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“Show Me MY Money !” …How One Entrepreneur Solved A Growing Market Problem

“Show me MY Money !” …How one entrepreneur solved a growing market problem

 

 

Listening to your market, and solving unresolved market problems is key to any company’s future profitable growth. If your team wants to fix a sales problem ,go out into your market, conduct a value proposition audit, and identify new problems to be solved. I recently met with an impressive entrepreneur named Tim Dimoff of SAC’s consulting and he and his team nailed a solution to a current, urgent , unresolved market problem : when money goes missing.

My last few posts have shared how companies we recognize today as market leaders listened to market problems and solved them. I have received many kind calls and emails about these posts.

However one comment concerned me:

“Mark, I like what you are saying and I will try to do this value proposition audit thing, but I am a small company. I am no Yeti. I spend my time running my company and I do not have the resources these companies you write about have.”

This really bothered me. I apologize to everyone who reads my content if I made this process feel like added work or complicated. It is not. If I can do it you can too. It is strategic sales and marketing work you or your team must do. What I am asking, particularly if you are a small business who wants to be a Gunner Kennels or Invue one day is spend time ON your business talking with your customers and potential customers.

I met Tim at a local NSME association meeting and I mentally said I needed to know this guy’s story so I set up a meeting.

 

Tim was an Akron police officer for just over 20 years and he spent a great deal of his time in narcotics investigations. He retired but still felt compelled to serve the community. So he made a list of the top business leaders in the community and asked to meet them to understand their problems. No hard sale, he was listening for gaps he could fill. At first he provided security services, then HR consulting and training. As the years went by he continued to listen for gaps, needs his clients had and offered other service products like investigations, culture training, and building an site security consulting and solutions for growing problems for like active shooters.

 

He kept asking the market for problems they had, gaps, that he and now his staff of investigators and trainers could solve. One customer mentioned they had a big problem; someone in their organization had taken a large amount of funds and disappeared. Tim having a background in finding people took on the challenge and found this ex-employee in another state and helped get the money returned in less than a month. As it turns out this is a large and growing problem: People who take money and disappear.

 

Tim and his team created a service: Asset Tracking and Investigations offering to help his market find money. There are many forensic accounting firms who will help you identify your money is gone but few companies with an expertise of finding money and the individuals who stole it fast. Tim started being known in the market for this service through law firms, accounting firms and others who served businesses with this problem. These firms became his virtual sales and marketing. His expertise in finding people and money gave him national exposure on TV, Radio and investigative reporters frequently used him on their stories. Today his firm SAC’s consulting helps companies and individuals find stolen money all over the world. Some of his clients come to him after they have tried 2-3 other investigative firms.

 

Tim and his team are relentlessly improving and making their services and processes better every day based on market feedback. This has led to a proprietary data search software they developed that helps them find money and people in half the time it would take other firms.

 

In addition to having a growing and profitable business, what Tim is most proud of is his client retention rate. Most firms like his will loose 50% of their clients every five years. Tim’s firm has just over a 97% retention rate…why? He shared he and his teams are committed to understanding what our clients’ problems are and solving them. If the problem/ gap they need filled is not in our capabilities we find someone who can. If the problem happens frequently enough we will create a service to solve it. This is another benefit of serving your market and not just selling them.

 

He and his firm are obsessed with what he calls customer touches. They speak with their clients often and are always asking for new ways to serve.

 

So how about your company…

 

Have you identified and solved an urgent market problem for your clients?

 

Has your team been flooded with calls from a virtual sales force of others who serve your market because of your solution?

 

Does your team have a thirst for customer touches that drives your new products and services?

 

What would your business look like with a 97% customer retention rate?

 

What would it mean to your business to have your company recognized on national television as an expert in solving your markets’ current market problems?

 

The process I have been sharing over my last few posts is for anyone who wants to grow their business profitably. It is not complex; it does not require a strong IT department or some expertise SEO. It is a simple desire to listen and understand your customer’s problems and solve them completely.

It is acting as a servant to your market not a salesman.

Shouldn’t you contact your customers and potential customers today?

It will help “Show you money your team could be closing”.

How Yeti Realized Sales Leadership Nailing Their Value Proposition

How Yeti Realized Sales Leadership Nailing Their Value Proposition

 

 

In my last post I shared a process to conduct a value proposition audit. The goal of this exercise is to insure the value proposition your sales team is communicating still resonates with your buyers. Once you understand how your buyers buy and key buying criteria you can shape your value proposition so it instantly connects with the buyers in your market. One company who has done an excellent job of this is Yeti.

 

 

Ryan and Roy Seiders identified a market problem they understood intimately. The coolers on the market were just not holding up for outdoor adventurers. The lids would cave in, handles would break, and latches would snap off and gave them a bad overall experience. Could Colman or Igloo or others owned this market for high-end coolers? Yes…if they were listening to problems their users were having. They both were in the market long before Yeti.

 

Like Gunner Kennels, these two brothers set out to solve a market problem. In 2006 they were on a focused and simple mission…

 

Build a cooler we’d use everyday if it existed. One that was built for the serious outdoor enthusiast rather than for the mass-discount retailers. One that could take the abuse we knew we’d put it through out in the field and on the water. One that simply would not break.”

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The more intimately you understand the problem to be solved the clearer your value proposition will be. Just as I shared how InVue has a simple yet clear value proposition, so too does Yeti.

 

What started out as a quest to make an indestructible cooler has led to other products the market needed when they searched for problems to solve. Each of these products are designed based on customer feedback.

 

“ We decided early on product innovation would come from necessity and first hand experience”

 

Once they solved the problem for outdoor enthusiasts they asked themselves who else might have similar problems and they share this …

 

We are so glad we were not the only ones looking for a Yeti. Today it is the cooler of choice for outdoor enthusiasts, pro tailgaters and back yard barbecue kings.”

 

As the company continues to solve unresolved market problems I believe they will add other buyer personas to their list. For example, my son is a police officer and he and all his other officers use Yeti to keep their coffee warm and their drinks cold.. As my son puts it…

 

“I can put some ice and a beverage in my Yeti rambler and I will have ice cubes in my drink at the end of an 8 hour shift.”

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I now see road construction crew members, firemen and other service professions paying a premium to solve their problems with Yeti products. Knowing Yeti you will soon be seeing other indestructible products for service professionals who work outdoors.

 

When you understand the problems to be solved the burden is on you to communicate how you solve them. Yeti does and excellent job in their point of purchase that only a market leader would do.

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So how about your company and your market…

 

What unresolved problems are your buyers facing today?

 

Are you going to build a category based on an unresolved market problem?

 

What if your competitor finds it before you do?

 

Is there any reason why you would not want to do a value proposition audit to find unresolved market problems?

 

Why Does Sales Growth Stall?

Why Does Sales Growth Stall?

 

Your sales team has been hitting their sales goals and it’s an exciting time for your organization. Your problem to be solved shifted from growing sales to shipping orders on time. Then something happens …what seemed like an ever-growing sales pipeline goes dark. Sales stall and in some cases decrease. Why? What causes sales growth to stall and more important what can you do to prevent sales from stalling?

It was an exciting time. Our sales team had opened the majority of the targeted new dealers we wanted and we were hitting new sales records. The President and CFO were stopping by my office to give me high fives and our senior manager meets had almost a fun playful tone. My sales people were achieving their individual sales goals, hitting bonuses they have never experienced before. Everyone, even the workers on the assembly line who were getting all the overtime they wanted were happy.

Our strategic planning meeting was spent discussing fun things like how will we invest to support this sales growth…. And then everything changed quietly, slowing at first and then our sales stalled. What happened? Why do sales stall and more important what is the plan to get our sales back on that sales velocity of 140% year over year growth we were enjoying?

I have seen the above scenario play out many times in companies. I have heard CEO’s say: “ Mark the reason we are talking to you is sales were growing strong year over year and then we hit a plateau, we are stuck and we can’t seem to get back on the same growth trajectory we one had.” 

 

What Causes sales growth to stall?

 

If you read my content you know I like to read. Like is not strong enough of a word. I have a passion to read and research topics that impact sales team’s performance. One of my mentors at Frito-Lay used to say, “Leaders are readers and if you want to be a leader the burden is on you to constantly sharpen your saw”. I recently finished an excellent book I highly recommend: When Growth Stalls, How it happens, why your stuck & and what to do about it, by Steve McKee.

A quote that jumped out at me early was …

One of the biggest challenges any business leader faces is generating consistent, profitable growth. But stalled growth is the rule, not the exception, even for the best-managed companies. That’s especially true in today’s tumultuous economic environment

The author does a great job of capturing examples of market leading companies who experienced a growth stall like; Home Depot, Bear Sterns, Excite, Lehman Brothers, McDonalds, IBM, Kodak, Lucent Technologies, Sears, Kmart, Sun Microsystems, Tidy Cat, Mercedes, The Gap, Chrysler, and many more. Growth stalls impact both large and small companies. Publicly traded market leaders and privately help family business all experience stalls.

Most companies experience a sales growth stall at some time, and some experience a number of sales plateaus.

So what causes growth stalls?

Want a quick answer?…Look for what changed!

Today’s markets are dynamic. The first question you need to ask if your sales growth stalls is: What changed? The one thing we can all count on is change. If your sales were showing strong sales velocity then stalled I promise you something changed.

Changes can occur outside your organization as well as inside.

 

Outside your organization you can have a number of factors impact your sales growth…

 

Economic downturn

Market shift

Changing Industry Dynamics

Aggressive move from a competitor

New technology

Buyers need new criteria to make buying decisions

Buyers use a new buying process

 

 

There are also internal changes that can cause a sales growth stall…

 

Change in service level

Quality of product or service decline

Chance in price model

Lack of management consensus

Loss of Focus

A dated Value Proposition 

Loss of company nerve

Inconsistency within your organization

Your culture becomes dysfunctional

 

Any one of the above can cause what the author refers to as a “seismic shift” that disrupts your sales growth. If your team experiences a number of both internal and external changes your sales growth does not just stall, it starts a steady decline. The longer it takes your team to identify what changed and make a course correction the more difficult and the longer it will take to correct. If internal and or external changes go unchecked long enough you will experience what I refer to as a sales death spiral.

The best business book I have ever read is the Bible. The Bible does not say we might face adversity…it says we WILL face adversity. Adversity is a time teams can rally together and grow united or do blame storming and drift apart.

The first step is to identify what changed or as I prefer to call it… throw the skunk on the table. It is very uncomfortable to discuss problems for most teams. Teams with strong cultures openly discuss any issues that could be preventing them from achieving their objectives. Discussing problems, like having a dated value proposition that no longer resonates with buyers, becomes emotional.( been there have the T-shirt)

Someone companies may have developed processes and procedures (web sites)  10-15 years ago and now that person sits in the CEO’s chair. If you have a strong culture and a leader with a high emotional intelligence you will discuss the issues. One sign of an unhealthy culture are what I refer to as PIMS. This stand for: Politically Incorrect Market Secrets. Your team knows the issues holding your teams back from achieving their sales objectives but they do not feel safe to share them. I actually love it when someone who reports to me says…Mark, I just don’t get it, you are asking me to ——- but the market and even the buyers at some of our accounts are saying ——-. Awesome, let’s pivot and win the business!

 

The author shares how to get your company back on a strong sales velocity track in practical and applicable ways. I highly recommend this book for two kinds of companies:

  • Companies who have experienced their sales growth stall or decline
  • Companies who have not experienced a sales growth stall (yet)

 

How about your company…

 

Have you seen your sales growth stall?

 

Has your team thrown the skunk on the table or is still just stinking up the place?

 

What other kinds of shifts/ changes have you experienced that stalled your team’s sales?

 

How did you fix them?

 

If you are in a business experiencing a sales growth stall this book will help you identify places to look that may have changed. It will also teach you ways of getting un-stuck and practical steps you can take to getting sales growth back on track.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fix Sales Problems: Stop Playing “Kick The Can”…with Buyers

Fix Sales Problems: Stop Playing “Kick the Can”…with Buyers

 

The role of sales has changed significantly over the last 10 years. On the one side we now have buyers who now are 60% to 74% through the buying process before they speak with a salesperson. Buyers today do their research online. They check out your product, what your customers are saying about your company, your products and service, and they are doing searches on the salesperson individually. Over 90% of buyer’s today report they do not respond to cold calls. On the other side of this sales tug of war we have CEO’s and other senior team members concerned sales is leaving money on the table in how they price products. They are commonly concerned the sales team  is “selling on price” and not “selling on value.” To respond to this tug of war some salespeople often play “kick the can” with buyers and lose sales they could have won today and in the future.

When I was growing up in Cleveland Ohio a game we often played when the sun went down was kick the can. If you are not familiar with this game it is kind of like hide and seek. One person is “it” and everyone hides. The person who is “it” searches for those hiding and once found they must go back to home base, where there is a small can in the street. The game gets challenging when the person who is it, is out searching for more players, a non-captured player sneaks up to base and kicks the can freeing all those captured to hide once again. If you are “it” this game is very frustrating and would often last until our parents would call us home for the night. The more kids you had playing the more the can would be kicked and the odds of the person who was “it” ever getting to hide and have fun was rare.

When I first started my sales career we had all the information. There was no internet, chat rooms, social selling, LinkedIn industry groups or Twitter. You met with buyers, listened to problems and presented solutions. We had our sales bags with three ring binders full of sell sheets, data sheets and pricing. Buyers had to meet with you, or at least speak with you, to learn about products, and gather competitive information on the products they bought. We built relationships with buyers at target accounts and after answering the buyers’ questions over time you would work your way into an account. Buyers respected the reps who never gave up. Most reps, even today quit the sales process after two contacts but most buyers engage with new sales people after 8-12 interactions. Today however, not only are buyers searching for solutions long before they speak with a salesperson, they can conduct searches from their smart phones at any time of the day in an instant.

Buyers today have researched your product, your competitor’s product and have a perceived market price for your product or service before they speak with a salesperson. As Dave Meerman Scott shared this week’s in his post about the new edition of New Rules of Sales and Service : “many people are failing to engage their audiences by continuing to apply the old rules in a new age “.Unfortunately some salespeople are counting on getting a second chance to quote ( a second kick at the can)  and lead with a high price. They are counting on an old rule tactic of “kick the can pricing” and lose sales they could have won.

Not familiar with kick the can pricing?

It goes something like this….

A salesperson has been working an account for some time and gets an opportunity to quote a product or service. This same salesperson has heard from their leadership they need to sell on value and not price. If the salesperson does not know the market value or the value to the buyer for the product or service they quote at a high price with the assumption that if they quoted too high they will get “another kick at the can”, a second chance to quote. The trouble with the second kick at the can belief in today’s market is it just does not work. Just as sales has changed dramatically so has purchasing.

-Buyers are doing research and know a fair market value for your product or solution. Failure to fall in that range, unless you have a significant distinctive competence, breaks trust and you lose the sale (and probably all future quote opportunities).

-Buyers have seen more and more products being added to their responsibilities due to corporate consolidation. Their work load has increased based on the assumption they can leverage technology to do more with less. Buyers today want to source products that meet their buying criteria, solve purchase needs and move on to the next purchase. Kick the can pricing involves opening a purchase they have already solved. If you are trying this tactic, you must have a significant compelling reason to open a purchase they considered closed.

-Many buyers are buying just in time and make buying decisions quicker. By the time you try to kick the can again it probably has moved on.

-There are more people involved in the buying decision, particularly from new vendors. Buyers present their data and make buying recommendations to a team in some cases. The team decides who to purchase from. It is difficult (I have heard near impossible) to ask a buying committee to review a second quote from a salesperson playing kick the can.

-Buyers today often ask for proposals from 3-5 or more vendors and expect sales to lead with a price and service proposal based on the value their product or service provides. Their solution will be compared to the relative the market price the buyer discovered on their buying journey. When sales tries to kick the can, and ask for another try to win the order, they basically release all the prior captured quotes and free every other possible vendor to play the re-quote game.

-Buyers are looking for better solutions, a new supplier with a distinctive competence and if your product lacks one or has a dated value proposition, then all buyers can look at is price.

-Many buyers today have sophisticated purchasing systems that make it difficult to revisit a particular quote and some have estimator tools on what your selling price should be.

What’s the best solution to solve the “kick the can” pricing game in your organization?

Market knowledge…knowing your market, the value your product has to the customer, and having a clear value proposition.

Products today, more than ever before must be priced strategically based on the market value to the customer. Cost plus pricing and kick the can pricing games stopped working when the buying power shifted to the buyers.

Do your salespeople ask buyers for another kick at the can?

Does your sales team understand your value proposition?

Does your value proposition resonate with buyers today or is it dated?

How’s that working for you?

Has your sales close rate gone up or down in the last 12 months?

Do your buyers at your company allow salespeople to take a second (or third) kick at the can when they sell your organization?

How can we price products strategically in this “new world of sales and service?”

 

Just as buyers have more information readily available to them than ever before, sales and marketing teams also have data if they know where to look and learn to price their products and services strategically.This requires market knowledge , understanding the value your product provides to customers, and positioning .  Salespeople sell on price when they do not understand your value proposition or it no longer resonates with your buyers today.

How do you price strategically? That will be the topic of my next post.

 

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.

Are Your Salespeople Guilty Of “Sales Malpractice”?

Are Your Salespeople Guilty of “Sales Malpractice”?

 

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

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

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

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

I hope your quick answer is; NO!

Why?

I heard a great quote I want to share:

“Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice “

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

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

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

Are your salespeople guilty of malpractice?

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

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

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

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

  • Price
  • Relationship with current vendor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about your company….

Are your salespeople guilty of Sales Malpractice?

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

Have you seen other signs of Sales Malpractice?

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

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

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.

 

The Quickest Way To Increase Sales And Profits Is…

The Quickest Way to Increase sales and Profits is…

 

By Mark Allen Roberts

What is the quickest way to increase my sales and profits…turn my sales around?” This question is by far the most frequent question business leaders and owners have asked me over the last 30 years. I wish there was a magic “create sales velocity pill” we could all take and everything would be fixed tomorrow, but unfortunately it does not work that way. It took time to get where you are today, and it will take time to get sales and profits back on course. However the quickest way I have experienced to turn sales around and quickly increase sales and profits is; Win Loss Analysis.

What is Win Loss Analysis?

If you are not familiar with conducting win loss analysis, let me share from 45,000 ft what we are doing. When you conduct Win Loss Analysis what you are desperately seeking is the answers to a few questions;

Why do buyers buy from me?

Why don’t buyers buy from me?

What criteria are they using to make buying decisions?

What process are they using to make those buying decisions?

Before we go much further I want you to add the word “today” behind each of the above questions. Why? I have helped so many companies over the years who at one time clearly knew their market, buyers and how their buyers bought so well that they could almost finish buyer’s sentences for them. They built repeatable sales processes based on their market knowledge, created sales tools, and taught their sales teams how to use them. The trouble is markets are dynamic and constantly changing, evolving and we must constantly be aware of the answers to the above questions. Fail to understand you’re your buyers are buying today and your salespeople will resort to feature and benefit BINGO hoping they figure it out and close the sale. However buyers want to buy from partners who know them, understand their problems and quickly demonstrate they are capable of solving their problems. When your salespeople resort to playing BINGO, they become just like every other sales guy trying to sell me something and not help me.

If you plan to take my advice I want to share rules I learned the hard way…

Never let the salesperson that was involved in the sale or attempted sale to conduct the interviews. Why?

  • They fail to listen to details we will need in the next step
  • They filter what they hear
  • If sales was won, it was won because of salesperson ability and relationships, if lost it was price( an price is rarely on the list of why people do not buy) The biggest reason is when a sales person starts hearing why they did not win they start selling and stop listening and the interview is pretty much over.
  • Gain senior management buy in to make changes as needed early ,their commitment  if you conduct win loss analysis you will act on the results. They say the pain of change must be less than the pain of not changing. If your senior leadership team is not committed to make changes you will find some very interesting information but sales will be told to;”just make it happen” or “try harder”.
  • Never conduct a win loss interview with a customer currently in one of the stages of your sales process on a key sale.

Once you gather information from your current customers, customers you lost and potential customers you have always wanted, you need to group like buyers. Once you group like buyers map how they buy and the criteria that is important to them.

Mirror what you have learned against how your team sells today and the tools they use. Quickly you will identify new tools needed based on how buyers are buying today. One common outcome is your current repeatable sales process will change based on the needs of buyers in your market(s) today.

One word of caution again and that is you must have senior leadership buy in to act on what you learn. The only time I have not seen this process increase sales and profits is when I unknowingly enters a Borg Culture where this is how we do things around here trumps achieving sales and profits objectives. If you find you are in a Borg Culture the best solution is to hire a consultant to conduct the win loss analysis.  Senior leaders in these cultures are often much more attentive and willing act on information from a prophet from another land than an internal employee with fresh ideas that seems like they are not on board.

Do you want (need) to increase sales and profits quickly?

Become intimately aware of how your buyers are buying today!

If you would like to learn more about win loss I recommend the following links;

Win Loss and customer satisfaction

Why What How Win Loss.. 

Learn why you are winning…

5 ways CEO’s learn from losses

What will a Win/Loss ….

A competitive tool  

Typical questions loss analysis answers 

Win Loss and value propositions 

Making win loss work

A real win loss analysis 

 

 

Attention CEO’s and CFO’s; Do you have a “Sales and Marketing Funnel” or Bucket? …the answer may surprise you, take a short quiz and know for sure

 

 

do you have a marketing and sales funnel or a leaking sales bucket?

do you have a marketing and sales funnel or a leaking sales bucket?

 

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could have our sales and marketing run like our plant? We could have key indicators, a proven methodology, and process with predictable results…”I hear business owners and leaders say this to me often once they relax and truly share their thoughts and concerns. Far too often CEO’s and CFO’s think/hope their marketing and sales teams have a defined process that is efficient and effective to drive predictable results. Unfortunately, if you really understand and look at leading indicators what they think is a marketing and sales funnel is actually a sales bucket. In this post I will share how to determine if your team has a marketing and sales funnel or a sales bucket that leaks an occasional sale or two.

 

I was asked by the chairman of the board of a company to have lunch. He heard through his venture capital and private equity network what I do, and he was warned early on my approach is a bit different. I enjoy meeting new people and business problems are drawn to me. I enjoy learning new things, facing new challenges and each meeting like this one always teaches me something. Once we made it through the pleasantries it was not too long for me to hear his concerns;

 

Why can’t sales and marketing be like my manufacturing plant? Predictable, scalable, and provide me sales forecasts I can count on?

 

It drives me nuts to know we are spending so much money on marketing and I do not see an immediate and often long term return on that investment, but I am afraid to stop making it in case it would hurt the performance we are seeing.

 

What we need is a repeatable sales process. We need the sales guys to be more efficient at closing business and bringing in the revenue.

 

Based on our moderate to poor sales results over the last few years, do I have the right salespeople or should I be looking for new ones?

 

I feel like the CEO / President is asking for more money each year for marketing, but I am not seeing a corresponding increase in sales…why?

 

We seem to have high turnover in sales, we lost some good sales people and this has to be expensive and hurting our results.

 

About the time we finished eating he said; “what do you think? Is this something you can help with, can you fix sales problems like this?”

 

I have and often do “fix sales problems.” However more often than not what CEO’s and business owners want to hear on how to fix sales problems is not the way they anticipate. In most cases they think they have a repeatable sales process, but they don’t.

 

They think they have a marketing funnel that is dumping primed and ready leads to their salespeople and their sales people have a proven way to close them quickly. They think they need more sales training. They think they need to better motivate their sales people to perform.  No, no, no and in most cases no again.

 

What I have observed in most cases is leaders, particularly those not from marketing and sales believe they have a marketing and sales funnel, but in reality they have a bucket, with an every so small hole in the bottom that occasionally leaks a sale or two. Left unchecked this marketing and sales bucket becomes a Chinese water torture to your senior leadership team as they try to explain and predict future revenues and ROI with owners and investors. As one thought leader just shared, what they think is a funnel of live and vibrant leads and opportunities is actually pipeline stench. The pipelines may look full and make you feel good in senior management meetings Monday mornings…but are actually full of dead and rotting opportunities polluting your entire marketing and sales process.

 

Do you have a Marketing and Sales Funnel or Bucket?

 

  1. What is your lead to close %? Do you know it?
  2. Do you have defined stages in the marketing and sales pipeline? What are they?
  3. Can you share the # in each phase?
  4. If I met with your latest new salesperson, could they share your repeatable sales process with me?
  5. Does sales and marketing have an understood definition of the terms; opportunity, prospect, lead?
  6. Can you tell me the average time a new person you engage with spends in your process until they buy or die?
  7. Can you share the qualifying questions you use?
  8. Do you have the top three buyer personas  identified and have you mapped out their buying journey?
  9. Have you added new sales tools in the last 6-12 months?
  10. Does your web site speak in the tone of the problems you solve?

 

If the answers I receive to the above have three or more “no’s” you have Marketing and Sales Bucket not a funnel.

 

How about your company?

 

Do you have a “Marketing Funnel”, “Sales Funnel” a “Repeatable Sales process”?….are you sure? (you need to be)

 

What other questions could we ask to determine if you have a funnel of vibrant buyers anxious to buy and solve their problems, or a bunch of rotting dead leads just polluting your management process?

 

In the market of today there is no excuse to not have marketing and sales funnel that is a systematic process driven tool to maximize your team’s effectiveness and do so in the most efficient way.

 

So did this post make you nervous, anxious, and maybe a bit angry? As your team for the answers to the above that I use to diagnose teams I serve, and you will quickly understand your internal truths. Once you do, you are well on your way to driving a process that gets results. In my next post I will share some techniques I have used to turn marketing and sales buckets into funnels.

Want to Improve your Sales and Profits? “Reboot Your Business”… (and yourself)

crtl book

 

If you have been in business for a while like I have one thing we can always count on is “change”. Markets change, the way buyers buy changes, and how customers find you have drastically changed over the past 10 years. Like it or not, there has been a huge shift in power from the company and salesperson to the buyer who can now find more information about your company and products (and you) with a few simple mouse clicks. Has your business been agile and identified these changes and adapted? Or are you waiting for business to get back to normal as I hear so many say? Well, I hate to be the one to tell you, this is the new normal! If you are one of those business leaders that recognize changes have occurred but are having a hard time getting your head around what to do about it, there is a brilliant book by thought leader Mitch Joel titled; Ctrl Alt Delete, Reboot your business. Reboot your life. Your future depends on it.

 

 

My wife and I had a plan over the July 4th holiday. We invited all my wife’s relatives and my daughter’s college friends over for an old fashioned July 4th cookout. We planned a simple menu per my daughters request with hamburgers and hot dogs, baked beans, my wife’s aunt Shannon’s famous potato salad and my daughter planned to make another one of her creative desserts. I bought charcoal and decided to grill old school instead of over gas. We bought the supplies, invited everyone, and planned an afternoon out side that included some bocce ball, Frisbee, and watching the fireworks from the deck. We had a plan.

 

Ohio weather decided to change our plans with rain on and off all day. I hoped it would stop long enough to grill the food but around 4:00 pm I needed a plan B. So I moved the grill under the shelter of the front porch and although “no one grills on their front porch” we adapted, the food was great and everyone had a great time together.

 

porch gill

 

This experience reminded me of the book I just finished this week; Ctrl Alt Delete. It reminded me of how environments and business landscapes change and will be changing again and we must and need to adapt or we risk going hungry. I wonder why it is so easy, second nature for us to adapt in our everyday lives but in business we struggle to change, we fight the tendency to be nimble and agile. Why? Is it hubris, laziness, and or even fear? Or is it something deeper, something that was blended into my generation’s’ DNA? I was born in the early 1960’s and my father started out his career as a meter reader with the local natural gas company. His company sent him to college at night and after 25 years of moving up the corporate ladder  held a senior level financial position when he retired. This is the way we were taught how it works, how it was supposed to be… right?

 

So imagine how I feel, and how my dad must scratch his head with the crazy life I have led. I have served many companies over the past 30 years as you can see from my Linked In profile. My titles have included Account Rep to VP of Sales and Marketing, from COO for one assignment to Managing Director for another company. I have been a sales coach, entrepreneur,  marketing strategy consultant, author, and public speaker. I led a few start ups and turnarounds as President and CEO. However admittedly if I am being totally transparent with you (and myself) a part of me has felt there is something wrong with me. Why have not I not been able to do what my dad did and work for one company for 30 + years retire with a pension, benefits and winter in Florida like everyone else from Ohio? In the second part of Mitch Joel’s book he discusses how we as individuals must also adapt and change. He calls it embracing the squiggle. The squiggle is what I have done….a number of different roles based on the problems to be solved, many different industries and if you were to graphically plot it it would not look like my fathers straight line career trajectory, but would be a squiggly line with little if any ability to plot or predict the next data point.

 

Another area where I feel I do not fit in and quietly has made me feel anxious and sometimes guilty is… I like to work. I enjoy bumping into problems to be solved. I have developed over the years the ability to see around corners as I share with my children. I use this gift of pattern recognition and shape strategies that work. What I do for companies does not feel like “work” but more like my sport, play, my art. In the early 2000’s I even branded it “the art of thoughts” trying to explain the service I provided but quickly stopped using that description as my customers and market were not quite ready for it yet. This book shares how today and the future will challenge all those leave it to beaver work  life models we have had woven into our DNA and how there now is a blend of work and non work life. Technology enables us, affords and empowers us the ability to work anywhere, anytime, and because of this make more time for our families if we use it correctly. The future strategies that will drive explosive sales growth will not be developed in boardrooms but in coffee shops deep in the markets you serve.

 

Not since David Meerman Scott’s book: The New Rules of Marketing and PR has a book grabbed me like Ctrl Alt Delete and I wanted to share it with you. I highly recommend if you have been waiting for your  business to get back to normal, searching for a crystal ball that will give you some hint of what the future has in store you, or like me have seen and felt a blending of your work and non work life, …you  buy and study this book.

 

How about you…Have you too seen and experienced major changes in your business?

 

Have you adapted and embraced social marketing?…or do you still think it’s a fad?

 

Has your business raised the surrender flag and admitted you no longer have the power, or have you dug in like Colonel Custer who also had a plan?

 

 

The reality of today is buyers can now find more information about your company, product, salesperson, and the leaders of your organization with a few simple mouse clicks. How buyers buy, how consumers shop, and how employers search for and hire new team members has forever changed and will continue to evolve and change. Will you adapt and survive or dig your heals and do it the way we have always done it around here? ( and how’s that working for you?)  It truly is your choice; I hope and pray you chose wisely.