Three Methods To Understand Your Buyers And Markets Today …ASK!

Three Methods to Understand Your Buyers and Markets Today …ASK!



It is not unusual the simplest of strategies are often the most difficult for some people to execute. Why? Why is it so important to understand buyer and market needs today? Sales teams who understand their buyers, how buyers buy and what they need to make buying decisions today achieve their sales goals. When salespeople approach buyers and their markets with dated value propositions and not address current market problems sales teams fail to hit goals. In this post I will share three ways to better understand your buyers and markets.

In my last post I asked a question: What if I told you growing your sales profitably is actually “Simple” if you focus on one strategy? I shared the key to growing your sales and profits are: know your customers and markets. So far no one argues with that premise. However the behavior that needs to change (and quick) is companies who assume they understand their markets based on dated information. They have leaders who believe their gut and intuition that have gotten them this far will help them lead their teams to future wins. My argument is, as I shared in 2009, the sales game has changed and your gut and intuition are not enough to win today. We serve dynamic markets that are constantly changing and shifting. A value proposition that resonated with buyers six months ago may no longer connect due to a shift in economic conditions and or a new technology.
“Companies who build strategic plans based on dated market information fail. “
– Mark Allen Roberts
In a recent post by SBI they asked the question: Could last year’s market research be killing your chances to achieve next year’s sales goals? If you have not read this post I highly recommend you take a few minutes to review it. As shared in their post:
“Strategic alignment is the ultimate goal, but it’s not a fixed destination. It’s a moving target. That’s because market conditions are always in flux. If you continue to rely on outdated market research, you’re not just taking a step backward. You’re returning to square one, year after year.
How do you stay current with your buyer and market data to insure your sales strategy leads to goal achievement?
How do market leading companies equip and empower their sales teams to consistently achieve sales targets year after year?
In this post I will share three ways I have used to insure the sales and marketing teams have value propositions that resonate with their buyers and markets.
The best technique is time in the market. I enjoy working with my sales and marketing teams in the field with what I have referred to in previous posts as “four legged sales calls”. You shadow your team members with current customers and as they call on new customers. Your sole purpose is to listen and observe. I have to warn you though it is very difficult to not jump in on a sale that feels like it is heading south or take over the call that seems to not be leading to a close. I highly recommend you listen with the intent to learn rather than to show what you know. You must put on a market research hat and leave your sales hat in your reps car to receive the most benefit. In this post I shared things I am listening for and setting out to understand;
• What are the buyers’ buying criteria today?

• What is the buying process?

• Who else is involved in making buying decisions? 

• Does your sales process mirror the buying process?

• What sales tools does your salesperson have and which ones do they use? Are they current, or something they created themselves?

• Does the buyer have other problems they verbalize but your salesperson fails to hear?

• Where does the buyer turn today when faced with an unresolved problem? …the internet, a trade journal, calls a local representative…

• What other products does your buyer buy from competitors that they could be buying from you?

• What % of the time is your salesperson listening versus talking? ( my favorite indicator)

If you are experiencing “death by meetings” at the corporate office and find it difficult to meet with buyers in your market I highly recommend win-loss analysis . I prefer win-loss calls face to face however if this cannot occur I have seen where win loss phone interviews have proven extremely valuable. If you have not heard of win loss analysis I shared how I use it and common questions I ask here. After approximately 12-20 phone interviews you will quickly see trends on why buyers buy from you and why they don’t. You will discover the buying process and criteria your buyers are using today to make buying decisions. Market leading companies strategically plan win loss analysis as an ongoing strategy to stay tuned in to their market.
A new technique to understand your buyers and get target buyers to share insights on their problems and how they buy is shared in the book: Ask… The Counter intuitive Online Formula to Discover Exactly What Your Customers Want to Buy…Create a Mass of Raving Fans…and Take Any Business to the Next Level , by Ryan Levesque. I just finished reading this new book and found it very useful.
In this book the author shares a proven process he developed and personally uses to understand customers, get customers to speak to you, and ultimately fall in love with your product or service. In 1970 we saw approximately 500 ads per day. With the average consumer seeing over 5,000 Google ads per day how do marketers break through all the noise today? In his book he shares a process to get answers to the following questions;
What do buyers want to buy?
When are they ready to buy?
Why did they not buy?
What I liked about this book is its’ “how to “approach. The author uses 4 primary surveys to capture current buyer process, criteria and it is done in such a way the customers fall in love with your product.
The key to insuring your team achieves their sales goals is a clear and current understanding of your buyers and markets and how they make buying decisions.

Companies who take the time to strategically  understand their markets and buyers and recognize shifts early achieve and surpass their sales goals.

Nothing compares to meeting with buyers and influencers in the markets you serve and asking them questions. If you struggle to break away from those “important” meetings at corporate you can conduct win loss analysis calls and now the book: Ask provides a step by step process to use surveys to capture what you need to know.

There is no excuse to lead by gut and intuition in today’s dynamic and shifting marketplace. Make understanding knowing your customers and markets a key action item in your strategic plan and your will consistently achieve and surpass your sales and profit goals.

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #14 Customers will Stiff you…But Don’t Let Them Burn you…

money burning

The majority of customers are honest hard working people, like you, looking for someone to help them solve their problems. They do not have a problem paying for the value exchange they receive from you. There are however those low life’s out there who will engage with you and have no intention of paying you. I included this in my eBook: 50 ugly truths about starting your own business…and why you should do it anyway, as it often shocks and infuriates new entrepreneurs. Although these low life’s will attempt to stiff you, you don’t have to let them burn you.

I can still remember the first person who failed to pay me. Although it was many years ago, it was one of those tough leadership muscle building lessons during bootstrapping. I was asked by an investor to engage with one of his portfolio companies to figure out what was wrong and turn it around. I have played this role a number of times serving VC’s and Angel investors and I enjoy the assessment and turnaround of entrepreneurial teams.

When I first met the young CEO at the helm of this organization my gut said run away. He was an arrogant young man who was irritated that I was even asked to help fix his team’s poor performance. He was irritated the board and the investors did not seem to buy his explanation that the reason for his shortfall to goals was: a poor economy. He was concerned that I would share what I find with the investor who brought me in to serve his team, and for the first two months he instructed his team to run their answers to all my questions by him prior to answering me. (Another sign I should have run away)

I tried to build trust and I advised this young CEO the issues I discovered and made recommendations. One recommendation was the need to explain the problems he solves for his clients with an aggressive messaging plan targeting his optimum buyer personas. His response was one I have heard by CEO founders before…” we do not need marketing…the market clearly understands what we have…I just need hungrier salespeople.” (So he cut their base pay to make them hungrier) He could not have been more wrong. Since he instructed his team to not openly share information with me I went into his market and interviewed his past, current, and targeted new customers. I found the market was in fact aware of his business, but they consistently did not understand how this business could solve their problems…the market branded his business by default.

After a number of months the retainer payments were paid later and later and eventually they stopped. While he told me and his team the business was really struggling, he personally leased a Hummer, bought himself an expensive laptop and went on a trip internationally with his wife. (But that’s another post)

I was so connected to helping this team and investor; this company properly brand the business in the market I failed to pay attention to his not paying me. What started out as “ I will pay you next week…turned to next month…and after two months I was informed he can not pay, and he was actually shocked I would ask for the payment of my small retainer given the difficulties the business was having as he shared at a recent board meeting I was asked to attend”.

There are two schools of thought with customers who do not pay you. The first says write it off as bad debt and move on. In this case this young CEO went on to say “you don’t want to be known as someone who sues his clients do you?” (I later found he had said many times before, and had I done my homework on him this could have been prevented)

The only thing worst than not having customers is selling customers who do not pay.

The second thought is you have provided a value and you should expect payment. Customers who fail to pay will be sent to collections and or sued. I actually do want to have the reputation of suing clients who do not pay as this will help weed out the low life’s who become time vampires sucking the life out of you with no intent on paying. So I went to the courthouse filled out the proper paperwork and we went to court. The judge provided a judgment in my favor and as we left the courthouse this young CEO went on to say …” good luck collecting you @# hole” Sure enough after multiple attempts to collect he failed to pay . The next phase of this process required an attorney and we won that judgment as well with interest.

 

 

This young CEO stiffed me. However where I blew it was I became angry, I allowed it to stick to me.

 

Anger is an acid that only burns the container that tries to hold it.

 

beliefs

 

I let this young man’s poor ethics personally affect me. Anger left unchecked can turn to depression and leaves us feeling bitter. As I worked with new clients I built processes and procedures for the less than 1% of business owners out there who are the low life’s like this young CEO. That unchecked bitterness stayed with me and became a frequent thought; small business owners will stiff you if you fail to protect yourself. This thought repeated over and over again became a belief, stemming from one unethical young man. It failed to recognize a sea of very prosperous relationships I have enjoyed with past customers over the past 25 years, and it tainted my outlook. My coach eventually brought this bitterness to my attention and explained I needed to forgive this young man and move on… Not for his sake, but for mine.

 

 

What should you do if a customer stiffs you?

  1. Seek first to understand
  2. determine if this a deadbeat with a history of treating partners like this or someone who needs you to work with them
  3. cut bait early, with the first missed payment, services must stop
  4. if they refuse to pay, start collections proceeding immediately
  5. ask yourself what lesson ( often expensive lesson) can you learn for this experience to insure it does not occur again
  6. forgive their unethical behavior for your sake, not theirs
  7. move on, as the Bible says, “dust off your sandals and move on” As 99% of customers are ethical people
  8. do not allow this bad experience to taint how you treat current and new customers

 

Anger if left unchecked is like acid, and it only damages the container that tries to keep it contained.

 

As an Entrepreneur customers will stiff you but they need not burn you. One of the best ways to prevent serving someone that does not pay you occurs at the beginning of the relationship. Just as your customers are qualifying you early on, you too must qualify them.

 

Ask yourself…

 

 

Is this someone I want to work with?

 

What does the market say about this company? This person?

 

 

Do I trust this person with my money?

 

 

If you gut says “no” to any of the above move on to others who would truly value your product or service.

 

 

 

How about you and your organization….

 

 

How do you deal with deadbeats who try to stiff you?

 

 

Do they just stiff you…or do they also burn you?

 

 

Have you established processes and procedures that screams your lack of trust in new clients based on your bitterness?

 

 

Do your current processes and procedure cater to the 99% of ethical customers or the 1% who are the low life’s?

 

 

If a deadbeat makes it through your pre engagement qualification process, and if they do stiff you I recommend you engage the various collections procedures within the law, and you personally forgive them and move on to serving the 99% of those in the market who will value your product or service.

 

As an aside I bumped into the investor who asked me to help this young CEO and now the list of vendors he has stiffed is very long and his business continues to suffer missing key performance indicators and has high turnover. I call it “Business Karma”; others say “what comes around goes around.”

 

Markets. like people, trust or do not trust businesses. When markets hear often enough that someone in their community of service providers is a deadbeat, the market ostracizes that owner, that business, which only further accelerates their death spiral into personal and business bankruptcy.

 

Mentor Moment #8: “Haste makes Waste”

haste

Is it just me…or do our fathers seem smarter as we get older? When we as individuals or organizations “haste” and drive knee jerk reactions they also create waste and often make matters worse.

I can remember my father saying “haste makes waste” throughout my childhood. He said it when I was painting our fence and I was so focused on getting done I was not aware of the mess I was making beneath the fence and would latter spend many extra hours cleaning up.

I try not to talk about politics in my blog, however a great example of “haste makes waste “can be viewed today by watching the actions of President Obama and the Democratic Party with regards to the stimulus and healthcare reform. They moved so fast to push a stimulus bill through the system that a number of those involved in signing the bill, failed to read it. As a Christian man I am to pray for my leaders so I prayed that what looked like haste makes waste was not the case. However we are well into the stimulus and it should not shock anyone that what was rushed to signature has failed to produce the promised results.

Same play, act two…the healthcare reform bill. Again we are seeing a rush to closure. When hitting a date becomes more important than what you are doing you are lost, off track and must STOP. I agree we need to reform healthcare so I am not arguing about the unresolved problem, the need. What I am concerned with is the focus on quick closure verse writing a bill that will truly solve the problem. Is this something only politicians do? Unfortunately no.

We can look in the Bible and read Samuel to learn what happened to Saul when he failed to wait as instructed and rushed into battle. Like an unruly child saying “but I want it now” (The only battle he lost, but the one that was the beginning of his end as the leader)

In business we see leaders making plans and focusing so much energy on holding teams accountable to a specific date they fail to achieve their desired results. Part of the waste can be seen as products having to be re-launched. We see businesses and Politian’s going back to their supporters and asking for more support as the initiative they hasted failed to deliver when what they need to do is Detox.

When we haste we create waste, and waste is something none of us can afford today.

How about your company, have you seen your team “haste” that resulted in “waste”?

Why do leaders seem to connect to timelines more than outcomes?

Does it really take longer to do it right, gather data, seek the advice of experts, than to haste?

Have you ever seen something hasted through that hit or surpassed its objectives?

I can hear my dad now, if he had a chance to address the President and congress: Haste makes waste…and what you are wasting is my, and my great great grand children’s’, futures. Based on the polls they do not seem to be listening, but you can listen in your business and make sure you are not hasting.

How Albertson’s Cut my Trust with a Loyalty Program

family pics 066

I have a bit of a dilemma in my home; my young daughter works at Safeway ( her first job) but Albertson’s is more convenient a turn on my way home. I appreciate Safeway employing my young daughter and I am impressed with how they treat young people. My daughter is learning valuable life skills. So I try to split my grocery shopping between Safeway and Albertsons.

In May Albertson’s started a loyalty rewards program. (Makes sense as the Safeway is across the street) They launched a program that rewards your loyalty for shopping at Albertsons with stickers that can be traded for a Knife set. I do not need a Knife set, but my son is moving into his first apartment at the U of A so I thought …why not? Since May I have been only shopping at Albertsons exclusively and I have been accumulating my little stickers to achieve my loyalty reward; a set of Thomas knives. I did an internet search and it turns out this set of Knives has a retail value of $899…wow, Albertsons must really value me!

I have collected the stickers (through the teasing of my family members) and I filled the entire card and I am on my way to filling another. So I went to Albertsons to claim my prize and be able to proudly present this to my son. I was not sure how the redemption worked so I asked one of their workers at the front of the store and the first shoe dropped; “Sir, you do not get the “entire” set, you get one of the offers. If you read the fine print here, you get to pick from one of three offering..a butcher knife, this set, or this set, and if you claim this set it is only 40 stickers so we will give you 10 back” Ok, I should have known better I guess. I wondered how they could offer an $899 set of knives if I purchased $500 worth of Groceries. However I did noodle it a bit, rationalize it….retail of $899 probably means a cost of $399, If I would ask Nick who has sourced products for me from China over the years to source these knives I could probably get them landed in the US for $199…so this loyalty program makes sense. Besides it is not the entire set for $899, but just some of the set.

I went to the display to choose my prize and felt my son did not need a butcher knife, so I chose an offering of 3 knives he and his roommates could use. (Not happy, but rolling with it) I proudly presented my three knives to the cashier, and she asked “what are you trying to do?” I explained I want this offering here in the middle of your brochure. She explained “ you need to read the fine print, you only get one of the knives in that group of three for 40 stickers, which one would you like?” Now I’m getting pissed…so I picked a knife and mentally prepared for the ridicule I would receive when I went home. She could tell I was troubled so she said “Don’t feel bad honey, almost everyone does the same thing. When people started trying to redeem their knives like you, they too did not understand the programs. We told the bosses but they don’t listen to us, we are just cashiers.”

Now I’m really pissed! So other customers also were unhappy and Albertsons did nothing to help clarify the programs? If they did explain how it worked, and how you would need to spend $3600 for the complete knife set would it work? Doubtful!family pics 064

I am a big fan of loyalty programs and I feel there are very smart particularly in this economy. If done correctly they can build new customer trials and deepen the trust with your existing customers. If executed poorly, or worse requiring fine print, can cut your trust with your loyal customers.

 

If you chose to have a loyalty program please keep in mind;

 

· The prize must be of value to your customer

· The prize should have relevance to your buyer

· Ideally the prize should help your customers solve a problem, an unmet need

· Communicate the program clearly

· Your customers should not learn about the “fine print” at the time of redemption

· The prize should be obtainable for your average customer

· The redemption process should be clearly stated

 

Here I come Safeway! I hate that you make me carry a little card to get the best price, or shout my home telephone number, but hey, you are treating my daughter well.

 

(and for the other husbands like me, I did get that “ you are so dumb” look when I got home)

What if you could have a daily tracking poll for your customer satisfaction like the Rasmussen Presidential Approval Index?…You Can!

 

So the Rasmussen Presidential Approval Index came out today showing only 30% of the nation’s voters strongly approve of the way that President Obama is performing in his role. 38% said they strongly disagree providing a net index rating of -8. 43% say he is doing a poor job. It turns out men more strongly disapprove than women. You can read the full report here at the Daily Presidential Tracking Poll.

The purpose of this post is not to bash our President. As a Christian businessman I pray for him as we are instructed to do in the Bible. I pray the Lord gives him wisdom and discernment. The reason I wanted to discuss this report is a “what if”. clip_image001

What if, as the leader in your business, you too could have a report that frequently showed your “voters” (customers who vote every time they buy from you or your competitors) approval rating? How valuable would that be, particularly in this economy?

 

The good news is you can…it is called Win/Loss analysis and if your team is not doing it now, get started! In Win /Loss analysis you contact customers you win and ask why they bought, how they came to buy and so on. You also call those accounts you lost. You know, the ones your sales team said you lost “because your price was too high”? Well as I shared in my post WARNING: Buyer’s say what salespeople do wrong? PRICE is not on the list! The top reason buyers do not buy is your salespeople are not listening to their needs; they don’t follow up timely and as a result do not understand the problem the buyer is trying to solve.

Aside from having personally done win/loss over tie years and realized the benefits, it is also a Biblical principle.

In Proverbs we learn ” the tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pour forth foolishness” So there you go, will so start win/loss today and be “wise” or will you keep making strategic decisionsthat add no value ( and may hurt your business) and be a ….( I don’t need to remind you, you just read the passage)

Once you start conducting win /loss you will have a wealth of information to keep your voter approval ratings high among your internal and external customers.