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.

Voice Of Customer Identifies New Markets And New Product Applications

Voice of Customer Identifies New Markets and New Product Applications

 

 

 

 

Capturing and leveraging the voice of your customers is a powerful tool to grow your sales. In addition to helping your sales team realize explosive growth in sales and profits, it also can identify new markets.

My daughter and son in law just bought their first home. Like a lot of starter homes it has a number of fixer upper projects. Each room needed painting, the kitchen cabinets needed updated and the wallpaper in the bathroom had to go. What I learned is, as dad’s we typically get the jobs no one wants like removing layers of wallpaper.

It is a small bathroom but the first day I spent four hours removing wallpaper. I shared my frustrations with a friend and without missing a beat she said…Did you treat the walls with downy fabric softener first? What? I was using a tool to score the wall and a steamer, what will fabric softeners do? I figured it could not hurt so I tried it.

It turns out this is something home remodelers use often to make removing wallpaper much easier and quicker. I searched the Internet and there are article about using fabric softener you typically would buy for your clothing for stripping wallpaper. There is even a You tube video that shares how using fabric softener helps making wallpaper removal easier. A do it yourself website talks about using this process.

It worked so well, if Downy did voice of customer research they might offer small 4-6 ounce bottles at Home Depot and Lowes in the wallpaper isles. I would recommend they charge between $3.50 and $4.95 for these small convenient bottles to be mixed perfectly with one gallon of water when stripping wallpaper.

 

How do your customers use your products and services?

 

What problems do your products solve?

 

Could you have a new market you are serving today that you can expand?

 

Take the time to capture the voice of your customers and learn how they buy, what they need to buy, and how they use your products.

 

You may find new markets and new distribution channels for current products that can grow into profitable new business.

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 

The End Of The Greatest Show On Earth And What We Can Learn About Training

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

 

 

 

Understanding the voice of your customer and voice of your markets is critical to hitting your sales and profit objectives today. With all the changes and shifts occurring at a much faster pace than ever before market leading organizations are capturing the voice of your customer to insure they improve sales productivity and achieve profitable sales growth. In this post I will share how customer voice research helps identify needed shifts in how we train our sales organizations.

 

I can remember, growing up in Cleveland Ohio when the Circus came to town. There was such an excitement. Streets would be closed for parades and as children we would line the streets to see the clowns, tigers, and elephants. Our families would buy our tickets and we filled the big top. If we were really lucky, our parents would buy a ticket so we could sit on an elephant. Even as a child I felt sorry for the elephants, they seemed to have a sad, almost surrendered look in their eyes. They looked more like their spirits have been broken than trained.

 

2017 is the end of the greatest show on earth. Why? I was not alone all these years feeling sorry for these magnificent elephants and other animals. Animal rights groups investigated how elephants were treated and trained. Elephants are first given a large tight chain around one of their ankles and the other end of the chain is staked into the ground a specific distance away. The elephant quickly learns the length of its chain. If the elephant tries to wander beyond its training limits it experiences pain. Over time the elephant surrenders and the chain is removed and a much smaller rope is used. However the elephants, now “ trained “ do not try to explore. They are set in their ways. Even with the chain removed they do not step outside of their understood paradigm. Consumers learned about training conditions and ticket sales decreased . The Circus announced it would no longer have elephants in its show by 2018. However they adjusted too late. The greatest show on earth is over.

 

At a recent Toastmasters meeting I heard this story about elephant training and it reminded me of how some sales teams have been trained over the years. Before the “Internet of things” we often chained our sales teams to features and benefits. Our training was 90%-75% technical and maybe 10%-25% communications and relational. I was trained in this time and it made sense back then. Buyers did not have easy access to your product specifications. If a buyer wanted and needed technical information about a product or service sales was the keeper of the information keys so to speak. There was no Google searches, Smart phones, …heck we did not have laptops or cell phones when I was trained to sell. Back then we were trained in 2-3 day long death by power point presentations and given 3” thick three ring binders with copies of all the slides and more product data sheets than we could ever want or need. We were taught to sell using features and benefits, and “overcome objections”.

 

In a post some time agoI shared the leading reason why sales stall or decline is a shift, a change occurred and the team failed to recognize it and failed to adapt and pivot. I see customer voice research work helping us to adapt how we train our sales teams for markets of today. What buyers want and need has changed. In most industries buyers have instant access to technical data now.

 

I want to emphasize salespeople who are our serving their customers and meeting with potential new customers must still understand the technical information and be able to accesses it quickly to give their buyers amazing service and win more business. I believe buyers are telling us through voice of the customer work their needs have changed and sales training must adapt to those changes. Your type of product and industry requirements will dictate how much your training will need to adapt to your buyers of today.

 

How should sales training evolve today?

 

In an excellent article by Bob Apollo the author shares …

 

 

 

“It’s a sad fact that today’s average B2B sales person is still far more comfortable talking about their products than they are discussing business issues. However the average B2B buyer regards a sales person’s relevant business knowledge as being far more valuable than their ability to regurgitate product features, functions and benefits

Even more telling the author explains ….

87% of the revenues in complex B2B sales environments are being generated by just 13% of the sales population. Needless to say, the gap between the best and the rest is far narrower in best-in-class sales organizations. What sets these top performing organizations apart?

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

Buyers today no longer want (not that they ever really did) salespeople trained in overcoming objections. Buyer’s today value a salesperson that understands their industry and possible challenges the buyers company may be facing and offers value based solutions to those problems.

Why are many teams adapting Value based selling?

Jim Heffernan shares in his article: Why Value Based Selling Is So Successful ……

Good value-based sales techniques are tailored to the needs of the customer, making them understand why they are buying a quality product for the asking price. Value selling resolves potential customer issues with pricing and prevents the stalling of important deals and the wasting of precious employee man-hours.”

Market leading organizations listen to their buyers and are adapting. I see companies allocating 50% of training to technical product training and 50% to value based selling, understanding buyer personas, commutation skills. presentation skills and other sales methods like the challenger model. Studies show companies who have a complex sales environment experience 4.5 times greater performance when applying the challenger model. Teams are adapting based on their type of product, market and what their buyers are requiring in terms of much needed criteria to help them make buying decisions today. Market leading sales teams are no longer chained to training methods that fail to serve how buyers buy and what buyers need to buy today. They have a balance of technical, relational and strategic sales and communication training. As markets change, and they will, salespeople are encouraged to venture beyond their current skill levels and explore and learn new skills and adpat to better serve their customers.

Just as markets shift how our buyers shift. Therefore how we train our sales teams must also adapt to give our buyers the best overall buying experience and equip our teams with a strategic advantage to help them win more business. For example Richard Branson shares just how important communication is and how story telling is a powerful communication strategy. Warren Buffet recently shared how if we want to double our value we need to improve our communication skills. John Millen shared in an article ….

“Buffett believes so strongly in the importance of leaders being effective communicators that he offered his own return-on-investment estimate for effective communication.”

There are many benefits of listening to your customers and capturing and leveraging customer voice. One big benefit this current understanding provides is how we train and equip our sales teams to serve their customers.

We must also capture the voice of our internal salespeople and leverage that information into new sales training and tools. We need to ask and understand what our salespeople are facing and develop tools and training to serve them.

 

What do your buyers value today?

 

How do your buyers want to be served today?

 

What % of your sales training today is technical verse value based sales techniques?

 

Does your sales training today include communication training?

 

Could how your salespeople are trained to communicate with buyers become your value proposition?

 

Conduct internal and external customer voice research and adapt your sales training to how your buyers want and need to buy today and enjoy profitable sales growth. Sales today are no longer about being the greatest “show” on earth and have evolved into the greatest “value” on earth. Sales today is about serving your customers and helping them buy. Our training must help our salespeople build trust early and often in the sales process.

We must adjust how we train our teams.

 

What if the Circus was listening to their buyers voice sooner and learned new ways to train their elephants?

 

Would they be going out of business today?

 

My guess is no.

 

What new sales training is your team adding today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Identify Purchase Influencers With VOC

Identify Purchase Influencers with VOC

 

 

One of the leading reasons why sales do not grow as planned is something changed and your team did not adapt. Your salespeople are selling like they have been trained and coached to sell but it is no longer effective. Companies who identify change(s) and more importantly adapt to changes hit their numbers. Understanding the voice of your customer today empowers your team with current buyer information. In this post I will share how the voice of your customer helps your team identify buying influencers.

In my last post I shared how understanding the voice of your customers helps your team create content your buyers need when they buy. Companies who clearly understand what buyers must have to make a purchase today create new content that is used on their web sites and in sales tools to help move buyers through the sales funnel to a closed sale.

Understanding the voice of your customer also helps teams identify people who influence a purchase decision today.

What is an Influencer?

The influencer-marketing manifesto by Brian Solis shares:

Influence is the ability to cause effect or change behavior. Influence is not the act of trying to influence. Nor is an influencer someone who simply has a lot of followers. It should be very clear. Someone who influences does so because they have the capacity to have effect on something…”

What do companies who focus on influencer marketing have to say?

81% of marketers who have executed Influencer Marketing campaigns agree that influencer engagement is effective

65% of brands have plans to spend more on Influencer Marketing this year vs. last

Ad weeks shared an article that Influencer marketing is the next big thing in marketing. The article went on to share …

“There are few things that drive a sale more effectively than a warm word-of-mouth recommendation. A study by McKinsey found that “marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.” And of those that were acquired through word-of-mouth had a 37 percent higher retention rate.

Influencer marketing presents a glaring opportunity for brands to leverage the power of word-of-mouth at scale through personalities that consumers already follow and admire.”

I was asked to help a company that manufactured wheelchair accessible vehicles grow their sales. We spent a considerable amount of time out in the market speaking with consumers in wheelchairs to understand..

Why they buy?

Why they don’t buy?

What is their buying process?

What are the key criteria they must have to buy?

Who are the leading influencers in your purchase?

We discovered for consumers who recently started using a wheelchair because of a medical condition and or an accident their influencers included certified driving instructors, association groups like the MDA, MS Society, Veterans Association , personal injury attorneys and many more. However one key influencer they all shared was their rehabilitation therapist. As one consumer shared with me…

“When I need something or face a new challenge I turn to my rehabilitation therapist who taught me how to get dressed or take a bath again…”

We developed and initiated an influencer-training program where our regional mangers would conduct in service trainings at rehabilitation clinics and educate one of our top buying influencers about our vehicles. We shared how they worked, the right vehicle based on the five most common buyer personas and provided education and information. We connected training and education with these influencers with our local mobility dealers. Our local mobility dealers did a great job of building a relationship with therapists and were on call to answer any questions they may have.

 

The key to influencer marketing is education or as I share in my next book: “Serve don’t sell”. The quickest way to shut down an influencer is if you start selling.

 

Your mission is to provide much needed information and education the influencer can share. If you have created new content as I recommended in my last post you can leave that content with your influencers and or show them where they can find it so they can share it.

 

What our dealers experienced over time was consumers coming into their dealerships already sold so to speak. Their leading influencers shared our dealer who they had a relationship of trust with. The therapists shared content specific to what consumers needed to make a buying decision.

 

Understanding the voice of your customers identifies leading buying influencers in the purchase process.

 

Who are the leading influencers for your buyers?

 

Does your team strategically educate and share content with influencers?

 

Does your team understand the voice of your customers today?

 

Influencers play I critical role in the purchase decision today. As markets shift and change, influencers also change.

 

Make it a key initiative for your team to understand the voice of your customers today and whom they turn to as purchase influencers.

Voice Of Customer: Understanding The Entire Iceberg Of Purchase Decisions Today

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

 

 

 

 

Understanding the current voice of your customers and markets is critical to winning sales. Companies who take the time to capture the voice of their customers understand how buyers buy, what they need to buy, and the criteria they use to make buying decisions and leverage that information close more sales . In this post I will share how the voice of your customer insures your sales proposals resonate with buyers and close sales quicker.

 

Why do buyers buyer from your team?

 

Why don’t buyers buy from your team?

 

If you can answer the above questions accurately you are well on your way to designing a sales and marketing plan to hit your number this year.

 

When I ask this question I usually get a very quick answer on why buyers don’t buy. As much as senior leaders want their sales teams selling value, I often hear “price” is why buyers don’t buy. I often hear many reasons why buyers do buy, and it usually accompanies stories of how they have won over the years. It is very rare however that I hear what I am looking for :why buyers buy and don’t buy today.

 

Think about all the changes we have seen in the last 15-10-5 years. We serve rapidly changing markets and it should not surprise any of us that market leadership positions change about every 10 years or so. Why?

 

“New market leaders emerge after identifying shifts in the buying process, buyer problems and or criteria and leveraging those changes.”

-Mark Allen Roberts

 

When sales says they lost a sale due to “price” or that buyers buy based on “price” this is what I hear…

 

  • You do not understand the value of your product or service to your buyer
  • You lack a strong current value proposition, or the one sales is using is dated
  • You do not clearly and completely understand the problem the buyer is seeking to solve
  • You do not completely understand how the buyer buyers and what they need to buy
  • Because you have not taken the effort to understand your buyer and their business, you have not earned the right to know all the buyer needs to buy today.

 

Earn the right to know?

Yes!

There was an excellent article recently in Brand Quarterly by Dave Tovey titled: Did Price Really Lose the Sale?

In this article Tovey shares that:

“Price is often blamed when we got something else wrong.”

Sales people are trained to sell; I think we can all agree on this. Salespeople have a very high utilitarian trait. If I do this …I get this reward quickly. That is why salespeople should not own the voice of your customer. ( but many leaders think they do) The voice of your customer, voice of your market work does not produce immediate reward. That is why salespeople should not own this information. It is their nature to sell, and buyers will feel their probing , open ended questions as a manipulation, a trick to win a sale and trust is broken. Marketing and or a senior executive in the organization must own deeply understanding the voice of your customer and markets no salespeople. Having been the VP of Sales and Marketing for a number of organizations I made it my job to own this information while my sales teams executed their sales development plans.

The author does an excellent job of describing what its like to meet with a new buyer. New buyers often act like Ernest Hemingway used to write…with the iceberg principle or often referred to as the theory of omission. Basically, they share just surface information and do not share the whole story until they trust you. What I like about the iceberg analogy is it’s not the 10% of the iceberg that you see that will sink your ship. (Your sale) It is the other 90% you do not see, or do not know. Most sales are lost because the buyer did not trust you completely understood the problem and therefore did not trust your proposal.

The author leaves us with this: 

You earn the right to hear more than a client’s story of omission when:

  • You ask insightful questions
  • You listen for understanding
  • You avoid manipulation
  • You behaviors are congruent with your marketing messages
  • You are authentic; selling ethically and with integrity.
  • You are human – remembering that buying is rationalized emotion.

The voice of the customer, voice of the market follows the above.

Market leading teams take the time to understand the voice of their customers and markets…that other 90% of the purchase iceberg. They know how buyers buy, what they need to buy and the criteria they must have to buy today. They are constantly scanning the horizon and sensing for shifts in how buyers buy and the problems they are trying to solve today.

Why do buyers buy from you?

Why don’t buyers buy from you?

What do your buyers need to buy today?

What does the buying journey look like today for your buyers?

Who else is involved in the buying decision today? What do they need?

What new problems are your buyers searching to solve today?

 

When your team understands the voice of your buyers and voice of your markets you know the answers to the above. Understanding this information you will train your sales teams to serve your buyers with exactly what they must have to solve the problems they may not share with everyone. Your sales proposals stand out in a sea of RFP’s because they speak to real needs your buyers must have.( and that they failed to share with competitors who only scratched the surface) When your competition is just scratching the surface with price your team will be providing a complete solution your buyers must have.

Stop blaming price for why your teams fail to win the sale and understand all buyers need today and you will find price is not even high on the list.

When you understand the voice of your customer today and the entire buying iceberg, you will equip your sales teams with the big picture and they will build trust much faster with buyers because they will demonstrate they understand them. While competitors are scratching the surface and awkwardly trying to build trust, your sales team will be discussing meaningful solutions.

 

 

 

Voice Of Customer Finds “Sales Secret Weapons”

Voice of Customer Finds “Sales Secret Weapons”

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What does ballpark giveaways have to do with your business?

 

Great Question!

 

Please answer the following questions:

 

What buying criteria must your buyers have today to buy?

 

What is the order of importance for these criteria?

 

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

 

Some common giveaways I see companies offering include:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Market leading sales teams are trained to ask.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The article shared the following:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

How can your team know what buyers value today?

 

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

 

How about your company….

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Why?

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

Increase Sales 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.

 

 

Why Do 78% Of Sales Strategies Fail? … Culture Must Come Before Strategy

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

You have completed your off-site meetings and developed your objectives and strategies…but why will  you find out six months in the future your sales strategies are not being executed and you are missing your sales and profit goals? Nothing drives business owners,  CEO’s and senior leadership team’s crazy like taking the time to develop a strategic sales plan that no one is executing. Why? What causes this Great Disconnect in Sales Execution? The common cause I have seen over many companies in a variety of industries is a lack of focus on establishing a strong Sales Culture first.

SBI just posted a blog titled why are 78% of Sales Strategies hopeless? It was an interesting article that discussed common execution failures like;

Your strategy is a follow the competitor strategy

Your Strategy is not aligned with the needs of buyers in your market

You have tactics masquerading as strategies

You have no sales strategy

Your sales strategy is not aligned with your product strategy

Your sales strategy is not aligned with your corporate strategy

This post goes on to explain each of the above and if you have not read the post I highly recommend it.

The more I thought about this post the more I felt something was missing, something much bigger, much deeper  than all the above combined…what is it?

I was taught years ago: “Culture Comes Before Strategy”

The best way to illustrate what is meant by this is a story I heard in an Alpha class. The speaker describes how he took his son to his soccer match and the referee was not there. The young boys were growing restless so the speaker thought; how hard could this be? (like a lot of CEO’s when planning sales strategies since very few CEO’s, less than 10%, ever carried a sales bag or goal, so how hard could it be?) So he jumped in as referee and the boys started playing. The ball went out of bounds …whose ball is it they asked him, don’t worry about it… play on. One young man tripped the opposing player and everyone was waiting for him to make a ruling but instead he said… play on. (or “just make it happen” in the sales world) The trouble was the boys now lacked the fundamental rules for how to play the game, the boundaries  and what is acceptable to do to win. No one was having fun, no one knew the score and a number of players were getting hurt. When the referee finally arrived he ran into the center of the field, blew his whistle and established boundaries and reinforced the rules of play. He called violations to the rules of the game quickly and penalties stopped. The story goes on but the outcome was interesting…the boys had more fun and scored more goals once they understood the rules and boundaries and no one was getting hurt so they played with abandon , striving to win.

So let me ask you…do your sales teams play with abandon because they understand your culture, the boundaries, and the rules in your company?

I hear some past CEO’s and business owners I have served saying; YES! We have a mission statement, a vision statement, they all know our culture! You could say that but you would be wrong in most cases. Just as in my short video about the great disconnect; sales execution your job as a leader is to create a bridge between the sales strategy and what it specifically means to each sales team member. We need to translate what our mission and value statement means and the boundaries it establishes in “how” we achieve our sales goals. If you work with a corporate coach and or consultants they will tell you: Culture is very hard work, it takes a great deal of time and you will not realize a quick benefit. I agree its hard work but disagree adamantly that it will not have a quick benefit.

Your Sales Culture is the foundation for all your strategies, including your sales strategy.

If you fail to build a sales culture you will realize poor sales execution and as high as 78% of your strategies will be hopeless.

If this is something new to you or like many of the owners I have served over the years, you want to argue with me, let me share some fundamental sales culture statements that have served my teams over the years. These rules of the sales game, the boundaries my teams have played in have resulted in measurable wins like;

$ 38 million mechanical security Company grew sales to $79 million in 14 months

$2 million dollar company, needed a turnaround, could not make payroll, within 6 months not only cash positive but investing in new equipment and technology, sold 3 years later for $7 million

$ 4 million dollar plastics company consistently surpassed sales and profit objectives over 13 years and was sold for $ 300 million

We spent six months understanding buyers and developed buyer personas in the durable medical products market, within six years sales grew from $14 million to just shy of $90 million

Another $20 million  company realized 40% sales increase in 12 months

A $3 billion company showed a 48% increase in 18 months

One last one for you…another company had sales decline from $150 k per month to $20-$40 k per month when the 2008 recession hit, within 8 months sales grew to over $500 k per month…during the worst part of the recession.

HOW?

Do I have your interest yet? I hope so … This works if you have the courage to implement it.

It starts with establishing the sales culture foundation then developing market focused strategies based on how your buyers buy and the criteria they use to buy, today.

I encourage your team to develop sales culture statements before you develop specific strategies and tactics.

The common sales culture statements that have served many teams over the past 30 years are;

Error in the form of action serving the customer

We will be Agile, and we will learn and get better every day

We focus on results not actions (actions are tactics that lead to results and we will track them as indicators but we are judged by results)

We “serve” our customers, we help them buy, and we do not “sell” them

We work smart not hard

We do not put all our eggs in one basket

We set goals with the end in mind

We embrace “sharpening the saw

We set goals from the market up, not the boardroom down

We get the right people on the bus, and we make sure they are in the right seats where their gifts can add the most value to the team, focusing on strengths and providing training for weaknesses

We play like champions

We “manage” processes, we “lead” people

Four legged sales calls result in explosive sales growth so they will be a part of our sales culture

None of us are as smart as all of us

We believe the Golden Rule is profitable

We create written sales strategies by region, by salesperson that exceed the objective because we know a goal not written is a dream and we will not succeed at every tactic we develop but we own the goal, the results

We embrace  Heretics who challenge : “how we do things around here”as we recognize markets change and companies need to change or get left behind

It’s about “we” so we must tear down silos

We will listen to our markets, buyers, and understand their criteria and buying process

We create sales tools to help buyers buy

My job is to is to  help and equip you( sales and marketing)  to meet and exceed your objectives, and know when to get out of the way

We win and lose as a team; we are all in this together

Would the above Sales Culture boundaries work in your organization? Why or why not?

Do any of the above statements make you feel uncomfortable? ( if so you need to spend some time investigating why)

If you want and or need to create sales velocity you must establish a strong cultural foundation first. It helps your team know the rules of engagement, what your company holds dear and where the boundaries are. If you fail to establish a strong sales culture before strategy you too will realize 78% of your sales strategies will be hopeless.

 

Increase Sales And Profits; Stop Asking Your Salespeople To Sell Naked

Increase Sales and Profits; Stop Asking Your Salespeople to Sell Naked

The process of sales does not need to be as difficult as we make it. Market leading organizations understand it all starts with understanding your market, its buyers, and the process and criteria they use to make buying decisions. Once you have a clear understanding of your buyers you position your product or service in your market with a value proposition that resonates with your buyers and you are on a path to a sale. Unfortunately far too many sales teams today are being asked to “just make it happen” in their markets and they are unprepared to achieve the increased goals they receive every year. They lack a current value proposition and distinction from competitors and therefore they are being asked to sell naked.

When I work with a company who is asking their team to sell naked I often give their CEO one of my favorite children’s books; The Emperor’s New Clothes. If you are not familiar with the story; there once was an emperor who spent a great deal on money on clothes.( consultant advice) One day two swindlers came to town and said they would make the emperor clothe the most beautiful he has ever seen, but if anyone could not see the clothes they were unfit for their positions and or just stupid. So the deception begins and the emperor does not want to admit he can’t see the clothes so he pretends to put on this invisible garment. His minister (senior management team) does not want to admit they do not see it in fear of being judged unfit so they pretend to see it and they compliment the emperor. So the emperor proceeds to walk around town naked and no one tells him until he comes across a little boy who is our heretic in this story and shares the emperor is naked.

Organizations that send their salespeople out lacking a value proposition that connects with buyers today are asking their salespeople to sell naked.

Like our emperor sales teams have been told what their senior leadership team believes (hopes) to be their value propositions; any maybe some of them once were true. However if you send your sales team out lacking a current value proposition that instantly resonates with buyers in your market because it shows you understand them, their needs, their pain…then you are sending your salespeople out to sell naked. Yes, you probably say what you believe to be your value position in sell sheets, and on your web site, or what a high paid consultant crafted for you, but the buyers instantly know you’re naked.

Note; just because you and your team say something over and over again is does not make it true for your market.

Like the child in the story buyers are not worried about your politically incorrect market secrets that no one on your team is talking about. Some (most) buyers will let your naked sales team discuss and play feature and benefit bingo, and when they leave agree to never meet with your team again. Not because your salesperson was not a good person, or did not listen, but because the buyer does not see how your product or service can help him. The buyer does not care about all the opinions your senior management team has shared about how brilliant your strategy is. Your buyers are not worried about being judged internally as unfit, non loyal, not a team player; they simply make judgments based on what your salespeople say and present on whether or not your company can help them with a current unmet need.

I can hear some CEO’s saying; “cute story and probably true for some small companies, but not mine, I have been in this industry for over 20 years”…well I hate to be the one to tell you, but you , your senior management team and your salespeople could be naked too! You are naked sitting at the head of the boardroom table and your team is afraid to tell you that your product or service lacks a value proposition today. They all know it but how do you tell someone their “baby is ugly”?

If your sales and profit results are not at plan I promise you, you look naked to your board, your owners, investors, your team, and other business leaders in your community.

Let me give you a quick example;

If a sales rep came to me and presented a Blackberry cell phone as the most innovative, best in class, state of the art, most robust, best service, highest quality….and positioned his product as the “only” cell phone that allowed me to have email on the go ,  he or she would basically be naked to me. Although the salesperson may have the best enthusiasm, product knowledge, presentation skills and desire to win, they clearly are not aware they are naked. What they are saying was once true and it drove sales, however the competition has not only caught up and offers the same thing, they leaped over and past Blackberry and offer solutions Blackberry does not. The CEO and his senior team at Blackberry can try; dictating, motivating, training, pontificating all they want, but the current market truth is their value proposition no longer connects with buyers today. “I hear some of you saying;” Oh well that I agree with for Blackberry, but that is not happening at my company”…are you sure?

So how about you and your salespeople…

Are you and your salespeople naked when they walk into a room?

Do you have a value proposition that resonates with your market and its buyers today?

Are you sending your sales team in wearing the robes you told them are amazing only to be seen as naked by your buyers?

Do you find the only way your salespeople win new business is price?

Have you lost one or more large accounts and were not given the opportunity to “sharpen your pencil”?

Have you been in a meeting with your senior management team and one of them makes a comment …” our buyers are just not smart enough to see…”

Has someone on your team justified losing a large account because they were a pain to deal with?

Have you seen your gross profit margin erode by more than 5% in the last 5 years?

Are your salespeople pitching Blackberry’s when your buyers need Apple I phone solutions?

If any of the above questions make you squirm a bit inside then you are sending your salespeople out naked. The good news is the first part of making any change is recognizing the need to change. I have helped many companies reconnect with the needs of their buyers today and quickly get them back onto the path of increasing sales and profits. You must do the “market work” and develop a value proposition for each market you serve that instantly connects with what your buyers are looking for today. Or you can keep telling your salespeople to drive profitable growth, sell on value not on price, and keep having those quarterly meetings with your board and owners you dread lately. How? How do you create value propositions that resonate with your buyers today? Well that’s my next post.