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.

 

Increase Sales: Help Your Salespeople Become “Rejection Proof”

Increase Sales: Help your salespeople become “Rejection Proof”

 

 

 

Why do some salespeople consistently achieve their sales growth goals while most (60%)struggles? How do we fix this common sales problem? We must help our salespeople overcome the fear of rejection and become Rejection Proof”.

 

Your salespeople have their sales goals. You shared what you expect in terms of growth from current business and identified the delta. The delta is the difference between the new sales goal and what your current business should do. I refer to this delta as: New Business Needed.

 

Most sales teams will have a big sales problem in November…it will be obvious they will not achieve the New Business Needed part of their sales plan and they will come in around 78%-90% of their sales plan.

 

Why?

 

The most common reasons I have observed over the past 30+ years of leading and coaching sales teams are …

 

A Dated Value Proposition 

 

Do not understand their market and buyers today 

 

Fear of Rejection

 

I have shared in a number of posts how to fix the sales problem of dated value propositions and in others posts how to quickly understand your markets.

In this post I will share how to help your salespeople overcome the fear of rejection and become rejection proof.

 

What is rejection and why do we all try to avoid it at all cost?

 

Rejection occurs when people interact and one says “no” and refuses to act on something that was asked. Rejection is a moment in time judgment made based on a number of factors most people do not realize…

 

Immediate need

Perceived value

Historical Experiences

Cultural differences

Psychological factors

Emotion

Risk tolerance

 

From my experience salespeople experience rejection when the buyer decides, based on what they have been presented and what they believe to be true, they do not trust the product or service will solve a problem or need. Or the buyer fails to have the problem the product or service solves and that is the sales problem of properly qualifying opportunities.

 

At this point in my sales career rejection does not scare me. A “no” just means “not yet” but it took me years to get to this point.

 

I do not own rejection and I do not see it as some badge or scar I need to carry with me and worry that others see it. I see rejection for what it is: a judgment based on information at that moment in time.

 

As I shared in a recent sales conference…

 

Rejection is a moment in time occurrence based on the information at that time… not a painful stain on your soul…once we see it for what it is we can stop being afraid of it”

 

The trouble is as humans we seek acceptance and approval from other people. Couple our deep need for acceptance in our DNA with the needs for safety and comfort and we should not be shocked salespeople avoid asking for the sale due to the fear of rejection. If we feel rejection and not observe it as a judgment we fail to feel safe.

 

How do we help salespeople overcome the fear of rejection and ask for the new business we need?

 

How can we teach salespeople to become rejection proof early in their careers and not wait 20+ years until they see rejection for what it is?

 

I was preparing a workshop to help salespeople overcome the fear of rejection and a friend suggested I should look into the work of Jia Jiang and watch his TED Talk. He has a number of very popular you tubes on rejection and a book titled: Rejection Proof, how to beat fear and become invincible through 100 days of rejection.

 

 

The book: Rejection Proof should be in everyone’s library, particularly sales and sales leaders.

 

The author shares how he set out on a quest to overcome his fear of rejection by purposefully experiencing 100 rejections over 100 days.

 

It is a fun and quick book to read.

 

The examples he shares have a great deal of humor like asking for a burger refill at his favorite hamburger joint.

 

What I found fascinating though is not everyone said “no” to some of his crazy requests like asking Krispy Kreme donuts to make him a donut shaped like the Olympic rings. The store manager not only made one for him but she gave it to him for free!

 

This made me wonder…

 

How many sales could have been won if the salesperson would have asked for the sale and not feared rejection?

 

I led the class on rejection, specifically overcoming rejection and I suggested everyone check out Jia Jiang’s You-Tubes and read his book.

 

What happened next I did not expect…

 

  • One person shared how he was at his fitness club and tried to be rejected by asking for a free massage…they gave it to him!
  • Another shared how he was in a long line at Chipotle, and asked for free chips for his inconvenience…they gave it to him!
  • Another boldly asked to drive my 1972 Corvette, a car that was my dad’s…I said “sure, its just a car
  • Some heard very loud “No’s” like the young man who asked for an attractive young girls phone number while she was sitting with her date (not one I would coach you to try)
  • Or the young man who asked for a “good guy discount” at an auto parts store. The clerk said “ a what?” The young man said I am a good guy and would like your good guy discount… he was rejected!

 

Could it be one reason why top sales performers consistently achieve and surpass their sales and profit goals is because they have had so many rejections they too have become Rejection Proof? I believe it is.

 

I look back over my career calling on customers like: Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, CAT, Blockbuster Cummins Engines, Sony Music, Ford, Nintendo, CA, Microsoft and many more…and I received many more rejections than purchase orders. Those rejections over 30+ years made me rejection proof today.

 

What if we strategically insure our sales teams receive many rejections early in their careers and actually made it an application exercise in their training?

 

If you do…you will have a team of sales super stars blowing their sales goals out of the water!

 

If you need to fix a sales problem, the fear of rejection, I recommend you ask your team to read Rejection Proof and have them set out on a quest of their own to receive 100 rejections as fast as possible.

How about your team….

Are your salespeople losing sales they could have won simply by asking?

What impact would it have your your bottom line if your sales team was rejection proof?

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avoid “Mariah New Years Eve Moments” On Sales Calls With Market Research

Avoid “Mariah New Years Eve Moments” on Sales Calls with Market Research

Why are some sales won and others lost? If you ask salespeople they tell you “price” is why sales are lost. However if you ask buyers “trust” is why sales are lost. The buyer did not feel your salesperson understood the entire buying iceberg, so they did not trust their proposed solution. In my last few posts I shared how understanding customer voice drives profitable sales. In this post I will share how it feels when sales does not understand their market and buyers and the impact it has on hitting their (your) numbers.

 

It was New Years Eve 2016 and my wife and I decided to make a fire in the fireplace, have a nice dinner at home for a change and watch the ball drop in New York City. We flipped between channels and watched various entertainers. For the past week the TV stations have been building up for Mariah Carey ‘s performance New Years Eve. Mariah took the stage and if you watched the show it was by far the most uncomfortable performance have ever seen.

 

We had such high expectations based on her singing abilities and the build up to this presentation. It was terrible! In her defense there were a number of technical difficulties like not being able to hear her music, the songs were in the wrong order and so on. She has an amazing vocal gift as an artist and this performance was not representative of her gifts. She looked beautiful but from the beginning of the performance to the end it was awkward at best. She tried to find her place in the song and regroup but failed. She tried to move around the stage and even tried a few dance moves and one of the other dancers almost dropped her. She eventually asked the audience to sing her song and at the end walked of the stage.

 

My wife and I were both so disturbed by how awkward that experience felt for us. My wife is a Mariah fan and felt bad about her technical difficulties. I shared the reason you practice and have training is not for when things go right, but its for when things like this go wrong.

 

Did you watch the attempted performance? If not you can view it here since social media was lighting up during and many hours after.

 

How did it make you feel,.. I mean feel inside?

 

It felt uncomfortable, awkward, and if you are like my wife you may even feel a bit sorry for her because we know she is much better than what we just experienced.

 

How you feel watching this is the feeling I get when I help sales teams who attempt to sell buyers but have dated value propositions, no formal sales process, and little if any sales tools or training for how buyers buy today.

 

One of roles when I help teams increase sales and fix sales a problem is assess and coach salespeople. I do this with a review of their KPI’s, past account feedback, CRM activity, but my favorite way is on four legged sales calls with them and their customers and prospects.

I use these joint calls to capture the current voice of the customers and markets, and I want to see (feel) if the salespeople are presenting their buyers in a trust building authentic way or does it feel canned, awkward, dated and not what the buyers need today.

 

When traveling with salespeople look for:

 

  • Conversation tone, comfortable and authentic?
  • Market and customer knowledge?
  • What sales tools were used(if any)?
  • Trust building conversation, use of stories and case studies?
  • Product knowledge / service knowledge?
  • Customer knowledge by salesperson?
  • Sales tools used at the right time?
  • Was the day planned well? 
  • Active listening to understand not to just reply?
  • Buyer non verbal communication?
  • What sales tools were used?
  • Did the salesperson know how to get to the account (don’t laugh I have seen this too)?
  • Did sales ask questions and take notes?
  • Did buyer(s) ask any questions about product or service we could not answer?
  • Did buyer require some criteria we were not prepared to deliver?
  • Understand key buying criteria and rank them?
  • Did we find all players involved in buying decision?
  • What are the competitors doing well?
  • Did the person we met with have the power to buy?
  • Does sales understand any shifts in buying at their accounts?
  • Would I buy from this salesperson?

 

I prefer to be in the market with my sales teams constantly learning how buyers are buying and what they need to buy today. I prefer to experience what our buyers hear and feel and coach sales quickly after each sales call.

 

After each buyer call I make it a practice to have a coaching opportunity with the salesperson:

 

  • How do you think the call went? ( do they know a good call from a poor one?)
  • What do you think the buyers biggest pain is today?
  • What did you hear the competitors are doing well?
  • How do you think your presentation went?
  • If you had to do it over again is there anything you would change?
  • What are our follow up items?
  • What new pain did we discover?
  • When do they need our follow up?
  • Are we dealing with power?
  • On a scale of 1% to 100% what % to you believe we will win this opportunity and why?

 

If your team has recently conducted market research in the form of customer voice workwin loss analysis, and or a value proposition audit your salespeople know their markets, common problems you solve for your buyers and have strong value propositions they often share in the form of stories. Because your team understands the buying journey and criteria today, you have the right sales tools that are used at the right time and you win sales.

 

What kind of sales calls are your team members having with buyers in your markets today?

 

A quick example…

 

I was asked to help a company whose sales were climbing consistently for years but then stalled for the last three years. I was asked to help get sales growing profitably again in the quickest way possible. As I have shared, the first step of my process understand market truth by meeting with customers and prospects. I asked the CEO who was his top performing regional manager because I wanted to experience what was working so we could scale it. I made arrangements to travel with Jason who has been a regional manager with this company for 20 years and has two of the company’s top customers.

 

Jason picked me up at the airport and we were off to the first meeting. On the way Jason was a very likable guy and was really curious about why I asked to travel with him first since he was one of the first regional managers. I shared that the CEO really valued him and I thought I could learn a great deal quickly working with him. We made small talk on the 90-minute drive and I heard about his career with the company, all the changes he has seen and how strong his relationships were with all his customers.

 

Our first call was with the company’s second largest account in North America. As soon as Jason turned the engine off his car door was opening and he was ready to charge in. I asked he slow down and help me understand what we hope to achieve in this call today. So Jason got back in the car and seemed somewhat aggravated.

 

The conversation went like this:

 

What’s our plan?

 

We are calling on our second largest account.

 

What do we hope to achieve?

 

Introduce you to account and follow up from my last meeting a month ago.

 

What did you present a month ago?

 

Our new product launching this month, the buyer promised to support it.

 

Great, so your goal today is to walk out with orders or a commitment to buy?

 

(Another awkward look) well let’s see how it goes this guy loves working with me and I am sure we will win some orders.

 

We signed in and were escorted to a very impressive conference room. I opened my note pad and got prepared to meet with the buyer. Lou the buyer came in and had a number of people with him: the engineering director, their sales manager, and the director of customer service and training.

 

Jason started out introducing me and letting me ask a few questions as the “new guy”.

 

Jason asked the buyer the status with the pre-order for the new product launch. He said everyone at our company is looking forward to his continued support and we want to make sure we ship you on time.

 

The room was like someone sucked all the air out of it. Everyone, from a non-verbal communications, was uneasy. The director of engineering was looking at our buyer; the buyer looking at customer service manager and the sales manger was visibly frustrated. Even Jason looked uncomfortable, as his face grew very red.

 

The buyer looked at Jason and said:

  • When we met a month ago I said I was very interested in supporting this new product launch, but since you are displacing an existing vendor who we too have a long relationship with we needed to have all the decision makers in the room and have you present your products to win placement.
  • I gathered all team members for this meeting and we expected you to come here today and present the products about to launch and answer any questions each of our department heads had.
  • After your presentation we meet, discuss the opportunity and give you our commitment unless there was some unforeseen issues within two weeks.

 

Jason was having a “Sales Maria New Years Moment”!

 

  • He did not understand the buyers expectation for this meeting
  • He did not understand the buyers buying process for displacing current vendor partners
  • He did not know the other buying decision makers/ influencers or what they needed in terms of criteria
  • He was not prepared, no sell sheets, no lap top presentation, no content on the problems this new line of products solves, why we were introducing it, or why its better than the current vendor’s.
  • He did not know nor was prepared to discuss a program to help the distributor sell out the current vendors inventory, and the buyer expected one

 

Jason showed up and counted on his relationship with Lou to help him place the new product line (like he did 10 years ago). He was not prepared for what the account needed to make a buying decision. He did not understand the impact such a change would have on other leaders at this customer. At one point of the meeting it was as if the audience was singing the words he should have known. The meeting was awkward to attend and we did not gain a commitment.

 

Being the new guy in the room I wanted to somehow save this opportunity while Jason cooled off.

 

“It sounds like we have some homework to do. Being new to this industry I would really appreciate each of you sharing what you would have liked to hear from us today.”

 

Engineering – is your product a perfect replacement for what we are buying now or is modifications required, if so what are they and did you factor those into your price? He had some very specific technical product questions we were not prepared to answer as well.

 

Sales Manager- what is your plan to train my sales team. A number of my guys love our current vendor and their rep. Do you plan a SPIFF to launch? What is it? When would you have a sales training? Do you have new brochures? When we explain to our customers the change to your product why is it better? It would be great to have some third party tests or any data you had.

 

Customer service training – since so many of our orders come in over the phone what’s the plan to train my team? When would that happen? Will the sales incentive contest include my team? Is your product a perfect replacement? Will your product ship with bar code labels like our current vendor? Will you drop ship my customers with our invoice?

 

Buyer – you know based on our purchases we buy in volume. What is my truckload price? Can I include this new product with other current products to get my free freight quicker? What is your program to blow out my current inventory? Will you province upfront money or a discount off my orders over time? Can I place a blanket order and draw from it to get a good cost like the competitor or is price based on each order? What is the delivery window from order placement to arrival at our warehouse? We moved to a just in time model and I am now being evaluated on inventory turns and dollars in inventory.

 

We gathered as much information as they would share and scheduled a follow up presentation in two weeks and offered to make it over lunch. I apologized this meeting did not go as they expected and assured them they would have everything they needed in two weeks.

 

In the car Jason and I went over the coaching questions about the meeting and I could tell Jason felt uncomfortable. He shared: ” I can tell you are new, no one has ever asked me so many questions after a call before here at ______

Like many salespeople who have sold for 20+ years Jason is a strong relationship sales person but needs to adjust his style to grow his market’s sales today. I wish what I experienced here was rare or unusual but it is not. Every day salespeople are showing up and trying to win sales like the always have and are losing sales they should have won. Why? The main reason is they do not understand how buyers are buying or what they need to buy today. They lack updated sales tools that speak to needed buying criteria.

So what do they do?

They count on having “good relationships” and lose sales they could have won with some market research preparation, sales coaching and training.

 

Are your salespeople having “Sales Mariah Moments” with your customers?

 

How would you know?

 

If this was a new customer what probability do you think we would have of selling them? or a second meeting?

 

Who on your team understand what your buyers need to make buying decisions today?

 

The rest of our meetings that day went pretty much the same. They were what I refer to as “ Hi how are ya” meetings. (Almost as bad as dropping off donuts and logging it as a sales call in the CRM) They lacked a purpose and often left me feeling like we wasted the buyers’ time. They felt reactive and not proactive. Jason is a great guy and has done many favors for his customers over the years. All his accounts shared how much they liked him and appreciated him fighting on their behalf with corporate. But Jason’s account sales were flat and he has seen limited success placing and selling new products. Looking at the sales data he hit his numbers when his large accounts had good sales years but has not added any new accounts in 18 months.

 

Today is a new day with buyers having as much as 60%-70% of the buying process done before they meet with salespeople. The buyer obviously trusted Jason and we can build on this, but some of that trust was broken when Jason failed to listen to what the buyer’s process was, who else would be involved in the buying decision and what those leaders needed. Was it beyond repair? No. Jason must do a much better job of taking notes in meetings and following up. The company owes Jason a repeatable sales process to follow based on how the buyers buy today and new sales tools for each of the common buying influencers in this market.

 

“Sales Mariah Moments” are painful to experience and expensive in cost of sale and lost sales we could have won.

 

Understanding your markets and buyers is key to avoiding Sales Mariah Moments. Like Mariah Carey your salespeople are talented and all have gifts. Your company provides quality products and good service. We must insure we equip and train our salespeople to win in their markets today.

 

No matter how long your salespeople have worked for you they still need to make adjustments to how they present their customers. My guess is if I not had been at this meeting the CRM would have read:

 

“Good meeting, buyer loves us, we have some tough competition in this account and we need to revisit our price strategy to win. I am confident if we give them a volume cost program we will win their support”.

 

Does your CRM have a number of “Good Meetings” notes with no sales increases to follow?

 

To insure sales and sales leadership understands and implements a proven sales process and tools based on how buyers are buying today you must understand your markets and have sales training and coaching.

 

The sales training and practice role-playing is for when meetings don’t go as planned but you still can salvage a commitment.

 

Coaching is to insure your team knows this is not some new fad that will go away in a month or so but your team is committed to a formal sales process to win more sales.

 

The foundation of your sales success lies in understanding your buyers and helping them buy the way they are buying today.

 

Market research is critical parts of helping your sales team win today.

 

What happens if your team fails to understand what your buyers want and need and how they buy?

 

Your team will have “ Mariah New Years Eve Moments” leaving you to explain to your board and investors why so many good meetings are not helping you hit your number.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

“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.