Fix Sales Problems: Stop Playing “Kick The Can”…with Buyers

Fix Sales Problems: Stop Playing “Kick the Can”…with Buyers

 

The role of sales has changed significantly over the last 10 years. On the one side we now have buyers who now are 60% to 74% through the buying process before they speak with a salesperson. Buyers today do their research online. They check out your product, what your customers are saying about your company, your products and service, and they are doing searches on the salesperson individually. Over 90% of buyer’s today report they do not respond to cold calls. On the other side of this sales tug of war we have CEO’s and other senior team members concerned sales is leaving money on the table in how they price products. They are commonly concerned the sales team  is “selling on price” and not “selling on value.” To respond to this tug of war some salespeople often play “kick the can” with buyers and lose sales they could have won today and in the future.

When I was growing up in Cleveland Ohio a game we often played when the sun went down was kick the can. If you are not familiar with this game it is kind of like hide and seek. One person is “it” and everyone hides. The person who is “it” searches for those hiding and once found they must go back to home base, where there is a small can in the street. The game gets challenging when the person who is it, is out searching for more players, a non-captured player sneaks up to base and kicks the can freeing all those captured to hide once again. If you are “it” this game is very frustrating and would often last until our parents would call us home for the night. The more kids you had playing the more the can would be kicked and the odds of the person who was “it” ever getting to hide and have fun was rare.

When I first started my sales career we had all the information. There was no internet, chat rooms, social selling, LinkedIn industry groups or Twitter. You met with buyers, listened to problems and presented solutions. We had our sales bags with three ring binders full of sell sheets, data sheets and pricing. Buyers had to meet with you, or at least speak with you, to learn about products, and gather competitive information on the products they bought. We built relationships with buyers at target accounts and after answering the buyers’ questions over time you would work your way into an account. Buyers respected the reps who never gave up. Most reps, even today quit the sales process after two contacts but most buyers engage with new sales people after 8-12 interactions. Today however, not only are buyers searching for solutions long before they speak with a salesperson, they can conduct searches from their smart phones at any time of the day in an instant.

Buyers today have researched your product, your competitor’s product and have a perceived market price for your product or service before they speak with a salesperson. As Dave Meerman Scott shared this week’s in his post about the new edition of New Rules of Sales and Service : “many people are failing to engage their audiences by continuing to apply the old rules in a new age “.Unfortunately some salespeople are counting on getting a second chance to quote ( a second kick at the can)  and lead with a high price. They are counting on an old rule tactic of “kick the can pricing” and lose sales they could have won.

Not familiar with kick the can pricing?

It goes something like this….

A salesperson has been working an account for some time and gets an opportunity to quote a product or service. This same salesperson has heard from their leadership they need to sell on value and not price. If the salesperson does not know the market value or the value to the buyer for the product or service they quote at a high price with the assumption that if they quoted too high they will get “another kick at the can”, a second chance to quote. The trouble with the second kick at the can belief in today’s market is it just does not work. Just as sales has changed dramatically so has purchasing.

-Buyers are doing research and know a fair market value for your product or solution. Failure to fall in that range, unless you have a significant distinctive competence, breaks trust and you lose the sale (and probably all future quote opportunities).

-Buyers have seen more and more products being added to their responsibilities due to corporate consolidation. Their work load has increased based on the assumption they can leverage technology to do more with less. Buyers today want to source products that meet their buying criteria, solve purchase needs and move on to the next purchase. Kick the can pricing involves opening a purchase they have already solved. If you are trying this tactic, you must have a significant compelling reason to open a purchase they considered closed.

-Many buyers are buying just in time and make buying decisions quicker. By the time you try to kick the can again it probably has moved on.

-There are more people involved in the buying decision, particularly from new vendors. Buyers present their data and make buying recommendations to a team in some cases. The team decides who to purchase from. It is difficult (I have heard near impossible) to ask a buying committee to review a second quote from a salesperson playing kick the can.

-Buyers today often ask for proposals from 3-5 or more vendors and expect sales to lead with a price and service proposal based on the value their product or service provides. Their solution will be compared to the relative the market price the buyer discovered on their buying journey. When sales tries to kick the can, and ask for another try to win the order, they basically release all the prior captured quotes and free every other possible vendor to play the re-quote game.

-Buyers are looking for better solutions, a new supplier with a distinctive competence and if your product lacks one or has a dated value proposition, then all buyers can look at is price.

-Many buyers today have sophisticated purchasing systems that make it difficult to revisit a particular quote and some have estimator tools on what your selling price should be.

What’s the best solution to solve the “kick the can” pricing game in your organization?

Market knowledge…knowing your market, the value your product has to the customer, and having a clear value proposition.

Products today, more than ever before must be priced strategically based on the market value to the customer. Cost plus pricing and kick the can pricing games stopped working when the buying power shifted to the buyers.

Do your salespeople ask buyers for another kick at the can?

Does your sales team understand your value proposition?

Does your value proposition resonate with buyers today or is it dated?

How’s that working for you?

Has your sales close rate gone up or down in the last 12 months?

Do your buyers at your company allow salespeople to take a second (or third) kick at the can when they sell your organization?

How can we price products strategically in this “new world of sales and service?”

 

Just as buyers have more information readily available to them than ever before, sales and marketing teams also have data if they know where to look and learn to price their products and services strategically.This requires market knowledge , understanding the value your product provides to customers, and positioning .  Salespeople sell on price when they do not understand your value proposition or it no longer resonates with your buyers today.

How do you price strategically? That will be the topic of my next post.

 

Congratulations You Are A Sales Manager…now What?

Congratulations you are a Sales Manager…now what?

 

Only 40% of sales teams will achieve plan this year on average. Why will 60% of sales teams fail to hit plan this year? Have you recently been promoted to sales manager and you find yourself saying now what? Do you have sales managers reporting to you and you lack a sales background? Are you a sales manager looking for a road map on how to add the most value? If so this post is for you.

I just finished the book: The High Impact Sales Manager, a no-nonsense, practical guide to improve your team’s performance. The authors from the Sales Readiness Group defined the role of sales manager and built a strong foundation that defines the sales manager role and helps new sales managers have the greatest impact.

Where do most sales managers come from? Sales managers are often sales super stars who are promoted into management with little training and plan to achieve the sales goal. I have seen it repeated over and over again in the past 30 plus years…. A company has a sales super star that consistently hits or surpasses sales plan. They open more new business than their other team members, sell more new products at launch and their customers love them. The leaders of the company want every salesperson performing at their level so they promote the sales super star with the vision they will help the entire team operate as they have done.  However in the majority of these cases the new sales manager will fail. Why? This was your sales super star eight months ago…what changed? More important, what can we do to set new sales managers up to win in their role?

 

The authors describe the scenario of the top sales producer becoming the sales manager as the “Star Athlete Syndrome”. The sales star consistently produces to plan but grows tired of the daily grind of sales. They dream of moving up in the organization. After all how hard could sales management be? It sounds easy, almost intuitive…I know how to sell, I have demonstrated the ability to sell, …I can be a sales manager. If it is so easy why do so many sales super stars fail in the role of sales manager?

Answer: As a sales super star you drive results on your own. As a sales manager you must lead a team and drive results through (I prefer with) other people.

What is the definition of a sales manager?

sales manager, someone who directs an organization’s sales team, oversees its processes, and is typically in charge of talent development and leadership, benefits by having clarity into the company’s future. As a sales manager oversees a company’s operations, an effective sales management process will allow them to drive their company forward. They’ll have a clearer vision of where they stand amongst their competition and know how to stay above their competition.  

The key words in this definition include: process, oversees, talent development and vision.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the roles of salespeople and sales managers in hopes of determining why the star athlete syndrome occurs so often.

To be an effective salesperson you need the following skills:

What skills are required to be an effective sales manager?

Can you see how there is a skills disconnect between a star salesperson and a sales manager? Is it any wonder sales managers who are not trained fail to produce high impact results?

The Authors of The High Impact Sales Manager do a great job of discussing this skills gap and they present a roadmap to becoming a top producing sales manager. I highly recommend this short book.

How about your team…

Will your sales team achieve sales plan this year?

Has your sales manager received training?

What are the most important tasks of a high impact sales manager?

If you research the word “sales “you will find millions of articles and advice on selling. If you look for “sales management” there is much less content and the content that does exist applies more to “general management” and not specifically sales management. This book will establish a foundation your sales managers can build upon and help them focus on the right activities and not get sucked into the daily grind and firefighting.

Fix Sales Problems: Are “Gaps” Holding Your Sales Team Back This Year?

Fix Sales problems: Are “Gaps” Holding Your Sales Team Back This Year?

 

Do you have Gaps that need closed to improve your sales team’s performance this year? Is your team hitting their sales plan or do you have a sales problem that needs fixed? (and fast!) In this post I will share how identifying and closing three key Gaps will improve your team’s performance,  sales effectiveness and sales engagement.

I recently enjoyed the book: The Three Gaps, Are you making a difference? by Hyrum W. Smith. If you read my posts you know I like to read…Ok, I read a lot! This book was recommended in one of my social feeds and what captured my attention was the question: “Are you making a difference?” Isn’t that what we all really want at the end of the day?…to make a difference in our families, our church, our social networks and our work? Are you making a difference? The author shared in a quote…

“Inner peace comes from having serenity, balance, and harmony in our lives through the disciplined closing of three gaps”

  • Hyrum Smith

So what are these three gaps and how can I help close them to better serve others?

Values Gap

Time Gap

Beliefs Gap

Let’s unpack each one but really spend some time on the beliefs gap.

Values Gap

The values gap is the gap between what you value most, and what you are actually doing. It asks the question: How are you spending your time, energy and resources compared to where and how you want to be spending them? When you read the book the author does a great job of explaining this with a story of a beam stretched over a deep canon. Of all the crazy things to be afraid of, I am afraid of heights so this story really resonated with me. Would I run across this beam for $1000? …Probably not.  $10,000? $100,000? Now let’s add some new information…its pouring rain and winds are blowing 35 -50 mph…would you run across the beam for $ 1 million? Unfortunately I think my answer would be no. Now let’s change the scenario… I look across this deep cannon and a rain soaked beam and winds howling and see someone about to drop one of my children over the side…I would run across the beam!

“When daily Activities are in concert with your highest priorities, you have a credible claim to inner peace”

  • Hyrum Smith

 

Time Gap

For as long as I have led  teams I have heard; “ I don’t have the time to do all the things you are asking of me and have a life outside of work too” The truth is we are in absolute control of your time. Every minute, every second you are making decisions on how to spend your time. Right now you are choosing to spend time reading this content ( thanks by the way) but you are also choosing not to make that call to the new sales target, have that meeting with your underperforming sales regional manager and so on. I am choosing to write instead of watching TV right now. So we all have “time” it’s how we choose to spend it is the real issue. The author does a great job in sharing three principles to help us better manage time.

 

Beliefs Gap

This is my favorite gap and the one that I believe if we spend some time on closing we can help heal our companies, ourselves and help our sales teams get back on track. The author shares how we all have a beliefs window through which we see the world and it is a function of our age, life experiences, training and so on. Now picture this window with little see through pictures on it. These are your beliefs. I was taught at a seminar long ago: a thought, true or false, repeated over and over again becomes a belief.  So my challenge to you is what if you have incorrect beliefs on your window clouding how you see your market, your companies’ value proposition today, and your salespeople and so on? The author shares a simple test. If you want to know someone’s beliefs, check their behaviors. For example, I believe the best thing I can do to serve my company is be in the market meeting with customers and prospects listening for unresolved problems. I listen and ask questions about those problems, and even note the words they use to describe them. My friends at Pragmatic Marketing would say I am practicing “NIHOTO”. So it should not shock anyone I am writing this post from a Holiday Inn in Indianapolis after attending an industry trade show for one of our markets. If you look at my behavior: travel 50-60% of the time it shows you what I believe. The author also shares how our beliefs drive future behavior.

“Any belief that drives behavior that does not meet your basic needs over time is an incorrect belief”

  • Hyrum Smith

So let me ask you the million dollar (goal achieving) questions…

What do you believe about your markets?

What do you believe about your current customers?

What do you believe about salespeople?

What do you believe about your salespeople?

What do you believe about marketing?

How do you believe your buyers shop today?

 

Now let me ask one more question so you can get back in control of your time and serve someone…

Are your beliefs true (today)? Or are they based on some past experience or how we always to do things around here? How you answer will have more impact on your sales and future sales than you can imagine. If there are disconnects between what you as a leader in your organization believe and what is actually true it is negatively impacting your team’s performance. Your beliefs shape how you interact with team members and even the strategies you ask them to implement.

Let’s assume you are not from a sales and marketing background. Let’s assume you grew up through the ranks of your organization in other areas like accounting and maybe operations like a number of company leaders. Twenty years ago when you were working hard to serve your company, salespeople used to drive you nuts. They seemed to ask for things we were always out of stock on. They complained that what we just shipped was late and when it arrived it was defective and now the customer is upset. They all drove fancy foreign cars and when you were in accounting you saw those expense reports at expensive restaurants, golf and hotels. Or let’s say you had a bad experience with a poor example of a sales manager who only cared about his personal income, a commission junkie as I call them in other posts. So as you look through your window from now the CEO’s seat and you look through little snap shots, thoughts that you have repeated over and over again for the last 30+ years and you believe all salespeople are:

  • A pain to deal with…they are just different than everyone else
  • Always complaining, never happy
  • Are on the customer’s side and not yours
  • Not accountable
  • Commission junkie’s who only car about themselves and not the long term health of the organization
  • They lie
  • They sell on price not value
  • Spend company money foolishly
  • Feel free to fill in your own….

Can you see how those thoughts are plastered over and over again on your window explain why you don’t trust salespeople? (and why they don’t trust you?)

Chances are you probably have met poor salespeople who had bad behaviors ( like I have)  but I can assure you not all of us like that. The role of Sales has also changed over the years. Just look at the statistics on “the internet of things” and its impact on how buyers buy. Salespeople today have more resources to sharpen their saw and get more effective at their craft than ever before.

If you study why sales super stars leave organizations just like yours it might surprise you to learn it is not one of your possible beliefs: more money. (you can learn what it really is here) If you do not feel like checking out the link…the number one reason why sales super stars leave is their belief if you value them. So do you?

If you want to get the most out of your sales team it’s time to come clean. Scrub all those past thoughts repeated over and over again off your window and take the time to understand what your salespeople  and buyers are really like today and what they are doing and why. You need to practice what I refer to as clean sales management. Once you have done this, I highly recommend you and a few of your senior executives spend time meeting with customers and prospects in your markets to determine if your organizations ‘beliefs match who they really are today. I recommend you conduct win loss interviews or hire someone to do it for you and understand your markets today. They will tell you the unfiltered truth, the truth not clouded by your past.

This a great book and I highly recommend it to leaders or those wanting to be leaders to help you close the three key gaps that stand in the way of your success. We have all read articles on the impact engaged employees can have on the bottom line. Closing the 3 Gaps will fix your sales problems and help your organization get back on track to a profitable sales year.

This book is written on a much broader context to help you close three common gaps to help us as individuals. The author shares that getting our own life together is the first step in having a positive impact on the world. In this post I shared how to apply his content specifically to helping to heal sales problems.

A Cup Of Tea, And Why Strategy Work Is So Difficult

A cup of tea, and why strategy work is so difficult

 

Why is strategy work so difficult? What is the secret to developing strategy that drives profitable sales growth? Why will 90% of strategic plans fail? There is a high probability as you read this post your sales and marketing team have already decided the strategy your senior leadership team developed is not working and have retreated to the way we have always done things around here. Why? …and more importantly what can we do to create strategies that result in repeatable profitable sales growth? In this post I will share why most strategies are doomed to fail and how to write strategies that result in adding value to your business.

First we need to be grounded in common definitions because there is a lot of confusion when it comes to strategy work.

Strategy

Strategy is a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time.

The skill of making or carrying out plans to achieve a goal

 

Marketing strategy

A marketing strategy is a process or model to allow a company or organization to focus limited resources on the best opportunities to increase sales and thereby achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

Product Strategy

Is often called the roadmap of a product and outlines the end-to-end vision of the product and what the product will become. Companies utilize the product strategy in strategic planning and marketing to identify the direction of the company’s activities.


Sales Strategy
 

A sales strategy is a plan by a business or individual on how to go about selling products and services and increasing profits.

Tactics

Means by which a strategy is carried out; planned and ad hoc activities meant to deal with the demands of the moment, and to move from one milestone to other in pursuit of the overall goal(s).

Now that we have some common understanding with  words we hear often throughout the day we need to identify the leading reason why 90% of strategies (like those your team is supposed to be executing now) will fail.

One word: ….Hubris

Unlike the words strategy, marketing strategy and tactics, hubris is not a word often used so here is a good definition:

Hubris is from Greek, where it meant “excessive pride, violating the bounds set for humans” and was always punished by the gods. We no longer have the Greek gods, so in English it just refers to over-the-top self-confidence. If you call yourself the best in something, you better have the goods to back it up, since too much hubris can lead to embarrassment and humiliation. It’s an age-old human failing: pride goeth before the fall.

I have been very fortunate to have great mentors in my life that gave me gifts. One gift I use in strategy work ironically came to me through my Karate instructor Sensei Bill Marcum. I was attending Kent State University and I needed a non business elective so I took Isshin ryu Karate. After a few classes the instructor said she thought I seemed to catch on quick and I might consider joining the Isshin Ryu Karate club on campus go deeper than her class can offer.

I joined the club and the first year or so was just the basics and I grew anxious to learn more combinations of moves I could use in a self defense situation. The time came for me to start Kumite which is free style fighting. I found when I practiced all the new moves I was learning I could repeat them without much correction. When I stepped into the ring I went back to boxing which I learned at an early age. Looking back part of it was hubris….pride, not wanting to loose, not wanting to be embarrassed and the bigger part was what I was learning was new and often strange compared to what I have known for years and that I knew worked. However I was never going to become skilled in  the new , better techniques if I did not start doing them.

My instructor pulled me aside one day and read me a story titled; A cup of Tea out of a book: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones and it went something like this..

A Cup of Tea
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Just like Nan-in, my instructor Sensei Bill could not teach me new techniques that will feel and probably look awkward at first until I un-learn what I have been taught and believe to be true. The same is true when doing strategy work to fix sales problems.

I found a great quote in a book I am currently reading by Greg Bustin about accountability I want to share…

FullSizeRender (2)

How do you develop a strategy that works and results in profitable sales growth? You need a few heretics on your team to challenge truths and beliefs your strategy is built upon. In Art Kleiner’s book titled: The Age of Heretics , Kleiner‘s definition of a heretic is:

“a visionary who creates change in large-scale companies balancing contrary truths they can’t deny against their loyalty to their organizations.”

He discusses how managers get stuck into a rut and need heretics to point out new points of view to get past the deadlock and move forward. Later he describes some as “rebels unwilling to kowtow to the corporate bureaucracy.”

I also have used this quote by Peter Drucker often to keep me motivated…

“My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.”

 

If your team wants to be one of the 10% of companies that have strategic plans that work…empty your tea cup of how you think the market works, how we do things around here, how things have always been… Fill your cup with current market data gathered from both customers and prospects recently sharing why they buy and do not buy today.

Strategy work is difficult so we should not be surprised so many strategies fail to be executed and fail to deliver on their promises to increase sales and profits. To insure your team does not fall into the trap of assuming why buyers buy and why they don’t you must tune into your market on a frequent basis and adjust.

Does your team have a strategic plan that is driving explosive sales growth this year?

When was the last time you conducted a SWOT analysis?

Do you have a culture where your salespeople are safe to share market truths?

When was the last time you adjusted your value proposition?

Are you a salesperson asked to sell with a value proposition that is no longer true? How’s that working for you?

As the leader of your organization is it time to conduct a value proposition gut check?

If you would value more to read on this topic may I suggest?

Report: How to Make Your Number in 2016

Your “gut” and “intuition” are not enough…today

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

Will Your Strategic Plan Work?

9 Easy Steps to Developing a Marketing Strategy that Drives Business Results

Differentiation – Is Yours Real or False?

7 Key Steps to a Growth Strategy That Works Immediately

Are “Politically Incorrect Market Secrets” (PIMS) Stalling Your Sales Growth?

Stop Asking Your Salespeople to “Sell Naked”

Increase Sales and Profits; Create Distinction!

Stop Making Your Salespeople “Assume The Position” …

 

If you have other content on the subject of how to create strategies that increase sales please add a link in the comments section.

Pic credits http://www.freshesttea.com/black-tea

How do I  correct sales problems after a market shift?

 

foccet

Your sales team was aligned and equipped to have a strong sales growth year. Your team created sales playbooks, buyer personas and new sales tools to insure you hit your sales goal (this time). Your team was building a strong momentum and then it feels like someone turned off the sales faucet. What just happened? What probably occurred is your team has experienced a market shift. How do you fix sales after a market shift? In this post I will share the strategy I have used when we experienced a market shift. ( and it’s not likely you are starting in the right place)

 

Before we discuss the strategy to refocus your sales efforts I want to remind you of a quote from my last post that shared various caused of market shifts. I used the below quote for years as a filter when asked to help companies in the middle of a market shift or more often after a market shift.

 

“Are you prepared to stake everything, change anything, and do whatever it takes— even if it means altering long familiar habits, redeveloping precious programs, and redeploying sacred assets?”             

  – Tom Bandy

A market shift will cause your company to change and adapt to the new reality. The degree of the shift and the severity of the shift’s impact on sales performance will determine just how much your team will need to adapt.

 

I can hear some skeptics saying …”We have been doing business this way for 15 years and we do not need to change, we need to wait until the market goes back to normal” The trouble is when your market shifts, you will never go back to normal.

 

Don’t believe me when I say  how much markets change and shift? OK, how many people reading this have a Myspace account? From 2005 to 2008 Myspace was the most visited website in the United States, even more than Google! Today? Myspace is ranked 1272 on most visited website. What happened? A shift! New companies felt the shift and created products buyers wanted to buy.

 

Or listen to a leader who transformed shopping with Zappos.com.

“There’s a trans-formative shift in business, and what worked before is no longer an option. It’s time for evolved entrepreneurs, visionary creators, and change makers to rewrite the rules of business for the 21st century.”

Tony Hsieh,  CEO of Zappos.com

 

Or read one of my past posts about when sales plans fail and how to adapt.

 

Do you agree markets shift ?

 

 

Assuming you are willing to adapt and change: “how we have always done things around here” in this post I will share the process I have used over the years to help sales teams fix sales problems due to a market shift.

 

 

 

 

Meet with your key customers who represented 80% of your sales opportunity before the shift. What you are looking for in these meetings is to clearly understand what shift occurred, when, and more importantly how your buyers plan to react to this shift.  Having faced market shifts many times the first reaction for most sales teams is to target new customers. You may need to do this if your current market is not likely to produce sales to meet your sales goals. You must clearly understand what changed, how your buyers are and have reacted to that change.

 

 

Improve overall buying experience. Take the information you have gathered and update the way you deliver solutions to your market based on the way they want to buy and receive them.

 

Explore for technology shifts. Was the shift due to a technology shift? (72%) of business leaders think technology will transform their company’s competitive landscape in the coming years according to an IBM report .

 

While meeting with your key accounts ask if there are other departments within their organization that would value your team’s distinctive competence. Why? One of the reasons why buyers do not buy is risk. Can this new vendor execute what they are promising? Is their quality as good as they say? Will it be easy to work with them of difficult? The more a buyer feels there is risk the less likely they are to engage with a new vendor. The exception occurs when you are a:”vendor of record”. Your company is  in their system. You are set up to receive purchase orders, get paid and so on. Assuming you have done a great job you can share your on time service statistics, your billing accuracy and have your other buyers refer you.

 

Based on meeting with your accounts you need to gather what you learned and create the following I shared In a post some time ago :

 

Write a market truths document based on gathered current data

 

Highlight strategies and tactics in your current sales plans that are no longer in alignment with the market of today

 

Asses your internal truths, capabilities, discard action items that do not support your objectives

 

If your team lacks a motivation to serve your market, create one

 

Determine your ideal customer profile

 

Write a plan you will execute based on the information you have gathered from the market and your capabilities. (allow some flexibility, design your sales plan to be Agile)

 

 

Once you complete the above you need to determine if making adjustments in your current markets with current customers will provide sufficient sales opportunity to achieve your sales goal. If yes proceed with executing your plan and you will not need the following steps.

 

After you have gathered your current market truths and internal truths and you determine your market does not have the opportunity necessary to achieve your sales goals please continue with this process and complete the following steps:

 

 

 

Find other accounts in the same market you have not sold yet. In most of the companies I have helped their “customers” have represented 20% to 30% of the entire market. In this step you will identify other accounts in the same market that are likely to have similar problems as the account(s) you have been selling. Keep in mind when business slows down buyers have time. They have time to meet with new vendors and they often have new goals like specific cost savings targets. When you discover this to be the case make sure the solutions you propose are shared in a way that speaks to the buyer’s company and personal goals.

 

Explore surrounding markets that include accounts buying products like those you supply. I look for adjacent markets that are interconnected to the markets I have been serving.

 

Expand your search for new markets that have similar problems your current market has. The key is to clearly understand your companies’ distinctive competence. What is your product or services’ value proposition? Is that value transferable into new markets? Ideally you want to find one to three accounts and test your assumption. In this process you will learn new information and a new language for the new market. Assuming your test clearly demonstrates value, you will want to scale that solution in the language of this new market.

 

Design new Innovate solutions if your current products no longer solve your current customer’s problems.

 

Share innovative new products in your current markets.

 

Share product innovations in adjunct markets

 

Share product innovations in new markets

 

As you lead your team through the above process you need to stop when a step will achieve your desired sales goals. For example, let’s say as you explored adjacent markets and you found a number of new accounts who agree with your value proposition, have agreed to buy your products and their sales will help you meet goal. Stop and execute.  Stop following the steps and focus on executing in the adjacent market. Why? Why wouldn’t you have us do all of the above just to play it safe? Three reasons;

 

Focus – you want to lead your sales team with as clear a focus as possible. When you lack focus your team will be “very busy” but fail to achieve desired results.

 

ROI- The farther your team expands from your known core business the less RIO you will realize in the short term.

 

Timing – Often when sales teams experience a problem they have a short window to fix the sales problem. The farther you move from your core the longer it will take to win sales.

 

 

Have your sales taken a downward turn?

 

Did your sales team experience a recent market shift?

 

How does your sales team fix sales problems due to a market shift?

 

We serve dynamic markets and we need to expect them to change. When you experience a  market shift the key to reacting and fixing your sales is clearly understanding the shift and having a systematic approach to finding new sales to insure your sales goals are still achieved. Most inexperienced sales managers will quickly launch into a new market. Why take this strategy that has a history of the slowest contribution, lower ROI per sales transaction and highest risk when a current market or a market close to your core will fix your sales problem? The above is the process I have used for years and I welcome comments on other processes and advice for when market shifts occur.

What If Fixing Your Sales Problem Was Simple?

What if Fixing your Sales problem was Simple?

 

 

I love the above quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson. What if fixing your sales problem was simple? What if your sales team could be great? Far too often I see clients try too many tactics and fail to connect to a core strategy to understand then completely solve the problem. I hear owners and CEO’s describe sales problems that need fixed in many ways; We need “more sales”. We need “increased sales”. How do we “sell new products”? How do we “increase our sales close rate”? How people describe sales problems they want to fix varies but what they all want and need is to create sales velocity that I shared in a post some time ago…

Sales Velocity is Sales Acceleration, with Direction and creates Momentum.

Easy to say, but the perception is it is hard to do…Not so fast!

What if I told you growing your sales profitably is actually “Simple” if you focus on one strategy?

I was asked to be the keynote speaker for a large local company having their national meeting recently. I asked the person in charge of the meeting what they wanted me to speak about?  How can I best serve those in attendance? What is the outcome you want from me kicking off your national meeting? He responded: we want what everyone wants; more sales, higher profits, and product launches that hit and surpass our product launch sales goals. Can you share how to fix these sales problems? No Problem I shared it’s what I have done for over 30 years, I will give your team a great experience.

To get my creative juices flowing I did some Google searches to read advice this group may have already found…

Increase sales : 623 million results

Increase Sales and Profits : 270 million results

Fix Sales Problems: 85 million results

The trouble is so many of these results is they jump right into tactics and lack a focused strategy. No wonder so many companies struggle with increasing sales profitably. What advice should you listen to? What programs, training, coaching should you follow?

What I am about to say may cause some people to say;” It can’t be that easy”, but I have case study after case study that proves it is.

If you want to fix all your sales problems and increase sales and profits you must …..Are you ready?

Know your customers and markets. (That’s it …simple right?)

“The reason sales goals are missed and sales increases fail to happen is companies jump into sales tactics without clearly knowing their customers.”

  • Mark Allen Roberts

Teams try tactics until they find one that seems to work. The trouble with this approach is we serve dynamic markets. Markets shift quickly and we must constantly be in tune with our customers and markets. We must understand the process they use to buy, the criteria they must have to make buying decisions and clearly understand the problems they are solving today.

Who is the worst person to inform you of market shifts and understand unresolved problems?…Salespeople! (Kills me to say this) Why is this the case? For the same reason they are the worst people to conduct win loss interviews. They are focused on selling. It’s what you pay them to do. The trouble in most sales organizations is they have been so focused on selling they fail to practice active listening. Therefore they miss the problems buyers share. What is the #1 reason buyers don’t buy? Hint it’s not price… as I shared in this post it’s the buyer felt the salesperson failed to understand the problem and therefore they did not trust the solution they presented would fix the problem completely.

So who in your organization is focused on knowing your customers and market?

After sharing this I paused and watched the reaction in the room. I could tell some had this look like: it can’t be that easy…that simple. I am sure the salespeople in the room were thinking: we already know that, what a waste of time…who is this guy, I know my customers, and why did they bring him in? I had one marketing person approach me after the event and say; we have wanted answers to these questions but sales won’t let us meet with customers. In case you are thinking the same thing, let me ask the same questions I asked this room to turn this speech (this post) into a discussion….

Who are your customers? (Notice I did not say who pays you, who are your customers?)

Who are your buyer personas? … Are they predominantly male/ female? Age?  Education and background? How do they shop? Where do they shop? How are they paid? How are they measured inside their organizations? What discipline do they come from…Engineering? Accounting ? Human resources? What are some current market problems others like them have?

What problems are they facing today they may or may have had a year ago?

How do they describe them in their words?

What do your buyers need to make purchases today?

How big are their problems?

What is the cost if they do not solve these problems?

How do problems like this show themselves?

Who influences the sale at your customers?

What do the influencers need to make purchase recommendations?

When your buyers search do they use a desktop or a mobile device?

I asked a number of industry specific questions …. (Because everyone is convinced their market is unique and special and to help those who may have tuned out want to engage and it worked)

People in attendance were sharing some feedback but for the most part the questions I need answered to fix their sales problems were not answered. Some of the answers were true 10 years ago, but based on my limited research prior to the event I knew were no longer the case. Some of the answers were fresh off their web site and were described as features not solutions to problems. I wish this was unique but it’s not. As I shared in one of my most popular posts: the reason most product launches fail is mullet marketing.

Mullet Marketing is a terms I have used for years and it implies very short efforts in the front, the researching the problem and customers. However when sales fail to meet plan its long on the back side, all hands on deck. In this phase sales, marketing and others are scrambling to gain answers they should have had prior to launch. I argue the same is true for all products we sell every day. So much energy and budget is spent on training, marketing, CRM systems and very little time is spent understanding and knowing your customers today.

Would you like a “simple “test to see how tuned in to your customers and market your team is?

Most of the people who read my content have midlevel or senior level roles, please ask the above questions to your teams today both marketing and sales, (don’t be alarmed even your own team does not have the same answers or no answers) . Then call three customers that you probably have a relationship with and explain how your company is always looking for better ways to serve your customers and ask them the above questions? How many did your team get right? How many did you get right? From my experience less than 20% of the companies I work with have most of the answers to the above questions. Even more disturbing is what I find most often…they share answers that were true 10 years ago but are no longer relevant. If that is the case their sales training is dated, their sales tools fail to help sales flow through the funnel, and worst of all the value proposition your salespeople are using no longer resonates and this all creates sales problems. If your value proposition is too dated it also damages your brand because you are not tuned in to what buyers require today.

If you want to fix your sales problems and increase your sales and profits: Know your customers!

The strategy of knowing your customers is a very simple one. What you must do is focus on knowing your customers and market to remove the stress of missing your sales goals. As a recent post shared one was to remove stress is to force you to focus.  Once your team achieves a clear understanding of your customers and markets it causes rapid profitable sales increases.

If you agree with the “what” that needs to be done but you are struggling with the “how” my next post will share an innovative way to capture what you need to know to not only survive but thrive with your customers and markets.

Are Your Sales People Suffering From QDD?

Are your Sales People Suffering from QDD?

Your marketing team developed a lead gen strategy that seems to be dropping a number of potential opportunities into your marketing and sales funnel. The accounts feel like they have a good possibility of becoming orders since they are from your core industries and you know they are buying products and or services just like yours. You have been tracking what looks like a strong return on marketing dollars invested based on the number of new opportunities. The entire senior management team is excited and is waiting in anticipation of hitting the sales and profit numbers. However as the sales leader you are not seeing these opportunities moving along the sales journey from opportunity to prospect to lead, and you are not seeing closed sales dollars? Why? Your salespeople are suffering from QDD.

I get excited when a team finally embraces the concept of marketing and driving what should be warm opportunities to my sales team. They took the time to do the market work and determined problems their markets have and positioned their products as solutions to those current problems. They understand your company’s value proposition and have launched your message. The number of new opportunities is climbing each week and reviewing some of the account names you know they buy a product or service like yours…but you are not seeing new orders? How can this be? Having lived this scenario more than I care to admit, what you are experiencing is QDD; Quick to Disqualify Disorder.

As I have shared many times; “Salespeople are like water and they always find the path of least resistance”…In this case it is easier to disqualify a prospect than qualify one. When presented with new opportunities sales super stars say; “awesome, I know they buy products like I sell and I will one way or the other figure out the problems they currently have and sell them”. If your salesperson is suffering from QDD they say; “ah, I have heard of this company( even if they haven’t) , I tried to sell this company six years ago( one voice mail) , I doubt they will buy, they are probably happy with their current supplier and just price shopping us, so I will follow up.” Do you hear the difference in mind set? The sales star understands the value he and your products bring and is excited to help serve one more person. The salesperson suffering with QDD will “go through the motions” but already believes he or she will not sell the account. The sales star is seeking to serve, the QDD salesperson is focused on disqualifying the opportunity quickly so no one asks the status and next step to win their business. Who do you think will win the sale?

How do you know if you have someone on your sales team suffering from QDD?

By the Numbers

The first thing I do is look at the numbers…how many opportunities has this person been given in the last 3-6 months and how many went from possible opportunity to lead to close? Compare this to others on your team and if you find a disproportionate amount of opportunities are not turning into qualified leads, your salesperson has QDD.

By Mix

Review the product mix sold by your team. Quickly you should see a few patterns emerge. Look for anyone on your team who does not meet a similar product mix. What I am particularly looking for here is new products, sales from products you have been aggressively marketing. Salespeople suffering from QDD will have their product mix heavily weighted with older products or services in your offering.

 

By Margins

Assuming your marketing group has done their job and the products you have and are launching are brilliant solutions to unresolved market problems, you should have priced them at a higher margin based on the value they provide. Salespeople with QDD will have the lowest blended profit margin for their area of responsibility. They do not understand how to sell value so they take a commodity and relationship selling approach.

By Listening

Sales super stars will focus on the value, the value the customer will receive once their problem is solved. They are excited to help the customer, serve the customer they are shocked if they don’t move to the next step in the sales process. Salespeople with QDD will tell you their (your) customers are all about price and we are too high. The shame is when I interview buyers on why they do not buy as I do, rarely is price even on the list. What buyers do say is the salesperson did not seem to understand my problem, did not listen, and therefore I did not trust their solution. You very likely could of, should have won their business, but because your salesperson is suffering from QDD the buyer lacked trust. You will also hear another why you are not able to break into this account and it will sound something like; “he’s got a great relationship with his current supplier and won’t even consider us.” Relationships are important don’t get me wrong, however if a buyer trusts you can better solve a problem than a current supplier you should at least move to the next step in your sales process and not be dismissed so early.

View the CRM

Take time to review the CRM entries. Sales stars will be logging discussions, and have future appointments scheduled and maybe even new business quoted. Salespeople with QDD will have a series of entries that say; “left voicemail” and “sent email” and the prospects will only have one or two entries. Sales stars know you need to engage with buyers 8-10 times before activity occurs. QDD salespeople go through the motions, as if to say; “yes, I did my job, I made the call, but they obviously were not interested or they would have called me back,” They are focused more on showing activity than driving results.

So how about your sales team?

Are you hitting your sales and profit goals?

Do you have one salesperson consistently missing their goals?

 

Are you seeing this salesperson not moving opportunities through your sales process to the next level?

Are you concerned one or more of your sales team has QDD?

 

QDD cripples sales growth efforts. Arguably all good sales stars have a bit of ADHD , but this along with a compelling desire to serve and win they charge forward believing they have the talent and products to win. QDD salespeople believe if new sales were out there they would have already won them. They are not sold on how sales occur today and are waiting for things to get back to normal. Well, this is the new normal and they must adapt.

The first step in solving any problem is identifying you have it. If this post made you wonder about one or a couple of salespeople on your team I recommend you take the five steps above to learn if one of your team members is QDD. Aside from lost sales that could have, should have been won, I want to warn you QDD is highly contagious and must be identified, quarantined and cured as soon as possible. This condition is curable if the salesperson agrees they want to fix it. If you have a team member who does not agree they have symptoms of QDD and are not willing to change you must quickly remove them from the responsibility of calling on new prospects and possibly explore more of a service to existing customer’s role.

 

 

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.

 

Increase Sales/Fix Sales Problems: Do A Midyear Sales Gut Check

Increase Sales/Fix Sales Problems: Do a Midyear Sales Gut Check

Last year approximately 70% of sales managers achieved their sales goals and of that approximately 10% surpassed their goals. So that leaves 30% of the sales manager’s not hitting plan in 2013 and in 2014 their sales regions received another increase.

What can those at plan do midyear to insure they close the year at plan?

What can those not at plan through the end of June do to insure they hit plan year end?

Quick question: How are your sales performing to goal? If you are like most companies this year’s goal was difficult as we scratch and claw our way out of the recession and you just might hit plan. How can you be sure you not only hit your sales plan but exceed it? You need to perform a midyear sales gut check.

I have been leading sales and marketing teams for more years than I like to admit. (over 30 years… but who is counting) I have used a simple process that has often resulted in a dramatic increase in underperforming sales regions as well as keep the momentum building in regions at or above plan: a midyear sales gut check. What we do is basically review each sales region’s performance to the sales playbook you prepared when the year began. Now that half the year has passed we need to review how the region performed to the sales plan we developed to hit sales objectives. Change and the rate of change is constant in our dynamic markets and as Sales Benchmark Index shared in a  recent review on Jill Konrath’s new book Agile Sales discusses:

“Fighting these changes, or denying they exist, is pointless.  You need a new skill to cope with being an overwhelmed worker. The skill needed to exceed in this environment is agility.”

If you have never done this process I want to share how I have done it in hopes it adds value to you and your salespeople. I also highly recommend you buy Agile Sales. As David Meerman Scot shared in his recent post; Agile Sales Requires a Real Time Mind Set. Good sales leaders are always asking questions and practicing what I refer to as: Clean Sales Management. Your midyear sales gut check needs you to direct your questions internally as well as externally.

What did we set out to do this year? (restate goal(s) and how we agreed we would achieve them)

What are our goals in dollars and profit dollars contributed from sales?

Where did we expect them to come from?

How has this region performed through the end of June to the goals you established for the current sales year?

What is working? (and you need to do more)

What did you think would work, has not produced the desired sales impact and you need to stop doing?

What have we learned?

What are the results on key performance indicators that drive top line results? (discuss each)

Has the market experienced any strategic shifts that can be trigger points for new sales or challenges to existing sales?

Based on the data discussed what will be your three key focus areas for the rest of the year?

If you had to pick just one, with the intent that perfectly executing that one would make the other two obsolete…what would it be?

 

A midyear gut check is something I like to perform both for the businesses I am serving but also personally and I have added this process to every team I serve. If you have not tried this process I highly encourage you to do so.

Let me leave you with a few questions that may make you want to try this process…

How is your team performing to plan YTD?

What did you plan for this year and it worked?

What did you plan and it did not work?

Based on what you have learned what changes have you made to insure the sales plan is achieved year end?

( if I served on the board of your company this is one question I have asked that has left the best CEO’s pale and at a loss for words)

As the team who has been tasked many years with” just making it happen” we need to have the desire and process to gather current market data and agilely approach our markets to insure we achieve and surpass our sales objectives.

 

Does your team practice agile sales?

 

Increase Sales; Take a Snake Oil Salesman Test and Implement Corrective Action

snake oil sales

 

In my last post I asked the question if your team’s execution is turning your sales consultants into snake oil salesmen. What I found interesting is the calls I received from past teams I have served. They sounded something like; “Hey, what are you doing sharing our dirty laundry in your blog? Everyone here knows you are talking about us…” In this case I shared that I am writing about a common problem I have observed over the last 30 some odd years that I would say most companies have in some degree or another. This post is for the business owner, and or leadership team to quickly determine if your salespeople tasked with driving revenue are perceived as “snake oil salesmen” in your market and how to quickly fix this sales problem to insure your sales team hits your growth goals.

 

As I shared in the last post, snake oil salesmen in the Wild West would travel from town to town selling their snake oil. They would make a number of promises and few were actually true so they could never return to the same town twice. They were knowingly being deceptive to close the sale. What I have observed as a common problem that prevents sales teams from experiencing explosive growth is when salespeople are selling based on what they understand to be true, have been trained that is true, and often what was once true but no longer true. If your salesperson is knowingly lying to customers to close the sale and make his or her commissions you do not need a blog to advise you on what action to take.

 

How do we know if our salespeople are unknowingly perceived as snake oil salesmen today and what can we do to quickly repair this and build a foundation of trust required to serve your markets?

 

I look at each new team in three ways;

 

Observe and Listen

 

Unfiltered Data

 

Open Ended Questions with Buyers and Market Influencers

 

 

 

Observe and Listen

 

I live in the markets I serve. So go out and meet with 10-12 customers and observe what your salespeople say, promise, and listen to what your buyers say. These four legged sales calls are critical as nothing speaks the volumes as current market unfiltered comments.

 

What do your buyers have to say…?

 

Did your last order ship on time?

Did you last order ship complete?

Did your product solve the problem your salesperson said it would solve?

Was the problem solved completely?

Did the buyer receive timely follow up from your salesperson, customer service, others?

When the bill arrived was it correct at the promised sales price and terms?

 

In one industry buyers told me: “your salespeople are the used car salespeople of this industry”…ouch!

 

 

Unfiltered Data

 

What does the data say? This is where, particularly new teams struggle with my approach to seek truth. Seeking truth by the way is the first step in my next book as it is a critical step in serving any market and building a strategy on a strong foundation. In the seeking unfiltered truth step you may be labeled a Heretic as I have been,…but let it go as your critics will all love you down the road when their bonuses grow 2X.

 

What kind of truths do we need to look at?

 

What is your actual on time shipments?

What is your current order turnaround capability?

What % of your orders ship complete?

What is your quality problem occurrences as a % of total orders shipped and total parts shipped?

What do customers say? Specifically, did your product or service completely solve the problem it was promised to solve?

Does your product or service solve the problems your web site and sales literature says it solves?

 

 

Open Ended Questions with Buyers and Market Influencers

 

Last we gather open ended buyer feedback. Our goal is to capture our buyers and leading influencers’ perception, feeling, confidence in our brand promise. Are we living up to our brand or are we branding backwards? Have we successfully planted our brand and executed it….or are we branding by default and the frustrated market thinks we do one thing and its no wonder we are losing business because that is not what we do( anymore). To gather this information I highly recommend you ideally meet with customers and potential customers your team has called on without the salesperson in the room. Your goal is unfiltered feedback. If meetings are too difficult and or costly, then conduct phone win loss interviews.

 

Some questions that have served me well over the years include;

 

So tell me some of the challenges your business is facing today? ( I am listening for problems we solve and the buyer is unaware we have products and services to solve them)

 

When buying what are the top criteria and considerations you use in choosing a vendor partner?

 

How did our team do in meeting those important criteria and needs?

 

Have you and would you refer us to someone in your network as a great vendor? Why or why not?

 

There are many win loss questions I have used but the top three are at the core and will get the conversation started. If you want other open ended questions you can go here , as well as here. There are a number of excellent thought leaders in this space and their web sites are below if you prefer to hire an outside firm to conduct win loss.

 

http://www.zhivago.com/revenue-growth-services

 

http://www.healthtrendresearch.com/about-us

 

http://under10consulting.com/about/

 

* there are many more firms that help teams with win loss but the above individuals I know and are confident you would have a great experience with if you are looking for win loss analysis.

 

So you have determined your salespeople are in fact (like many) perceived as snake oil salesmen?

 

What do you do?

 

  1. Determine what your capabilities actually are today.
  2. Communicate those capabilities to your sales team, buyers, and market.
  3. Do what you say you will do, consistently over and over again.

 

If you determine what you are currently doing and capable of doing does not meet the market criteria and requirements of today you must create a roadmap to quickly be able to serve your market as they now require.

 

So how about your company?

 

Do you do what you say you will do? Consistently?

 

Does your team consistently execute your brand promise?

 

Do your products and or services do what you promise on your web site and sales literature?

 

Are your salespeople told to “just make it happen” and they are promising things that were once true but are no longer true?

 

Do your salespeople know disconnects between what your brand promises and what you deliver but feel it’s “politically incorrect or safe” to share them?

 

Do you have a sales force sink hole brewing just below the surface of your sales team?

 

 

When you boil down why buyers buy and why buyers do not buy the root is always: Trust. The quickest way to establish or reestablish trust is do what you say you will do.