Increase Sales: Sweet Sales And Profits From Value Based Sales

Increase Sales: Sweet Sales and Profits from Value Based Sales

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Value based pricing adds value in B2B sales.

 

As Value Based sales thought leader Bob Apollo shares:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What if we took a Value Based Sales approach?

 

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

 

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

 

Number of florists: about 33,000 retailers

Revenue of industry: $7 Billion

Approximately 30% of revenue not flowers: $2 Billion

Estimate of possible Chocolate sales: $750 Million

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

Estimated Gross Profit impact to Harry London: $25 Million

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Nothing speaks louder than the voice of customers”

  • Mark Allen Roberts

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

That was a Value Based Sales Approach.

 

Lets break it down to its key components:

 

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

 

 

How do your salespeople sell today?

 

Why do you win sales?

 

Why do you loose sales?

 

Does your team use a value-based model?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

The Oscar For Best B2B Sales Methodology Goes To: Value Based Sales

The Oscar For Best B2B Sales Methodology Goes To: Value Based Sales

 

 

 

What is the best sales methodology for B2B sales today? What are the most popular sales methods and why do so few B2B salespeople use Value Based Sales? In this post we will review a number of sales methodologies used to improve sales performance and why the Oscar for best B2B sales methodology goes to :Value Based Sales.

 

Sales has changed over the years. Salespeople and the companies they serve are constantly searching for the best sales method.

 

As I watched the Oscars the other night I thought how we need Oscars for sales and marketing strategies.

 

To understand why a Value Based Sales methodology outperforms other sales methods we need to briefly unpack how sales people sell and how sales has evolved over the years.

 

What are the sales methods salespeople have used and are using today?

 

Selling on Price

 

This is not a method most CEO’s and business owners want to hear. In this method you must have the lowest cost to manufacture and your team leverages this low cost-manufacturing competency to win and keep business.

Salespeople sell on price when they do not know or believe your value proposition or no one has trained them how to connect the dots between what you sell and the value proposition for customers.

Why this method is so common is it is what buyers want.

Buyers want to commoditize all products and services so the only differentiation is price. Just as we train our salespeople, companies like Karrass teach buyers to dismiss sales pitches and gobbledygook sales and marketing teams spew and quickly make the key buying decision all about price. If you have the lowest price you win today. When the vendor you displaced finds they lost the business what do they do? They drop the price and you loose. This starts a gross margin death spiral and the only one who wins is the buyer.

If you have never hear the term “gobbledygook” it means all those things we say and share on our web sites that no longer mean anything since everyone we compete against claims them too like:

Innovative

Best in class

Best Quality

Top performance

Flexible

Groundbreaking

Scalable

Robust

Cutting Edge

If you would like to learn more I encourage you to download the Gobbledygook Manifesto

What I have found disturbing over the years when I ask salespeople why we lost a particular sale or account for that matter they say “price.”

When I conduct Win-Loss interviews with buyers, “price” is rarely one of the top reasons why a buyer buyers or chooses not to buy.

In this model your salespeople do not understand or believe your value proposition and they do believe the only thing that matters to buyers is the lowest price.

Sales finds all kinds of ways to sell , selling on price internally like : volume discounts, sales incentive rebates, volume purchase discounts, blanket order discounts and so on.

All of these and more are sales based on price.

 

 

Relationship Sale

It is true people buy from people they like. Buyers will have an impression of you within 7 seconds. In this model the salesperson strives to be liked by the buyer. They work hard to build a friendship through social lunches, dinners, and ball games. As one relational seller told me years ago: “I was the only rep invited to this buyer’s daughter’s wedding. “

In meetings you often wonder whose side the relationship seller is on? The buyer’s or yours? This seller believes their relationship with the buyer is their value proposition not your product or service.

A relational sales methodology is all about building a relationship and reinforcing that relationship through acts of service.

When I work with relationship sales people they often bring donuts and bagels and “check in ” with buyers and purchasing decision makers. When the relational salesperson is in the customer’s building everyone loves them. Rarely do they close the sale, or ask for the sale for that matter. They never have a pre-call sales plan and believe they will win whatever business the buyer has based on their relationship.

After a sales call with target accounts you will hear a relational salesperson share “it was a good meeting” although the sale did not advance and they did not win an order.

We find relational salespeople in sales farmer roles because they are terrible sales hunters.

Do you have relationship salespeople?Look where your salespeople spend their time. Are they selling and creating sales presentations? Or, are they checking on orders, when orders will ship, how we can ship them earlier, following up  with customer service to determine when something will ship? If so, you have a salesperson using the relational sales method.

This is the least effective sales methodology, but unfortunately the one most underperforming salespeople rely on.

 

Product Sales

In this methodology the salesperson’s product knowledge is leveraged to win sales. The thought here is your salespeople are trained in features and benefits of your product or service. As Mike Shultz President of The Rain Group shares “If your people cannot speak fluently about your product and service offerings and ask the right questions to uncover specific needs that your solutions fulfill, then they are leaving money on the table and losing you deals.

Here you will find companies that are often very inward looking and not customer centric. They design and manufacture products but their salespeople are not trained on what specific types to customers to call on and what problems their products solve.

As I have shared in the past, I have observed salespeople trained in the product methodology “show up and throw up”. It’s like they are playing feature and benefit Bingo with buyers just hoping one buyer will jump to their feet and yell: “BINGO! I know a problem you can solve for me!” When you are working with a product salesperson they speak 80% of the time in the sales call and do not ask many qualifying questions. After all what they are selling is so amazing a buyer would have to be an idiot not to buy right?

Every seller must understand their products and services. However today , with as much as 70% of the buying process being over before the buyer speaks with sales this method is not as successful as it once was. Back in the day, before the internet of things, buyers had to meet with sales to learn about products and services. Today this buying criteria is just one mouse click away.

Product knowledge is a part of a top performing salesperson, but can not be their sales method today if they want to achieve quota.

 

The Lone Wolf / Sales Mercenaries

In this sales method the salesperson relies on their personal sales skills, abilities and experience to close the sale. They have been through the school of hard knocks, feel they have been there, done that and nothing will surprise them. They are very self-confidant and often deliver results even if they can’t share how they do it.

The Lone Wolf / Sales Mercenaries are often the product of a poorly designed compensation structure and a culture that does not value salespeople. They are hired sales guns that sell their sales services to the highest bidder. Salespeople who use this method are masters at following their own instincts, and writing the rules as they play the game. They win various games but often leave sales, money, on the table because they are only focused on what benefits them the fastest personally.

I had a friend share once:

Salespeople are like water, they find the path of least resistance.”

Lone Wolf Mercenaries are often found at inward facing companies who believe their product or service is so smart “even a monkey in kakis” could sell it. Their company not only does not value and appreciate the salespeople; they treat them like a necessary evil. Salespeople are treated like they are only as good as their last…sale. Their compensation plan creates commission junkies looking for their next fix not strategic partnerships with clients.

Lone Wolf’s have a high utilitarian trait. Other words if I do this I expect to get that.

The shame is these folks could create much more value if they were valued and appreciated.

They will get-r-done many times but how they do it will leave a mess to clean up and they are very hard to manage.

 

Consultative Sales

In this sales methodology salespeople are trained in product features and benefits and how to  find buyer pain and solve the pain. Salespeople are trained in markets, and common problems their products solve in these markets.

In these buyer calls the salespeople speak about 50% of the time and ask open-ended questions searching for a problems they know they can solve. They are problem solvers.

When you observe salespeople using this method it feels like the child’s game we played in the pool “ Marko Polo”. “Marko… do you have this problem?” “Polo…yes we do” and sales races to tag the buyer and close the sale.

This model produces results if the buyer can connect the dots from the product or service to how it will impact their business drivers.

 

The Challenger Sale

This methodology became popular in the book The Challenger Sale, authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson present a sales model to give buyers new ideas to solve problems they may or may not be aware they have. In this book the author shares 40% of high sales performers use this model. More than 50% of sales superstars use this method.

In the for what it’s worth column this was my sales method for a number of years.

This model teaches the selling to take control of the sales process.

You will find some sales calls feeling more like a debate than trying to solve the buyer’s problems. In this model you uncover issues the buyers may have they are unaware of that need solved.

I continue to recommend this book to business owners and salespeople wanting to improve their skills.

I have some advice if you choose to use this model:

First, it requires you to have some experience and knowledge about your customer, their industry and the business of their business. When I have seen young salespeople try to use this model is when they lacked the emotional intelligence and situational awareness to pull it off. They failed to earn the trust early in the relationship so their challenge felt like a canned marketing pitch not a real solution.

Second, I don’t want salespeople feeling they are in charge of the buying process. You are not. You can influence the buyer’s process but if you think and act like you are in charge you will fail. Top performing salespeople clearly and intimately understand the buyers buying process and criteria and they help move the sale by giving buyers what they need at each step of their buying process.

Don’t believe me?

Ok, how many of you reading this like to buy stuff? Almost all of you right?

How many of you like to be sold? Oh, big difference yes?

Enough said.

 

Agile Sales

A recent article in Selling Power shared how Agile Sales is the best method. You can read this article here and it shares the methods top sales performers use. The article is basically saying don’t get all hung up on one sales method or another. Top performing salespeople have situational awareness and they adapt their sales method based on the situation and buyer.

This thought leading article poses the question: what if we taught our sales teams 4-5 top sales methodologies and trained them to know what to use when? The author’s share having agility, flexibility does not imply we want sales teams “winging it”. We want them to have the EQ and situational awareness to be agile within defined parameters established in sales training.

I guess what gives me pause, is so many sales teams I have been asked to help lacked a formal repeatable sales process. Their leaders and owners thought they had one. How would we implement 4-5 when sales is not even executing on the one you thought they were using? Secondly, companies often provide very strong product training and little if any situational and sales scenario training. Companies will need to do voice of the customer work prior and identify the most common sales scenarios before training their sales teams.

I have adapted my sales method based on the industry, buyer, buying process and buyer personas over the years.

The difficulty is in tracking what worked when and where and in what scenario so it is difficult to scale throughout the sales team.

I believe Agile Sales Methodology is a smart strategy but is has so many moving pieces it will be difficult for most companies to implement and scale.

 

Value Based Sales Methodology

 

This is by far the best sales methodology I have experienced over the past 34 years of leading sales and marketing teams.

In this model you know your product or service. You know your market and ideal customer profiles. You have built rapport with the customer so you can have a meaningful business discussion. You know the problems your product or services solves and you have content and case studies to prove it. Your salespeople understand business acumen and speak in the language of business. They help buyers connect the dots between their proposed solution and how it impacts one or many of their key business drivers like…

Increase Sales

Reduce Costs

Increase Net Income

Improve Efficiency

Increase Market Share

Reduce the Cost of Sale

Increase Sales Close Rate

Increase Gross Margins

 

Salespeople who use a value based sales method are about creating value for their customers and in so doing win the sale today and create lifetime customers.

Don’t get me wrong, these salespeople are likable, but they are also not afraid to challenge customers. They help buyers connect the dots to how their product or service speaks to one or many of their business drivers.

This sales method has seen tremendous success and when used properly you will see it impact your business by:

 

Faster selling cycles

Higher Gross Profits per sale

Higher lifetime value of customer revenue

Higher sales to close %

Higher customer satisfaction

 

… but admittedly it is not easy!

 

From my own experience less than 10% of salespeople use a value based selling method. The reason why so few salespeople use this model is they too often struggle with connecting the dots between what they are selling and the value impact their customers receive.

As I have shared before salespeople who are not adequately trained in your value proposition assume the position of your product or service. The value based sales method requires mastery in commercial sales skills, business acumen, product knowledge and understanding of your value proposition, knowledge of the customers’ industry and common pain points, competitive analysis and the ability to propose innovative ideas professionally.

In this sales method you qualify and identify ways your product and or service can impact one or more of your customers’ business drivers.

Is that why so few of salespeople use it? They lack an understanding of how to impact a businesses’ bottom line?

Salespeople have told me this model is hard and takes way too long.

My argument is how can you enter into any negotiation with a customer until you understand and establish value? Or is that why so many salespeople resort to relationship and selling on price? Salespeople trained in value based sales know how to impact the customer’s bottom line so they can establish and reinforce value.

 

What Sales Methodology do you want your salespeople using?

 

What Sales Methodology are they using?

 

How do you know?

 

When was the last four legged sales call you went on to inspect what you expect?

 

Is there any scenario value based sales would not be the best sales method for B2B sales?

 

Congratulations… the Oscar for the Best B2B sales methodology goes to Value Based Sales.

 

Best supporting Oscar without any drama goes to Sales Enablement.

 

Differentiate And Grow Your Sales With: Authentic Communication.

Differentiate And Grow Your Sales With: Authentic Communication.

 

 

When you think of the word: “sales” or “salesperson” what comes to mind? Chances are it is not a positive image? Why? If your role in your organization is that of a salesperson, sales manager, or sales leader how can we stand out and differentiate ourselves in a market full of salespeople? In this post I will share a methodology I have used for years to grow sales faster and more profitably than my competitors…being authentic.

Would it surprise you to learn what we think about ourselves has a huge impact on how we communicate and relate to others?

Let me ask you…Who do you think you are supposed to be?

When you think of the word “salesman” or “salesperson” you may (like most people) have a negative image of sales. Chances are this belief was established at some time in your past as the result of a negative sales experience.

I heard David Meerman Scott speak at a marketing and sales conference and he asked two simple questions:

How many people here like to buy stuff?….

Every hand in the room was raised!

How many people like to be sold?…

Almost every hand went down. Why?

 

For years when we heard the word “sales” we think of a manipulation. The salesperson wins and I loose somehow.

So I looked on the Internet and asked “why we hate salespeople”, why we don’t trust salespeople?

One article seemed to sum it up.

Six reasons why we hate salespeople 

  1. Has a lack of transparency (they’re in it for the sale!)
  2. Is not trustworthy
  3. May not honor their promises
  4. Might not be selling me the right product/services for my needs
  5. Does not understand my needs
  6. Is too pushy

 

Author Perter Smith shares Why do we hate ( our own) sales people

Have you ever noticed that in a company there often seems to be jealously, almost bordering on hatred, for the company’s own sales team? 

A myth I see in a lot of companies is that the sales reps are overpaid, underworked and often only a bystander to the sale. 

 

I speak in local colleges in the area quite often. I asked a room of soon to be graduating seniors how many plan to go into sales? Not one hand raised in a room of 40. So I ask college seniors why,… why they do not want to be a salesperson and here are some of their common responses and perceptions…

  • Salespeople sell us things we don’t need, I do not feel I can do that
  • I did not go to college and spend what I did to become a salesperson
  • I don’t want to travel and be away from home very night
  • I don’t want the pressure to hit a goal
  • I don’t like dealing with unhappy customers

Their comments go on and on, and each has one thing in common they are all negative!

What I found interesting about these articles and what college seniors believe is they captured how many people feel about sales, and how some salespeople feel they need to be to be successful.

Could it be that what we think about what sales is,  is shaping our behavior, communication, and how we relate to buyers?

I believe it does.

When we ask buyers why they don’t buy…

I did not trust what the salesperson proposed would solve my problem…

I feel salesperson is more focused on hitting their goals than helping me..

 I found another article: Why buyers do not like salespeople?

Most salespeople bring to their buyers only information.  Interestingly, information is something any buyer can gather from other sources. At the end of the day, you as a salesperson must ask yourself, “Am I merely a conduit of information?”  If you are, then you’re wasting your time, your company’s time, and your customer’s time.”

What do buyers want?

“…you need to develop questions to which you don’t have answers.  More than likely, these will be questions to which your buyer doesn’t have answers either.  By asking these questions, you’re helping move the buyer to viewing you differently.  Your role is to be seen as the one salesperson who is genuinely committed to helping them move themselves and their company to a higher level. This may be by growing their sales or helping them reduce their costs.”

What if we looked at this as an opportunity to create a distinctive competence in the market?

What if we listened to these perceptions and developed a strategy to stand out in the market and be unique?

What kind of salesperson would business leaders, customers, and graduating seniors want to be?

An authentic human being who has an interest in helping buyers identify and solve problems. ..Someone I can trust.

How do we change this?

With trust, like-ability, and the feeling that they know you – you’ve got the winning combination for higher sales conversions, more repeat business, greater profits, and a windfall of referrals.”

-Peter Smith

“Differentiate and grow your sales with: Authentic Communication.”

-Mark Allen Roberts

What you think about yourself shapes how you communicate with others and the relationships you build. Over time we experience interactions both positive and negative. How we often adapt to those situations is to create masks. This concept of creating masks based on who we think we are supposed to be, or what others expect is something we all do. Masks are also created as protective defense mechanisms. The trouble with masks is they interrupt authentic human communication. If you are wearing a mask and your buyer is wearing a mask  you never get to the real issues to be solved (as I shared in a post about the iceberg principle) and never build a meaningful relationship.

If you think salespeople are manipulative commission junkies who win orders and customers loose…that is how you will act.

If you treat your salespeople like pushy salespeople who are only out for themselves…that is how they will act.

However, if we start seeing sales, as I do as the ultimate act of service, helping your customers identify and solve problems, how you interact with buyers will change.

Its time for the Authentic Sales and Service!

Its time to stop wearing masks you think your buyers want to see or you think your companies want you to wear and be your authentic self and serve others. Buyers can sense a mask a mile away and will never open up to you.

Sales is about acts of service not trick-or -treat.

Being an authentic sales service partner focused on helping your customers identify and solve problems will become your distinction in a sea of other salespeople playing trick-or-treat.

You will become that salesperson buyers can’t wait to meet with, and value. Because buyers trust you and your motivations and they will want to have a relationship with you and give you more business. Buyers will share their burning issues and problems the other trick-or-treaters never hear.

When this occurs you sell more, gain more referrals, you sell based on the value you create and your gross margins increase and your company will notice your contribution.

Sales is a difficult but very rewarding profession. I have used the above advice for over 15 years and driven profitable sales growth for many sales teams.

Still not a believer?

Below is what the Vice President of one of my past top customers wrote about my acts of service …

Mark is an awesome example of understanding what it takes to build success – focus on your personal relationship with anyone you’re attempting to do business with, and all the rest will follow. People want to conduct business with people they trust and feel are adding value – two traits Mark exhibits every time you have contact with him. He truly wants you to be successful – not just lip service for his own gain – and will help in any way he can to assist that “.

-David Sullivan

Or another customer wrote…

“Mark’s infectious personality is evident from the moment you meet him. Everyone wants to work with a professional who is a strong communicator, team member, who has strong interpersonal skills such as empathy, tact and humor. He is intellectual, innovative and creative. He is always a pleasure to work with. You won’t be disappointed when working for or with Mark

-Jack Brake

It feels like I’m bragging… so I’ll quit.

My goal in sharing the above comments is to better capture how your customer partners can feel when someone is authentically committed to serving them and their business. (If you think the above quotes are a fluke, you can read over 60 more similar comments on my LinkedIn profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/markaroberts/)

Its time for salespeople to be proud of the contribution they make for their organizations.

Its time for business leaders who may have seen salespeople as a necessary evil in the past due to bad experiences to value their contribution today.

Its time salespeople become committed to understanding and solving buyer problems.

Its time for we, as salespeople to drop the masks we wear and be authentic with our customers and improve or acts of service and relationships.

One final point, whatever your formal title is, I hate to be the one who tells you this… you are a salesperson. When you are convincing your operations team to stay over time you are selling. When you are at home with your spouse trying to take that cruise vacation instead of touring New England towns…you are selling. As the quality manager working with the auditor to win your ISO certification…you are selling. When you are meeting with new employees to join your team you are selling. As a sales leader working with a salesperson that is not hitting goals you are selling. When you are meeting with your board and investors and discussing how you plan to hit your numbers this year you are selling! Now that we are all in sales…what do you think of salespeople?

It is time for us all to change what we think about sales and salespeople!

Should we create a new title perhaps? …Customer Solutions Advocate 

It’s time we all drop our previous beliefs about sales and salespeople and masks we created and start having authentic meaningful conversations that build trust early and often.

When you hear the word “salespeople” how does it make you feel?

Do your customers value your salespeople?

What masks are your salespeople wearing today?…hows that working for you?

If you are a salesperson, are you being your authentic self or wearing masks you think your buyers and your company want you to wear?

As the leader of your company do you see salespeople playing a critical role in helping you achieve your sales and profit goals or a necessary evil?

Would you like to have your customers making comments about your salespeople like those above about me?

Who do you think sells more and at higher margins…someone authentically committed to serving their customers or a salesperson wearing the mask of a commission junkie? 

The market is hungry for authentic service providers who are authentic and solve market problems. It starts with how we think of the profession of sales and how we treat our salespeople and buyers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

Fix Sales Problems: Are “Gaps” Holding Your Sales Team Back This Year?

Fix Sales problems: Are “Gaps” Holding Your Sales Team Back This Year?

 

Do you have Gaps that need closed to improve your sales team’s performance this year? Is your team hitting their sales plan or do you have a sales problem that needs fixed? (and fast!) In this post I will share how identifying and closing three key Gaps will improve your team’s performance,  sales effectiveness and sales engagement.

I recently enjoyed the book: The Three Gaps, Are you making a difference? by Hyrum W. Smith. If you read my posts you know I like to read…Ok, I read a lot! This book was recommended in one of my social feeds and what captured my attention was the question: “Are you making a difference?” Isn’t that what we all really want at the end of the day?…to make a difference in our families, our church, our social networks and our work? Are you making a difference? The author shared in a quote…

“Inner peace comes from having serenity, balance, and harmony in our lives through the disciplined closing of three gaps”

  • Hyrum Smith

So what are these three gaps and how can I help close them to better serve others?

Values Gap

Time Gap

Beliefs Gap

Let’s unpack each one but really spend some time on the beliefs gap.

Values Gap

The values gap is the gap between what you value most, and what you are actually doing. It asks the question: How are you spending your time, energy and resources compared to where and how you want to be spending them? When you read the book the author does a great job of explaining this with a story of a beam stretched over a deep canon. Of all the crazy things to be afraid of, I am afraid of heights so this story really resonated with me. Would I run across this beam for $1000? …Probably not.  $10,000? $100,000? Now let’s add some new information…its pouring rain and winds are blowing 35 -50 mph…would you run across the beam for $ 1 million? Unfortunately I think my answer would be no. Now let’s change the scenario… I look across this deep cannon and a rain soaked beam and winds howling and see someone about to drop one of my children over the side…I would run across the beam!

“When daily Activities are in concert with your highest priorities, you have a credible claim to inner peace”

  • Hyrum Smith

 

Time Gap

For as long as I have led  teams I have heard; “ I don’t have the time to do all the things you are asking of me and have a life outside of work too” The truth is we are in absolute control of your time. Every minute, every second you are making decisions on how to spend your time. Right now you are choosing to spend time reading this content ( thanks by the way) but you are also choosing not to make that call to the new sales target, have that meeting with your underperforming sales regional manager and so on. I am choosing to write instead of watching TV right now. So we all have “time” it’s how we choose to spend it is the real issue. The author does a great job in sharing three principles to help us better manage time.

 

Beliefs Gap

This is my favorite gap and the one that I believe if we spend some time on closing we can help heal our companies, ourselves and help our sales teams get back on track. The author shares how we all have a beliefs window through which we see the world and it is a function of our age, life experiences, training and so on. Now picture this window with little see through pictures on it. These are your beliefs. I was taught at a seminar long ago: a thought, true or false, repeated over and over again becomes a belief.  So my challenge to you is what if you have incorrect beliefs on your window clouding how you see your market, your companies’ value proposition today, and your salespeople and so on? The author shares a simple test. If you want to know someone’s beliefs, check their behaviors. For example, I believe the best thing I can do to serve my company is be in the market meeting with customers and prospects listening for unresolved problems. I listen and ask questions about those problems, and even note the words they use to describe them. My friends at Pragmatic Marketing would say I am practicing “NIHOTO”. So it should not shock anyone I am writing this post from a Holiday Inn in Indianapolis after attending an industry trade show for one of our markets. If you look at my behavior: travel 50-60% of the time it shows you what I believe. The author also shares how our beliefs drive future behavior.

“Any belief that drives behavior that does not meet your basic needs over time is an incorrect belief”

  • Hyrum Smith

So let me ask you the million dollar (goal achieving) questions…

What do you believe about your markets?

What do you believe about your current customers?

What do you believe about salespeople?

What do you believe about your salespeople?

What do you believe about marketing?

How do you believe your buyers shop today?

 

Now let me ask one more question so you can get back in control of your time and serve someone…

Are your beliefs true (today)? Or are they based on some past experience or how we always to do things around here? How you answer will have more impact on your sales and future sales than you can imagine. If there are disconnects between what you as a leader in your organization believe and what is actually true it is negatively impacting your team’s performance. Your beliefs shape how you interact with team members and even the strategies you ask them to implement.

Let’s assume you are not from a sales and marketing background. Let’s assume you grew up through the ranks of your organization in other areas like accounting and maybe operations like a number of company leaders. Twenty years ago when you were working hard to serve your company, salespeople used to drive you nuts. They seemed to ask for things we were always out of stock on. They complained that what we just shipped was late and when it arrived it was defective and now the customer is upset. They all drove fancy foreign cars and when you were in accounting you saw those expense reports at expensive restaurants, golf and hotels. Or let’s say you had a bad experience with a poor example of a sales manager who only cared about his personal income, a commission junkie as I call them in other posts. So as you look through your window from now the CEO’s seat and you look through little snap shots, thoughts that you have repeated over and over again for the last 30+ years and you believe all salespeople are:

  • A pain to deal with…they are just different than everyone else
  • Always complaining, never happy
  • Are on the customer’s side and not yours
  • Not accountable
  • Commission junkie’s who only car about themselves and not the long term health of the organization
  • They lie
  • They sell on price not value
  • Spend company money foolishly
  • Feel free to fill in your own….

Can you see how those thoughts are plastered over and over again on your window explain why you don’t trust salespeople? (and why they don’t trust you?)

Chances are you probably have met poor salespeople who had bad behaviors ( like I have)  but I can assure you not all of us like that. The role of Sales has also changed over the years. Just look at the statistics on “the internet of things” and its impact on how buyers buy. Salespeople today have more resources to sharpen their saw and get more effective at their craft than ever before.

If you study why sales super stars leave organizations just like yours it might surprise you to learn it is not one of your possible beliefs: more money. (you can learn what it really is here) If you do not feel like checking out the link…the number one reason why sales super stars leave is their belief if you value them. So do you?

If you want to get the most out of your sales team it’s time to come clean. Scrub all those past thoughts repeated over and over again off your window and take the time to understand what your salespeople  and buyers are really like today and what they are doing and why. You need to practice what I refer to as clean sales management. Once you have done this, I highly recommend you and a few of your senior executives spend time meeting with customers and prospects in your markets to determine if your organizations ‘beliefs match who they really are today. I recommend you conduct win loss interviews or hire someone to do it for you and understand your markets today. They will tell you the unfiltered truth, the truth not clouded by your past.

This a great book and I highly recommend it to leaders or those wanting to be leaders to help you close the three key gaps that stand in the way of your success. We have all read articles on the impact engaged employees can have on the bottom line. Closing the 3 Gaps will fix your sales problems and help your organization get back on track to a profitable sales year.

This book is written on a much broader context to help you close three common gaps to help us as individuals. The author shares that getting our own life together is the first step in having a positive impact on the world. In this post I shared how to apply his content specifically to helping to heal sales problems.

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

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

 

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

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

Strategy

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

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

 

Marketing strategy

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

Product Strategy

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


Sales Strategy
 

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

Tactics

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

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

One word: ….Hubris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

When was the last time you conducted a SWOT analysis?

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

When was the last time you adjusted your value proposition?

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

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

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

Report: How to Make Your Number in 2016

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

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

Will Your Strategic Plan Work?

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

Differentiation – Is Yours Real or False?

7 Key Steps to a Growth Strategy That Works Immediately

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

Stop Asking Your Salespeople to “Sell Naked”

Increase Sales and Profits; Create Distinction!

Stop Making Your Salespeople “Assume The Position” …

 

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

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

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