Archive for right solution

Want More Sales? Learn to Pull the Trigger

Posted by on November 9, 2012 with 5 Comments


Let’s face it, the market’s completive and everyone is out to make more sales and trying to hit their sales plan. We have heard for years: a sale is about being at the right place at the right time with the perfect solution. Most salespeople work their market like a bread route hoping to fall upon, or fall into an urgent problem someone is willing to pay to solve. How do market leading teams create repeatable sales velocity each year? Why do market losers keep kicking their sales team’s in the butt and getting no where when market leaders hit plan year after year? It’s because market leading sales teams have learned how to “Pull the Trigger”.

One of the industries I served was handicapped accessible vehicles. It was a really rewarding job helping those with physical challenges drive again with a lowered floor mini van they could drive from their wheelchair or a stowage lift fitted to their current vehicle. I was tasked with growing our sales in the face of a huge dominant market 800lb gorilla that seemed to have a media and advertising budget that was limitless. Our team was forced to sell smarter since we would never have the marketing budget of our competitor who seemed to spread a blanket over all trade publications, the web, trade shows and even local TV advertising. The first thing we did was start interviewing our past customers and current customers to understand their buying process. We needed to know what made them buy, why they bought, why they chose us and so on. In doing so we identified events that cause (trigger) this market’s buyers to seek a new handicapped accessible vehicle. We found trigger events like;

  • a recent injury
  • a medical condition
  • completing rehabilitation and needing new transportation
  • caring for a parent or other loved one in a wheelchair
  • military veterans returning home with physical challenges
  • past customers who have experienced a change in their physical condition
  • tax returns, customers receiving tax returns and they waited for their tax return to be a down payment on a handicapped accessible vehicle
  • aggressive OEM automotive rebate programs
  • their current vehicle needing an expensive repair
  • their current vehicle breaking down and leaving them stranded or missing work or important medical appointment
  • their current accessible vehicle moving out of the manufacturers warrantee

There are ways to reach each of the above consumers who are experiencing what I call a trigger event however we were forced to eliminate those that required large marketing budgets. So we reviewed our interview notes and found one of the most common trigger events was buying a new vehicle just before the manufacturers warrantee expired. We also saw a high correlation of sales when the OEM manufacturer offered new car incentives like rebates or aggressive financing programs. We created a very simple letter that said we see your vehicle (based on our sales database  and service records) was about to go out of the manufacturers warrantee and shared any OEM automotive rebates or finance programs currently available. The results?… After about 90 days our quote volume tripled and after six months our averaged monthly sales revenues doubled.

Trigger based marketing and sales increases quote volume and closed sales revenues.

Triggers are nothing more than occurrences that define conditions that warrant action. Good trigger-based marketing strategies leverage these occurrences to present solutions at the right place and time. The two key factors to trigger based marketing and sales is timing and relevancy.

What are the triggers that make your buyers want to take action?

Below are some other industry examples I have experienced to help get your trigger list started.

Training Seminars – new employees joining the team, employees being promoted, large companies publicaly missing a revenue objective, merger or acquisition, competitor launching innovative product or service they should have launched

Snack foods – Super bowl, Fourth of July, back to school

Loss prevention industry – new product with high value with small shelf footprint launching, packaging change like videos moving from cassette to DVD, Compact Discs in 12” cardboard packages moving to just the CD jewel case, new store opening in high crime area, local crime reports

Consulting services – new executive, merger or acquisition, dip in quarterly earnings, high sales turnover, high executive turnover

Pension and 401k industry- sale of a business, employee buy out, April- right after business owners had to pay taxes that could have been avoids with a properly designed defined benefit and or defined contribution strategy

Mechanical equipment – plant expansion, new plant manager, new plant, and state grant awarded for job creation, landing large high profile customer, change in technology, and change in government regulations, current equipment failure, incentives for energy savings equipment

Physical fitness – consumers turning 50 years of age , mothers who just had babies

Tanning Salons – weddings and prom’s

Window cleaning – sale of a home, graduation parties, wedding announcements

Understanding your market and specifically your buyers and their buying process is key to trigger based marketing and sales. While market losers keep cold calling, hoping to fall into an opportunity your team will be targeting known buyers with a high probability of having a problem you can solve and they are urgently seeking to solve it. With technology today you can establish alerts through Google Alerts that will send you a message when a trigger event occurs.

What events trigger buyers to take action in your industry?

Is their an industry that trigger based marketing and sales would not work? Why?

Trigger based marketing and sales is not expensive and will produce measurable sales increases once you identify the leading buying triggers and refine you message and sales tools to solve those buyers problems.

Add Inside Sales…Fix Sales Problems

Posted by on September 11, 2012 with 14 Comments

"serving customers with inside sales"

by Mark Allen Roberts

In my last post I shared how salespeople need to learn their A B C’s in terms of account segmentation to insure their salespeople  are spending time in areas that match your sales plan and insure sales goals are achieved. Nothing drives your CEO crazier than finding out your sales team is not hitting plan, and six months into the year he discovers sales is not executing the go-to-market plan everyone agreed to follow. One way I have used to insure sales teams execute sales plans is the implementation of inside sales. The first reaction I always receive when presenting inside sales is:we can not afford it. My answer is always;

You Can Not Afford Not To Have Inside Sales to Hit Sales Goals

In this post I will share my thought process on why inside sales is even more critical in today’s selling environment than ever before, how inside sales can turn cold calls into warm calls, increase sales with your C accounts, increase new customers, and reduce your current cost per sale and add more profit to your bottom line. Inside sales also offers a number of other benefits we will discuss, but I hope the above mentioned benefits are enough to keep you with me.

How has the sales environment changed in the last 5-8 years?

I used the same process I would use in a market trying to determine shifts, I interviewed a number of sales people and listened to what they are experiencing selling products in today’s market. Some of the common comments included:

My buyers have to justify each expenditure to the “higher ups”

C-level executives need to sign off on all orders

About 70% of what marketing gives me I do not use.

I have to speak with all kinds of people I never had to sell before; CTO, CMO, CEO, CFO…

Customers are not stocking up and they are taking much longer to buy, while our marketing programs try to reward customers to buy volume, but they are buying Just In Time

My buyers have the C-suite recommending competing vendors to our products and my buyers are spending time chasing these leads the C-suite read about or heard about at the country club…

My buyers say they are “cautiously optimistic” about our economy and therefore are not cutting Purchase Orders

Couple some of the above with the studies that indicate 70% of buying is occurring before the buyer makes contact with a salesperson even the most adamant skeptic must agree buyers are buying differently today and the sales process must adapt if you plan on hitting your sales numbers.

Inside Sales can turn Cold Calls into Warm calls

In addition to staying in contact, touching, your C Accounts, inside sales can establish trigger alerts through Google Alerts that give them a heads up when a trigger event occurs that may indicate a sales opportunity. For example, let’s say a manufacturing plant expanding has been proven to be a trigger event for turning suspect customers in to prospects and even quotes. Inside sales can establish a limitless number of Google Alerts to let them know when a trigger event occurs in the market. Your alert would look something like; “Ohio Plant expansion”. When that alert is triggered inside sales can search Linked in by company, make phone calls and send your product information to the right person ant the right time. Marketing should provide template tools to insure the communication connects to possible buyer pain points for this type of buyer by market. If the alert is for one of those large accounts, in your market sweet spot you have wanted to sell, inside sales will send information and make contact then introduce the field sales person. A common transition would sound something like ; “ as we have discussed it sounds like you are exploring products to support your plant expansion, we have our product specialist in your market on September 15th, would you like me to set up a time for him to meet with you and better understand how we can help you? “ I recommend providing inside sales a finder’s fee bonus on accounts they feed to outside sales that turn into orders. I often use some % of the first order’s profit.

Increase sales with your C accounts

Working with the VP of Sales and marketing you can establish strategic touches. Some that I have used include;

  • “thank you for your recent order, people who purchased ____have also purchased _____”
  • “I noticed you have not ordered since __________ and I wanted to check in on you”
  • “You asked to be kept in the loop on new products, did you see our _______ click the link in this email and it will send you to product information”
  • Promotions – I recommend a quarterly product focus, and have inside sales send an email and within 7 business days call to follow up, “did you see we are running a promotion on _______”

The key focus is service not sales. Inside sales tone and voice should be about helping the customer. All communications must feel relevant to your buyers and timely. When I say timely I am referring to communications that feel like they came just when the buyer needed them, like you know them.

Increase new customers

As we discussed above, inside sales will be constantly being alerted to triggers that may lead to new business. In addition, now that field sales have only A and B accounts, they can work the targeted accounts in their market opportunity profile.

Reduce your current cost per sale and add more profit to your bottom line

What does it cost your company to have a field salesperson call on an account?  For years I have used $500 as the cost of a call, but it may have gone up. You need to add the salesperson’s base, expenses, medical and all overhead to determine a cost. I have heard some people tackle this different way by having a daily cost of a salesperson model. Whatever you use, there is a cost. What is the cost of losing a key customer? The cost of losing a C account? What does an inside salesperson cost? In most cases their targeted compensation is 1/2 that of a field salesperson, and their only expenses are added phone calls and postage.

If you do not have inside sales today, I recommend a phased approach with regards to field sales commissions. In some cases, which will be an eye opener to many, the C accounts are the vast majority of your field sales commissions. Let me say that again in a different way; the majority of the commissions you are paying your best and brightest field salespeople who are not growing current accounts or opening targeted new accounts would have probably come in anyway, even without a field salesperson. I often implement a split commission structure in the first year as we transition to inside sales and this gives field sales time to refocus and not realize too much of a hit on their targeted compensation in year one.

Inside sales helps focus  on creating the greatest return on sales investment

Quick numbers…. Let’s say your field sales team member is costing you $700 per day. Let’s assume, because the field sales person has time to work current customers they increase their base key account sales by only 3%. Let’s also assume you reduce your account attrition by one key account per territory, and the salesperson only opens 4 new key accounts per year. In addition, as I experienced personally, your C accounts are now feeling you care about them , that they are important , and you are reaching out frequently with solutions to problems they were surprised you knew they had and C account sales grows over 10%. Inquiries from the internet speak to a live person and have their questions answered quickly and all inquires are treated like they could be customers. Your cost to support C accounts has decreased by 50% increasing your ROI on sales compensation invested…..I’ll say it again ;

You Can Not Afford Not To Have Inside Sales to Hit Sales Goals

The last benefit I also realized from inside sales is it often becomes your farm team for field sales. Your inside salespeople gain valuable experience often dealing with some of your most demanding customers. They learn your product lines and the problems they solve, your markets, and as your team grows often they can be called on to serve in a field sales capacity. They also learn to rely on the buying process you have taught them and when they venture out into the market follow it because they have experienced how having a sales process that mirrors how customers want to buy drives sales results.

So how about you…do you have an inside sales model?

What benefits have you realized from having inside sales?

What do you do strategically to insure inside sales and field sales work well together?

Given the shifts in how buyers are buying today, an inside sales position is key to insuring your sales team makes quota.

Miracle on 34th Street and The Golden Rule Of Sales

Posted by on December 24, 2010 with 0 Comments



Miracle on 34th Street and Lessons in Serving (not Selling) your Customers

It’s the holiday season and my family and I are watching our favorite movies on television; Home Alone, A Christmas Carol, A Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation, and the classic…Miracle on 34th street. A clip ( the one above) caught my attention as a sales lesson we can all learn from this movie that was released in 1947.

The Golden Rule, applied to managing people, helping buyer’s solve their problems, will never let you down.

Does your sales team set out to passionately solve your customer’s problems or just hit their numbers …selling what’s in their bag?

If it’s the later, you may want to watch A Miracle on 34th Street at your next sales meeting. It’s often not about doing one big thing, but an overall culture of doing many little things , very well.

Golden Rule of Selling :Serve your customers….Don’t Sell Them.

Merry Christmas!

Two Reasons the CEO Should Not Run Sales

Posted by on October 7, 2010 with 4 Comments

  oeps

The role of CEO is hard enough, particularly in this shifting and changing economy. Balancing all the spinning plates you face each day is difficult without trying to lead and manage a sales team.

The quickest way to insure a sales decline is have your sales team report to the CEO.

 

I have seen sales decline when CEO’s take on the role of driving the sales team for two common reasons;

CEO’s fail to provide the sales team a Value Proposition that resonates with buyers

 

CEO’s communication preference and style

 

One of the best parts of my job helping a variety of businesses that have what they call a “sales problems”. I have served a number of CEO’s over the years and as a group (for the most part) they understand their most important role is  the keeper of their brand promise and positioning .

To be effective as CEO you need to balance all those spinning plates while also focusing on those initiatives that result in the greatest impact on the business today and in the future. (not a job for the faint of heart) CEO’s are natural at problem solving and driving the execution of key performance indicators. They are process driven and have the tenacity of a pit bull once they lock into a vision.

Most CEO’s should never lead sales for two main reasons;

 

CEO’s fail to provide the sales team a value proposition that resonates with buyers

 

Salespeople require a market driven value proposition for the products and services they sell. This should explain the problems you solve for your buyers and not just what you do. It should help your sales team understand who they should target. To insure your value proposition resonates and continues to connect with buyers you must listen and observe the market on a continual basis. Focused CEO’s are flying at 45,000 feet above your market and often become frustrated when sales teams share new roadblocks to achieving their goals. What CEO’s want is sales velocity.

You can tell when your CEO is frustrated when he or she says;

 “ just make it happen”,

… or my favorite ” I don’t pay you to tell me problems, I pay you to sell through objections and hit your numbers…” .

 CEO’s have so many things already on their plates the last thing they need is to add more “to-do’s” to add to their never-ending list. Often buried deep in sales feedback you will find the need for new sales tools for ajusting the sales process based on a buying process that shifted.

A strong VP of Sales can work with salespeople and the CEO. The VP of sales understands the mission and objectives while also constantly assessing the market, buyer needs, buyer criteria, and equips the sales team with value propositions and sales tools.

 

 

CEO’s communication preference and personality style

 

CEO’s are focused on communicating in short bullet point bursts and salespeople speak in stories. ( can you see the train wreck about to happen?) Market leading salespeople incorporate what I teach that I call “story speak”. As opposed to speaking in feature and benefits, I teach salespeople to listen to the buyer problems and share how our product or service solves that problem in the form of a story. So we teach salespeople to speak in stories to communicate effectively, but we get frustrated when they can’t report results to us in bullet points?

I attended a sales conference once and the CEO brought me in to fix what he called  a repeatable sales process problem. He asked his team to individually meet with me to share the common roadblocks they face in achieving their numbers each month. ( so far so good)

But then he said something that still makes me cringe… 

And remember Mark is busy like me so…

Be brief…

 

Be brilliant….

 

Then Be Gone…

(When he got to this part three of the salespeople in the room also said “be gone”…they obviously have heard this before)

CEO’s often rise up through the accounting, technology, and finance channels and they are very process driven. They do not mange people, they develop and manage processes,systems, and or people to follow processes. If you follow DISC assessments, most CEO’s are high D, moderate to low S and low I and moderate to high C. Most salespeople have (very) high I, high D and low S and C. (Often very low C) So again, just based on how CEO’s and salespeople are naturally wired that light at the end of the tunnel is a train.

An experienced VP of sales is constantly listening for common market roadblocks shared among their sales team. They grew up through the sales ranks.Experienced sales leaders understand you need to lead each salesperson individually. A seasoned sales leader will observe and listen to changing buyer problems and processes to identify sales tools the team needs to help their teams continue conversations to a close. VP’s of sales earned long ago how to use their sales team’s natural styles and they provide back-end support for their shortfalls.

So how about your experience…..

 

Should sales report to the CEO? Why or why not?

 

Is there a benefit for CEO’s to have sales teams report to them?

 

What impact, if any, have you seen on the morale of the salespeople who report directly to the CEO?

Want to Jump Start Sales and Morale? Write a “Passion Statement” For Your Business….

Posted by on May 24, 2010 with 6 Comments

 

Business leaders for years have been taught to write a mission statement, a values statement , distinctive competence, and their Unique Sales Proposition. Leadership teams are sequestered off to three-day retreats to write these statements only to often return and go right back to practicing what prompted the retreat in the first place…Why? The reason is far too often is the “work” they did at the retreat was all “head work” and lacked “heart work”.

The quickest way to jumpstart sales as well as the morale of your team is to create a “Passion Statement”.

 

So what is a passion statement? A passion statement is something I help my clients to create that explains;

  • what problem your product or service solves?

 

  • who do we solve it for? Who are our buyer personas?

 

  • what emotion does our solving the problem create in our clients?

 

  • what emotion does solving our clients problems create for us?

 

If you study companies who have become market leaders they very seldom set out to build huge profitable companies. In the majority of the cases they saw a problem that someone had and set out passionately to solve that problem. Their focus was not as much a business as it was a quest.

For years we have heard; “fake it until you make it” , unfortunately however you can not fake a passion to serve your clients and your market.Your customers will quickly detect inauthentic commitments to serve.

An authentic passion ( quest)  to serve your markets unresolved problems takes your business to another level in the minds and hearts of your market.

 

Let me give you two examples of companies I have helped. One is a typical stale example without passion often find after interviewing their team and their customers, the other a passion statement we all can rally behind.

Example A

 “our business’s purpose is to create wealth for our owners and shareholders. We plan to accomplish this by charging the maximum price the market will bear for our product and service and we plan to hold our employees and partners accountable to this objective…” ( don’t worry once the CEO understood this was his teams’ perception ( and his customer’s) of why they were in business we helped them to change this )

 

Client Name not shared for obvious reasons

 

Example B

 

“Our passion is to helping consumers with physical disabilities from the waist down experience the rush and  freedom that results from riding a motorcycle.We are committed to helping our clients connect to their passion or riding”

 

Mobility Conquest

 

 

Which company would you like to buy from?

Which company would you like to work for?

Which company is “selling” you and which company is “helping you buy”?

 

If you had to state your company’s passion statement today…is it more about what you want? Or is it about serving an unmet need of your customers? ( by the way, I do not mean the statement written on posters, shared in quarterly meeting …I mean the mission your team ( and your customers) perceive it to be)

 

Who would you rather compete against… company A or B? Why?

Ok …I hear you CFO’s and bottom line driven CEO’s out their saying …”Ya… but…” so let me assure you that if you study the most profitable market leading companies they have a passion statement.

Still not a believer? In my next post I will share the signs that you need a Passion Statement.

Top 20 Entrepreneurial Best Practices to Make Sure 2010 is a Profitable Year

Posted by on October 28, 2009 with 6 Comments

 imagesCAO622DS

When I wrote my EBook: 50 Ugly Truths About Owning and Running Your Own Business…and 5 reasons why you should do it anyway I was responding to a number of misperceptions I was hearing from entrepreneurs.

Historically, at any given time six out of ten US adults is thinking about starting their own business. A number of new entrepreneurs are emerging that  I refer to as “necessity-preneurs “who were downsized and can not find new employment, are deciding to launch their own businesses as they want a much more active role in the security of their careers. The last group are cashing in their 401k and or borrowing from friends or family to buy an existing business and in a short amount of time realize they really just bought a job and they are quickly running out of cash.

One thing I have learned over the past 25 years of identifying roadblocks impeding businesses profitable growth is there really is not any new creations in terms of problems and strategies to grow a profitable business. Peter Drucker simplified it even further; there are only two considerations; innovation or marketing.

Just as I shared 12 mentor moments that I have used personally over the years to help businesses grow profitably, I have the Top 20 entrepreneur best practices that I have observed and lived over the years.

#1 “More” Sales or “Create Sales Velocity”?

#2 Dismiss or Distribute “Yafo’s” quickly …

#3; If Sales are Scary, You Can NOT Afford to NOT get Creative..

#4 Remember “The Law of the Locker Room”… it truly is a small world after all

#5 Tailor Questions for your buyers that Illustrate your Expertise and Prepare you to Serve their Needs

#6 Learn To Cut Bait …early

#7 You are Not Your Market

# 8 When Sales Get Rough…Look for Diamonds

#9 Don’t Let the Two Most Important Plates Drop

#10 “How” you “CHASE” New Business Matters….Do you want pepperoni with that new checking account?

#11 Follow the leader is a dangerous game, particularly when you follow Hippos…

#12 An “Idea” is not a product…and it’s definitely not a business

#13 Hire Strategic Partners… Not “Marketing Tools”

#14 Customers will Stiff you…But Don’t Let Them Burn you…

#15 Beware of “Smores”…Social Media Whores

#16 “Make a Wish” come true with Focused Passion

#17 intentionally reward the customer behaviors you desire …

#18 You will Receive Your Best Tips To Grow Your Company From Prospects Who Do Not Buy From You…

#19 Interview those who Exit and identify Roadblocks to Achieving Your Strategic Objectives…

#20 Exercise Your Power of Choice in Choosing Your Role on the Team…If Your Gift is Being a Duck….Be a Duck!

 

The above are by no means an all inclusive list of every entrepreneur best practice but they are some of my favorites. The post that seemed to resonate the most and create the greatest number of discussions was the difference between creating “more” sales versus “creating sales velocity” ( entrepreneur best practice #1).

 

 

How about you….do you have an Entrepreneurial Best Practice you use regularly and would like to share?

 

 

Of the above which best practice(s) resonate most with you?

 

 

Which of the above do most entrepreneurs struggle the most with based on your observations?

 

 

Is there a Key best practice not identified? (If so please add to the discussion)

 

 

As we move into 2010 which of the above Best practices do you feel will resonate most? Why?

 

Thanks for hanging with me  in this series of posts and I want to particularly thank those who have reached out to me personally to discuss this series of posts. As I have discussed, I enjoy helping entrepreneurs realize profitable growth and the strategies discussed are not new. One of my goals in blogging is to help business owners who may not be able to afford outside help at this time and I hope this blog adds value.

If you are wired to take on the 50 Ugly truths of starting and owning your own business and you have intentionally chosen to do it anyway I hope the above best practices were of value to you and your team.

Entrepreneurs will lead our country to economic recovery and I am proud to serve this innovative group of passionate problem solvers along with my other clients.

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #18 You will Receive Your Best Tips To Grow Your Company From Prospects Who Do Not Buy From You…

Posted by on October 18, 2009 with 0 Comments

blog pics, tyler apt,kecia riely 004

For as long as I can remember I have heard “your customer is always right”. The spirit behind this statement was to make sure market leading organizations do not try to “overcome customer objections” and listen…as failing to listen is the #1 reason buyers do not buy from a salesperson.

However you will receive the best tips to grow your business from prospects who do not buy.

alpha security 1

I remember a time, back in the day, when I was serving a plastics company, Alpha Enterprises, which made mechanical security devices to stop consumers from stealing music. The record labels announced they were eliminating the “long box” cardboard package in 12 months and CD’s would now be sold in just the Jewel case (as they are today). The national retailers were concerned. So we designed a perfect security solution to house the CD that complemented the current line of audio and video products we sold them …it fit in the current fixtures, had a area inside the device to house the security tag so consumers could not peal them off, it was quick to remove at the checkout counter, used the same key as our other devices, and we even made some of them out of Lexan so the package was crystal clear so as not to deter from the graphics on the CD package. We were kicking but and taking names. It was my job to present our solutions to the various record chains and mass merchant music retailers and book preorders so we could grow our capacity to meet the market need.

And then I presented our various solutions to a Boarders Books

We had never sold Boarders before. We did not have a relationship with them, and the buyer politely said…”no thank you…we will pass”. I was taken aback…doesn’t he know how awesome we are? Did I forget to tell him how all the other chains are lining up to buy? I was always taught, back in my Frito-Lay Selling Skills training; the sale starts when the buyer says “no”… so I couldn’t let this one go. As I said we were on a roll…we were at about $38 million in sales and based on preorders alone we were forecasted to surpass $76 million in 12 months. We could have just kept trying to sell people who already knew us…but we wanted to know more about why Boarders did not buy.

So we flew up to Ann Arbor Michigan again and this time had a meeting in which we asked a lot of questions and did not try to sell. The buyer shared they were going to have a large roll out of music in their current and future stores, but they chose to merchandise the music as retailers did in Europe so our current products were not the perfect solution.

 

cd tray

We listened to his needs, visited his prototype store and based on his feedback as well as other clients in Europe developed a new line of security packages. The Sentry line quickly grew to include audio, video, video game and DVD. The Sentry line of security products provided a greater gross profit per unit than our current line of security products. We eventually won Boarders business and presented our new line in Europe, and it turned out this was the perfect solution for Libraries.

alpha security

Prospects who do not buy often give you the key tips to cause your organization to experience “explosive growth”.

 

Why?

  • they have no relationship with you, so they share the raw truth
  • they are intimately connected to their problems and are looking for solutions to solve them
  • current customers have a relationship with you, and therefore don’t feel comfortable telling you your current or “new product baby” is ugly

 

As you focus on growing your organization make sure and capture customer feedback and more importantly tips from those who do not buy from you.

 

Over time our current customers also experimented with merchandising like Boarders Books and thankfully we listened to that buyer who did not buy at Boarders. When our key current customers needed as new solution we already had a proven design.

 

Your best new product solutions and services for current products often come from prospects who do not buy from you.

 

 

 

How about your organization…

 

Are you capturing customer feedback?

 

Are you capturing feedback from prospects who do not buy from you?

 

What are you doing with this information?

 

Are your salespeople trained to listen when a prospect says no, or are they supposed to “overcome objections”?

 

Market leaders understand some of the best tips to explode their sales and profits come from prospects who do not buy.

 

 

Entrepreneur best practices: #12 An “Idea” is not a product…and it’s definitely not a business

Posted by on October 2, 2009 with 5 Comments

idea

 

 

At any given time 6 out of 10 US adults are thinking about starting their own business. Half of those will attempt to launch their own business. As I discuss in my eBook; 50 Ugly truths about starting your own business …and why you should do it anyway, they often enter into their own business with a false set of expectations. One of these false expectations is their “idea” is a product and even more disturbing is when they start investing to support their idea as a business. Recognizing the majority of those who launch a new business will fail within 18 months, one of the common contributors to their demise is not asking the right questions.

 

Before you ask friends and family for start up money, before you tap into your home equity and 401k, and definitely before you quit your day job…you need to play “20 questions”.

 

You must verify your “idea” can be monetized into a viable business before you launch.

 

20 questions to ask before you invest;

 

#1 what problem does your product or service solve?

 

#2 how big of a market is there for this problem? This pain and or need?

 

#3 how are those who have this problem solving it now?

 

#4 clearly articulates your secret sauce, other words what is your unique selling proposition?

 

#5 is there replacement products in existence that could solve the problem?

 

#6 who is the market leader in the space you plan to enter?

 

#7 how many other competitors are there in this space?

 

#8 what is your level of understanding of this market?

 

#9 is your idea a product or IP that can be patented?

 

#10 what stage is this market in terms of its lifecycle? Infancy, growth, mature..?

 

#11 what level of support will be required to serve this market? Do you personally have expertise in running a business?

 

#12 what are the distribution channels of this market?

 

#13 what is the buying cycle?

 

#14 what is the common payment terms for this market?

 

#15 Do the potential buyers of your new product have the ability to pay for it?

 

#16 is there any legal and or compliance issues this product must pass prior to launch?

 

#17 what do you estimate is the total costs per unit of sale, transaction

 

#18 what is the anticipated number of units sold in year one? What % of the market opportunity does this represent?

 

#19 what is the number of units needed to break even with your upfront investment?

 

#20 How much cash will you need, based on the buying cycle, the costs, payment terms and distribution channels to launch this product or service?

 

 

Once you have answers to the above we can start to have a good discussion about your new idea and how you may be able to monetize it. Unfortunately however far too often entrepreneurs get that rush, that “buck fever” and they stop asking rational , needed , questions and they attach their focus on the days when…

 

 

When they become millionaires…

 

When they are recognized in their community…

 

When they sell their business for millions and retire without a care in the world

 

 

All of these When’s can become a reality if you spend the time upfront understanding the market, its buyers and their needs.

 

Entrepreneurs must understand: You are not your market.

 

Although this idea you have may be so obvious to you, you can not assume nor extrapolate that assumption across the market without real market data.

 

If you have an idea, that may be the next iPod, do yourself a favor and play 20 questions before you invest one dime in making your idea a product or service.

 

How about your organization….

 

Do you launch new products or services because one of your Hippo’s says so, without market data?

 

Have you launched products that failed to meet ROI targets?

 

If you are in sales, how did it make you feel when you were given a goal, and told to make it happen …only to find out your marketing needed to “create a need for it”?

 

If you are the president or CEO, what processes and procedures do you have in place to insure your teams are asking at least 20 questions?

 

Market leaders understand the importance of building new products and services from the market need up, versus the ivory tower down.

 

Market losers have a; ready – fire – aim launch process.

 

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #10 “How” you “CHASE” New Business Matters….Do you want pepperoni with that new checking account?

Posted by on September 27, 2009 with 2 Comments

blog pics, tyler apt,kecia riely 112

I have heard entrepreneurs say; “any marketing is better than no marketing at all…” and they can say this…but they would be wrong! Entrepreneurial leaders must insure the marketing vehicles and tactics  they use support their brand and do not create an interruption.

 

 

Market leaders understand their buyers, their buying process and buying criteria.

 

Market leaders create sales velocity because everything they do has continuity with their brand.

 

 

Market losers create a variety of marketing tools and “throw them against the wall” of their market and wait to… “see what sticks”.

 

Market losers scare business away, and their energy and budgets are used to grow competitors’ businesses.

 

I Love being a Chase Bank customer.

 

I have used a number of banks over the years…Bank of America, Key Corp, and so on. However the service I get from Chase Bank seems to feel different, it’s as if they know me, and they answer my questions before I ask them. Just yesterday my wife and I met with Dennis at our local branch and he was obviously trained to serve his clients. When other banks have made us feel like we were putting their associates out , Dennis was like the Van’s Golf employees name tags that say “sure not problem” Even the experience of walking into one of their locations “feels” different in how you are greeted and guided to the right person to help you. So imagine my surprise after a doctor appointment to come out to my car and see a windshield flier under my wiper from Chase Bank. This was an interruption for me.

blog pics, tyler apt,kecia riely 111

 

Marketing interruptions make current customers pause…and bad things happen when customers pause.

 

For example, at first I smiled and threw their flier in my trunk to throw away later. As I drove to my next appointment however my mind wandered…

I have been reading about banks in trouble

 

Is my bank…Chase Bank, in trouble?

 

Should I maybe check out Wells Fargo or maybe open an account with Bank America again just to play it safe?

 

Didn’t I just read they were downsizing?…. ut oh

However my mind quickly came to terms with what has a higher probability of truth; It was the end of August ( end of the month race to hit numbers), and some salesperson , a hunter by nature ( which is awesome) needed business. So as opposed to sitting in the branch waiting for business to come to them, they took initiative and made some purple fliers and more than likely spent hours in the 104 degree Arizona heat stuffing them under windshield wipers in hopes this would drive new business. I had a pizza shop as a client years ago that could ramp up or down his sales by the number of windshield fliers he would have his drivers place. It became a predictable outcome for him over time.

blog pics, tyler apt,kecia riely 113

However, the way a pizza shop or even a gas station chases new business is significantly different than what I would expect from my trusted bank, and the two should never be confused.

As I discussed, entrepreneurial leaders have bad things happen when they “assume”. “Well if windshield fliers work for pizza shops and gas stations…why not…” The “why not” is whatever you do must be intentional and have continuity with your brand image, your brand promise in the minds of buyers in your market.

In defense of Chase Bank, I have had rogue sales guys and even sales managers do much worst over the years. As I said I have to smile that at least they tried! Leaders, no matter what the size of their organization, must remember;

If marketing does not create tools that help salespeople hit their objectives, sales will create their own…and although you appreciate their “be a part of the solution” attitude it may cause your market to pause. When markets experience a pause, an interruption in the brand image …bad things happens.

 

 

How about your company…..

 

Are your salespeople creating their own tools to hit their numbers?

…Are you sure?

 

What policies and procedures do you have in place to insure your brand image is protected and reinforced?

 

Have you ever had your salespeople create their own tools…tell me about it.

 

 

From the number of fliers blowing around in the parking lot now as “marketing litter” I could tell most of the people who had fliers under their wipers did not value this communication attempt by Chase Bank. I would be interested to know from Chase Bank if this tactic is a marketing approved new business program or if I was correct a local branch went off the marketing reservation. If this tactic does in fact drive needed new business at moth end that is greater the negative impact it has on their brand in the mind of the market.

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #7 You are Not Your Market

Posted by on September 23, 2009 with 1 Comments

look inmirror

Entrepreneurs often make a common mistake …they assume, and then they extrapolate.

They assume because they are a member of a market and they have a problem others too want to pay to have this problem solved. Secondly they fail to do research (after all it’s expensive right?) so they extrapolate.

When Entrepreneurs assume and extrapolate they lose.

When leaders rely on their personal experience, their gut and intuition they become one of the 90% of small businesses launched each year that fail within 18 months. When leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit in large organizations launch without current market data, their products are discontinued and removed from the shelf within 12 months…(and sometimes the leader joins their products in the recycle bin.)

Keep in mind: YOU ARE NOT YOUR MARKET!

 

How about your organization…

 

 

 

Do you have entrepreneurial leaders who shoot from the hip based on their past experience, their gut and intuition?

 

 

 

Have you ever launched something you, your wife, and all your golf buddies thought was brilliant only to sell 1/10 of what you forecasted in the ROI to justify production?

 

 

 

How do entrepreneurial leaders build their discernment muscles to rely more on market data and less on their gut?

 

 

 

Every once in a while someone will get lucky and hit the market with a product that solves a pain they had, and luckily many others have. However I would prefer to mitigate my risk by doing more homework upfront…

 

 

 

How about you?