you realize by eliminating things no longer high on your buyer’s key criteria list?

 

What is your team’s one or two bobble heads that really drive sales growth?

 

I have helped companies increase sales and profits for over 30 years. I wish it was some crazy technical secret process but it really is not. If you take the time to understand your customers, capture their voice and leverage what you learn you will see what I refer to as explosive growth.

 

Why?

 

Simply put, most companies you are competing with have salespeople showing up and throwing up. They are verbally vomiting all kinds of promises to win the sale. Some are important, some are industry standard performance requirements, and some are no longer a value, and some are dated based on how we have always done things around here.

 

If you have not captured the voice of your buyers and market in the last 12 months I promise you …

  • Your sales process is broken
  • Your team is giving away things buyers no longer value
  • Your team is losing sales you could have and should have won

 

Once you capture the voice of your customers you can leverage that knowledge into a repeatable sales process  ,sales tools, and sales training that guides your sales team based on what your buyers value most today.

Customer voice helps you create your own repeatable sales process  GPS  for your sales team to close more sales profitably.

 

 

 

Increase Sales: Key Buying Seasons Surface In “Voice Of Market” Work

Increase Sales: Key Buying Seasons Surface in “Voice of Market” Work

Market leading organizations understand the power in understanding the voice of their customers and markets. In my last post I shared how voice of the market work helps identify key buying triggers. Understanding how your buyers buy, the journey they take today to a purchase and the criteria they must have to buy is critical to growing your sales profitably. In this post I will share how Voice of your Market work identifies key buying seasons for specific products.

 

I was hired to grow the sales for Gardner Denver in the rust belt region. Gardner Denver is one of the leading manufacturers of industrial air compressors and accessories in the world. Industrial air compressors support manufacturing plants by supplying compressed air to power machines and tools used in the manufacturing process.

 

The first step in my business development process was to meet with as many end customers as I could on four legged sales calls with my dealer distributor salespeople. While the salespeople asked questions about upcoming changes that may require new or additional air compressors, I asked opened ended question and listened for unresolved market problems and buying trigger events.

 

Working with one of my larger dealers: Atlas Machine and Supply we identified a common problem end users have every year from May through August: Moisture in their air. Industrial air compressors compress ambient air and one of the by products of this process is water. Buyers purchase air dryers to remove moisture before it has a chance to damage machines and tools. What buyers shared was during the summer months in the Midwest they experience humidity and it often taxes their compressed air dryers and it is often a challenge to find new dryers when one of their dryers fail.

 

We developed a proactive business development plan based on this common seasonal problem our buyers were experiencing. Our dealer produced a postcard mailer that was sent to all their current accounts as well as targeted new accounts they have always wanted to serve. It was a simple message asking if they would like a free audit for moisture to insure their plant does not have any manufacturing problems when the high humid months hit. We conducted a sales training meeting and trained the distributor sales team how to execute the sales process.

 

Our distributor sales team followed up with each account within seven days of the mailer and scheduled audits to insure their customers and prospects they always wanted to serve would not experience any service interruptions in the humid summer months.

 

Our compressed air dryer sales more than doubled compared to the same months the prior year and new compressor sales increased. Since our dealer sales were contacting buyers about a common seasonal problem and offering to solve that problem, buyers trusted the sales and service people. They demonstrated they knew the industry and common unresolved seasonal problems. The sales and service team was not focused on “selling” but “serving” the market. While conducting audits proactively, our maintenance mangers and plant mangers openly shared other issues they were concerned about. These “other issues” resulted in new incremental compressor sales, service revenue and aftermarket sales increases.

 

Do your end customers have buying seasons for specific products and services?

 

Who on your team is responsible for helping dealer distributors grow their sales?

 

Does your sales team proactively reach out to buyers to address seasonal buying trigger events?

 

Would your team like to double your product sales in key buying seasons?

 

As we approach a new year, there is nothing more strategic than understanding your buyers, how they buy and the criteria they need to buy TODAY. “Today” is the key word. Think about all the changes we have seen over the years in how buyers buy. If you have not adjusted your repeatable sales process in the last 12 months or created new sales tools …I promise you have a broken sales process and you are losing orders you should have won.

The voice of the customer, voice of the market work becomes the foundation of your sales, marketing and business development strategic plans.

If you don’t have an understanding how how buyers buy and what they need to buy today…How do you plan to hit your sales numbers next year?

 

 

 

Voice Of The Market Identifies Key Buying Triggers

Voice of the Market Identifies Key Buying Triggers

 

 

Companies who understand the power in the voice of their markets today realize greater and more profitable sales growth. Understanding your market, buyers, and how they buy and what they need to buy is critical to hitting your sales numbers today. One outcome of understanding the voice of your customers and markets is identifying sales trigger events.

 

What triggers one of the buyers in your market to begin the buying journey?

 

The answer to that question becomes a key consideration when developing your business development plan to hit your sales numbers.

 

In a past post I shared the work I did in the accessible van market with VMI. We sold lowered floor mini vans that were adapted so consumers in wheelchairs could drive and or ride in comfort. I launched VMI’s first retail mobility dealership Arizona Mobility Products.

 

Our team spent a great deal of our time out conducting vehicle demonstrations at consumer’s homes and our sales grew quickly. We were constantly asking questions to better understand our customers, how they shop and what triggered them to make a new purchase.

 

Consumers in wheelchairs must have a vehicle they trust and is reliable. You might say: well Mark I need that too. The difference is if our vehicle dies on the road somewhere we can call a tow truck and they will tow our vehicle and give us a ride to a service garage. Tow trucks are not equipped to accommodate a consumer in a wheelchair. Should their vehicle experience a malfunction, they are left at the point where the vehicle failed until they make alternative arrangements to be transported. Reliability is an even higher buying criteria for consumers in wheelchairs. Based on this we should not have been so surprised as we were when we kept hearing how consumers with accessible lowered floor mini vans often start shopping for a new van within three months of their vehicle warrantee expiring. When we surveyed our customers this came out loud and clear in almost every interview.

 

Our team sorted our customer database based on when vehicles were purchased and each month proactively contacted customers whose vehicle was about to lose its warrantee. We established a four-touch campaign.

 

-The first touch was a simple letter notifying them their vehicle warrantee was about to expire, share any current promotions, remind them we sold extended warrantees and suggested we quote the trade in value of their current vehicle.

 

-The second touch was a phone call, ideally from the salesperson that sold them the vehicle reminding them as a service their warrantee was about to expire.

 

-The third touch shared specific dealer incentives, rebates and once again mentioned their warrantee was about to expire.

 

-The last touch was a request for us to book an appointment to have their vehicle inspected by one of our certified service experts at no charge.

 

Identifying this buying trigger and developing a strategic series of communications, a GPS to new sales for our salespeople, helped us increase sales and build customer loyalty. As a side benefit it also provided our dealership with a supply of used vehicles that were in huge demand in this community.

 

What triggers your buyers to start the buying journey?

 

Does someone on your team Know?

 

How has your team used this information?

 

What could your team do to serve buyers who triggered the need to buy?

 

What is your team doing to make lifetime customers for your products?

 

Understanding the voice of your customers and market has many benefits. One benefit is to intimately understand what triggers your buyers to shop, to search for a new purchase. Taking the time to understand your buyers, why they buy and what they need to buy is critical to consistently hitting your sales numbers.

 

 

Who Owns the Voice of Your Market and Voice of Your Customer? ..Hint (not sales!)

 

In my last few posts I have been sharing the power of capturing the voice of your customers and voice of your markets. Understanding how your buyers buy today, the journey they take and the criteria they must have is the quickest way to increasing sales. Who should own the voice of the market and customer? The answer may surprise you: Not Sales! In this post I will share who should own the voice of the customer and share a short video on the impact this information will have.

Who owns the voice of the market, voice of the customer in your company?

Before we unpack this topic we need to understand the differences between the voice of the customer (VoC) and the voice of the market (VoM).

Voice of the Customer

“Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a marketing research technique that encompasses the collective insights of your customers’ needs, wants, perceptions, preferences and expectations.”

Iperceptions

 

Voice of Market

Voice of the Market (VOM) is different in that it incorporates input from the greater market. The market contains not only your customers, but also those who chose not to buy your solution – those who bought someone else’s product and those who just didn’t make a decision.”

On Product Management 

 

 

Capturing the voice of your customer (VOC) is critical to providing your customers the best overall buying experience and growing sales profitably. I also use the voice of the customer to help me understand how customers describe the problems my clients solve in similar markets. The Voice of the market is even more powerful because it not only captures your customer, but it also captures prospects in your market you want to serve as well as customers you once sold. The voice of the Market ( VOM) helps you scale your solutions to unresolved market problems to new customers in the markets you serve.

 

Who owns the voice of the market and customer?

 

Marketing!

 

Why?

 

A few reasons I have experienced over the years:

 

First, you want sales selling. I don’t mean to sound trite but this is about focus. You want your sales resources selling and not conducting market research. You do not want them doing any behaviors that do not align with their specific objectives and hitting their sales numbers. They need to be driving to serve their customers and solve their unresolved problems.

 

“Diluted Sales focus causes diluted sales results.”

– Mark Allen Roberts

 

Second, you want unfiltered feedback from your customers and markets. What if the reason why buyers don’t buy is the most common reason: the buyer-felt sales did not adequately understand the problem to be solved so they did not trust their proposal to fix the problem. Will sales tell you that? Maybe but it would be a difficult thing to share. For example, what if “the why “your customers do not buy more is they were unaware of the new products you introduced over a year ago?

 

Third, your customers have a relationship with your salesperson. It would be very difficult and uncomfortable for them to share concerns directly with the salesperson that calls on them. However your customers will share feedback if asked correctly to give them a better overall buying experience.

 

Forth, your salespeople are trained to sell. Great right? Not when it comes to understanding your buyers and how they buy. Your sales people may hear something then start selling instead of actively listening and capturing the entire thought. The quickest way to shut down a good voice of customer, voice of market conversation is to try to sell through objections the buyers shares.

 

Marketing owns the voice of the market and voice of the customer.

 

If you are like a number of companies you may not have marketing team members experienced conducting interviews. If that is the case I highly recommend you hire a 3rd party to interview your customers and markets. This is by far the best method of gathering what your buyers need and how they buy today. The outside 3rd party will interview your customers, customers you lost, and prospects you always wanted to be customers. Another approach would be to have a senior member of the leadership team conduct these interviews. As VP of sales and marketing I would often conduct this research.

 

The only companies you  should never interview are new companies who are currently at some stage of the sales process. You do not want anything to interrupt the flow of the sale through the funnel. I have seen companies inexperienced with this process call prospects they are quoting in an effort to help close the sale faster and lose the sale entirely.

 

Make sure when working with a 3rd party you are clear about the deliverables.

 

Possible market work deliverables include:

  • Present raw data
  • Map buying journey
  • Identify buyer personas
  • Prepare a summary report / Identify shifts and trends
  • Prepare a summary report and recommendations based on the raw data

 

When I conduct customer and market voice research I present a summary report and recommendations for a specific project fee based on the number of people interviewed, the time to accomplish the project, and how the customers and markets are interviewed. Some clients ask I personally meet with 2-5 of their customers so the cost is higher than a phone interview due to travel expenses.

 

I feel I need to warn you at this point: In this capturing voice process you will hear a number of great things, things that will make you proud of your team. You will probably also hear things your customers believe to be true (their perceptions) that may or many not be true. Keep in mind your customer’s perception is their reality and that is what you must use in your strategic adjustments.

 

After the market work your team will be nervous. Sales, marketing, operations and even quality will be nervous about what your customers and markets share. As the leader in the organization you must set the stage for this exercise. When I work with teams I have four meetings:

 

  • Project launch meeting with senior management team – I share what we will be doing, how we will do it, who we need to speak with and what some outcomes may be. I emphasize this is not a witch-hunt, but an opportunity to learn how to make strategic adjustments that insures we all hit our numbers. This meeting is about education and expectations

 

  • CEO/President/VP of marketing/VP of sales – In this meeting I share my summary report and some specific customer interviews with raw data and recommendations, adjustments to sales process and needed new sales tools. This meeting is about understanding opportunities not finding a throat to choke. We decide what we will share with team and in what depth.

 

  • Senior leadership team – present summary of finds and recommendations without specific customer interviews. I ask the CEO and other leaders to prioritize the action items and commit to investment if required in this meeting. This meeting is about gaining team understanding and commitment tied to outcomes and shaping a plan to meet what buyers need today.

 

  • Sales VP, Marketing VP, sales and marketing teams– present findings and design a new sales process and list new sales tools needed. Conduct 3-4 sales trainings over 6-8 months and provide coaching as needed. This first meeting is about applying the work your team has committed to do and reinforcing new behaviors. This is a great team building exercise to tear down any silos that have developed over the years. Following trainings are to reinforce new behaviors and coach team members through any difficulties they are experiencing.

 

The number and severity of the adjustments needed will depend upon the market and customer feedback as well as the senior management team’s prioritization; most teams learn a few opportunities, misperceptions of customers and make 2-5 strategic adjustments and add new sales tools. It is not unusual teams create a project roadmap with phase gates to tackle findings. You can have a senior manager lead the project internally or I have been hired to hold team members accountable to their assigned deliverables.

 

Once your team understands the voice of your market and voice of your customers you have the foundation for a strong plan to hit your sales and profit numbers.

 

Does your team understand the voice of the customer?

 

Does your team clearly understand the voice of your market (s)?

 

Who owns the voice of the customer and market in your organization?

 

When was the last time you gathered this information?

 

Are you sure your brand is in sync with your customer expectations?

 

How often do you feel you need to gather this information?

 

Market leading organizations achieve their sales and profit goals on a consistent basis.

They accomplish this by spending time understanding how buyers buy, what they need to buy, and why they don’t buy.

 

They take current market data and adjust their plans to better serve their current buyers and markets.

 

Would your team like to realize a 10X sales increase over the next 6 -8 years, and or a $38 million sales increase in 18 months like the companies I have shared recently? If so, it involves capturing the voice of your customers and voice of your markets which is a key part of the no smoke and mirrors process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Increase Sales: Do A Value Proposition Audit 

Increase Sales: Do a Value Proposition Audit 

 

 

In my last post I shared how critical a value proposition that connects with your buyers is in today’s climate. Every industry seems to be undergoing some kind of a change. Market leaders are agile and they identify those changes quickly and they adapt.

What kinds of changes can impact your value proposition?

  • Your business was bought or you bought a new business ( buyers will fear the unknown, and your competitors will feed that fear)
  • Environmental regulations
  • New Laws and or regulations
  • New competitor enters the market
  • Technology change- think the impact the internet of things is having on your customers and markets
  • New innovative solution enters the market
  • Market consolidation
  • Major market shift like the impact the low oil cost is having on everything from fracking, trucking, truck building, and all the other trickle down businesses that are touched by oil and gas.

I have a list on a post I did about what causes growth to stall and you can review them here.

 

Market leading teams quickly identify changes, shifts in their markets and adapt their value propositions to what is important for their customers.

 

One thing we can count on is change. As you are reading this I would like you to think about the changes you have seen in the last year, last 3 years, and perhaps the last 5 years.

What changes to you expect next year?

If your team is like most, you have products you launched; services you introduced and your salespeople are diligently presenting those products and services as they were taught to do. Trouble arises when your salesperson uses a dated value proposition.

 

This is a problem for two reasons…

 

First it shows your salesperson and your company do not understand the market of today. This is something your buyer will feel and instantly doubt their ability to trust your team.

 

Secondly, and even more costly is when your sales team uses a dated value proposition, it will negatively impact future sales. Again, look at it from a buyer’s point of view. You have some salesperson in pitching a solution to a problem you no longer have. If they would have just read your website and or one of your brochures in the lobby they would have known more about your company. If they would have started the meeting asking questions instead of showing up and throwing up you could have helped them understand your current problems.The buyer will create a perception about the sales representative and your company based on this experience and it will hurt your ability to serve this customer in the future.

How do you know if your salespeople are using a dated value proposition?

The first step is to identify the changes buyers in the markets you serve have experienced since your sales team was trained, your web site was launched and your sales brochures were developed.

Second, I ask your VP of sales and or VP of Marketing to travel with salespeople and visit at least 10 of your current large accounts, call on at least 5 of the accounts you want to add and 2 you have lost. These four-legged sales calls as I refer to them are critical in identifying how your buyers buy today, the criteria they are using, and the problems they are solving today. While your salesperson is selling, you are asking questions like:

 

How is your business doing today?

 

Have you seen any significant changes that have impacted your business, how you are buying, your role?

 

I understand you buy some products from our competitors? That is not surprising, …what do you find they do very well?

 

If you were running our company ___________ what would you do to grow sales with your company and other companies like yours?

 

We are thankful for your business. If someone called you on the phone and asked: Why do you buy from ______________ what would you say?

 

(For customers you have not sold yet, or lost)

 

We would like to earn your business. If someone were to call you today and ask: Why don’t you buy from ___________ what would you say?

 

I am sure there are lists of customer questions you can ask, and you should have some very specific questions that illustrate your current market knowledge.

 

A couple of quick rules when doing this kind of a value proposition audit:

  • Ask and listen, do not try to defend or sell through any issues identified. This is the quickest way to end a conversation.
  • Do not have your salespeople ask these questions and report to you. You need to hear the information first hand. Besides, you need your team selling.
  • Do not do this process in a survey. Why? The most valuable part of this process is capturing the current market problems your buyers are having in their voice. A survey will not do this.

Once you have current market data you need to ask yourself one key question…

Based on what we heard from our customers, customers we lost and prospects we want to be customers, does the value proposition and tools we give our sales team match what our buyers told us?

In most cases what I have personally observed is the value proposition sales teams are using is dated and needs some tweaking to reconnect. Those seemingly little tweaks however will demonstrate you understand your markets and what is important to your buyers today. It will make your sales team stand out in a sea of other sales reps saying….

We are the best at….

We have the most….

We have been in business 70 years and….

We have the best quality in the industry…

We have the most innovative solutions…

You get the idea…

Instead, your salespeople will lead with questions that came out of your “value proposition audit” and they will stand out positively in your buyers minds.

Having served company  Presidents for over 30 years I hear that voice saying…” I hear what you are saying Mark but this seems like it is a lot of work and will take a great deal of time…we have numbers to hit…” If that is a concern you are wrestling with let me assure you, this market work should only take 30-45 days and it will make your team more effective, efficient, and become a way your company will be distinctive in your market.

 

What happens if you don’t do a value proposition audit?

 

You will hope what your salespeople are saying is connecting with current and new customers. If what your salespeople are saying, your sales brochures discuss and worst of all your web site says is dated it created a breach of trust with your buyers.

 

My challenge is why risk it? If you feel traveling to your top accounts is too expensive visit your top 2 and call the rest.

 

If you are looking for some great content on creating your value proposition after your audit I recommend the following sites:

 

Useful Value Proposition Examples (and How to Create a Good One) 

 

4 steps to building a compelling value proposition

 

How to write a value proposition that works

 

Three points to create a value proposition

 

How to wire a great value proposition

 

Words that get meetings

 

 

So how about your company?

 

When was the last time you updated your value proposition?

 

Do you feel comfortable sharing the impact that had on your sales?

 

Are you sure what your salespeople are saying is helping your business or hurting it now and into the future?

 

I promise you this value proposition audit is not difficult and can be completed in 30-45 days.

 

If it sounds expensive I want to challenge you…

 

How expensive is it to not be selling buyers you could be selling?

 

How expensive is your travel costs that do not produce new business?

 

What impact would a 20% increase in your sales close rate have on your bottom line?

 

The biggest challenge, if you are the leader of your company is hearing the voice of the customers in some cases. You must have a culture where your team is free to discuss things that may not be politically correct but can impact your business. The comments you are hearing are based on buyer perceptions today. If the value proposition you personally wrote 5 years ago is no longer resonating it is not about you! When you wrote it , it worked! Something changed. This exercise is not about you as a leader, your vision or capabilities. If you are a leader in your organization you have secured that position by making many good decisions over time. It is about positioning your products and services to win orders and growing your business profitably.

 

One last thought, assume you do a value proposition audit and find what your salespeople are saying does resonate with buyers. Great! If sales are not hitting your sales numbers you can now zero in on other areas where you can coach your team.

 

 

Fix Sales Problems: Price Strategically

Fix Sales Problems: Price Strategically

 

 

 

If you had to pick one pricing method that consistently produces greater sales increases, increased market share and increased profits what would it be?Your  sales team has done the heavy lifting… and they have made it though emails ,voicemails and finally met and presented a targeted buyer. Your team has used social selling and selling tools designed specifically to get to this phase of the sales process and build trust along the journey. The buyer feels your proposal could solve their problem and asks the big question: “how much? What is your price?” Would it shock you to learn most companies spend more time negotiating the lease agreements on their office copiers than they spend on price strategy? There are many ways you can price your product or service.

 

Price is one of McCarthy’s four P’s of marketing. Pricing is a critical part of any value exchange. Why is it price often receives the least amount of research and strategy?

 

Let’s start with a few definitions….

 

What is the definition of price?

 

Price is the value that is placed on a particular product or service as the result of a number of variables, research and understanding of risk.

 

What is the definition of pricing strategy?

 

A pricing strategy looks at market conditions, competitive pricing, industry margins, costs, the dollar value of the sale,the product life cycle, the products uniqueness, as well as other factors.

 

What are the most common forms of pricing?

 

Cost Plus Pricing- as the name implies you determine your cost to produce, overhead cost and mark the product up based on the profit you wish(need) to realize. The trouble with this model is it is internally focused and not market driven. With this model you run the risk of pricing your product to low or too high. You run the risk of loosing sales you could have (and should have ) won and not making the maximum profit your product could have realized. Companies who practice this method often ask for “another kick at the can” when they are informed their price was too high. (In my post discussing kick the can I share the reasons this strategy is dangerous.)

 

Low cost strategy– in this model you price your products low and you have structured your company to have low overhead and low marketing  and selling costs. In this model you might hear someone say: “ the margin is low but we will make it up in volume” We often see this in commodity products where price is the only main differentiation .

 

Predatory pricing- you price your product low to “get your foot in the door” of an account or market. The intent is the price will rise after a specific period of time. Companies struggle in the price increase phase if they have not established a strong value proposition in the mind of their buyers before the price increase occurs.

 

Premium pricing- you price your product high. This is associated with a product or service that has little or no competition of similar quality and or performance. These kinds of products have clear distinction in the market place and buyers place a high value on them. These market driven, unique products are seen as the best of best and buyers are willing to pay for them.When you hear their names you think best in class; Gunner Kennels, TenPoint Cross Bows, Yeti coolers, InVue Security Products, and many more. Each of these companies have other substitute products in their markets and many competitors. What they all have in common is focus. The made it their job to understand their buyer, the problem the buyer wanted solved, and they solved it completely.

 

I have seen a number of companies try to be more strategic in their price methodology. Where I have seen some companies struggle is only talking to their current customers when doing market research. This is the most common mistake. The difficulty is, for most companies, your current customers only represent approximately 30% of your total market. If you only speak to your customers you are missing 70% of the market’s voice. Keep in mind that 70% is buying something similar to your product and they are not buying from you for a reason. You really need to know why some buyers buy from you and why some do not. Without this critical market data companies run the risk of becoming internally focused on what they want/ need to make. This one of the four P’s has more emotion tied to it than any other. One of the toughest sales I often have to make is not in the market with large customers, but internally to help companies want to be market driven.

There is an excellent article on the advantages of being market driven you can read here. A quote from the article shares;Your strategy should be driven by the needs of the market.  Becoming market-driven is critical to intentional product success.

Some of the advantages of being market driven that i have experienced include, but not limited to:

  • Quickly deliver new and improved solutions that address the changing needs of your markets.
  • Quickly identify and understand the changes in your market.
  • Higher than industry average profits
  • Faster sales growth than competitors
  • Higher sales close %’s

The best method of pricing I have found is “strategic pricing”.

-Mark Allen Roberts

In strategic pricing you have done your market homework. You understand the value of your product to your customer and you can quantify it. It is a marketing decision (not an accounting exercise) that is the result of market knowledge, knowing your buyers and buyer personas, competitors, substitute products, buyer process and buying criteria. Strategy work is hard work and it is not done overnight.

 

As you can see pricing is not as easy as some people believe. It takes a great deal of strategic thought and that is why a number of companies price their products incorrectly.

 

As consumers we are all buyers. Buyers are wired to spend until we experience pain. This is based on the field of neuroeconomics. As a buyer you stop spending when the perceived pain of spending is greater than the perceived gain. Your marketing team must determine that tipping point in their research and apply it to your strategic pricing.

 

If you want to experience rapid sales growth,increase sales close rates, increased market share and higher profits you must start strategic pricing. The burden is on your team to clearly understand your market and how your buyers make decisions. You must understand your distinctive competence and share it in a value proposition that resonates with your buyers.

 

What kind of pricing method does your team use?

 

What are some examples where cost plus pricing may work?

 

Has your team used strategic pricing? Any stories you can share?

 

Would you say you are market driven or internally driven? 

 

Are Your Salespeople Guilty Of “Sales Malpractice”?

Are Your Salespeople Guilty of “Sales Malpractice”?

 

How do market leading sales teams consistently achieve and surpass sales goals? What is the secret sauce…if there is one? Why do buyers buy? The main reason why buyers buy is a feeling of trust the salesperson understands their problem to be solved and what they are proposing will solve it completely. If your salespeople are not taking the time to qualify buyer pain they are guilty of “Sales Malpractice”.

Let’s say you were feeling off, just not right. You noticed a lack of energy and you occasionally felt dizzy.  This goes on for a while then you notice when you climb stairs you have a tightness in your chest. If you are like me, you probably ignore the symptoms and hope they go away. But then one day you mention them to your wife and the next thing you know you have an appointment at the doctor’s office.

You arrive and the doctor’s office and He or She quickly looks you over and starts talking…”I see you look to be in your 50’s or so? Based on my experience my patients in their 50’s have issues with blood pressure so here’s a prescription for Lisinopril  , and you look a bit overweight so you may have type 2 diabetes so I will prescribe Meltormin . You know, based on how you are dressed I am guessing you are a busy executive, and over the last 6 months I have seen a great deal of patients like you with anxiety so I will give you a prescription for Paxil. Oh and as we age, and if you have any history of heart disease I will give you a prescription for Coumadin. Please pay my office manager on the way out.”

Question: would you trust this doctor and fill the prescriptions?

I hope your quick answer is; NO!

Why?

I heard a great quote I want to share:

“Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice “

Is the doctor in the above example a bad person? No. Is there a high probability based on the frequency he or she sees people one of the above may solve your problem? Possibly? So where did they fail, why do you lack trust in their prescriptions? The simple answer is they did not take the time to understand you. They did not run tests to determine if the symptoms you are having can be tied to a specific problem. The doctor in the above example “assumed” what has worked for people who look like you will work for you.

“Mark, this is a crazy example, no doctor would do this, and they would be sued for malpractice!”

I hear you and you are right. Now let me ask you…

Are your salespeople guilty of malpractice?

Do you know?… I mean really know for sure?

What are some signs your salespeople are guilty of  Sales Malpractice?

  • Poor close rate on new customers
  • Lower than industry gross margins
  • Not prospecting the right customers
  • Having to deliver on promises your product or service was not designed to solve
  • Poor customer satisfaction survey results
  • Low repeat purchase percentage
  • New accounts slow to pay and or request return authorizations

If you ask salespeople why buyers buy and why they don’t you will often hear one of two reasons;

  • Price
  • Relationship with current vendor

If you ask buyers why they buy and why they don’t “price” is not on the list. You will hear things in the win loss call like;

  • Salesperson did not do their research on our company, asked me questions my web site could have answered
  • Salesperson did not understand the problem(s) I need to solve, so I did not trust their proposal ( prescription)
  • Salesperson assumed what my problems were and pitched me asking for my current vendors business.
  • Since I do not understand how this new salesperson and the company they represent are different, all I can do is compare price

Years ago I heard a great quote: Salespeople are like water and they seek the path of least resistance” If you are a salesperson you have that sales goal monkey on your back. You are accountable to a specific number and everyone in the company sees your results and asks questions if you fail sell. A common problem I have seen salespeople do is what we refer to as “spill their candy in the lobby” in hopes of closing sales faster.

When salespeople meet with buyers they have a bag of offerings (their candy) they can offer. Maybe it’s an onsite audit of your current system for free for a large commitment. Maybe they can offer extended terms if they need to. Your company may have the ability to do 100% outgoing product inspection, and if it’s a retail product your sales may be  empowered to offer free ½ page ad to support a large enough order.   The salesperson is so anxious to sell and get their goal monkey off their back they proceed to spew all offerings hoping one or more connects. In my training I refer to this also as “Feature and Benefit BINGO”. As I shared in a video in 2010;

Feature and benefit BINGO is a game untrained salespeople play far too often. They “show up and then they throw up” and they spew all the features and benefits they can think of waiting for your buyer to jump up and yell”…BINGO….I get it….I figured out what problems you can solve for me…”

Will a salesperson occasionally make a sale this way? Sure. What I recommend is teaching your salespeople meaningful questions by market and by buyer persona type that helps them clearly and completely understands the buyer’s pain. If your salespeople fail to understand pain they are guilty of Sales Malpractice and it will cost you….

  • Sales you could have won
  • Profits if you win the sale
  • Customer retention
  • And worst of all cause” brand damage

How about your company….

Are your salespeople guilty of Sales Malpractice?

Have you experienced any of the above signs of Sales Malpractice?

Have you seen other signs of Sales Malpractice?

Our markets are more competitive than ever before in the history of your business. Your buyer’s problems change and your salespeople must be skilled at asking questions, qualifying pain and prescribing solutions that make that pain go away. The quickest way to see if your salespeople are spilling their candy in the lobby is attend 7-10 sales calls with them. Once you train your team to diagnose buyer current pain you will be back on track to achieving your sales objectives.

Photo credits http://www.abpla.org/what-is-malpractice