Why Do 78% Of Sales Strategies Fail? … Culture Must Come Before Strategy

Why do 78% of Sales Strategies Fail? … Culture Must Come before Strategy

You have completed your off-site meetings and developed your objectives and strategies…but why will  you find out six months in the future your sales strategies are not being executed and you are missing your sales and profit goals? Nothing drives business owners,  CEO’s and senior leadership team’s crazy like taking the time to develop a strategic sales plan that no one is executing. Why? What causes this Great Disconnect in Sales Execution? The common cause I have seen over many companies in a variety of industries is a lack of focus on establishing a strong Sales Culture first.

SBI just posted a blog titled why are 78% of Sales Strategies hopeless? It was an interesting article that discussed common execution failures like;

Your strategy is a follow the competitor strategy

Your Strategy is not aligned with the needs of buyers in your market

You have tactics masquerading as strategies

You have no sales strategy

Your sales strategy is not aligned with your product strategy

Your sales strategy is not aligned with your corporate strategy

This post goes on to explain each of the above and if you have not read the post I highly recommend it.

The more I thought about this post the more I felt something was missing, something much bigger, much deeper  than all the above combined…what is it?

I was taught years ago: “Culture Comes Before Strategy”

The best way to illustrate what is meant by this is a story I heard in an Alpha class. The speaker describes how he took his son to his soccer match and the referee was not there. The young boys were growing restless so the speaker thought; how hard could this be? (like a lot of CEO’s when planning sales strategies since very few CEO’s, less than 10%, ever carried a sales bag or goal, so how hard could it be?) So he jumped in as referee and the boys started playing. The ball went out of bounds …whose ball is it they asked him, don’t worry about it… play on. One young man tripped the opposing player and everyone was waiting for him to make a ruling but instead he said… play on. (or “just make it happen” in the sales world) The trouble was the boys now lacked the fundamental rules for how to play the game, the boundaries  and what is acceptable to do to win. No one was having fun, no one knew the score and a number of players were getting hurt. When the referee finally arrived he ran into the center of the field, blew his whistle and established boundaries and reinforced the rules of play. He called violations to the rules of the game quickly and penalties stopped. The story goes on but the outcome was interesting…the boys had more fun and scored more goals once they understood the rules and boundaries and no one was getting hurt so they played with abandon , striving to win.

So let me ask you…do your sales teams play with abandon because they understand your culture, the boundaries, and the rules in your company?

I hear some past CEO’s and business owners I have served saying; YES! We have a mission statement, a vision statement, they all know our culture! You could say that but you would be wrong in most cases. Just as in my short video about the great disconnect; sales execution your job as a leader is to create a bridge between the sales strategy and what it specifically means to each sales team member. We need to translate what our mission and value statement means and the boundaries it establishes in “how” we achieve our sales goals. If you work with a corporate coach and or consultants they will tell you: Culture is very hard work, it takes a great deal of time and you will not realize a quick benefit. I agree its hard work but disagree adamantly that it will not have a quick benefit.

Your Sales Culture is the foundation for all your strategies, including your sales strategy.

If you fail to build a sales culture you will realize poor sales execution and as high as 78% of your strategies will be hopeless.

If this is something new to you or like many of the owners I have served over the years, you want to argue with me, let me share some fundamental sales culture statements that have served my teams over the years. These rules of the sales game, the boundaries my teams have played in have resulted in measurable wins like;

$ 38 million mechanical security Company grew sales to $79 million in 14 months

$2 million dollar company, needed a turnaround, could not make payroll, within 6 months not only cash positive but investing in new equipment and technology, sold 3 years later for $7 million

$ 4 million dollar plastics company consistently surpassed sales and profit objectives over 13 years and was sold for $ 300 million

We spent six months understanding buyers and developed buyer personas in the durable medical products market, within six years sales grew from $14 million to just shy of $90 million

Another $20 million  company realized 40% sales increase in 12 months

A $3 billion company showed a 48% increase in 18 months

One last one for you…another company had sales decline from $150 k per month to $20-$40 k per month when the 2008 recession hit, within 8 months sales grew to over $500 k per month…during the worst part of the recession.

HOW?

Do I have your interest yet? I hope so … This works if you have the courage to implement it.

It starts with establishing the sales culture foundation then developing market focused strategies based on how your buyers buy and the criteria they use to buy, today.

I encourage your team to develop sales culture statements before you develop specific strategies and tactics.

The common sales culture statements that have served many teams over the past 30 years are;

Error in the form of action serving the customer

We will be Agile, and we will learn and get better every day

We focus on results not actions (actions are tactics that lead to results and we will track them as indicators but we are judged by results)

We “serve” our customers, we help them buy, and we do not “sell” them

We work smart not hard

We do not put all our eggs in one basket

We set goals with the end in mind

We embrace “sharpening the saw

We set goals from the market up, not the boardroom down

We get the right people on the bus, and we make sure they are in the right seats where their gifts can add the most value to the team, focusing on strengths and providing training for weaknesses

We play like champions

We “manage” processes, we “lead” people

Four legged sales calls result in explosive sales growth so they will be a part of our sales culture

None of us are as smart as all of us

We believe the Golden Rule is profitable

We create written sales strategies by region, by salesperson that exceed the objective because we know a goal not written is a dream and we will not succeed at every tactic we develop but we own the goal, the results

We embrace  Heretics who challenge : “how we do things around here”as we recognize markets change and companies need to change or get left behind

It’s about “we” so we must tear down silos

We will listen to our markets, buyers, and understand their criteria and buying process

We create sales tools to help buyers buy

My job is to is to  help and equip you( sales and marketing)  to meet and exceed your objectives, and know when to get out of the way

We win and lose as a team; we are all in this together

Would the above Sales Culture boundaries work in your organization? Why or why not?

Do any of the above statements make you feel uncomfortable? ( if so you need to spend some time investigating why)

If you want and or need to create sales velocity you must establish a strong cultural foundation first. It helps your team know the rules of engagement, what your company holds dear and where the boundaries are. If you fail to establish a strong sales culture before strategy you too will realize 78% of your sales strategies will be hopeless.

 

The Quickest Way To Increase Sales And Profits Is…

The Quickest Way to Increase sales and Profits is…

 

By Mark Allen Roberts

What is the quickest way to increase my sales and profits…turn my sales around?” This question is by far the most frequent question business leaders and owners have asked me over the last 30 years. I wish there was a magic “create sales velocity pill” we could all take and everything would be fixed tomorrow, but unfortunately it does not work that way. It took time to get where you are today, and it will take time to get sales and profits back on course. However the quickest way I have experienced to turn sales around and quickly increase sales and profits is; Win Loss Analysis.

What is Win Loss Analysis?

If you are not familiar with conducting win loss analysis, let me share from 45,000 ft what we are doing. When you conduct Win Loss Analysis what you are desperately seeking is the answers to a few questions;

Why do buyers buy from me?

Why don’t buyers buy from me?

What criteria are they using to make buying decisions?

What process are they using to make those buying decisions?

Before we go much further I want you to add the word “today” behind each of the above questions. Why? I have helped so many companies over the years who at one time clearly knew their market, buyers and how their buyers bought so well that they could almost finish buyer’s sentences for them. They built repeatable sales processes based on their market knowledge, created sales tools, and taught their sales teams how to use them. The trouble is markets are dynamic and constantly changing, evolving and we must constantly be aware of the answers to the above questions. Fail to understand you’re your buyers are buying today and your salespeople will resort to feature and benefit BINGO hoping they figure it out and close the sale. However buyers want to buy from partners who know them, understand their problems and quickly demonstrate they are capable of solving their problems. When your salespeople resort to playing BINGO, they become just like every other sales guy trying to sell me something and not help me.

If you plan to take my advice I want to share rules I learned the hard way…

Never let the salesperson that was involved in the sale or attempted sale to conduct the interviews. Why?

  • They fail to listen to details we will need in the next step
  • They filter what they hear
  • If sales was won, it was won because of salesperson ability and relationships, if lost it was price( an price is rarely on the list of why people do not buy) The biggest reason is when a sales person starts hearing why they did not win they start selling and stop listening and the interview is pretty much over.
  • Gain senior management buy in to make changes as needed early ,their commitment  if you conduct win loss analysis you will act on the results. They say the pain of change must be less than the pain of not changing. If your senior leadership team is not committed to make changes you will find some very interesting information but sales will be told to;”just make it happen” or “try harder”.
  • Never conduct a win loss interview with a customer currently in one of the stages of your sales process on a key sale.

Once you gather information from your current customers, customers you lost and potential customers you have always wanted, you need to group like buyers. Once you group like buyers map how they buy and the criteria that is important to them.

Mirror what you have learned against how your team sells today and the tools they use. Quickly you will identify new tools needed based on how buyers are buying today. One common outcome is your current repeatable sales process will change based on the needs of buyers in your market(s) today.

One word of caution again and that is you must have senior leadership buy in to act on what you learn. The only time I have not seen this process increase sales and profits is when I unknowingly enters a Borg Culture where this is how we do things around here trumps achieving sales and profits objectives. If you find you are in a Borg Culture the best solution is to hire a consultant to conduct the win loss analysis.  Senior leaders in these cultures are often much more attentive and willing act on information from a prophet from another land than an internal employee with fresh ideas that seems like they are not on board.

Do you want (need) to increase sales and profits quickly?

Become intimately aware of how your buyers are buying today!

If you would like to learn more about win loss I recommend the following links;

Win Loss and customer satisfaction

Why What How Win Loss.. 

Learn why you are winning…

5 ways CEO’s learn from losses

What will a Win/Loss ….

A competitive tool  

Typical questions loss analysis answers 

Win Loss and value propositions 

Making win loss work

A real win loss analysis 

 

 

Increase Sales And Profits; Stop Asking Your Salespeople To Sell Naked

Increase Sales and Profits; Stop Asking Your Salespeople to Sell Naked

The process of sales does not need to be as difficult as we make it. Market leading organizations understand it all starts with understanding your market, its buyers, and the process and criteria they use to make buying decisions. Once you have a clear understanding of your buyers you position your product or service in your market with a value proposition that resonates with your buyers and you are on a path to a sale. Unfortunately far too many sales teams today are being asked to “just make it happen” in their markets and they are unprepared to achieve the increased goals they receive every year. They lack a current value proposition and distinction from competitors and therefore they are being asked to sell naked.

When I work with a company who is asking their team to sell naked I often give their CEO one of my favorite children’s books; The Emperor’s New Clothes. If you are not familiar with the story; there once was an emperor who spent a great deal on money on clothes.( consultant advice) One day two swindlers came to town and said they would make the emperor clothe the most beautiful he has ever seen, but if anyone could not see the clothes they were unfit for their positions and or just stupid. So the deception begins and the emperor does not want to admit he can’t see the clothes so he pretends to put on this invisible garment. His minister (senior management team) does not want to admit they do not see it in fear of being judged unfit so they pretend to see it and they compliment the emperor. So the emperor proceeds to walk around town naked and no one tells him until he comes across a little boy who is our heretic in this story and shares the emperor is naked.

Organizations that send their salespeople out lacking a value proposition that connects with buyers today are asking their salespeople to sell naked.

Like our emperor sales teams have been told what their senior leadership team believes (hopes) to be their value propositions; any maybe some of them once were true. However if you send your sales team out lacking a current value proposition that instantly resonates with buyers in your market because it shows you understand them, their needs, their pain…then you are sending your salespeople out to sell naked. Yes, you probably say what you believe to be your value position in sell sheets, and on your web site, or what a high paid consultant crafted for you, but the buyers instantly know you’re naked.

Note; just because you and your team say something over and over again is does not make it true for your market.

Like the child in the story buyers are not worried about your politically incorrect market secrets that no one on your team is talking about. Some (most) buyers will let your naked sales team discuss and play feature and benefit bingo, and when they leave agree to never meet with your team again. Not because your salesperson was not a good person, or did not listen, but because the buyer does not see how your product or service can help him. The buyer does not care about all the opinions your senior management team has shared about how brilliant your strategy is. Your buyers are not worried about being judged internally as unfit, non loyal, not a team player; they simply make judgments based on what your salespeople say and present on whether or not your company can help them with a current unmet need.

I can hear some CEO’s saying; “cute story and probably true for some small companies, but not mine, I have been in this industry for over 20 years”…well I hate to be the one to tell you, but you , your senior management team and your salespeople could be naked too! You are naked sitting at the head of the boardroom table and your team is afraid to tell you that your product or service lacks a value proposition today. They all know it but how do you tell someone their “baby is ugly”?

If your sales and profit results are not at plan I promise you, you look naked to your board, your owners, investors, your team, and other business leaders in your community.

Let me give you a quick example;

If a sales rep came to me and presented a Blackberry cell phone as the most innovative, best in class, state of the art, most robust, best service, highest quality….and positioned his product as the “only” cell phone that allowed me to have email on the go ,  he or she would basically be naked to me. Although the salesperson may have the best enthusiasm, product knowledge, presentation skills and desire to win, they clearly are not aware they are naked. What they are saying was once true and it drove sales, however the competition has not only caught up and offers the same thing, they leaped over and past Blackberry and offer solutions Blackberry does not. The CEO and his senior team at Blackberry can try; dictating, motivating, training, pontificating all they want, but the current market truth is their value proposition no longer connects with buyers today. “I hear some of you saying;” Oh well that I agree with for Blackberry, but that is not happening at my company”…are you sure?

So how about you and your salespeople…

Are you and your salespeople naked when they walk into a room?

Do you have a value proposition that resonates with your market and its buyers today?

Are you sending your sales team in wearing the robes you told them are amazing only to be seen as naked by your buyers?

Do you find the only way your salespeople win new business is price?

Have you lost one or more large accounts and were not given the opportunity to “sharpen your pencil”?

Have you been in a meeting with your senior management team and one of them makes a comment …” our buyers are just not smart enough to see…”

Has someone on your team justified losing a large account because they were a pain to deal with?

Have you seen your gross profit margin erode by more than 5% in the last 5 years?

Are your salespeople pitching Blackberry’s when your buyers need Apple I phone solutions?

If any of the above questions make you squirm a bit inside then you are sending your salespeople out naked. The good news is the first part of making any change is recognizing the need to change. I have helped many companies reconnect with the needs of their buyers today and quickly get them back onto the path of increasing sales and profits. You must do the “market work” and develop a value proposition for each market you serve that instantly connects with what your buyers are looking for today. Or you can keep telling your salespeople to drive profitable growth, sell on value not on price, and keep having those quarterly meetings with your board and owners you dread lately. How? How do you create value propositions that resonate with your buyers today? Well that’s my next post.

Improve Sales: Stop Creating “Snake Oil Salesmen”

 

making promises you can not deliver on

making promises you can not deliver on

 

 

The role of sales is a difficult one. You face more rejection than acceptance and have to break through the many roadblocks in connecting with potential customers you can solve problems for. We are paid to “make it happen” often in environments that are not conducive to sales growth both externally in our markets but also internally, in our own organizations. A common problem organizations face today is they are turning their sales consultants into “snake oil salesmen” because their operations is failing to do what they said they would do.

When you study why buyers buy as I have, you hear things like;

I buy from people, companies who take the time to understand my needs, the problems I am trying to solve, and who “do what they say they will do”.

… let’s boil this down a little more;

I buy from people who listen, hear, and I can trust.

We have seen many changes in our markets over the past 7-8 years in how buyers buy as I have discussed in past posts. The reality I hope everyone will agree with is that how buyers buy has changed. As I have shared ; If you have not changed your sales process in the last six months….it is broken and you are losing sales you should have won.

We have seen many changes within our organizations in the last 7-8 years;

Less People

Less budget

Less time to do our jobs

Less inventory of finished goods

Less product in work in process

Less inventory at our customers

Less time to deliver, just in time

…and more competition, often from competitors who are so aggressive it feels like they must not truly know their costs ( or they are that mush better than we are)

My challenge in this post is with all these changes do you really know , based on your capabilities and market realities of today, what your organization is able to do? able to execute regularly, consistently, predictably? If not your salespeople in the market working with you most valuable assets; customers and potential customers and making promises you can not deliver on. To put it another way;

When your company fails to do what it says it does and or will do, you turn your sales consultants into “snake oil salesmen” and it negatively impacts your trust factor.

Back in the days of the wild west there were traveling salesmen who would stop in a town and sell snake oil. When we Google the term “snake oil salesmen” we find;

” a snake oil salesman is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is himself or herself a fraud, quack, charlatan, and the like.”

Snake oil’s origins are believed to come from an oil the Chinese laborers brought to America made from a Chinese water snake believed to cure joint pain.  However the snake oil salesmen of the wild west were known to plant people in the crowd who would lie and say how the oil cured their various ailments. Snake oil salesmen had a sales process of basically traveling town to town and never selling the same people twice because once you bought the snake oil and found it failed to do what you were promised, you did not trust that salesmen.

When your salespeople serve customers , win an order from buyers it is based on a foundation of trust. Buyers naturally , because they have been burned so many times over the years ( by other traveling snake oil salesmen) do not trust salespeople. So trust must be earned and the simplest way of earning trust is execution. ( doing what you say you will do in the small things and the big things, over and over again) When your operations team fails to execute what the sales people have been told to promise, it immediately breaks trust and creates brand damage.  This is particularly a urgent problem when you fail to deliver on promises to new customers as we only have one chance to have a “good first date”. ( first order experience)

The unfortunate reality in the world your salespeople live in day in and day out is their buyer’s perception is the reality they must deal with. The buyer rarely talks to your shipping department, plant operations group, your purchasing department, quality, and they are not aware of the internal challenges your team may be facing nor do they care. What they do care about is buying from companies who consistently do what they say they are going to do.

So let me ask you again;

Is your current operational performance turning your sales consultants into snake oil salesman in the eyes of your customers? 

Are your salespeople making promises based on a dated information set that was probably true five years ago but not true today?

Is your team aware of operational issue but treating them as politically incorrect secrets you hope your buyers and salespeople do not discover? 

Are the competencies you share in your brochures and web site still true today?

What expectations do your buyers have, and how is your team performing to those expectations? 

If your team is not focused on understanding what your buyers need, what your salespeople are promising, and what your organization is capable of executing today you need to be and you need to reboot your business.

In my next post I will share how to quickly access if buyers believe your salespeople are snake oil salesmen and how to quickly repair this perception.

 

 

Increase Sales Quick Tip; Breaking Through the New Gate Keeper…No Gatekeeper at All

 

lobby

 

I was asked to share some quick tips that are in my seminars and coaching calls so once per month I will share what I will call; “Increase Sales Quick tips”. Keep in mind “I “did not make these up, these come from working in the market and observing what works.

 

The first quick tip is; how to break through the new gatekeeper; no gatekeeper at all. In this post I will share a technique for finding and connecting with the right buyer when you enter a prospect’s building and you are greeted by a few chairs, a phone and a call list.

 

If you follow my content you know I am not a big fan of “cold calls”. I feel with technology today there really is not excuse for a cold call. You can do some quick research on your smart phone, identify key contacts through linked in, and even send an introductory email or make a phone call prior to the traditional cold call drop by. But let’s say you are still not sold, and have grown your sales by “dropping in” on prospects in your market, often near appoints you have already booked. A new gate keep that keeps many salespeople from connecting with the buyer and or key contact is the lack of a person in the lobby.

 

You have decided to drop in at an account near one of your customers, you walk into the lobby and you are greeted with a few chairs, a phone, and a locked door…now what?

 

While working with a Gary, a salesman in Knoxville I observed a great technique; call the HR manager. If you do not have a receptionist to guide you to the right contact and buyer, one of the most helpful people in most businesses is the HR manager. When this salesman does a cold call and is greeted with a phone in a lobby, he finds the HR manager and in most cased the HR manager connects him directly with the right person. The right person picks up because the call is coming from the HR manager.

 

Although we all know there are no excuses for making “drop by cold calls” today ….we all still do them. If you find yourself greeted by an empty lobby, try contacting the HR manager to improve your odds of connecting with the right person.

 

What area(s) of sales, sales management, marketing, business development do you struggle with?

 

Please share the roadblocks you encounter to hitting your sales goals and I will answer them in this quick tip post format.

Increase Sales: Turn your “Sales Bucket” into a “Marketing and Sales Funnel” That Generates Revenue

Steve Patrrizi new sales funnel

Steve Patrizi new sales funnel

 

In my last post I shared what CEO’s and business owners often share about sales: Why can’t it be more predictable, more systematic? The good news is it can. The unfortunate thing is most companies believe they have a marketing and sales funnel when in reality they have a sales bucket. A “sales bucket” is when all your opportunities, prospects and leads are all floating around together and many dying because you lack a process to help them buy. In a sales bucket opportunities that should become sales make a big splash when they enter your system but fail to leak out the bottom as a sale.  In this post I will share how I have helped companies turn their sales buckets into revenue generating marketing and sales funnel generating revenue on a consistent and predictable basis.

 

When I hear a business leader say: What we need is a repeatable sales process. We need the sales guys to be more efficient at closing business and bringing in the revenue.  What I hear them saying is : Why can’t my sales and marketing be more of a science and less of an art form? …it is too random, too unpredictable and it drives me nuts that I can’t count on the sales forecasts I am given.” These made me want to do some more research and answer the question: What is science?

 

At its very foundation science seeks to identify patterns. Through identifying and watching patterns, scientists uncover laws that are ultimately translated into math equations. These patterns follow one of two interwoven features; physical laws and environmental influences. With the common pattern of as high as 96% of leads going unsold…what is the pattern and what can we do to improve?

 

For companies who lack a marketing and sales funnel over the years the current market has only made this problem even worse. It used to be, back in the day, back when sales was the “keeper of the keys of product information” , marketing just had to dump prospects and leads into the top of the funnel and sales was responsible for pulling them through to a sale. The funnel and the function of the funnel changed as Steve Patrizi points out here. Today buyers are more informed and as much as 60%-80% of the buying process is over before they contact you. I read an article recently that shared the most important number in B2B marketing is 60%.

 

What does this figure mean for Marketing?

  • 60% …  This is no man’s land: a gap in the purchasing funnel that neither commercial function currently addresses.
  • The 60% mark is in that part of the mid-funnel that is critical in terms of driving the buyers’ consideration of a supplier for a potential purchase.
  • 60% also means trying to build a dialogue with customers without having the advantage of a Sales rep’s one-on-one commercial interaction.
  • Finally, 60% means moving beyond the “qualified lead” mindset.  In essence, once we have moved past the early stages of the funnel, we need a strategy for persuasion and attention-grabbing mechanisms.

Our job today becomes understanding how buyers buy, what common problems do they have, and turn our sales bucket into a slippery marketing and sales funnel that helps buyers buy.  So how do we do that? What have I seen work? Below is the process I have used to help take the art out of sales and make it a much more predictable, forecast able, outcome.

  1. Establish a common language – what does your team mean by a; Prospect, Inquiry, Opportunity, Lead?
  2. Go into your market, ideally on four legged sales calls and clearly understand how your buyers buy and the criteria they need to make buying decisions.
  3. Identify market truth’s
  4. Map Buying journey
  5. Create a marketing funnel that helps buyers buy
  6. Stop the “sales insanity” and map a repeatable sales process that turns leads to sales
  7. constantly sense and refine, adjust , be agile as your buyers change their processes change with them
  8. Measure, measure, measure…
  9. identify “the canary in your coal mine”, your lead to close %
  10. Nurture your leads, improve your lead to close % by helping them slide through the funnel with what they need when they need it.

make sales funnel slippery

Do you have a sales bucket with opportunities that should become sales (leads you paid good money for already) dying?

Do you know why buyers buy from you and why they don’t?

What do your buyers need today to make buying decisions?

Do your sales people have the right sales tools to make the sales funnel slippery or is buying from you like sliding down a sliding board lined with sand paper and splinters?

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Are Your Salespeople Calling on “Power” or “Parrots”?

parrot buyer

 

There are many “gate keepers” we must often pass through to close a sale. With technology today we have buyers who hide behind voice mail and email and send out RFP’s and we have little or no discussion with them. If we try to make a cold call we may be greeted by a “no solicitation sign” or guard house that will not let us pass without an appointment. If we make it to the lobby we may have a receptionist gate keeper trained not to let us pass, and not to share decision makers names. However one of the gate keepers sales must identify quickly is the buyer who has no purchasing power and is a Parrot.

 

So your salesperson has made it through the gauntlet of obstacles we now face in sales and finally met with the buyer. The buyer shared what they are looking for, what their research has told them they need and your salesperson has presented. When we ask your salesperson for an update, they say ; “we had a good meeting”. OK, great to know, but why don’t we have the purchase order? What is preventing the buyer from giving you the order? Why is this sale taking so long? I thought you said you thought you won the order two months ago…where is it?

 

If you find yourself asking your salespeople these questions and more, chances are your salesperson actually presented your solution to a parrot and not power. Parrots are tasked with finding the best product, service and price for a particular problem to be solved and they echo their findings to someone else or others with the power to make the decision to purchase. Rarely are buyers the users of your solution but they are the person who actually inputs the purchase order into their system and assigns the PO.

 

What should your salespeople do if a sale they thought they won goes dark?

 

What should salespeople do if they discover they are calling on a parrot?

 

How do we shorten the sales cycle when we never get to meet with power?

 

If you find yourself asking these questions there are ways to insure you win the sale. One of the leading ways is to equip and empower your buyer with tools to help them present your solution.

 

Good salespeople will always ask in their qualifying process: “who is also involved in making the buying decision?” Some buyers have already been assigned a budget and can cut the purchase order. However as the cost of the purchase climbs I have found others…often time many others will be involved in making the final decision. The key to winning these orders is clearly understanding the buying process, the criteria being used to evaluate solutions, and the buyer personas of those making or influencing the buying decision. I hear some of you saying; “Well Mark that is a lot of work to do on a PO that four other companies are also trying to win.” Yes it can be if you have not done the market work ahead of time. However if you know the buyers in your market, how they buy, who they need to get sign off from, and what is important to those influencers you can include it in your presentation.

 

I was asked to help a company some time ago and they had seen steady profitable growth for years and then as the economy changed their phones seemed to stop ringing. Sales dropped monthly to 1/10th of what they once were and their senior leaders were concerned. They heard through a friend what I do and hired me to solve this problem.

 

The first thing I always do is seek current market truths. After a series of win loss calls we discovered that our customers were also feeling the pinch of the economy tightening and their companies have tightened their restrictions on purchasing. Specifically purchases the size of the products our company was selling once were able to be approved of by the buyer now needed many other signatures. We now have CEO’s, CFO’s, various VP’s all needing to agree before a purchase order would be issued.

 

The trouble in this new reality was our buyers are great at buying and terrible at presenting, it’s not that they are bad people it is just not their gift. We asked if we could meet with and present our solutions to the key influencers and we were met with; “no, they are too busy and this is what I am paid to do”. So as we reviewed sales we lost we found one common “spin cycle” as I call them where the purchase seems to spin round and round and go no where was when a key user or decision maker challenged the buyer with a question or series of questions they needed answers to and the buyers were not prepared to answer. Once we understood this was occurring we created a presentation slide deck that specifically spoke to the common influencer buyer persona’s who needed to approve the purchase. In addition we added a new step early on in our sales process that involved a webinar with the buyer and the various power influencers to share our solution and ask questions to better understand what the influencers needed to make the buying decision at a time that worked for their crazy, short staffed schedules. Within three months sales were tracking back to historical levels and within eight months sales were up over 30% to their prior average monthly sales… in the worst economy this company had ever experienced.

 

 

 

How about your business…..

 

Are you calling on Parrots? Do you know?

 

Who do the Parrots repeat your presentation to?

 

What do those buyer personas need, require to approve the proposal?

 

What can you provide proactively based on your understanding of your customers’ process?

 

How can you adjust your repeatable sales process to adapt to how your buyers are buying today?

 

Yes, this market work takes some time, and you will definitely learn some things that will make you feel uneasy or even upset however the value you receive by adapting to these current market truths will far outweigh the time and pain.

 

(As a side note…while we adjusted our process and had record sales, one of our competitors doubled their advertising and eventually went out of business. Another downsized their operation and waited out the economic storm with plans to re-staff when business got back to normal. They are still in business, but have never re-staffed and have not brought their sales back to pre- economic challenge levels.)

 

 

How do I Improve My Sales Team’s “Lead to Close Percentage”? 10 steps …

leads nurtured grow into profitable customers

leads nurtured grow into profitable customers

 

 

In my previous post I shared how your lead to close percentage is a canary in your coal mine, an early warning  for your future sales performance. Market leaders track and constantly fine tune their lead to close process to drive sales performance increases. In this post I will share 10 steps  I have used to improve your lead to close percentage.

 

Improving your lead to close percentage increases the return on your team’s market dollars invested while adding predictability to the sales forecasting process.

 

When you ask sales people what they need to grow their sales and hit their sales numbers they often say: more leads. I have found in 95% of the cases this is not true. You do not need more leads you need to improve your sales teams close rate on the leads you already have.

 

Here’s some stat’s for you to chew on….

 

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

 

57% of B2B companies identify converting qualified leads into paying customers as a top funnel priority (Marketing Sherpa)

 

65% of Marketers have not established lead nurturing (Marketing Sherpa)

 

79% of markets have not established lead scoring (Marketing Sherpa)

 

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

 

Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads ( The Annvitas Group)

 

Companies that have lead nurturing have 9% more sales reps make quota ( Gartner Research)

 

Trigger based marketing, event based marketing is 2 to 12 times more effective than old school direct marketing ( Genroe)  

 

 

 

How do we serve our customers and help them to buy what they want when they are ready to buy?

 

  1. Know why customers buy from you and why they don’t
  2. Tear down internal Silo’s between sales and marketing
  3. listening, truly understanding your buyers problems, criteria and buying process
  4. Teach, develop content , drive demand
  5. Create lead nurturing processes
  6. Make it easy to buy from you and stop protecting the fort in your sales process
  7. Create  buyer persona’s , speak to their pain
  8. Use trigger based marketing, event based marketing
  9. Make sales a part of the lead nurture process and make sure you understand it is different than the lead generation process
  10. your job is not to “sell” your customers but “serve” them and help them buy

 

 

If you do not have a lead nurturing process in place start one today. Keep in mind the best lead nurturing programs touch prospects with relevant insightful content perfectly timed based on their intimate understanding of how buyers buy and the criteria they use. You are building a relationship. You wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on the first date, so why would you expect to close the sale immediately?

 

The landscape of sales today has changed dramatically compared to how it used to be. Market leading sales and marketing teams work together with cross functional goals. Salespeople spend time on the internet researching their customers and prospects leveraging technology to identify problems they can solve instead of hours of windshield time and logging air miles. Market leading sales and marketing teams have adapted and leverage technology to improve their lead to close percentages. They increase sales and return on sales dollars invested.

 

“Lead to Close Percentage”, The Canary in Your Coal Mine for Sales Forecasting

knowing your lead to close percentage is key to improving sales

knowing your lead to close percentage is key to improving sales

If you want to get CEO’s talking, one of the hot topics is what I have referred to earlier is the “Great Disconnect” as it relates to sales execution. Some common burning problems that CEO’s often share with me on their drive home at night are about their frustration with regards to sales performance…

Why is sales an art and not a science in their organization given all the technology available today?

 

How can I get my sales team to operate like my plant?… more manageable, more predictable?

 

 

How can I tell quickly and early enough that my salespeople will or won’t hit their sales goals each month?

 

How can we drive the variability of sales forecasting out of our current sales forecasting process?

 

How can we get a greater return on marketing dollars invested?

 

The question I use that often makes the phone call grow quiet with that all too familiar pregnant pause is: What is your team’s “lead to close percentage”? Your lead to close percentage is the canary in your coal mine of sales and acts as an early predictor of future sales performance. When you ask salespeople how to grow their sales they will say; I need more leads. The reality is you do not need more leads you need to improve your lead to close percentage on all the leads you already have.

 

My grandfather grew up in West Virginia and his father like many men back then was a coal miner in addition to having the family farm. My grandfather used to share with me how miners would bring canaries down into the coal mines as they were a quick early warning sign that there were toxic unhealthy gases seeping into the mine and they needed to leave the mine quickly. Canaries are particularly susceptible to toxic gases like carbon monoxide and methane found in the stale air of mines back then. The life of a canary in a coal mine was often short but meaningful. Your lead to close percentage indicator is the canary in your sales mine.

 

So what is the “canary in your coal mine of sales”?

 

Your “lead to close percentage” is one of the best indicators of future sales performance.

 

57% of companies in a study indicated converting qualified leads into paying customers as their top funnel priority (Marketing Sherpa)

 

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

 

Do you know your “lead to close percentage” for your sales team? …for each salesperson?

 

It is difficult to manage, fine tune, and improve something until you make it a Key Performance Indicator that you track. Once you start tracking your lead to close percentage for your team and each salesperson you will quickly be on a path to taking the frustrating variability out of your sales forecasting process.

 

In my next post I will share specific ways to improve your lead to close % one you have agreed to make it a key performance indicator your sales team will track and report on.