Increase Sales: Sweet Sales And Profits From Value Based Sales

Increase Sales: Sweet Sales and Profits from Value Based Sales

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Value based pricing adds value in B2B sales.

 

As Value Based sales thought leader Bob Apollo shares:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What if we took a Value Based Sales approach?

 

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

 

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

 

Number of florists: about 33,000 retailers

Revenue of industry: $7 Billion

Approximately 30% of revenue not flowers: $2 Billion

Estimate of possible Chocolate sales: $750 Million

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

Estimated Gross Profit impact to Harry London: $25 Million

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Nothing speaks louder than the voice of customers”

  • Mark Allen Roberts

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

That was a Value Based Sales Approach.

 

Lets break it down to its key components:

 

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

 

 

How do your salespeople sell today?

 

Why do you win sales?

 

Why do you loose sales?

 

Does your team use a value-based model?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

10 Sales Enablement Resources To Improve Sales Results

10 Sales Enablement Resources to Improve Sales Results

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

1.Sales Enablement Infographic 

 

2.The definitive guide to sales enablement

 

3.Sales Enablement Best Practices

 

4.Sales readiness technology buyers guide 

 

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

 

6.8 keys for a successful Sales Enablement Program

 

7.What is Sales Enablement?

 

8.Sales Enablement buyers checklist

 

9.Use Buying Process Exit Criteria to IncreaseYour Sales Effectiveness

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

Sales revenue increases

 

Gross profit per sale increases

 

Increase in sales close %

 

Higher customer satisfaction

 

Sales will close faster

 

Increase in engagement in your sales team

 

Improved retention of sales top performers

 

Sales will hit forecasts

 

Increase in Brand value

 

New product launches that meet or exceeds ROI targets

 

Open new profitable markets

 

 

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

 

Has your team implemented a sales enablement strategy?

 

What impact has it had for your business?

Is QDD Crippling Your Sales Growth?

 

 

 

 

 

Salespeople are disqualifying 70% of leads, why? Of those 70% of possible new customers disqualified, 80% go on to buy from someone in the next 12 months! Those lost sales are sales you could have (and should have) won. In this post we will identify a disease called QDD and how to cure it and fix your sales problems.

Your marketing team developed a lead generation strategy that is dropping a number of potential opportunities into your marketing and sales funnel. The accounts feel like they have a good possibility of becoming orders since they are from your core industries and you know they are buying products and or services just like yours. You have been tracking this  activity and it looks like you will see a strong return on marketing dollars invested based on the number of new opportunities. The entire senior management team and the board are excited and they are waiting in anticipation of hitting the sales and profit numbers. However as the sales leader you are not seeing these opportunities moving along the sales journey from opportunity to prospect to customer, and you are not seeing closed sales dollars increasing? Why?

 

Your salespeople are suffering from QDD.

 

I get excited when a team embraces the concept of marketing and driving what should be warm opportunities to my sales teams. They took the time to do voice of the customer research and determined problems their markets have, understand how buyers buy, and what buyers need today to make buying decisions. They positioned their products as solutions to those current problems in their markets. They understand their company’s value proposition and launched their message. The number of new opportunities is climbing each week and reviewing some of the account names you know they buy a product or service like yours…but you are not seeing new orders? How can this be? Having lived this scenario more than I care to admit, what you are experiencing is QDD; Quick to Disqualify Disorder.

 

When presented with new opportunities sales super stars say;

 

awesome, I know they buy products like I sell and I will one way or the other figure out the problems they currently have and help them”.

 

If your salesperson is suffering from QDD they say;

 

ah, I have heard of this company( even if they haven’t) , I tried to sell this company six years ago( one voice mail) , I doubt they will buy, they are probably happy with their current supplier and just price shopping us, so I will follow up.”

 

Do you hear the difference in mind set? The sales star understands the value he and your products bring and is excited to help authentically serve one more person. The salesperson suffering with QDD will “go through the motions” but already believes he or she will not sell the account. ( and they won’t) The sales star is seeking to serve; the QDD salesperson is focused on disqualifying the opportunity quickly so no one asks the status and next step to win their business. Who do you think will win the sale?

 

How do you know if you have someone on your sales team suffering from QDD?

 

By the Numbers

The first thing I do is look at the numbers…how many opportunities has this person been given in the last 3-6 months and how many went from possible opportunity to lead to close? Compare this to others on your team and if you find a disproportionate amount of opportunities are not turning into qualified leads, your salesperson has QDD.

 

By Mix

Review the product mix sold by your team. Quickly you should see a few patterns emerge. Look for anyone on your team who does not meet a similar product mix. What I am particularly looking for here is new products; sales from products you have been aggressively marketing. Salespeople suffering from QDD will have their product mix heavily weighted with older products or services in your offering.

 

By Margins

Assuming your marketing group has done their job and the products you have and are launching are brilliant solutions to unresolved market problems, you should have priced them at a higher margin based on the value they provide. Salespeople with QDD will have the lowest blended profit margin for their area of responsibility. They do not understand how to sell value so they take a commodity and relationship selling approach.

 

By Listening

Sales super stars will focus on the value, the value the customer will receive once their problem is solved. They are excited to help the customer, serve the customer they are shocked if they don’t move to the next step in the sales process. Salespeople with QDD will tell you their (your) customers are all about price and we are too high.

 

The shame is when I interview buyers on why they do not buy, rarely is price even on the list. What buyers do say is the salesperson did not seem to understand my problem, did not listen, and therefore I did not trust their solution. You very likely could have, should have won their business, but because your salesperson is suffering from QDD the buyer lacked trust.

 

You will also hear another why you are not able to break into this account and it will sound something like; “a competitor’s got a great relationship with his current supplier and won’t even consider us.” Relationships are important don’t get me wrong, however if a buyer trusts you can better solve a problem than a current supplier you should at least move to the next step in your sales process and not be dismissed so early.

 

View the CRM

Take time to review the CRM entries. Sales stars will be logging discussions, and have future appointments scheduled and maybe even new business quoted. Salespeople with QDD will have a series of entries that say; “left voicemail” and “sent email” and the prospects will only have one or two entries. Sales stars know you need to engage with buyers 8-15 times before activity occurs. QDD salespeople go through the motions, as if to say; “yes, I did my job, I made the call, but they obviously were not interested or they would have called me back,” They are focused more on showing activity than driving results.

 

One company I helped had a 42% close rate historically so 58% of the time they did not receive a return on their lead generation and cost of sale investment. Each of their sales team had QDD to some degree. Over the years they tried to fix their sales problem by adding more people, more costs and focused on having more quotes. They even rewarded sales with a variable compensation based on numbers of quotes ( not quotes closed). Sales were declining and profit margins were dropping.

 

We did customer voice work, created a repeatable sales process, trained sales, coached sales launched a strategic business development program and increased the average close rate to 68%,and key whale account close rates to 90% in 18 months.

 

We opened over 250 new customers and sales from new customers represented over 24% of total sales year in year three.

 

The good news is QDD is curable and does not need to be terminal. 

 

So how about your sales team…

 

Are you hitting your sales and profit goals?

 

Do you have one salesperson consistently missing their goals?

 

Do you have a number of new leads that are not turning into revenue?

 

Are you seeing this salesperson not moving opportunities through your sales process to the next level?

 

Are you concerned one or more of your sales team has QDD?

 

QDD cripples sales and profit growth efforts.

 

QDD salespeople believe if new sales were out there they would have already won them. They are not sold on how sales occur today and are waiting for things to get back to normal. Well, this is the new normal and they must adapt.

 

The first step in solving any problem is identifying you have it.

 

If this post made you wonder (or made you a but nervous) about one or a couple of salespeople on your team I recommend you take the five steps above to learn if one of your team members has QDD.

 

Aside from lost sales and profits you team could have won, should have won, I want to warn you QDD is highly contagious and must be identified, quarantined and cured as soon as possible.

 

This condition is curable if the salesperson agrees they want and need to fix it.

 

Some teams will put the QDD salesperson into more of a farmer than hunter role.

 

The trouble is QDD cripples sales results for new products to current customers just as selling new customers.

 

If you find QDD has infected your sales team you must cure it or remove to as soon as possible while there is still time to hit your numbers.

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.

What Karate Taught Me About Making Sales Training Stick

What Karate Taught Me About Making Sales Training Stick

 

 

 

In my last post I shared how doing customer voice research can help identify needed sales training for your team. Training salespeople is over a $ 3 billion business. However studies show 80%-90% of training does not stick and will be lost within 24 hours. How do we train adults and make it stick? In this post I will share a training process that is proven to make training stick.

 

Somewhere, right now as you are reading this someone is in sales training. Training occurs for many reasons. One of the most common reasons teams conduct sales training is to change behaviors and beliefs. I have been hired to train sales teams for a number of reasons. The most common is: “we want to improve our overall sales efficiency, effectiveness and increase sales profitably. We want our sales team to be more proactive,…. more hunters than farmers” Sales training is about modifying behavior so the new behavior now becomes the norm. Why does some training create a positive impact and some does not? In this post I will share a training method I use that I learned as a Karate student.

 

While in college at Kent State University I took a Karate class as one of my non-business electives. I enjoyed it so much I joined the local karate club and over the years became club president and helped teach Karate classes.

 

I started out as a white belt. A big part of that training was getting our bodies in shape for the training that would come next. We were taught basic movements that we would build on as we progresses through the other belt colors.

 

If you have never taken a Karate class the design methodology of how they teach is brilliant.!

 

Organized

 

Everyone first lines up from the highest-ranking students in the front with the instructor to the lowest ranking new students in the back of the room. How the students participate and interact is designed into the training for the maximum expereince of the student.

 

Make us want to learn

 

Our Instructor first tells us what we will be doing and discusses the important parts of the technique and when we might use it. Next they show us what we will be doing.

 

Team Alignment and consistency

 

As we begin the entire class is moving in unison. If you are new you can always watch people in front of you to follow along.

 

                                                                  

Practice

 

We practiced techniques over and over. While we practiced our instructor would walk around the room and observe our form.

 

 

Coaching/ demonstration

 

If we were not moving correctly they would give us adjustments to make and once again show us how the movement is supposed to look.

 

 

Break into small groups

 

About half way though the practice our instructor would break us up into groups based on skill level. The white and yellow belts would work on basic techniques and would often be led by a green belt.

 

 

Teach based skill level ( fill in gaps)

 

The groups were broken out by our skill level and  belt rank. Our belt rank was something we were tested on to demonstrate our understanding and ability to execute a very well designed series of movements.

 

                                                    

Show me you get it

 

Once a student had practiced the basic movements for a specific period of time, usually months and we felt the basics created the foundation we could build on we introduced application. What is the movement you are doing designed to do? This instruction was instructor led and involved working with a partner. We practiced our blocks, punches, and kicks very slowly with a partner. Some times we were on the offensive and other times we were on the defensive side of each technique.

 

                                    

After foundation established build upon it

 

While the new students were learning the basics and how to apply them, the other ranks were learning more advanced techniques and series of movements called Kata’s . The more advanced your belt rank the more advanced your training. All training however was built on a common foundation of basic movements practiced over and over again.

 

 

Assessment to understood standards of performance

 

When your instructor felt you have consistently demonstrated your understanding of techniques for your belt rank you would be tested. The entire club would watch you perform what you have learned and hear the instructor’s comments and suggestions.

 

 

Importance of skill level badges

 

If you passed the test, and some did not, you would be awarded your new belt and the process would start all over again with new techniques demonstrated, explained, you execute them, practice, and the instructors would continuously coach you until you performed behaviors correctly without thinking to the agreed level of performance.

 

                              

Introduce stress to see use of new behavior

 

Once you have demonstrated your ability with basic techniques and applied them successfully you will begin sparing. Sparing is a controlled fight to use the techniques you have learned in a live situation. What we are looking for at this phase is does the student apply or try to apply what we have taught? Does the student freeze, and this often happen the first time they step into the ring? Does the student continue to demonstrate control or does their emotions take over in this stressful situation?

 

 

Create safe environment for coaching

 

When I taught it was not unusual the first time a student would move into a live sparing they would spar with me.

 

 

Training success is determined by student’s ability to demonstrate

 

This is not about winning but helping the student feel what it is like to apply what they have learned in a safe and coaching environment.

 

 

Ask students to teach other students

 

                                                                  

Coach

 

                                                              

Practice

 

                                                                

Repeat

 

Why all this talk about Karate and making sales training stick?

 

I believe all sales trainers would value taking Karate and learning how to make training stick.

 

The model traditional martial arts have used for centuries is brilliant.

 

This is the same model I have used for years when training, coaching and leading salespeople. The only thing I would add today is record your employees being trained and record your coaching in a digital format so they can take with them. As new training skills are introduced and practiced, the student can review the recordings and see their progress over time.

 

Using this training model helps your sales team own what you are teaching and make the behavior modifications you desire.

 

Teach me

 

Show me

 

Ask me to do it

 

Have me practice

 

Coach me

 

Teach me how to apply new behavior

 

Test me in a live situation, assess and coach

 

Follow up training with coaching

 

Add new skill sets once basics are consistently demonstrated

 

Break us up into small groups

 

Have clear training levels, in this case belts and everyone knows what is expected at each level

 

Today our sales teams need short bursts of teaching followed by how to apply and practice.

 

If you would like your salespeople to adapt to how buyers want and need to buy today I recommend you implement or hire a sales training company that follows the above methodology.

 

Does your team need sales training?

 

What new behaviors would you like to see your team demonstrate?

 

Does your sales on boarding training build on a foundation of basic skills?

 

How does your team assess the ongoing future sales training needs of your team members?

 

How do you currently identify gaps in new sales employee training?

 

Our markets and buyers are changing how they buy. Our teams must adapt and to help them adapt we must lead training programs that result in new behaviors that meet what our markets and buyers want and need. Implement your own or hire a sales training company that follows the above methodology and your training will stick and you will realize the ROI you desire.

 

For more information on training adults and trends in training methods please visit some of the following web sites.

 

Latest training methodology 

 

Most effective training

 

Effective training methodology

 

Creative training techniques 

 

Sales training do’s and don’t report 

 

Sales effectiveness training 

A Cup Of Tea, And Why Strategy Work Is So Difficult

A cup of tea, and why strategy work is so difficult

 

Why is strategy work so difficult? What is the secret to developing strategy that drives profitable sales growth? Why will 90% of strategic plans fail? There is a high probability as you read this post your sales and marketing team have already decided the strategy your senior leadership team developed is not working and have retreated to the way we have always done things around here. Why? …and more importantly what can we do to create strategies that result in repeatable profitable sales growth? In this post I will share why most strategies are doomed to fail and how to write strategies that result in adding value to your business.

First we need to be grounded in common definitions because there is a lot of confusion when it comes to strategy work.

Strategy

Strategy is a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time.

The skill of making or carrying out plans to achieve a goal

 

Marketing strategy

A marketing strategy is a process or model to allow a company or organization to focus limited resources on the best opportunities to increase sales and thereby achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

Product Strategy

Is often called the roadmap of a product and outlines the end-to-end vision of the product and what the product will become. Companies utilize the product strategy in strategic planning and marketing to identify the direction of the company’s activities.


Sales Strategy
 

A sales strategy is a plan by a business or individual on how to go about selling products and services and increasing profits.

Tactics

Means by which a strategy is carried out; planned and ad hoc activities meant to deal with the demands of the moment, and to move from one milestone to other in pursuit of the overall goal(s).

Now that we have some common understanding with  words we hear often throughout the day we need to identify the leading reason why 90% of strategies (like those your team is supposed to be executing now) will fail.

One word: ….Hubris

Unlike the words strategy, marketing strategy and tactics, hubris is not a word often used so here is a good definition:

Hubris is from Greek, where it meant “excessive pride, violating the bounds set for humans” and was always punished by the gods. We no longer have the Greek gods, so in English it just refers to over-the-top self-confidence. If you call yourself the best in something, you better have the goods to back it up, since too much hubris can lead to embarrassment and humiliation. It’s an age-old human failing: pride goeth before the fall.

I have been very fortunate to have great mentors in my life that gave me gifts. One gift I use in strategy work ironically came to me through my Karate instructor Sensei Bill Marcum. I was attending Kent State University and I needed a non business elective so I took Isshin ryu Karate. After a few classes the instructor said she thought I seemed to catch on quick and I might consider joining the Isshin Ryu Karate club on campus go deeper than her class can offer.

I joined the club and the first year or so was just the basics and I grew anxious to learn more combinations of moves I could use in a self defense situation. The time came for me to start Kumite which is free style fighting. I found when I practiced all the new moves I was learning I could repeat them without much correction. When I stepped into the ring I went back to boxing which I learned at an early age. Looking back part of it was hubris….pride, not wanting to loose, not wanting to be embarrassed and the bigger part was what I was learning was new and often strange compared to what I have known for years and that I knew worked. However I was never going to become skilled in  the new , better techniques if I did not start doing them.

My instructor pulled me aside one day and read me a story titled; A cup of Tea out of a book: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones and it went something like this..

A Cup of Tea
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Just like Nan-in, my instructor Sensei Bill could not teach me new techniques that will feel and probably look awkward at first until I un-learn what I have been taught and believe to be true. The same is true when doing strategy work to fix sales problems.

I found a great quote in a book I am currently reading by Greg Bustin about accountability I want to share…

FullSizeRender (2)

How do you develop a strategy that works and results in profitable sales growth? You need a few heretics on your team to challenge truths and beliefs your strategy is built upon. In Art Kleiner’s book titled: The Age of Heretics , Kleiner‘s definition of a heretic is:

“a visionary who creates change in large-scale companies balancing contrary truths they can’t deny against their loyalty to their organizations.”

He discusses how managers get stuck into a rut and need heretics to point out new points of view to get past the deadlock and move forward. Later he describes some as “rebels unwilling to kowtow to the corporate bureaucracy.”

I also have used this quote by Peter Drucker often to keep me motivated…

“My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.”

 

If your team wants to be one of the 10% of companies that have strategic plans that work…empty your tea cup of how you think the market works, how we do things around here, how things have always been… Fill your cup with current market data gathered from both customers and prospects recently sharing why they buy and do not buy today.

Strategy work is difficult so we should not be surprised so many strategies fail to be executed and fail to deliver on their promises to increase sales and profits. To insure your team does not fall into the trap of assuming why buyers buy and why they don’t you must tune into your market on a frequent basis and adjust.

Does your team have a strategic plan that is driving explosive sales growth this year?

When was the last time you conducted a SWOT analysis?

Do you have a culture where your salespeople are safe to share market truths?

When was the last time you adjusted your value proposition?

Are you a salesperson asked to sell with a value proposition that is no longer true? How’s that working for you?

As the leader of your organization is it time to conduct a value proposition gut check?

If you would value more to read on this topic may I suggest?

Report: How to Make Your Number in 2016

Your “gut” and “intuition” are not enough…today

Why do 78% of Sales Strategies Fail? … Culture Must Come before Strategy

Will Your Strategic Plan Work?

9 Easy Steps to Developing a Marketing Strategy that Drives Business Results

Differentiation – Is Yours Real or False?

7 Key Steps to a Growth Strategy That Works Immediately

Are “Politically Incorrect Market Secrets” (PIMS) Stalling Your Sales Growth?

Stop Asking Your Salespeople to “Sell Naked”

Increase Sales and Profits; Create Distinction!

Stop Making Your Salespeople “Assume The Position” …

 

If you have other content on the subject of how to create strategies that increase sales please add a link in the comments section.

Pic credits http://www.freshesttea.com/black-tea

What If Fixing Your Sales Problem Was Simple?

What if Fixing your Sales problem was Simple?

 

 

I love the above quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson. What if fixing your sales problem was simple? What if your sales team could be great? Far too often I see clients try too many tactics and fail to connect to a core strategy to understand then completely solve the problem. I hear owners and CEO’s describe sales problems that need fixed in many ways; We need “more sales”. We need “increased sales”. How do we “sell new products”? How do we “increase our sales close rate”? How people describe sales problems they want to fix varies but what they all want and need is to create sales velocity that I shared in a post some time ago…

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

Easy to say, but the perception is it is hard to do…Not so fast!

What if I told you growing your sales profitably is actually “Simple” if you focus on one strategy?

I was asked to be the keynote speaker for a large local company having their national meeting recently. I asked the person in charge of the meeting what they wanted me to speak about?  How can I best serve those in attendance? What is the outcome you want from me kicking off your national meeting? He responded: we want what everyone wants; more sales, higher profits, and product launches that hit and surpass our product launch sales goals. Can you share how to fix these sales problems? No Problem I shared it’s what I have done for over 30 years, I will give your team a great experience.

To get my creative juices flowing I did some Google searches to read advice this group may have already found…

Increase sales : 623 million results

Increase Sales and Profits : 270 million results

Fix Sales Problems: 85 million results

The trouble is so many of these results is they jump right into tactics and lack a focused strategy. No wonder so many companies struggle with increasing sales profitably. What advice should you listen to? What programs, training, coaching should you follow?

What I am about to say may cause some people to say;” It can’t be that easy”, but I have case study after case study that proves it is.

If you want to fix all your sales problems and increase sales and profits you must …..Are you ready?

Know your customers and markets. (That’s it …simple right?)

“The reason sales goals are missed and sales increases fail to happen is companies jump into sales tactics without clearly knowing their customers.”

  • Mark Allen Roberts

Teams try tactics until they find one that seems to work. The trouble with this approach is we serve dynamic markets. Markets shift quickly and we must constantly be in tune with our customers and markets. We must understand the process they use to buy, the criteria they must have to make buying decisions and clearly understand the problems they are solving today.

Who is the worst person to inform you of market shifts and understand unresolved problems?…Salespeople! (Kills me to say this) Why is this the case? For the same reason they are the worst people to conduct win loss interviews. They are focused on selling. It’s what you pay them to do. The trouble in most sales organizations is they have been so focused on selling they fail to practice active listening. Therefore they miss the problems buyers share. What is the #1 reason buyers don’t buy? Hint it’s not price… as I shared in this post it’s the buyer felt the salesperson failed to understand the problem and therefore they did not trust the solution they presented would fix the problem completely.

So who in your organization is focused on knowing your customers and market?

After sharing this I paused and watched the reaction in the room. I could tell some had this look like: it can’t be that easy…that simple. I am sure the salespeople in the room were thinking: we already know that, what a waste of time…who is this guy, I know my customers, and why did they bring him in? I had one marketing person approach me after the event and say; we have wanted answers to these questions but sales won’t let us meet with customers. In case you are thinking the same thing, let me ask the same questions I asked this room to turn this speech (this post) into a discussion….

Who are your customers? (Notice I did not say who pays you, who are your customers?)

Who are your buyer personas? … Are they predominantly male/ female? Age?  Education and background? How do they shop? Where do they shop? How are they paid? How are they measured inside their organizations? What discipline do they come from…Engineering? Accounting ? Human resources? What are some current market problems others like them have?

What problems are they facing today they may or may have had a year ago?

How do they describe them in their words?

What do your buyers need to make purchases today?

How big are their problems?

What is the cost if they do not solve these problems?

How do problems like this show themselves?

Who influences the sale at your customers?

What do the influencers need to make purchase recommendations?

When your buyers search do they use a desktop or a mobile device?

I asked a number of industry specific questions …. (Because everyone is convinced their market is unique and special and to help those who may have tuned out want to engage and it worked)

People in attendance were sharing some feedback but for the most part the questions I need answered to fix their sales problems were not answered. Some of the answers were true 10 years ago, but based on my limited research prior to the event I knew were no longer the case. Some of the answers were fresh off their web site and were described as features not solutions to problems. I wish this was unique but it’s not. As I shared in one of my most popular posts: the reason most product launches fail is mullet marketing.

Mullet Marketing is a terms I have used for years and it implies very short efforts in the front, the researching the problem and customers. However when sales fail to meet plan its long on the back side, all hands on deck. In this phase sales, marketing and others are scrambling to gain answers they should have had prior to launch. I argue the same is true for all products we sell every day. So much energy and budget is spent on training, marketing, CRM systems and very little time is spent understanding and knowing your customers today.

Would you like a “simple “test to see how tuned in to your customers and market your team is?

Most of the people who read my content have midlevel or senior level roles, please ask the above questions to your teams today both marketing and sales, (don’t be alarmed even your own team does not have the same answers or no answers) . Then call three customers that you probably have a relationship with and explain how your company is always looking for better ways to serve your customers and ask them the above questions? How many did your team get right? How many did you get right? From my experience less than 20% of the companies I work with have most of the answers to the above questions. Even more disturbing is what I find most often…they share answers that were true 10 years ago but are no longer relevant. If that is the case their sales training is dated, their sales tools fail to help sales flow through the funnel, and worst of all the value proposition your salespeople are using no longer resonates and this all creates sales problems. If your value proposition is too dated it also damages your brand because you are not tuned in to what buyers require today.

If you want to fix your sales problems and increase your sales and profits: Know your customers!

The strategy of knowing your customers is a very simple one. What you must do is focus on knowing your customers and market to remove the stress of missing your sales goals. As a recent post shared one was to remove stress is to force you to focus.  Once your team achieves a clear understanding of your customers and markets it causes rapid profitable sales increases.

If you agree with the “what” that needs to be done but you are struggling with the “how” my next post will share an innovative way to capture what you need to know to not only survive but thrive with your customers and markets.

Increase Sales And Profits (Faster) With Ideal Customer Profiles

Increase Sales and Profits (Faster) with Ideal Customer Profiles

How do you increase sales and profits quickly? Are there any secrets our team should consider in our new business development objectives? Yes! …teach your salespeople to disqualify potential poor fitting customers sooner with ideal customer profiles.

I can hear some old sales dogs saying; “what are you talking about Mark? Every sale is a good sale…” but I can assure you this is not true. I have learned the hard way that not every prospective account is an account you should sell.

My client had a major shift in one of their markets and this caused a sales decline of over 40% within 18 months so they brought me in to help fix their sales problem. This company had been serving their various markets for over 40 years and wanted to avoid possible layoffs at any cost. So like many companies they were focused on selling their way out of this problem. Quickly we reviewed our current customers, the industries they served and conducted win loss calls to better understand why they buy and why they do not buy. In addition we mapped the buying process and made a list of all the potential customers in this market. (Typically the customers you serve today only represent 25%-30% of the actual potential market.) The main qualifying filters sales and marketing used included;

  • Does this possible customer have a problem we can solve?
  • Is the problem painful enough they want to solve it?
  • Are they willing to spend money to solve it?

(…and that’s where I blew it, I should have required our salespeople to ask one more question…but that will follow soon)

Lists by sales region were created. A multi touch marketing campaign was launched; funded and new sales tools were created from what we learned in the win loss calls and customer interviews. Very quickly accounts were being qualified and salespeople were buying airplane tickets and having many potential new customer meetings. New accounts were being added to our mix. These are great results right? That’s what every company leader wants and needs right… new customers? Not so much… We engaged and sold some companies we wish we would have never sold. Some had cultures that were in direct competition with how we served our customers and more importantly how we treated our own employees. These new customers resulted in painful (and costly) experiences in service, payment, and became an overall a drain on our recourses that started to negatively impact the accounts we valued most. In a recent post I shared how “fit” is one of the three criteria we should use when evaluating salespeople. I can now say with 100% conviction sales must also qualify possible new customer partners based on fit. The additional question we should have asked was;

  • Does this account match the type of customers we value and have proven our capacity to provide exceptional service and profitable relationships with?

As the leader you must answer the above question. How do you know if this “whale” of an account will launch your needed sales velocity…or be an anchor that negatively impacts your teams’ sales and profits?

There are many resources on the internet on how to qualify customers you can search if you wish. However providing your salespeople your ideal customers is critical to winning new business you want and will value.

Some questions to consider as you create your ideal customer characteristics:

Who are your top sales accounts today?

What markets provide over 40% of your sales today?

Why do they buy from you?

What gross profit % do you realize?

What products do they buy?

What is the location of your most valued customers? North America…International…East Coast US…?

What is their service expectation?

What is their quality expectation?

How do they pay their bills? (net 30? net 60? Net 90?)

What is our value proposition for these customers?

How will your partnership be defined? …An informal discussion of expectations or a binding contract?

What is their preferred method for placing orders? Fax, call in, email, EDI, vendor portal?

What buyer persona’s value your brands promise most?

What sales cycle is your team familiar with? short…three to six months…over one year?  

Who is your ideal influencer that drives the purchase order? Buyer… Engineer…Owner…CFO… Operations… a team of department leaders?

What is their preferred form of shipment? Delivered or FOB your plant?

Is there a cultural fit in how their employees engage with each other and your team?

Can you serve the new customer today or will the new customer require new investment?

The above is not a complete list and I would encourage you to develop qualifying questions and identify the type of new customers that are ideal for your organization today. Once you create a list of the ideal traits and attributes of a customer for your organization you must map the areas that are non negotiable. For example I have served a number of startups and turn arounds and terms greater than net 60 days were a deal breaker. As our salespeople met with prospective customers the terms question was addressed very early in the relationship. Next create boundaries for other areas. For example; we will invest in the capabilities to receive orders via EDI for sales that exceed $xxxxxx.  The more detailed you can be in your ideal customer the faster your new business growth objectives will be achieved and they will have profits that meet your owner’s and investors expectations.

So how about your team…

Does your team need to sell its way out of a sales and profits short fall?

Have you identified potential customers you could sell?

Did you take the extra step to identify the traits and characteristics of customers you want?

Are you convinced the difficult customers make your organization stronger? Or do you agree they can negatively impact your service to all your customers?

 

The secret to turning around sales with profitable new customers is helping your salespeople understand what your ideal customer looks and feels like. The above questions may feel like extra work and may slow down your sales, but in reality they will improve your sales close rate, create more quick wins, and help your sales team win more profitable customers.

 

 

Increase Sales/Fix Sales Problems: Do A Midyear Sales Gut Check

Increase Sales/Fix Sales Problems: Do a Midyear Sales Gut Check

Last year approximately 70% of sales managers achieved their sales goals and of that approximately 10% surpassed their goals. So that leaves 30% of the sales manager’s not hitting plan in 2013 and in 2014 their sales regions received another increase.

What can those at plan do midyear to insure they close the year at plan?

What can those not at plan through the end of June do to insure they hit plan year end?

Quick question: How are your sales performing to goal? If you are like most companies this year’s goal was difficult as we scratch and claw our way out of the recession and you just might hit plan. How can you be sure you not only hit your sales plan but exceed it? You need to perform a midyear sales gut check.

I have been leading sales and marketing teams for more years than I like to admit. (over 30 years… but who is counting) I have used a simple process that has often resulted in a dramatic increase in underperforming sales regions as well as keep the momentum building in regions at or above plan: a midyear sales gut check. What we do is basically review each sales region’s performance to the sales playbook you prepared when the year began. Now that half the year has passed we need to review how the region performed to the sales plan we developed to hit sales objectives. Change and the rate of change is constant in our dynamic markets and as Sales Benchmark Index shared in a  recent review on Jill Konrath’s new book Agile Sales discusses:

“Fighting these changes, or denying they exist, is pointless.  You need a new skill to cope with being an overwhelmed worker. The skill needed to exceed in this environment is agility.”

If you have never done this process I want to share how I have done it in hopes it adds value to you and your salespeople. I also highly recommend you buy Agile Sales. As David Meerman Scot shared in his recent post; Agile Sales Requires a Real Time Mind Set. Good sales leaders are always asking questions and practicing what I refer to as: Clean Sales Management. Your midyear sales gut check needs you to direct your questions internally as well as externally.

What did we set out to do this year? (restate goal(s) and how we agreed we would achieve them)

What are our goals in dollars and profit dollars contributed from sales?

Where did we expect them to come from?

How has this region performed through the end of June to the goals you established for the current sales year?

What is working? (and you need to do more)

What did you think would work, has not produced the desired sales impact and you need to stop doing?

What have we learned?

What are the results on key performance indicators that drive top line results? (discuss each)

Has the market experienced any strategic shifts that can be trigger points for new sales or challenges to existing sales?

Based on the data discussed what will be your three key focus areas for the rest of the year?

If you had to pick just one, with the intent that perfectly executing that one would make the other two obsolete…what would it be?

 

A midyear gut check is something I like to perform both for the businesses I am serving but also personally and I have added this process to every team I serve. If you have not tried this process I highly encourage you to do so.

Let me leave you with a few questions that may make you want to try this process…

How is your team performing to plan YTD?

What did you plan for this year and it worked?

What did you plan and it did not work?

Based on what you have learned what changes have you made to insure the sales plan is achieved year end?

( if I served on the board of your company this is one question I have asked that has left the best CEO’s pale and at a loss for words)

As the team who has been tasked many years with” just making it happen” we need to have the desire and process to gather current market data and agilely approach our markets to insure we achieve and surpass our sales objectives.

 

Does your team practice agile sales?

 

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

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.