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Who Owns the Voice of Your Market and Voice of Your Customer? ..Hint (not sales!)

 

In my last few posts I have been sharing the power of capturing the voice of your customers and voice of your markets. Understanding how your buyers buy today, the journey they take and the criteria they must have is the quickest way to increasing sales. Who should own the voice of the market and customer? The answer may surprise you: Not Sales! In this post I will share who should own the voice of the customer and share a short video on the impact this information will have.

Who owns the voice of the market, voice of the customer in your company?

Before we unpack this topic we need to understand the differences between the voice of the customer (VoC) and the voice of the market (VoM).

Voice of the Customer

“Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a marketing research technique that encompasses the collective insights of your customers’ needs, wants, perceptions, preferences and expectations.”

Iperceptions

 

Voice of Market

Voice of the Market (VOM) is different in that it incorporates input from the greater market. The market contains not only your customers, but also those who chose not to buy your solution – those who bought someone else’s product and those who just didn’t make a decision.”

On Product Management 

 

 

Capturing the voice of your customer (VOC) is critical to providing your customers the best overall buying experience and growing sales profitably. I also use the voice of the customer to help me understand how customers describe the problems my clients solve in similar markets. The Voice of the market is even more powerful because it not only captures your customer, but it also captures prospects in your market you want to serve as well as customers you once sold. The voice of the Market ( VOM) helps you scale your solutions to unresolved market problems to new customers in the markets you serve.

 

Who owns the voice of the market and customer?

 

Marketing!

 

Why?

 

A few reasons I have experienced over the years:

 

First, you want sales selling. I don’t mean to sound trite but this is about focus. You want your sales resources selling and not conducting market research. You do not want them doing any behaviors that do not align with their specific objectives and hitting their sales numbers. They need to be driving to serve their customers and solve their unresolved problems.

 

“Diluted Sales focus causes diluted sales results.”

– Mark Allen Roberts

 

Second, you want unfiltered feedback from your customers and markets. What if the reason why buyers don’t buy is the most common reason: the buyer-felt sales did not adequately understand the problem to be solved so they did not trust their proposal to fix the problem. Will sales tell you that? Maybe but it would be a difficult thing to share. For example, what if “the why “your customers do not buy more is they were unaware of the new products you introduced over a year ago?

 

Third, your customers have a relationship with your salesperson. It would be very difficult and uncomfortable for them to share concerns directly with the salesperson that calls on them. However your customers will share feedback if asked correctly to give them a better overall buying experience.

 

Forth, your salespeople are trained to sell. Great right? Not when it comes to understanding your buyers and how they buy. Your sales people may hear something then start selling instead of actively listening and capturing the entire thought. The quickest way to shut down a good voice of customer, voice of market conversation is to try to sell through objections the buyers shares.

 

Marketing owns the voice of the market and voice of the customer.

 

If you are like a number of companies you may not have marketing team members experienced conducting interviews. If that is the case I highly recommend you hire a 3rd party to interview your customers and markets. This is by far the best method of gathering what your buyers need and how they buy today. The outside 3rd party will interview your customers, customers you lost, and prospects you always wanted to be customers. Another approach would be to have a senior member of the leadership team conduct these interviews. As VP of sales and marketing I would often conduct this research.

 

The only companies you  should never interview are new companies who are currently at some stage of the sales process. You do not want anything to interrupt the flow of the sale through the funnel. I have seen companies inexperienced with this process call prospects they are quoting in an effort to help close the sale faster and lose the sale entirely.

 

Make sure when working with a 3rd party you are clear about the deliverables.

 

Possible market work deliverables include:

  • Present raw data
  • Map buying journey
  • Identify buyer personas
  • Prepare a summary report / Identify shifts and trends
  • Prepare a summary report and recommendations based on the raw data

 

When I conduct customer and market voice research I present a summary report and recommendations for a specific project fee based on the number of people interviewed, the time to accomplish the project, and how the customers and markets are interviewed. Some clients ask I personally meet with 2-5 of their customers so the cost is higher than a phone interview due to travel expenses.

 

I feel I need to warn you at this point: In this capturing voice process you will hear a number of great things, things that will make you proud of your team. You will probably also hear things your customers believe to be true (their perceptions) that may or many not be true. Keep in mind your customer’s perception is their reality and that is what you must use in your strategic adjustments.

 

After the market work your team will be nervous. Sales, marketing, operations and even quality will be nervous about what your customers and markets share. As the leader in the organization you must set the stage for this exercise. When I work with teams I have four meetings:

 

  • Project launch meeting with senior management team – I share what we will be doing, how we will do it, who we need to speak with and what some outcomes may be. I emphasize this is not a witch-hunt, but an opportunity to learn how to make strategic adjustments that insures we all hit our numbers. This meeting is about education and expectations

 

  • CEO/President/VP of marketing/VP of sales – In this meeting I share my summary report and some specific customer interviews with raw data and recommendations, adjustments to sales process and needed new sales tools. This meeting is about understanding opportunities not finding a throat to choke. We decide what we will share with team and in what depth.

 

  • Senior leadership team – present summary of finds and recommendations without specific customer interviews. I ask the CEO and other leaders to prioritize the action items and commit to investment if required in this meeting. This meeting is about gaining team understanding and commitment tied to outcomes and shaping a plan to meet what buyers need today.

 

  • Sales VP, Marketing VP, sales and marketing teams– present findings and design a new sales process and list new sales tools needed. Conduct 3-4 sales trainings over 6-8 months and provide coaching as needed. This first meeting is about applying the work your team has committed to do and reinforcing new behaviors. This is a great team building exercise to tear down any silos that have developed over the years. Following trainings are to reinforce new behaviors and coach team members through any difficulties they are experiencing.

 

The number and severity of the adjustments needed will depend upon the market and customer feedback as well as the senior management team’s prioritization; most teams learn a few opportunities, misperceptions of customers and make 2-5 strategic adjustments and add new sales tools. It is not unusual teams create a project roadmap with phase gates to tackle findings. You can have a senior manager lead the project internally or I have been hired to hold team members accountable to their assigned deliverables.

 

Once your team understands the voice of your market and voice of your customers you have the foundation for a strong plan to hit your sales and profit numbers.

 

Does your team understand the voice of the customer?

 

Does your team clearly understand the voice of your market (s)?

 

Who owns the voice of the customer and market in your organization?

 

When was the last time you gathered this information?

 

Are you sure your brand is in sync with your customer expectations?

 

How often do you feel you need to gather this information?

 

Market leading organizations achieve their sales and profit goals on a consistent basis.

They accomplish this by spending time understanding how buyers buy, what they need to buy, and why they don’t buy.

 

They take current market data and adjust their plans to better serve their current buyers and markets.

 

Would your team like to realize a 10X sales increase over the next 6 -8 years, and or a $38 million sales increase in 18 months like the companies I have shared recently? If so, it involves capturing the voice of your customers and voice of your markets which is a key part of the no smoke and mirrors process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leverage Customer Voice Into “Explosive Sales Growth”

Leverage Customer Voice into “Explosive Sales Growth”

Understanding your customers and markets today is the first step in business development plans that result in explosive sales growth. In my last post I shared an example of one company that took the time to understand their market and doubled their sales in 18 months. In this post I will share the same process and how critical it is to understand who your real customer is.

 

After the plastics company in the last post was sold to a private equity firm for a multiple much higher than industry averages I needed to find a new team to serve.

 

A company contacted me: Vantage Mobility. This company manufactures vans with the floors lowered so consumers in wheelchairs can drive again. This was one of my favorite jobs because we were changing lives with each sale.

 

When I met with their owners I heard common pains they wanted solved:

  • Increased distribution
  • Increase sales
  • Increase market share
  • Improve bottom line

After joining the team as the VP of Sales and Marketing I set out to use the same process that helped Alpha Enterprises realize explosive sales growth:

 

Go out into the market and meet customers

Listen for problems that needed solved

Understand how they buy today

What they need to buy today

Then shape a sales process that mirrors what we learned, train and coach sales team on how to use it

 

The leadership team said their customers were independent mobility dealers who bought their vehicles then sold then to consumers in wheel chairs. What I heard was: mobility dealers were their channel distribution partners but the customers are consumers in wheelchairs. This led to some …lets say lively discussions with the new guy “who obviously did not understand the dealer is the customer because they send us checks!”

 

My first objective was to add distribution in markets we were not adequately represented. I conducted a number of four-legged sales calls with my regional sales managers calling on our independent dealer distributors and the dealers we wanted to add. While my regional managers were focused on hitting their sales numbers (as they should) I asked open ended questions to learn more about their business, how they buy, what the buy and why today. They openly shared why they bought from the 800 lb gorilla competitor: Braun. Braun pretty much invented this industry. Their founder, set out to solve a problem: help consumers in wheel chairs drive again. Because he was in a wheelchair himself, he intimately understood the needs of consumers in wheelchairs.

One of the questions I always use that produce great feedback is:

 

What does our competitor do really well?

 

This will produce items that are important to your buyers and key criteria they consider when pick a vendor. What buyers often expect is a competing salesperson talking about how the competitor sucks. (We had a few regional managers who used this approach and that was quickly changed). What salespeople must understand is when you use the approach of “the competition sucks” you are basically telling the buyer there are a fool for the buying decisions they make and really do not know how to do their job. Once this occurs the opportunity to build a relationship with the buyer is over. Once this occurs the opportunity to learn what is important to the buyer and how they buy is over.

 

Another question I always use is:

 

If you were the president of our company, what would you do?

 

In this case you are doing the opposite of challenging the buyers past purchase decisions. You are basically saying…you have been in this business for a while, you are smart, I respect you and I really would like to hear your thoughts because I believe they will help me…

 

After about three months we gathered all the information, grouped it and we prioritized it and offered what we heard the independent dealers wanted and needed. We trained our regional mangers how to present our offerings. I worked in the field with our salespeople making sure they adapted to this new behavior and coached them when they struggled. Our number of distributors increased. This led to increased sales and an improved bottom line.

 

However to solve the companies next three pain points we really needed to understand the true customers: consumers in wheelchairs. (In tech markets we refer to them as end users)

 

  • Increase sales
  • Increase market share
  • Improve bottom line

 

I continued the four-legged sales calls with our regional managers and coaching but changed my focus. Every mobility dealer sold accessible vans. They also provided amazing service for those vehicles and additional products to make the vehicle overall use experience the best it could be. They added innovative products like hand controls and transfer seats as well as conducted routine maintenance. While our regional mangers were calling on mobility dealer owners and helping their salespeople demonstrate vehicles, I sat in the lobby and talked to consumers in wheelchairs. I was amazed how little I knew, how little my regional managers knew, about consumers in wheelchairs and how they made buying decisions and the process they went through. They shared things like:

 

  • On average consumers in wheel chairs make about 25% less than those not in wheel chairs and have less disposable income due to medications and medical devices. “Its hard for us to get new car loans, and these custom vehicles are expensive

 

  • The vehicle’s reputation for quality is is critical. Specifically their fear was should their vehicle break down, the tow truck driver can town their vehicle, but no tow trucks are equipped to transport a consumer in a wheel chair so they could be left in their wheelchair on the side of the road.

 

 

  • The closest relationships they have at mobility dealers is with the people who service their vehicles. “If Frank tells me brand X is the best because they rarely come in for service then that’s what I buy.”

 

  • How vehicle presentations at their home are so valuable for first time mobility vehicle buyers (they may not have any way of getting to the dealer after their recent operation or accident)

 

 

  • One young lady said something that I did not expect: You think consumers in wheel chairs are ugly! What? Your brochure, your web site all uses models who are obviously not people in wheelchairs…I can tell by this woman’s muscle tone in her thighs or this guy here the muscle tone in his legs and the bottom of his shoes are scuffed. (Never expected that concern)

 

  • We learned that all consumers in wheel chairs were not the same. We had four prominent buyer personas: Quadriplegics, paraplegics, some but limited mobility, and caregivers. Each had his or her unique criteria and requirements when purchasing a mobility vehicle or device.

 

 

  • My favorite comment came from a veteran who has having his vehicle serviced at our Akron Ohio dealer’s location: “You folks are not that smart you know? These vehicles are so very expensive when you buy a new van then convert it. If I were you I would buy as many used vans as I could and modify them and bring down the retail price so more people who need what you are selling can afford one…” ( as the new guy why wouldn’t we do this?) 

 

  • We learned a number of our dealer salespeople came from the automotive sales industry and the strategies and tactics they were taught there not only did not work but caused consumers to leave the mobility dealerships. The mobility vehicle sale is a custom solution sale not selling numbers or as one referred to it as “moving iron”. This sale is about serving people with a life changing solution.

 

We brought all the current market data we gathered back to the owners, board and executive team. This is the hardest part of my process because I am often seen as a heretic, not loyal, telling them their baby is ugly, or I just don’t get the vision, you obviously don’t know how we have been doing things around here for the past ___years. (Well if what you have been doing was driving the sales growth you needed you wouldn’t have hired me? ..never said out loud)

 

Over time we made some adjustments based on what we learned:

 

  • We used actual VMI customers in our photo shoots creating an authentic connection in the community in our brochures, marketing and web site

 

  • Our tech services group dug deep into the most common service issues and solved them with engineering’s help, and our dealer’s field tech teams became raving fans

  

  • We proactively offered in home demonstrations when we learned it was a firs time buyer

 

  • We taught our dealers to proactively reach out to every past customer right before their vehicle warrantee was about to expire because consumers valued having the warrantee so much, and it created an inventory of used vans

  

  • We changed our web site. The first step when you entered our site was to identify what buyer persona you were and we took you through products that met your needs and requirements.

 

  • We started buying fleets of used vans from rental companies and converting them driving down the retail price and binging an entire new set of buyers into our dealers

 

  • Our dealer tech training did an amazing job and won the hearts and minds of dealer service technicians, one of the leading influencers for consumers in wheelchairs buying their next vehicle

 

  • We created and trained our dealers in a new way to help consumers in wheelchairs buy mobility vehicles. It was called the Certified Mobility Consultant program and it is still in use today

 

 

Vantage Mobility experienced “explosive sales growth “after tuning in to their distributor partner’s needs and the unique needs of their top buyer personas. We stopped focusing on what the 800 lb gorilla competitor was doing and we started tracking “lives changed” instead of vehicles sold.

 

Today VMI is seen as a high quality conversion van manufacturer and key partner with their dealers. Used van conversions grew to over 60% of the vehicles sold within five years. Because they are a privately held company when I served them ( recently sold at a strong multiple ) I cannot share the specific sales and profits, but I can share there sales today are estimated at 9X-10X the sales they had in 2000. They continued to listen to their dealers and consumers and converted new vehicles like Hondas and Toyotas.

 

How about your company?

 

Are you actively listening to your channel partners AND customers?

 

Are you counting on your distributors to share customer feedback with you? Or is someone on your team asking?

 

When was the last time you asked one of your customers what your competitor is doing right?

 

Is your team experiencing explosive sales growth? Would you like to? 

 

What do your customers need to buy today and what process, what journey are they using to make buying decisions today?

 

Are you interested in 9X or 10X sales growth?

 

Once your team understands your buyers and sometimes channel partners, what they need to buy, and how they buy you can leverage this into explosive sales growth business development plan like VMI executed.

 

There is a power in the voice of your customers, voice of your markets, leverage it!

 

A number of companies tell me they know their customers, we have been serving them for 20 years….you might but don’t you want to be sure?

OK, let me ask you a question: When you buy something today, has the journey you take to the sale changed in the last 10 years? Are there new criteria important to you today that might not have been on your list 20 years ago? The reason why your business exists today is you intimately knew your buyers, how they buy, and what they needed to buy back then. Just as you now may use the Internet today to do research before you buy something today, so too are your customers. I am not trying to be a Heretic, I am working hard to serve your company and help you grow profitably!

Once we leverage the voice of the market today you will experience explosive sales growth!

 

“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.”

img_0024

 

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.”

img_0023

 

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.

img_0025

 

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?

 

Fix Sales Problems: Do You Understand What Your Buyers Value Most?

Fix Sales Problems: Do You Understand What Your buyers Value Most?

 

In my last post I discussed the need to quantify the value the buyer experiences to increase your sales. In a typical sale the buyer has three options; the buyer buys, the buyer buys but not from you, or they do nothing. Market leading companies make it their job to understand their buyers’ problems and what they value most. When you clearly understand the market and problems to be solved creating a value proposition that instantly resonates with buyers is easy.

What is the buyers’ cost of doing nothing?

What do your buyers value most?

Let’s say you sell products that prevent people from stealing products on display in retail stores.

Having served this market back in the late 1990’s we asked a lot of questions and what we found back then was:

  • If a product is behind the counter because the retailer is concerned with theft, sales decrease 50% to over 75%
  • If a product is out ‘LIVE’ on the retail shelf without any mechanical security device or security tag you can expect over 50% theft
  • If product is behind a counter the overall customer buying experience is poor (this costs you a sale now, and more concerning with future purchases)

But that was old school…. check out this market leader in helping large retailers increase their sales!

InVue’s value proposition is focused and clear.

Their value proposition demonstrates they know their customers, their customers’ problems, and they have solved those problems completely.

“InVue develops and markets security products that enable retailers to openly display their high theft merchandise with confidence.”

They not only control theft, they help their customers increase sales as they share below.

“Displaying high value accessories next to hot selling smart phones and tablets will increase your accessory sales over 20%.”

This is a great example of a B2B company that took the time to do their market work and understand the buyers and the problems they want solved. When I speak at conferences I often have someone challenge me; “ I understand this knowing your buyers stuff when it comes to B2C products but I don’t see how it applies to B2B” My answer is it is absolutely critical to understand your buyers, the buying process they use and the criteria they must have to make a purchase. This is the case in B2B and B2C. B2B companies who do the market work prior to launch realize greater sales increases and higher profits.

 

How about your company?

 

Are you solving buyer problems?

 

What process does your team use to identify buyer problems?

 

How is your sales performing to plan this year?

 

The reason why some companies consistently achieve and surpass their sales and profit objectives is they understand their market, buyers and buying process.

Professional Services Marketing; a Must Add to your Business Book Library

 

When I surveyed CEO’s years ago, I asked; what is it that worries you? A common answer was ; not knowing about something new that could help my business, help us grow quicker and more profitably. I have to admit that makes me anxious as well. What if what has my hair on fire today has already been solved by someone else (in my experience is always has) and I am suffering needlessly?Wasting time trying to solve a problem already solved?  I received a copy of of the book: Professional Services Marketing in the mail , second edition, and found it helps solve that common problem business leaders share as it relates to marketing.

 

 

I enjoy receiving new books, new thought leadership in the mail. I often have authors reach out asking me to read their book and talk about it in my network communities and in my blog. When the team from Hinge Marketing contacted me about their new book I could not wait to receive it as I follow their content on a regular basis and find it smart and easy to  apply. The good news when you love reading is that  you are always learning something new. I had a mentor at Frito Lay once say; remember Mark, Leaders are Readers, and that has stuck ever since.

 

 

A common problem in service businesses is marketing. I have served a number of service related businesses; marketing and advertising firms, a third party administration firm for retirement benefits, financial advisers, attorneys, the market leader in product management and marketing seminars for high tech companies, internet marketing and blog service providers, PR firms, a podiatrist, a chiropractor, a software company that helped doctor’s offices become paperless, and sat on church boards ( the ultimate service business if you ask me)…to name a few and marketing was always a struggle. The most ironic of those were the marketing and advertising firms as well as PR firms who sold marketing services and created strategies to help businesses grow for their livelihood, but they struggled to market themselves. This gives me pause ….why? and what can be done to solve this market problem?

 

You do not need to figure this one out on your own…

 

Read the book: Professional Services Marketing, How the best firms build premier brands, thriving lead generation engines and cultures of business development success.

 

The authors; Mike Schutz ( co-president of RAIN Group) , John Doer ( co-president of RAIN Group ) and Lee Frederikson ( Managing Partner at Hinge) are seasoned professionals who learned how to serve their clients in the trenches, out in the markets with the rest of us. They are not theoretical but practical in their approach and application of the principles they share in this book. Their content is research based and I have followed their thought leadership independently for some time.

 

I must say I was skeptical when the book arrived (sorry guys) as I am a huge fan of the first edition of this book and I wondered how they could make it any better. I still have my copy highlighted with notes to myself in the margins. I remember buying copies of it when it came out in 2009 and sending it to clients and would be clients who were are struggling with how to market their services. However what I found was this second edition was needed as the authors point out;

 

In the old days, professional service firms could survive without much marketing effort. Put together a team of good people, deliver strong services to clients, and you might get by just fine on repeat business and client referrals. ..today you also need smart, effective marketing and a culture of business development success to attract a steady stream of clients and grow your business in an increasingly competitive world.

 

The second edition continues their field tested , research based approach to providing advice you can apply but also adds content about social media marketing, the importance on line marketing plays and they share case studies by market leaders we all know and admire. In one chapter they discuss; The battle to attract and retain a quality workforce is a key success driver in many professional services firms. Having lived in this world, when the authors share their thoughts on topics like this it immediately makes them credible….they have walked in my shoes and their content resonates with me. In another chapter they share what I refer to as politically incorrect secrets of most service firms; they spend way too much time focused on their competitors and not enough time understanding their ideal client and their problems. Been there, done that, lived that, helped my clients through that.

 

After finishing the book I have only one criticism: what this book shares is not just true for “professional service firms” but all the companies I have served. Many industries face the same problems and all would value reading this book and applying its principles. I hear the authors saying; “what Mark did you miss the chapter on identifying and focusing on the best market?” No, I did not miss your point and I believe in what you are saying. However what I have found is businesses from large manufacturers of mechanical equipment in the B2B market to B2C consumer product companies would value the advice found in this book. The reality is none of us are in the widget making business, we are all serving our markets, solving their problems while identifying the new ones that arrive. The sooner businesses adapt to what I teach in my seminars; “serve don’t sell” the faster they will see rapid, profitable growth. I think every church pastor needs a copy of this book. You solve so many problems for people ….if they only knew….that’s a marketing problem that has already been solved in the wisdom in this book.

 

I highly recommend you add the second edition of Professional Services Marketing to your list of books within arms reach of your desk. You will find yourself reaching for it often for practical advice that works in the markets we serve today just like the book: Crtl Alt Delete that I shared a few weeks ago.

Dispel 5 Myths about Fixing Sales Today and Insure Strong Future Sales

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Over the last few weeks I have been discussing common myths business owners and leaders believe to be true about the fixing sales problems and how to immunize future sales performance. I recently went for my annual flu shot and the myths people in line were discussing as truths reminded me of the five main myths sales leaders need to lose to fix poor sales performance and how we can immunize future sales results. Before I can help you fix your sales problems we need to dispel the 5 myths that you may be carrying as market truths;

 

You cannot Train your way out of a sales problems alone.

 

You cannot Manage your way to improved sales alone.

 

The Economy is not the only reason for your poor sales performance alone.

 

Hiring outside help to work on your Sales Process will not hurt your current sales.

 

Just because you have Good Sales Now does not immunize you from future poor sales results.

 

What is the best way to immunize your sales performance from poor results?

 

Clean Sales Management

 

Clean Sales Management as I shared in a previous post entails being in your market on four legged sales calls with your sales team. As a reminder, you are not there to close sales but to observe buyers.

 

You need to answer;

 

Why do buyers buy from you and why don’t they?

 

What is their buyer journey today?

 

What sales process is your team using? (… if any)

 

What are common buyer personas your team is presenting?

 

What criteria are important to your buyers today?

 

When your buyers shop for a solution, where do they go, what process do they use?

 

Are there any “Spin Cycles” in your current sales process that no longer mirror how your buyers are buying today? (Spin cycle- those places in the sales process where the sale stalls, spins, or even goes dark)

 

What tools could your salespeople use to overcome or eliminate buyer Spin Cycles?

 

As a sales manager, and more so if you are the VP of Sales you have a number of activities all vying for your time and attention. Having been a VP of Sales and Marketing myself I experienced the following all pulling me like they had a gravitational power of their own;

 

Your CEO and President want answers to specific questions

 

Hitting your new sales goals

 

Hitting your profit objectives

 

Controlling expenses

 

IT wants to book SAP training and your opinion on what a CRM should do

 

A/R wants help collecting from difficult customers

 

Marketing wants your sales guys to ask their buyers …. (you fill in the blanks)

 

Forecasting

 

Cost of Quality meetings

 

Meeting with the CFO forecasting ROI and sales forecast for new products

 

HR wanting to have succession plans in place, quarterly performance reviews, performance improvement plans, and on-boarding discussions

 

Product Development wanting to know why we are not hitting new product sales

 

Meetings with Product Engineering discussing problems with their last new design

 

Product Marketing wanting to meet about why sales is not closing a higher % of leads

 

Social Media group wanting stories from the field

 

More meetings you did not even know were on the list

 

…do I need to keep typing or do you agree I have lived this?

 

If you try to do all of the above you can quickly become an “an office bound VP of sales” and this is the beginning of the death of a sales VP. The reality is you (we) need to do all of the above and more. However what keeps us employed, hitting our bonus objectives and answering the top four activities above; answering President and CEO questions strategically and timely, hitting sales goals, achieving profit objectives and controlling expenses…you need to be in the market practicing clean sales management. In your market you become aware of market changes, viruses, which can infect your sales results early and keep your team’s sales performance on plan.

A “Market Opportunity Profile” Insures Your Sales Team Hits Quota

A “Market Opportunity Profile” Insures Your Sales Team Hits Quota


By Mark Allen Roberts

How prepared are your salespeople to “hit their sales numbers“ this year?  Studies indicate as high as 70% of salespeople will fail to make sales quota this year. One leading reason is they do not adequately understand, identify, and prioritize potential sales and new opportunity accounts in their territory. One “old school” tool I provide my salespeople is a Market Opportunity Profile that takes the guess work out of sales achievement.

A Market Opportunity Profile is a living sales road map that insures your team meets and exceeds sales quota and creates sales velocity in the future.

Market leading sales organizations provide sales territory plans that include Market Opportunity Profiles.

What does a good Market Opportunity Profile include?

  • sales by current customers, ideally over the past three years segmented by product groups
  • current customer list segmented by A, B and C customers with sales history
  • identify elephants, rabbits and squirrels in each territory
  • targeted A accounts positioned for growth, with growth strategy and tactics
  • list of potential new customers in territory
  • new potentials ranked by dollar opportunity and probability of having problems your product or service solves
  • list of known market influencers (influencers your clients turn to)
  • list of new products that will be introduced , and when
  • new product sales targets by current customer
  • new product sales targets by net new customers
  • current and targeted new clients by physical location
  • sales goal by current customers
  • sales goal for net new clients
  • sales goal new products or services
  • activity profile based on known product sales cycles
  • activity profile based on new product launch(s)
  • salesperson input in each category

This sounds like a lot of work, however once you create this tool it will create a profile of the market your salesperson serves, and will build a living document to create meaningful discussions with your salespeople. Your sales by current customers /current products, current customer/ new products, new customers/current products, and new customers / new products must exceed your territory goals. You can create Market Opportunity Profiles with the help of your salespeople to make sales less of an art and more of a science.

Or…

You can take the goal given to you, divided by the number of salespeople you manage, possibly weighted by sales history, and throw it at your sales team and tell them to “make it happen” like most companies did last year and had 70% of their salespeople fail to achieve sales goals.

What does your team provide salespeople to create a roadmap to insure sales goals are met and exceeded?

Does your team provide a Market Opportunity Profile? What does it include?

What % of your sales team achieved or surpassed sales goals last year?

What % of your sales team is at 50% ( or greater) of their sales objectives mid year?

They say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Market Opportunity Profiles create a snap shot of how to achieve and surpass sales goals based on your market knowledge when created. As your team executes their plans, you will create additional learning’s by salesperson, account and territory. Who knows, after a few years of blowing your goals away corporate may just ask what you have been doing, and once you are promoted, you can use this process to create market driven sales goals instead of boardroom extrapolated goals pushed down.

“Clean Sales Management” …the Secret to Profitable Sales Growth

 

 

As the leader of your sales team are you able to quickly identify market shifts, buying process changes, and the needs for new products and or services? Or do you, like 90% of the sales leaders out there seem to be playing catch up, always chasing what you should have done? “Clean Sales Management “is a practice, a methodology, which entails gathering market information in the market, belly to belly, if you will, with buyers. When you practice clean sales management you will find your sales team seems always ahead of your competitors in sales, new products, as well as overall customer satisfaction.

Like a number of us I set out in 2011 to become healthier. I drifted from my workout plan and I found myself being less intentional about what I was consuming to fuel over the last three months. I found a number of articles on “eating clean” . The basic premise of eating clean is to consume less processed foods and intentionally set out to eat foods that are closest to their raw natural state. For example, we should consume raw broccoli and carrots instead of popping open a can and quickly microwaving this canned, processed, solution. It’s about staying away from consuming junk food.

As I thought about eating clean it reminded me of how I have found the most success in leading sales and marketing teams when I was out in the market, intentionally consuming feedback from buyers directly with my teams. When I would struggle in my sales and marketing leadership is when I was so focused on forecasting and CRM system stage reports that I failed to have an intimate understanding of what was going on in the lives of my markets and the problems of our buyers. Sure, my sales teams participated in weekly conference calls provided weekly call reports, and one on one calls with my team members, however I see now those communications were processed.

Developing sales plans based on phone conversations with your salespeople is “sales management junk food.”

I heard it once “salespeople are like water and they will take the path of least resistance to a sale” and what I have experienced is they strive for quick fixes and shortcuts, often band aides to cure gapping wounds in the repeatable sales process.

When you practice clean sales management you;

  • Are in the market more than behind your desk
  • observe your salespeople in action, with buyers
  • know why buyers buy from you…and why they don’t
  • compare sales report data to what you observe at the source ( raw and unprocessed)
  • stop looking for a salespersons “Ass to kick” and focus on solving problems
  • identify the injuries to your repeatable sales process as the shifts occur and adjust so they do not become gapping wounds
  • become stronger at conducting business triage
  • find your leadership is stronger due to your direction being driven close to the source
  • meet and exceed your sales goals
  • meet and exceed new product sales goals
  • poor performers are eliminated from your team quicker
  • buyers trust your overall organization more
  • sales are more profitable
  • gather sales representative data points and build sales tools that address trends as apposed to chasing each salesperson’s perceived needs based on the last buyer they spoke with

 

So how about your organizations…are you ready to practice Clean Sales Management?

 

How often are your sales leaders in the market working with their teams in front of buyers?

 

Do you and or your sales leaders feel chained to your desk at corporate analyzing CRM updates and creating forecasts no one ever hits?

 

Do your competitors keep beating you to the sale with new products and or services?

 

Do you believe your sales team provides “raw” feedback or “processed “information based on what they think you want to hear?

One resolution I ask each sales leader to practice is to intentionally set out to work in your markets, belly to belly with buyers to insure you practice clean sales management.

Do You Have a Repeatable Sales Process? …Are You sure?

Do You Have a Repeatable Sales Process? …Are You sure?

Market leaders understand the importance of having a defined, repeatable sales process. They clearly define the steps of the sales funnel and closely monitor the transitions from one step to the next. They are constantly assessing the process to make sure it is in alignment with how buyers want to buy. If you find a sticking point, a common point in the sales process that stales get stuck or goes dark, then you have defined the need for new sales tools to keep the conversation moving to a close. Have you prepared your sales team to hit that goal you just gave them?

So let me ask again; Do You Have a Repeatable Sales Process? …Are You sure?

If you were to meet with your most recent salesperson to join your team  are they able to clearly articulate the sales process? Will the process they share be the same process your top gun salesperson uses to consistently exceed their goals?

When is the last time you changed your sales process?

Do you believe your buyers buying process and criteria have changed in the last 6-8 months?

What are some of the big changes you have seen to how your buyers buy?

What new tools has your team developed to meet changes in how your buyers buy?

Taking the time to clearly understand how your buyers buy and the criteria they use today to make buying decisions empowers you with valuable information to close more sales.

Sensing shifts in how your buyers buy before your competition results in your product or service being the perfect solution for your buyer’s problem.