Give Salespeople More Time To Sell With Voice Of The Customer Research

Give Salespeople More Time to Sell With Voice of The Customer Research

In my recent post I shared that capturing the current voice of your customers has many benefits as listed below. One of those benefits is improved sales efficiency. In this post I will share how understanding the current voice of your customers reduces non-selling time for your salespeople and gives them more time to sell.

Capturing the current voice of your customers has many benefits as I shared in a guest post recently.

  • Increased sales
  • Increased Profits
  • Increase in market share
  • Improved sales close rate %’s
  • Identify new product needs
  • Improved operational efficiencies
  • Increase in current customer sales
  • Increase in new customer sales
  • Strong overall buying experience for your customers

One side benefit I failed to share is customer voice work reduces non-selling activity for your salespeople freeing more time to do what you pay them to do…sell.

With the various Internet tools and social networks there is no excuse for a salesperson not to be prepared for a sales call with a current or potential new customer, and your salespeople know this.

When you study what salespeople do with their time as I do, I would argue all of the social networks and Internet search capabilities actually hinders their sales performance. It’s human nature to feel overwhelmed when we have too many options. In my experience salespeople are spending way too much time searching for information your company should already have.

In a recent report the authors shared the average salesperson spends approximately 30% of their time selling today. I have helped teams where I observed sales was spending less than 15% of their time in what would consider sales activity so I guess this report did not surprise me…but it was still disturbing.

What was the next time allocation? The next one surprised me in a way and confirmed my fears at the same time.

Salespeople today spend 30% of their time search for and or creating content to help them sell. (As much time as they spend selling)

Is that really how you want your sales teams spending time? …Yah, I didn’t think so.

I am a huge believer in sales having prep time before making a sales call. As leaders I see this as an opportunity to serve our salespeople and help them become more effective and efficient.

My what if questions are …

What if you had a repeatable sales process that mirrored the buyer journey your buyers take today?

What if your company had a content library, a library of tools, your sales teams knew how to find, and you trained them when and where to use those tools based on your customer voice research?

What if you clearly understood common problems your customers and prospects like your customers had today?

What impact would it have on your sales if your salespeople spent 15%-25% more time selling?

When my family moved back to Ohio from Arizona (yes on purpose) we found a beautiful older home built back the 1970’s. It has as the TV shows say “great curb appeal” but the inside was dated. Back in the 1970’s dark oak wood must have been the main design feature. Over the past couple of years we have been slowly bringing the interior of our home up to date. We took our dark oak kitchen and painted it white. We painted all the woodwork white.

I saved the painting jobs that take a lot of time for last like our stairway spindles. Anyone who has done painting will tell you just like sales the most important part of painting is prepping the area to be painted.

I had put this stairway off too long so imagine my surprise when I returned home from meetings to find my wife prepped the stairway as the picture above illustrates. A project that probably would have taken me 4-5 hours I now completed in two hours!

This reminded me how market-leading team’s work as a team. Sales sells and marketing owns understanding the voice of the customer and how buyers buy today.

What if marketing did the sales prep work through voice of the customer research and created the needed sales tools for your team?

What if your research shared how your buyers buy today and the criteria they must have to buy?

What if your salespeople where trained in a repeatable sales processes that helped buyers buy?

When conducting voice of the customer research you want to answer the following questions:

Why do buyers buy from your company?

Why don’t buyers buy from your company?

What does the buying journey look like today?

What criteria must you buyers have today to make a purchase?

In addition you are listening for common roundabouts as I call them where a sale stalls and or spins away from you. Each roundabout is a place you need a new sales tool.

Once you have completed your customer voice work I highly recommend you adjust your repeatable sales process to mirror how your buyers want to buy.

Create a digital library of sales tools based on what buyers told you in your research.

Train your teams to use the new sales process and where to find the tools quickly.

Monitor and coach salespeople to insure the new sales process and tools stick.

Salespeople will still need to do some research and prep prior to the sales call but you will increase selling time between 15%-25%.

What would your sales results look like if your team spent 45%-55% of their time selling?

Voice Of The Market Identifies Key Buying Triggers

Voice of the Market Identifies Key Buying Triggers

 

 

Companies who understand the power in the voice of their markets today realize greater and more profitable sales growth. Understanding your market, buyers, and how they buy and what they need to buy is critical to hitting your sales numbers today. One outcome of understanding the voice of your customers and markets is identifying sales trigger events.

 

What triggers one of the buyers in your market to begin the buying journey?

 

The answer to that question becomes a key consideration when developing your business development plan to hit your sales numbers.

 

In a past post I shared the work I did in the accessible van market with VMI. We sold lowered floor mini vans that were adapted so consumers in wheelchairs could drive and or ride in comfort. I launched VMI’s first retail mobility dealership Arizona Mobility Products.

 

Our team spent a great deal of our time out conducting vehicle demonstrations at consumer’s homes and our sales grew quickly. We were constantly asking questions to better understand our customers, how they shop and what triggered them to make a new purchase.

 

Consumers in wheelchairs must have a vehicle they trust and is reliable. You might say: well Mark I need that too. The difference is if our vehicle dies on the road somewhere we can call a tow truck and they will tow our vehicle and give us a ride to a service garage. Tow trucks are not equipped to accommodate a consumer in a wheelchair. Should their vehicle experience a malfunction, they are left at the point where the vehicle failed until they make alternative arrangements to be transported. Reliability is an even higher buying criteria for consumers in wheelchairs. Based on this we should not have been so surprised as we were when we kept hearing how consumers with accessible lowered floor mini vans often start shopping for a new van within three months of their vehicle warrantee expiring. When we surveyed our customers this came out loud and clear in almost every interview.

 

Our team sorted our customer database based on when vehicles were purchased and each month proactively contacted customers whose vehicle was about to lose its warrantee. We established a four-touch campaign.

 

-The first touch was a simple letter notifying them their vehicle warrantee was about to expire, share any current promotions, remind them we sold extended warrantees and suggested we quote the trade in value of their current vehicle.

 

-The second touch was a phone call, ideally from the salesperson that sold them the vehicle reminding them as a service their warrantee was about to expire.

 

-The third touch shared specific dealer incentives, rebates and once again mentioned their warrantee was about to expire.

 

-The last touch was a request for us to book an appointment to have their vehicle inspected by one of our certified service experts at no charge.

 

Identifying this buying trigger and developing a strategic series of communications, a GPS to new sales for our salespeople, helped us increase sales and build customer loyalty. As a side benefit it also provided our dealership with a supply of used vehicles that were in huge demand in this community.

 

What triggers your buyers to start the buying journey?

 

Does someone on your team Know?

 

How has your team used this information?

 

What could your team do to serve buyers who triggered the need to buy?

 

What is your team doing to make lifetime customers for your products?

 

Understanding the voice of your customers and market has many benefits. One benefit is to intimately understand what triggers your buyers to shop, to search for a new purchase. Taking the time to understand your buyers, why they buy and what they need to buy is critical to consistently hitting your sales numbers.

 

 

“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”.

Fix Sales Problems: Price Strategically

Fix Sales Problems: Price Strategically

 

 

 

If you had to pick one pricing method that consistently produces greater sales increases, increased market share and increased profits what would it be?Your  sales team has done the heavy lifting… and they have made it though emails ,voicemails and finally met and presented a targeted buyer. Your team has used social selling and selling tools designed specifically to get to this phase of the sales process and build trust along the journey. The buyer feels your proposal could solve their problem and asks the big question: “how much? What is your price?” Would it shock you to learn most companies spend more time negotiating the lease agreements on their office copiers than they spend on price strategy? There are many ways you can price your product or service.

 

Price is one of McCarthy’s four P’s of marketing. Pricing is a critical part of any value exchange. Why is it price often receives the least amount of research and strategy?

 

Let’s start with a few definitions….

 

What is the definition of price?

 

Price is the value that is placed on a particular product or service as the result of a number of variables, research and understanding of risk.

 

What is the definition of pricing strategy?

 

A pricing strategy looks at market conditions, competitive pricing, industry margins, costs, the dollar value of the sale,the product life cycle, the products uniqueness, as well as other factors.

 

What are the most common forms of pricing?

 

Cost Plus Pricing- as the name implies you determine your cost to produce, overhead cost and mark the product up based on the profit you wish(need) to realize. The trouble with this model is it is internally focused and not market driven. With this model you run the risk of pricing your product to low or too high. You run the risk of loosing sales you could have (and should have ) won and not making the maximum profit your product could have realized. Companies who practice this method often ask for “another kick at the can” when they are informed their price was too high. (In my post discussing kick the can I share the reasons this strategy is dangerous.)

 

Low cost strategy– in this model you price your products low and you have structured your company to have low overhead and low marketing  and selling costs. In this model you might hear someone say: “ the margin is low but we will make it up in volume” We often see this in commodity products where price is the only main differentiation .

 

Predatory pricing- you price your product low to “get your foot in the door” of an account or market. The intent is the price will rise after a specific period of time. Companies struggle in the price increase phase if they have not established a strong value proposition in the mind of their buyers before the price increase occurs.

 

Premium pricing- you price your product high. This is associated with a product or service that has little or no competition of similar quality and or performance. These kinds of products have clear distinction in the market place and buyers place a high value on them. These market driven, unique products are seen as the best of best and buyers are willing to pay for them.When you hear their names you think best in class; Gunner Kennels, TenPoint Cross Bows, Yeti coolers, InVue Security Products, and many more. Each of these companies have other substitute products in their markets and many competitors. What they all have in common is focus. The made it their job to understand their buyer, the problem the buyer wanted solved, and they solved it completely.

 

I have seen a number of companies try to be more strategic in their price methodology. Where I have seen some companies struggle is only talking to their current customers when doing market research. This is the most common mistake. The difficulty is, for most companies, your current customers only represent approximately 30% of your total market. If you only speak to your customers you are missing 70% of the market’s voice. Keep in mind that 70% is buying something similar to your product and they are not buying from you for a reason. You really need to know why some buyers buy from you and why some do not. Without this critical market data companies run the risk of becoming internally focused on what they want/ need to make. This one of the four P’s has more emotion tied to it than any other. One of the toughest sales I often have to make is not in the market with large customers, but internally to help companies want to be market driven.

There is an excellent article on the advantages of being market driven you can read here. A quote from the article shares;Your strategy should be driven by the needs of the market.  Becoming market-driven is critical to intentional product success.

Some of the advantages of being market driven that i have experienced include, but not limited to:

  • Quickly deliver new and improved solutions that address the changing needs of your markets.
  • Quickly identify and understand the changes in your market.
  • Higher than industry average profits
  • Faster sales growth than competitors
  • Higher sales close %’s

The best method of pricing I have found is “strategic pricing”.

-Mark Allen Roberts

In strategic pricing you have done your market homework. You understand the value of your product to your customer and you can quantify it. It is a marketing decision (not an accounting exercise) that is the result of market knowledge, knowing your buyers and buyer personas, competitors, substitute products, buyer process and buying criteria. Strategy work is hard work and it is not done overnight.

 

As you can see pricing is not as easy as some people believe. It takes a great deal of strategic thought and that is why a number of companies price their products incorrectly.

 

As consumers we are all buyers. Buyers are wired to spend until we experience pain. This is based on the field of neuroeconomics. As a buyer you stop spending when the perceived pain of spending is greater than the perceived gain. Your marketing team must determine that tipping point in their research and apply it to your strategic pricing.

 

If you want to experience rapid sales growth,increase sales close rates, increased market share and higher profits you must start strategic pricing. The burden is on your team to clearly understand your market and how your buyers make decisions. You must understand your distinctive competence and share it in a value proposition that resonates with your buyers.

 

What kind of pricing method does your team use?

 

What are some examples where cost plus pricing may work?

 

Has your team used strategic pricing? Any stories you can share?

 

Would you say you are market driven or internally driven? 

 

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.

Do you have “Post Turtle Marketing”?…if so its preventing you from achieving sales goals

 

 

marketing post turtle

 

 

In my last blog post I shared advice on what to do if you report to a “post turtle sales manager”. We run the risk however of hiring people, promoting them and placing them in key positions without skill, knowledge or training in every area. One of the most dangerous areas to have a post turtle is marketing. In this post I will share what salespeople must do if they find they have “post turtle’s running marketing”. If you find you work in an organization that has post turtle marketing this blog is for you.

 

In today’s business climate it is one of rapid change. It should not surprise us as more and more information is available on the internet and as much as 70% of the buying process is done before the buyer calls a sales person. The trouble a number of sales teams face is having post turtle marketing support. The marketing team, if they have one, is comprised of people who are excellent at creating sell sheets, are proficient at negotiating ad costs, media buys, and purchasing logo coffee mugs and t shirts but lack an understanding or appreciation of how your buyers are buying today. They probably grew up through the ranks in your organization and seemed to have a proficiency in copy writing, maybe creative, and were awesome at creating excel spread sheets with customer names and executing mass mailings flawlessly. They insured your trade show booth arrived on time an in their defense this is what most companies thought marketing was. For many organizations this is what they thought marketing was, but today it is much, much more.

 

What is marketing?

 

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. (marketingpower.com)

 

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” ( Peter Drucker on Marketing)

 

Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling the product or service. It is a critical business function for attracting customers. (Wikipedia)

 

Positioning; “an organized system for finding a window in the mind. It is based on the concept that communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances” (Positioning; The Battle for your mind)

 

First, it’s marketing’s responsibility to see that everyone is playing the same tune in unison. Second, it’s marketing’s assignment to turn that tune or differentiating idea into what we call a coherent marketing direction. ( Jack Trout)

 

Marketing is the name we use to describe the promises a company makes, the story it tells, the authentic way it delivers on that promise. – (http://www.thedefinitionofmarketing.com )

 

…interesting, nowhere does it say design t shirts and coffee mugs with company logos or book ads in trade publications?

 

The market we serve today is dynamic and changing.

 

How do I define “Marketing”?

 

The fundamental responsibility of marketing is; to understand your market, its buyers, their buying process and criteria. Once you have a thorough understanding position your product and or service in the minds of buyers in your market based on the problems you solve for them”  ( Mark Allen Roberts)

 

What do we know?

 

We live in an Age of Digital Darwinism We are all super busy and If you can be dispensed of you will.

 

50% of leads are qualified but not ready to buy (Hubspot)

 

87% of B2B buyers said content plays a major role in vendor selection.

 

Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at a 33% lower cost. (Forester Research)

 

79% of leads are not converted to a sale because they are not nurtured along.

 

Assuming you agree with the above and you too have noticed a shift, a change in the market, what is a salesperson to do?…Adapt!

 

There are a number of very good marketing automation companies;

 

Hubspot

 

Marketo

 

Infusionsoft

 

Eloqua

 

Make sure you review each and find one that best serves your company, the size of your company and interfaces with your CRM.

 

 

Sales today is not about spending a lot of windshield time as much as lap top time.

 

Sales today is not about working more hours, working harder, it’s about leveraging technology and your market knowledge to work smarter.

 

Success in sales today is about nurturing your leads until they are ready to buy and if marketing is not doing it you must to survive.

 

Hitting and surpassing your sales goals today is about helping customers find you with brilliant marketing communication that shares the problems you solve for your buyers in the buyer’s language.

 

For years sales teams have been told to; just make it happen. Sales super stars are good at figuring out what we have to work with, creating our own tools as needed and making it happen. If you have post turtle marketing it is not helping you connect with buyers who are looking for you right now. As the “just make it happen folks” we need to take it upon ourselves to learn how our buyers are buying, the criteria they are using to make buying decisions and to be where they are looking. We must embrace the tools, studies and technology available and implement it to better serve the markets we are responsible for.

 

The salesperson of the future will embrace technology and leverage its capability to create sales velocity working smarter not harder.

 

What about your company?

 

Do you think marketing is about coffee mugs and t shirts?

 

Classical marketing teaches never let sales create their own sales tools, but if marketing won’t or can’t, what should they do? What are the risks if they do?

 

In closing I want to say that if your marketing department is still caught up in thinking their main job is creating sell sheets, trade show booths and a line of company logo clothing to build brand awareness it is not that they are bad people, or not adding any value. Someone needs to do those product and branding things. However they like sales need and must adapt. I had a preacher once say something that really rocked my boat and it applied here as well…” if you want to see where someone’s priorities lie, open their check book.” If we opened your companies’ marketing checkbook where does your marketing spend its budgets? This will be one of best indicators if the person running your marketing department today is a post turtle. The good news is there is no better day to change than today.

As salespeople, we are paid to make it happen hit our numbers. We are not perfect by any means, however to not use what we know about how buying today and adapting to better serve them is like hunting an elephant with a BB gun. You might feel good you are busy, but your odds of success are nil (and so will be your sales commissions). What I am sharing is marketing’s job make no mistake. However, if your marketing is not doing it, you must until they adapt. After all you are judged by your sales numbers, your results. For years you have figured it out and made it happen. Use that same pioneer drive and embrace how buyers are buying today and the technology available to improve your results.

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

crtl book

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

porch gill

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

Improve Sales; How do you improve sick sales before they become terminal? Not a sales management issue

In my last post I shared that sales teams have received their new sales goals and often the results first quarter are sick and not close to plan. This time of year in particular, sick sales is an epidemic. Unfortunately their leaders misdiagnose the symptoms and the sales flu lingers and sick sales can become terminal if not properly treated. One common mistake teams make is assuming they can just manage their sales teams to better performance.

As I shared in a post some time ago; “you can not manage fruit ripe”. Curing sick sales is not about taking a quick pill and driving your sales team to work harder. However if you ask CEO’s a number 32% of them believe they just need to make their salespeople work harder. That’s one of the reasons why I often share with companies that sales should not report directly to the CEO?

As we discussed symptoms of your team having the sales flu include;

  • new product sales missing plan by 30% or more
  • key sales performers leaving after last year’s bonus’s are paid
  • gross profit decrease of 3% or greater in the last 30 days
  • loss of a key account
  • 40% or more of your sales team missing sales goals
  • Your competitor launched a new product that took the market by storm

If you misdiagnose the sales flu as a sales management problem you are likely to start popping some quick pills to remedy the symptoms like; launch a CRM system, increase the frequency of sales meetings, add new sales reports, and possibly start interviewing new potential team members to upgrade your talent.

CRM solution

I am not saying adding a CRM system or upgrading the one you have will not add value. However if you do not clearly understand the process buyers are using to buy , and mirror your repeatable sales process to the way buyers want to buy, even the best CRM system will not help your teams results.

Increase the frequency of sales meetings

I see teams go from quarterly and month sales meetings to weekly sales meetings when sales results need to improve. Managers who use this tactic believe the problem they are having is an accountability problem and subscribe to the old adage “ the beatings will stop when the moral improves” and we know that is not the case. They believe if the salespeople have to report poor results, frequently enough, the sales results will improve. From my experience this will not motivate your top sales performers and actually result in their leaving your team and joining a competitor.

Add new sales reports

The assumption with this tactic is the salespeople do not know their sales results are sick so adding a few more reports will somehow improve their sales results. This tactic, like more meetings, results in your salespeople spending more time not selling and actually hurts your teams sales performance.

Hire new salespeople

Leaders who immediately start interviewing new salespeople when their sales performance is sick are looking for a quick fix and often fail to consider they may be introducing a new disease to their current team. This tactic believes the reason for your poor sales performance has to be your people and its time to upgrade your talent. If a sales manager on your team recommends this tactic I guarantee its because they have not spent enough time in the market with their current salespeople. In my experience the biggest reason why sales performance suffers is poor marketing and not understanding the sales opportunity, and not inexperienced sales people.

Is your team considering the purchase of a new CRM to improve sales?

Have you already announce more frequent sales meetings to fix sales?

Are you asking your salespeople to spend more time writing reports and less time in front of buyers?

Have you started looking for new sales talent to upgrade your team’s skills?

All of the above may make you feel someone better, but you are not taking the time to truly diagnose the reason(s) your sales performance is not meeting goal. The quickest way to truly understand what your salespeople are experiencing is spending time on four legged calls meeting with potential buyers.Trying to improve sales performance without clearly understanding your market is like taking an antibiotic to make the flu go away.” You may  feel you are taking the appropriate action but the sick sales symptoms will linger and often make your entire team miserable.

Assemble a 21st Century Sales Pipeline

By guest blogger Dave Barnhart

Have you ever said, “If I’d known that before I bought, I would have chosen that one instead of this one.” ? That is Criteria Evolution at work.

There has been paradigm shifts in the way people ask questions, get answers, and make buying decisions.  One of the casualties in that shift is the pre-sales conversation has been foreshortened.  As a result, buyers are sometimes missing crucial facts that would otherwise cause them to make the buying decision in our favor instead of our competitor’s.

Case to point: The number one complaint by kitchen remodeling customers is the dust and trash created by the contractor, yet most customers are blissfully ignorant of this when they make their buying decision. A smart contractor would:

  1. Institute procedures such as the use of an air scrubber to eliminate the problem.
  2. Engage in a proactive campaign to make prospective customers aware of the problem and how you solve it.

Now imagine your prospect learned this information from your website, an article online you’ve written, or from a strategically placed testimonial. While your prospect is talking to contractors on his short list, what happens when she asks your competitor, “Do you use an air scrubber?” You’ve just eliminated a competitor who cannot answer ‘yes’, and done so with no additional incremental effort on your part.

There is only one way this happens:

You must view your website, collateral, and all of those online articles and discussions as part of your company’s sales team, each with a role to play.

Start by putting your successful sales under a microscope. Become intimately familiar with the journey your customers take from complete stranger to paying customer. What do they want to know? What resources are they using to educate themselves? How to they find you? What are their buying criteria? Who else is involved in the buying decision?

The Truth Will Set You Free But First It Will Make You Miserable

Expect to learn that some of the time, energy, and money you’ve been spending on sales and marketing are being wasted. Expect to discover you are losing sales in ways that never occurred to you. And expect to find things that are working.

With this information at hand you can begin to assemble a 21st century sales pipeline – one that is tuned in to your customers’ buying process and actually helps them buy.

This post was provided by Dave Barnhart of Klaroty Strategic Marketing.
Klaroty Strategic Marketing
is a marketing firm focused on web development, website design, social media, and marketing strategy. We are based in Phoenix, Arizona with clients throughout the US and Europe. Dave’s firm actually designed my No Smoke and Mirrors blog and I have sent many clients who wish to have a 21st century web site that adds sales to Dave. Dave’s popular blog http://blog.businessbloggingpros.com/ helps business leaders learn how to engage with buyers in their market earlier in the buying process.

Invisible Products; Death of your New Sales Goal

It’s that time of the year again with sales plans being launched and new commission plans being distributed. Meetings have occurred, financial modes built and presentations to the board done and the year’s sales plan was approved. Unfortunately, a number of teams will fail to achieve sales goals (often again) because their products and services are invisible to potential buyers.

I met with an entrepreneur who called and asked if I could help in fixing his sales problem. We met and after I asked him a number of questions I quickly understood what he described as “needing to fix sales his sales problem”.

Symptoms of the problem were described as;

  • failure to achieve new product sales goals on the last three new product launches
  • failure to grow new accounts, “it’s like my team is running a bread route
  • 0nly 40% of sales team achieved their sales goal last year
  • We lost one of our top accounts we have sold for 12 years
  • We lost two of our top salespeople in the last 3 years
  • I failed to hit the numbers I promised our board

Well I can understand why we were meeting…however what happened next was even more disturbing,… he went on to share how he felt I needed to fix the sales problem:

  • Sales Training – my guys need sales training, they need to sell through buyer objections
  • Time Management – they need to spend more time calling on new accounts
  • Compensationwe need to change our comp plan to there is more of an incentive to sell new products
  • PeopleI have been trying to put this off but I probably should hire a VP of Sales to herd these cats.
  • Product Trainingwe need to do a better job of training our sales people on products features and benefits
  • ProcessI want a defined repeatable sales process , sales forecasts have been a joke , I need to know production can count on the sales forecast we give them

This is always interesting ….a hard driving entrepreneur calls and asks to meet with me, and they share their problems then proceed to tell me how to fix them. (I would love to just once have the courage to say; “If you know the problems and how to solve them…why did you call me? “ ) Now I know how my doctor must feel when my right knee is acts up. As opposed to just sharing my symptoms and where it hurts, I proceed to share how other doctors have fixed my right knee since tearing my ACL years ago and explain how he probably should go inside my knee and clean up the cartilage, drain some fluid and probably give me a prescription for pain and an anti-inflammatory… (Sorry doc).

I agreed to help with one condition; I would meet with buyers in his market, his salespeople, and we would regroup to make sure we have an accurate understanding of the “why’s” the above symptoms are occurring (clearly understand the real problem) and then develop a corrective action plan, a roadmap to achieving his teams sales plan.

What we found were a number of what the entrepreneur believed to be true were areas we could improve, however the leading reason why his sales team was not achieving plan, particularly new product sales was his products were invisible to his market’s buyers in the process buyers were using to search for solutions to problems they were having. This team’s web site was basically a virtual brochure that talked more about who they were and not the problems they solved for their marketplace. With 70%-80% of they buying process being done prior to potential buyers calling one of his salespeople, competitors had much more influence on buyers early on, helping them shape how they believed they needed to solve the problems they were experiencing. His salespeople were being invited to quote much later in the sales process as “one of three competitive quotes required to keep their preferred vendor honest.”

When I shared this market information his first response was…”this may be true with consumer B2C products but not B2C customers.” However when I shared specific account interview notes with buyers he was much more open to discussing his web strategy. I shared that your products need to be found when buyers are doing their homework. Once a potential buyer finds your site you have a minute to win it as I discussed in a previous post. I connected him with a web SEO expert I have used in the past and helped him interview web site developers to address this root invisible problem in the heart of his marketing.

How about your products? Are they invisible to potential buyers?

If you conduct a Google search, right now, are your products found? (go ahead minimize this blog right now and search. I can wait…type in an inquiry in the form of you looking for a solution to a problem; do not use your product brand name)

Are your products found on the first page?

Was there more than one entry found for your products?

As you look at the page, if you were a buyer who would you think is the market leader in solving the problem you were searching?

Are there any case studies or customer feedback? Any for your product?

Companies spend millions designing and developing new products but often fail to invest in marketing. In the above example this entrepreneur spends on average $280,000 in new product design and molds, another $27,000 in new brochures and a few trade ads, $9,000 for a booth and attending his industries’ trade show, and he had a friend of the family who did web sites on the side do his web marketing?

This entrepreneur had a sales team committed to achieving sales goals. Could they use some product and sales training? ….yes. Should we modify the current compensation plan to reward new product and new customer sales? …agreed. Should we work on designing a repeatable sales process based on how buyers were buying…absolutely! However if we take the time to do what I call “the market work”, his real problem was a marketing problem and not a sales problem. His biggest problem to solve that would produce the quickest sales return on investment was his web marketing. His web site had not been optimized, to the best of his knowledge…ever.

Products listed on web sites in the form of virtual brochures are invisible to buyers desperately search to solve urgent problems they have and must be solved and are basically the death of your sales plan . Yes you can have your salesperson’s cold call until the dogs come home, but why not invest in your digital salesperson and start conversations with buyers much sooner in the sales process.