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.

 

 

 

Are Your Salespeople “Growing a Market”…Or Working a” Bread Route”?

Are Your Salespeople “Growing a Market”…Or Working a” Bread Route”?

A common concern I hear from business owners is their salespeople are not effective at selling net new customers. New customers, if serviced properly become lifetime customers with current and future revenue opportunities and contribute to creating sales velocity. In addition, they make up for account attrition, you know …customers who go out of business or just go away. (another future blog needed as customers do not “just go away”) New customers result in additional commissions for the salesperson right? Since new customers are so key to every businesses current and future sales revenue goals and can add additional commissions then why are sales people not closing new customers?

One of the leading reasons I have personally experienced why salespeople are not growing their markets is ; they are working a bread route.

As I have shared before one of my first jobs was a route salesman with Frito-lay. Fresh out of college I drove an 18 foot step van full of Frito-lay products to my grocery stores, convenience stores, bars, and anyone else I could open. Frito-lay made the sale of new accounts one of my key indicators along with selling additional store placement displays and gaining shelf space. The one route sales guy who would beat me to my grocery store accounts was the bread route delivery person. They would always amaze me at how fast they could get in and out of a grocery store and move on to the next account. They started very early in the morning like me, but were often done with their route by 2:00 pm. The bread route driver was focused on visiting his current accounts, accounts he and his company have relationships with, finding out what they needed and filling the shelves. They had very specific routes and timelines and if the driver executed his or her route effectively they made a good living. The bread route driver made enough income serving his current customers that he did not need to open new customers.

Fast forward to today and I see bread route drivers in all kinds of businesses. These are salespeople who call on a bank of current customers who should need additional products and or services and if they work their route they should meet their personal income goals. Current customers are the easiest to deliver products to because you and your company have a relationship with them. They welcome you in, if you ask for an appointment they make themselves available…heck, they even reply to voice mail and emails!

Selling new customers requires connecting with new people you do not know, new companies you may not be failure with and risk. No salesperson likes rejection and every time you attempt to start a discussion with a potential customer, (someone you could sell but you are not currently selling) you risk rejection. In addition, since you do not have a relationship you often experience frustration through a lack of returned phone calls and emails, trying to get past the gate keeper, trying to determine the buyer’s process and criteria and so on… all the while needing to make your sales objectives (and commissions).

So how do you know if your salespeople are growing their market or working a bread route? I have a few questions…

  1. How many net new clients have they added in the last 6 months, last 12 months?
  2. What % of their monthly commissions is the result of net new customers over the past 6-12 months?
  3. If your salespeople report on sales calls, what % of calls are net new potential customers?
  4. Do your salespeople have “everyone” in a particular market that has ever bought from you? Or do they have a fraction of the total number of accounts?
  5. When you conduct four-legged sales calls with your sales people, do they take you around to current customers and drive by a number of potential new clients, or do they add net new targets along the way?

So what’s your gut telling you right now? Are your salespeople working a bread route or growing your market? How did your team score with the above questions? Below is how I have viewed the responses to the above questions when I have helped clients.

How many net new clients have they added in the last 6 months, last 12 months?

I monitor the number of net new clients. As a general rule and can vary based on the maturity of your industry and the frequency with which your team introduces new products….if a salesperson is not adding at least 5% of their total number of customers every six months, ….they are working a bread route.

What % of their monthly commission is the result of net new customers over the past 6-12 months?

In addition to the number of new accounts I look at the revenue those accounts contributed and also how that revenue grew the salesperson’s commission. Again whether or not you have a history of launching exciting new products designed to solve the markets unresolved problems or new product flops , the maturity of your industry, the experience and training of the salesperson…I look for at least 5-7% (ideally 10 %+) of commissions coming from customers they have opened in the last 12 months…if they have little or no commission from new customers…they are working a bread route.

If your salespeople report on sales calls, what % of calls are net new potential customers?

Winning new customers requires a great deal of activity. I am not however advocationg activity without focus as I have discussed prior as another problem salespeople often encounter.  The rule I have used in multiple industries is 20 unqualified prospects should turn into 10 potentials, and from that 10, 2-3 proposals and 1 new customer. If your salespeople are not trying to connect with at least 20 new accounts per month ( 5 per week) ….they are working a bread route.

Do your salespeople have “everyone” in a particular market that has ever bought from you? Or do they have a fraction of the total number of accounts?

If all your customers are lumped into one group and not segmented based on key accounts, targeted growth accounts and you have not identified targeted net new accounts… they are working a bread route.

When you conduct four-legged sales calls with your sales people, do they take you around to current customers and drive by a number of potential new clients, or do they add net new targets along the way?

I enjoy working with salespeople in the market. I enjoy interacting with salespeople, their customers and potential new customers. If you work with your salespeople and they take you only to happy customers and drive by potential net new clients and have not started or attempted to start discussions with them…they are working a bread route.

So how did your sales team fair? Are they growing a market or working a bread route?

As long as they hit their sales numbers do you care? Should you care?

If your salespeople frustrate you by poor execution in closing new business, it could be because they are working a bread route. In my next post I will discuss how to change that behavior and drive net new customer revenues for your sales team.

The Toughest Sale an Entrepreneur Can Make….Investment Capital to Grow

 

I enjoy sales, I really do. I see sales as the ultimate example of serving others. You connect with people in your market that may have problems your product or service can solve, and you help them solve their problems. For me it’s the ultimate rush helping clients solve problems they have struggled with and felt they must learn to live with. However there is another sale entrepreneurs have to make that is not nearly as fun and can be emotionally and physically taxing if you do not know what you are doing…raising investment capital.

Typically the companies I serve have the capital and or are self funding and I am asked to create a repeatable sales process, based on how their buyers want to buy. Then I train their team how and when to use the sales tools we create for each step of the new sales process. In one instance however, a company I was asked to turn around lacked adequate access to capital to truly scale the business. So I approached raising investment capital as I would any market with various buyer personas , but in this case what I was selling was the viability of the business and future potential. I found there are basically five ways to fund your growth and each has its own characteristics, requirements, needs and challenges. Over a three month period while out making sales calls with customers, I met with as many “potential buyers” for funding as I could to understand  shape and I even named my buyers, my ways to raise funds.( I had way to much car time, so stick with me)

Self Fund through sales revenue – “Willy Lowman”

 

State and Government Grants – “Annette to detail”

 

Friends and Family- “Have-I” , as in have -I got a deal for you

 

Angel Investors- “Michael”, like the archangel

 

Venture Capital –”Barbra”, from the show shark tank

 

The first I called “Willy Lowman” from Death of a Salesman. You are out chasing revenue, cold calling, following up on every potential lead, and networking like crazy. You bootstrap your way, working 12-14 hours a day meeting with clients who could provide that next big order. At night you stuff envelopes with letters and brochures, and scour the internet using social media tools searching for the right contact to speak with at your future targeted accounts.

Characteristics– You often find yourself bunking on friends couches and driving great distances simply because the meetings need to occur but you lack the capital to afford air flights and hotel rooms. You have a passionate connection to your product and you have the ability to sell convincing presentations that drive early orders. You may hire independent sales representatives to sell your product on straight commission, but quickly find they too require time, your most precious asset at this point.

Requirements – You have to be skilled at taking inventory of what you have to work with and leveraging it to the best of your ability while always being cognizant of the businesses cash requirements, cash flow. You personally will do without.  You need tenacity, good old fashioned (excuse the expression)… “piss and vinegar”. You will have many doors slammed in your face and you will need the ability to press on in the face of adversity. You know the “right” way to get orders, but you lack the capital today, so you do what you need to do. I have 50 other ugly truths in my eBook you can download off my blog. You have to possess the ability to create learning’s through each transaction and adapt quickly.

Need – samples, sell sheets and a clear understanding of the problem you solve, and who potentially has that problem. With some of the software out there today and help from friends in your network you can create some professional presentations and sell sheets. You must have a web site.

 

Caution – it’s not unusual to start a business this way trying to sell your way to success, however know that it is not for the faint of heart, and if you do it for too long you too run the risk of going nuts like our buddy Willy. If whatever you are launching cannot gain traction and begin to result in predictable sales revenues within 12-18 months, cut bait! Chances are you are pushing mud uphill and you have not answered one of the four questions with a yes.

So how about you…have you launched a business on shear tenacity? How did it turn out?

 

As you look back, how long were you in the bootstrap mode? (Or are you still in it?)

 

What did you find the hardest part of this phase?

 

What advice would you give someone who has desperately tried to scale their business, their dream for 18 months with no success?

The key to funding I have learned over time is to truly understand where your company is on the business growth continuum. Is your business pre-cash, do you have a few customers, some revenue… but needing capital to scale, ….?

Once you clearly understand where your business is, you can connect to the right kind of funding. As you move from self funding / friends and family to Government Grants to Angel investors to Venture Capital, you must clearly understand where you are at and what your buyer (investor) requires.

What I have experienced is friends and families are investing more in you and your abilities than the business. They are looking at your past success and your personal abilities. They have a personal relationship with you.

Government Grants/ other Grants are focused on answering a specific issue. You must be skilled at writing grant applications and clearly answering how your product falls into their grant offering.

Angels fund from small $20k investments up to $2 million from larger angel funds. Angel funds are groups of angel investors who pool their monies and invest in companies. Sometimes members of the fund may also wish to make “side car” investments in addition to the fund investment. Angels focus on;

  • proprietary product and or technology
  • leaders ability to lead organization, monetize opportunity
  • the market and your product solution’s potential
  • your team and its ability to execute
  • your exit plan, who would be potential buyers, or do you plan to go public

Venture Capital traditionally invests in opportunities over $2 million. They are industry specific and the cost of their funds in terms of equity in your business is often much greater. They are focused on return on their investment. They have specific business valuation models and your engagement with them will feel more like a business transaction than a relationship. VC’s will receive 1,000’s of pitches each year and only work with a select few companies that match their criteria. I recommend you watch the show Shark Tank and pay attention to the discussions, the interaction as it will prepare you for possible discussions you may be having should you pursue VC funding.

If you are an entrepreneur and feel the next step to truly scale your company is funding, make sure you understand where your company is at, and what type of funding source best matches your needs. If you are like me, you will find it the most challenging sales process you have ever experienced!

Customers Are Not Your Best Source of Information To Grow Your Sales?

When companies desire to grow their sales they often reach out to their customers to find what they could be doing to grow their business. The trouble is your customers already have a relationship with you. They heard and understood your value proposition enough to buy from you. You need to speak with them; however you must also meet with those who did not buy from you.

If you really want to grow your sales you must speak with potential customers and those your team has quoted. Since they never bought from you they are more likely to not overlook your clunky web site navigation or your salespeople who showed up and threw up without ever understanding the problems the buyer needed solved. They may tell you your brochure is a great explanation of who you are, but fails to tell the buyer the problems you solve for them.

Look at this another way…of the conversations your salespeople have each day…which is greater …the people who say yes…or the people who say no? Let’s say your salespeople close 15% of leads. Doesn’t it make sense to have a focused understanding of why the majority of the people your salespeople speak with say no? As well as what you need to do to help them say yes? Chances are your current customers have the same issues and your overall buying experience and customer satisfaction will improve by adding those who do not buy when you do your market intelligence.

Who does your team speak with when they want updated market info? Just your customers?

Who does the interviewing?

Why or why not should salespeople do the interviewing?

Have you used this process? If so please share what you learned?

“Pushing Mud Uphill” …Launching a New Product or Service Without Four Clear “Yes’s”

launch new products like pushing mud uphill

One of the most exciting things you can do in business is launch a new product, service, or entire business for that matter. As high as six out of ten US adult consumers are thinking about launching a business at any given time. If you chose to take the leap yourself, you will experience what I refer to as the “50 ugly truths…” but in so doing you will become stronger, and if you survive you will ultimately help people solve problems.

I can’t imagine anything more rewarding than helping someone solve a problem they thought there was no solution for. If this is true, then why do over 70% of new products (businesses) fail?

They fail because they failed to answer “yes” to four simple but key questions.

Question 1

Do you clearly understand the problem you are trying to solve and does your product (service) solve that problem completely? (if you have already said “no” stop, gather more data)

Question 2

Are there enough people, a market of people, with this problem to meet your desired ROA? ( if your answer is “I think so” stop and validate)

Question 3

Do the members of the market you validated as big enough have the ability to pay to solve their problem? (there are all kinds of problems we all have, but we are not willing to pay to fix)

Question 4

Are the members of the market you validated that is big enough, with the problem you solve, and ability to pay, “willing” to pay now? (there are many problems we have, and we have the ability to pay for, but not the willingness to pay for)

If you answered “Yes” with current market data (not data from three years ago when you first came up with this idea) go for it!

But remember; An Idea is not a product and it’s definitely not a Business.

Where most entrepreneurs blow it …as Jim Collins refers to it is; Hubris. They believe because they have launched products in the past and they were very successful they trust their gut and intuition that there new endeavor will also be a huge success.


So what happens if you launch based on emotion and Hubris?….

Your sales may come, but slowly

You will miss ROA targets

Need to add investment, instead of cutting bait

Your sales team (who trusted you) will push mud uphill each day…the good ones will leave due to frustration

You strain your entire organization (who is probably already multi tasking) morale suffers

You demonstrate to your market you do not know them

Personally you will become frustrated, aggravated, distracted, and you will loose focus

How can I rattle the above off so quickly?…Because I have done it. I have experienced the rush of growing companies by launching new products and or new divisions and when I find what feels like a huge unsolved problem in a market ….I get excited (emotional).

Instead of gathering current market date, I used to move into; validate my gut mode.

Instead of admitting what I did not know… and finding answers…I relied on past experiences to get me through the unforeseen roadblocks.

I have felt the emotion that builds, and heard that little voice in your head that says; “I don’t care what engineering, marketing, operations, and sales thinks we should do, or the more information they want to gather…we need to launch before someone else beats us to market”

What I lacked back then was a filter…simple filter that quickly cuts through the emotions and feelings and quickly lets you know if you have an “idea” or a “business”. The above four questions are the filter I recommend everyone use PRIOR to launching your new product, service, or business.

How about your company….

Have you ever had to push mud uphill?

While your team loyally pushes mud uphill, what is the opportunity cost of their time?

Do you have other questions to add to the filter to insure the products you launch do not fall into the 70% of those that are an expense without a ROA?

Again, having launched products, services, even new businesses in my career I understand that inner rush of adrenaline that makes your creative juices fire on all cylinders…I do. Maybe it’s an age thing…but I now highly recommend a pause, a strategic pause, before you launch and ask yourself the above questions.

To insure you maximize your percent of wins and your ROA for new products, make sure you use a filter, get the four “yes’s” prior to launch.

If you do not use mine above, I have also used the economic value added model back in the day. This model helps insure decisions are not made of Hubris.

Whatever you do, do not rely just on your gut, and or your key accounts, friends, and family members saying “go for it”.

If you would like to read more about this topic, I recommend you read;

Tuned In

How the Mighty Fall

Delivering Happiness

Don’t Kick Your Salesperson’s ASS, …Help Them Find Their Number….

 

One of the easiest things a sales manager, (business leader) can do is resort to a; “boot on the throat”…” a throat to choke” ….and “Ass Kicking “mode. After all it takes very little effort, knowledge or skill to be a critic and a bully.

True leaders help train and motivate their teams.

 If your desire is to hit and surpass your sales objectives….Help your salespeople “find their number”.

I see it all the time, a new product launches or a new sales goal is distributed to a sales team and the key performance measurement: Sales to plan is not met. The easy route is to start “Ass Kicking”. You know …the weekly and by weekly conference call thrashings in front of their  peers. The sales update calls at 5pm on Fridays that last until 7pm. The “contemplation of your navel” market reports on why they can’t hit their sales numbers and their future action plan to change the results.

Yes this may drive some momentary, fear driven results, but this is not how you create sales velocity. In 99% of the cases I have been asked to help figure out why sales objectives were being missed it was not lazy salespeople who needed their butt’s kicked. A frequent cause was poor (or a total lack of) sales training. In these cases struggling salespeople are told to “stop making excuses and just make it happen, figure it out”. However the reality is the reason your team is missing numbers can be traced back to your understanding (yes you) of your market and buyers problems, buying criteria, and buying process.

Sales velocity is sales increases with direction and momentum and it is never driven by fear.

If your salespeople are struggling with sales, particularly new product sales and or new business sales my advice is to stop… the beatings as the morale is not improving and “help your salespeople find their number”. Their number is how many rejections they have to experience to have a win.

For example at one time in my career I ran business development for an ad firm. After tracking my calls I found my number was 18. If I made 18 calls I would get 2 appointments and from those two appoints I would close 1 new account. Instead of dreading the call process it became a game. Each rejection meant I was one step closer to a yes. Over time I also tried to improve that number.

A couple of funny things happen when you track how many rejections your team receives;

First, they make more calls. More calls mean more opportunities to win, more opportunities to start conversations.

Secondly, if your sales team has been properly trained on how to listen to buyers, determine their unresolved problems, and they understand the problems your product solves….you will have a number of net new potential clients dropping into your marketing funnel. Some of these accounts may not buy for 12-14 months, but if you compliment your calls with a lead nurturing campaign you have a high probability of closing them when their problems, (their pains) become unbearable.

As the leader you must listen to your team and look for diamonds as far as what is working and share it with your entire team. In addition you must look for common reasons sales do not occur and work with marketing to create sales tools for these common roadblocks in the flow of the sales process.

So do me (and your sales numbers) a favor …

Track number of rejections for each team member for 60 days. Gain an intimate knowledge of common reasons buyers are rejecting your salespeople.

 

Have your salespeople report on their number of rejections each week and you will see more net new sales and your marketing funnel will increase exponentially to help your future sales numbers.

Or go ahead and Kick Some Ass….it sure worked when you were a salesperson right? …Oh it didn’t? It actually made you feel like a number, and you lacked a loyalty to that manager and or company? Or you left that team, that idiot boss and now you lead the competitor’s sales team?  Interesting…did the ass kicking make you seem desperate to your accounts at the time and the deals you did close were below your targeted profit margin? Hmmm…so what makes you think “Ass kicking” makes your team feel any different?

Does your team track number of rejections?

 

Does each of your salespeople know their number?

 

Does your organization use those individual rejection numbers to identify team member who need training?

 

If you are in sales, do you know your number?

 

Do you find when the pressure is on salespeople chase new business differently? Are they making things up on their own? Making promises your product or service can never achieve?

You always have a choice.

You can “let the beatings continue until the sales and morale improves”….’let the Sh@t flow down hill…”or you can chose to lead your team. You can help them, motivate them to make more calls, and clearly understand your market, buyers, and have a record setting year.

Do I need a Passion Statement for my business? Take the short quiz…

 

 

As I discussed in my post : Want to Jump Start Sales and Morale? Write a “Passion Statement” For Your Business…. A passion statement will jumpstart your sales and improves your team’s morale. Business leaders often spend a great deal of time on mission statements, their unique sales proposition as well as their stated team values. These are all needed , however nothing unties a team and inspires your buyers to buy like an authentic passion statement.

So how do you know if your organization needs a passion statement?

Please answer the below questions with the first answer that comes to your mind.

What I am looking for is your feeling more than an answer you spend time rationalizing.

  1. Do your customers perceive your product as a commodity?

  2. Has your overall gross profit as a % of sale decreased in the last 6 months?

  3. Do your team members work 9-5, no more, no less?

  4. When you work with salespeople in the field do you discover your key accounts are purchasing products from competitors because they were not aware you carried them?

  5. Has 50% or more of your sales team missed their goals over the last 6 months?

  6. Do your competitors always seem one step ahead of you with new products or services?

  7. When you launch new products, do they miss their ROI targets?

  8. When you review the performance of your last 3 new products would they be categorized as “evolutionary”? ( instead of revolutionary)

  9. Is you employee turnover greater than 20%?

  10. Have you lost one or more of your Key accounts in the last 6 months?

  11. Has your AR increase by 10 or more days to collect?

  12. Do your salespeople complain your products are significantly priced higher than competitors?

  13. Are salespeople listing features you must build into your product to make the next sale?

  14. Are you frustrated that your team does a good job of identifying roadblocks, but fails to develop plans to break through them?

  15. Have you ever said…” I am frustrated; I want my team members to act like owners and not just employees”.

  16. Have you lost a key employee over the past 3 months unexpectedly?

  17. Are you having difficulty identifying and recruiting new team members?

  18. Do your team members have more than 3 key performance indicators you evaluate them on each week?

  19. Is more than 3 hours of your week in meetings?

  20. Do you feel the need to create weekly objectives and activities for your subordinates, and “manage” them closely?

 

Here’s the deal….if you said “Yes” to more than 5 of the above you and your team need a quest, you need a passion statement to jumpstart your business.

If you answered “Yes” to 10 or more you are already on the slippery slope of becoming a Market Loser.( take corrective action now!)

 

How does your organization answer the above questions?

 

Based on your answers do you need a passion statement?

 

How do your clients describe your team and your products when you are not around?

How Do We Create: Repeatable, Sustainable, Profitable Growth in our organizations?…Study Both Market Leaders and Market Losers

 

 How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In

 

 

 

As leaders we are drawn to success stories. We study businesses teams that seem to defy the odds and win. Teams that realize profitable sustainable growth, even in the worst economic conditions, command our respect and admiration. However, for us  as leaders to create teams that drive ; repeatable, sustainable, profitable growth we must study both the market leaders like Apple as well as those that were once leaders who fell from grace like Zenith.

I just finished another book that will definitely be on my must read list for business leaders; How the Mighty Fall; and why some companies never give in, by Jim Collins. As I page through the book once more I see page after page with highlights, underlining’s and notes in the margins. I have been a fan of Collin’s since Good to Great. I enjoy his non emotional, almost scientific approach to the dynamics of business.

Collins identifies the value business leaders can gain by studying companies who did not win and actually fell from grace.

I remember Zenith TV’s when I was a child growing up in Cleveland, Ohio in the 1960’s. They were the best TV’s. If you were to ask anyone who the leader in TV’s was they would have said Zenith back then. However today they are non existent. What happened?

How does this fall from grace occur?

 

What did they do wrong?

 

Is it something that was preventable or inevitable?

Are their common early warning signs we can watch for so our teams do not move from a position of “market leader” to “market loser”?

 

 I particularly found his identifying the stages of decline brilliant as I have lived each with various clients over the past 25 years.

Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success

 

           Stage 2: Undisciplined pursuit of More

 

                      Stage 3: Denial and Risk of Peril

 

                                Stage 4: Grasping for Salvation

                                             Stage 5: Capitulates to irrelevance or Death

In addition to providing the common steps once market leaders often faced on their fall, he also provides what he calls; “markers” or early warning signs to see if your team is in one of the five stages of decline.

I highly recommend this book for business leaders who want to passionately serve their markets while increasing their shareholder value. In this book he draws on an analogy of how a “sick” business is like a sick person. On the outside they may look fine, but upon further investigation you find illness. If you find” Sickness” early enough you can take corrective action to cure the problem and avoid future pain. If arrogantly left unchecked, often due to the “hubris” of stage one, businesses become sick and it can be terminal.

 

How about your organization? Could your team be in one of the five stages of decline right now?

 

 

Does your business need a check up?

 

 

Does your team have a culture that would admit a problem?… or do you have Hubris? (Excessive pride that brings down a hero)

 

 

Are you battling an 800 pound gorilla in your market that is in denial? Is your team positioned to help your market when they fall?

 

 

 

I want to leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes from this book;

The path out of darkness begins with those exasperatingly persistent individuals who are constitutionally incapable of capitalism

 

 

“There is no law of nature that the most powerful will inevitably remain at the top. Anyone can fall and most eventually do”

 

 

“There are more ways to fall than become great…”

 

 

“Great companies can stubble badly and recover”

 

 

 

I think it was Lincoln who said; “those who do not study history are destined to repeat it” I recommend you and your leadership team read and discuss; How the mighty fall. I ask you humbly challenge yourself and your leaders to insure your team are destined for profitable growth and not a fall. 

Is Sales an Art or a Science….it Depends on Your Marketing

 

 

Is Sales an “Art” or a “Science”?

 

There is no general answer that applies to all organizations as it depends…..it depends on your team’s demonstrated competency in marketing. (Believe it or not)

An “Art “implies creativity as well as varietability and” science“is about process, method and constantly assessing and experimenting with process, and managing  the process.

A number of clients over the years have stated their needs as; “I need you to create a repeatable sales process for our team”. However, in most cases they lacked a clear understanding of their market, buyers, buyer needs, probelms, and the buying process. They wanted me to study their “sales super star” and replicate them throughout their team. However sales processes built from the inside out produce marginal sales increases and often increase the gap between your team’s “sales speak” and “the buying process”. What you need to do  is create Sales Velocity.

So what sould  teams desiring  to be market leaders to do?

I was asked to speak at a conference recently for business owners and their senior teams. Prior to my presentation, I reached out to the organization’s members and asked;

“In the areas of marketing and sales what topic would you like me to discuss?”

I could have discussed a number of topics, but I wanted to provide their members the maximum return based on their needs.  I was interested to see if the recent and current economic environment in any way changed what I typically here when I ask this question.

The responses varied from;

How do we get our salespeople to sell new products?

 

How do we motivate our salespeople to focus on opening new accounts?

 

What is the best way to measure the ROI of marketing?

 

How do we align sales and marketing to reduce waste and increase productivity?

 

What is the best marketing vehicle to drive sales now? Quickly?

What is my take on “social media” and it’s ROI?

 

How can I be assured my next investment in a new product launch meets goal ?

 

I felt I could speak for a week and not do justice to all the  questions independently,  so I grouped the responses into two buckets;

What is marketing and how can it impact sales in a way that produces the greatest overall return?

 

How do we create a repeatable sales process that works, has an immediate and long term impact?

 

I shared my findings with the event coordinator to insure the direction I was taking would serve his association and his goals. He shared that the two topics I chose were like thorns in the side of his membership as they keep bubbling to the top of discussions. So I asked questions to better understand past discussions and he shared two comments his owners and senior leaders shared in private;

“Our salespeople are just not working hard enough, I know times are tough, but for what I pay them they need to sell through those objections”

 

“I think a large % of our overall marketing spend is a waste, fluff, and does not provide the return any other expenditure would be required to produce.”

 

Interesting…..

So I decided to open this presentation with a question for the room;

Is Sales an Art or a science?

 

Before I share where this discussion went….

What do you think?

Is sales in your organization an Art or Science? Why?

 

If you could pick Art or Science, what would you prefer sales to be in your organization? Why?

 

I will share in my next post the results I observed and any feedback and comments on this post. I will also share the desired state and my answer to this question.

“Colonel Custer had a plan “…What To Do When Your Plan Is Not Driven by Market or Internal Truths and You Lack a Market Driven Motivation

After writing my post: Third Part of truth …Motivation; Are You willing to go the extra mile like Chick-fil-A? I had someone contact me with a question I thought was worth sharing.

“I read your last post and I can’t agree more with gathering market truths, assessing internal truths ( particularly after recent lay offs) and having a motivation to make a difference in the lives of those in your marketplace….

 

But what do you do when you work for an organization that built a plan based on old market data, an inflated view of internal capabilities ( that assumes we work 18-20 hour days) and a motivation that is singularly focused on making our owner wealthier and not changing the lives of those in the market we serve?”

Having helped a number of companies in a variety of industries over the year’s… shame on me for not expecting this question. Not only have I personally faced this dilemma, I know a number of people trying to obediently execute plans that were written from within their organization and lacking market data today.

I enjoyed the conversation with this young man, and below is what I advised him to do;

Gather current Market Truths

Chances are, at some point your leaders were market driven based on the growth they have experienced over the past 20 years. At some point however they started relying on their own personal guts and intuition and forgot the true market sensing process that empowered their original growth. The first thing I advised him to do is assess the market truths of today. Once complete, compare and contrast the plan you were given to execute in relation to current market truths. Note the strategies and tactics that are in alignment and call out those that are no longer rational based on new data.

 

Write a market truths document

 

 

Highlight strategies and tactics in your current plan that are no longer in alignment with the market of today

 

Asses your internal truths, capabilities, discard to-do’s that do not support your road map

 

 

If your team lacks a motivation to serve your market, create one

 

 

Write a plan you will execute based on the information you have shared and allow some flexibility

 

 

 

 

 

As we closed the call this young manager said “we have a plan, but I am sure Colonel Custer thought he had a plan too…

Yes, I am sure he did. But he too underestimated the competition and lacked a clear understanding of his market realities. He had scouts warn him that he grossly underestimated the size of his completion but he failed to listen. Is it any wonder this famous battle was over in less than an hour? ( kind of like how most new products are off the shelf within 18 months)

The people I always wondered about were his men…I am sure most were seasoned military soldiers and by nature trained to take and follow orders. However there had to be a few heretics in the ranks and I wonder if they had the courage to speak up, did some dissert the night before the battle, or did they knowing walk into their own demise? History states a number of his men were seen running from the battle when it was obvious all was lost.

If you are asked to execute a plan that is not market driven based on the current realities of your market today, you owe it to your team ( and yourself) to present current market data.

 

Leaders do not just state the disconnections their plan has with the market realities, but they also provide possible new strategies, they become a part of the solution.

 

Be a leader… and if you are a member of a team that frowns on gathering current market data to create market driven strategies your have two choices;

 

Stay on the team and expect to be to do driven, chasing outcomes of the day

 

Leave the team and seek out market leading organizations that value writing plans strategically based on current market data

 

I could tell he did not like the second option , (nor did I when I felt the need to leave one of the teams I served when their plans were so far from market truths I experienced physical health concerns as I attempted to be a soldier and follow orders.) I was much younger then and I was still under the erroneous assumption that the Hippos in the room were the most knowledgeable.

How about your organization…do you believe the plan you will execute in 2010 was written with current market data?

 

 

 

 

 

If you answer is no, what do you plan to do? Why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever presented your Hippos current market data that was contradictory to the plan they gave you to execute?

 

 

 

 

(Would love to have an expert jump in here on the effects on employee physical health when they attempt to execute plans that are not in alignment with the market realities of today)