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Improve Sales Productivity With Voice Of The Customer Research

Improve Sales Productivity With Voice of the Customer Research

 

 

Each year sales reps hit the streets armed with their new goals and striving to hit their numbers. The sad reality is close to 80% will not hit plan. Why? There are many reasons but the leading cause is they are using dated value propositions. Your sales team is saying what they have said for years and it does not resonate with buyers today. In this post I will share how to leverage the voice of the customer to improve sales productivity by understanding your customers today.

 

I read an excellent report: The State of Sales Productivity report. This repost is the result of the authors surveying a number of sales leaders to understand how they plan to achieve their new sales goals. 56% of sales representatives are expected to hit a sales growth goal of 20% higher than last year. What gives me pause is close to 80% of those same teams failed to hit their number in the last sales calendar year. How can VP’s of Sales and Marketing change this trend?

 

In my last few posts I have been sharing the dramatic sales increases companies can realize once they capture the voice of their customers and markets today. As I have shared the key part of that thought is the word “today”.

 

With voice of the customer / market work you will understand:

 

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

 

What is your buyers buying process today?

 

What criteria do your buyers need today to make buying decisions?

 

With this information you will create a repeatable sales process that mirrors how your buyers are buying today, and create new sales tools that proactively provide the key buying criteria.

 

Once you create this for your sales team we must conduct sales training to insure your salespeople understand the sales process and are aware of the new sales tools, where to find them, and how and when to use them.

 

Voice of the customer work improves your sales teams’ overall productivity!

 

What percent of the time are your salespeople actually presenting and selling customers?

 

I have seen some teams where sales spend less than 20% of their time actually selling. In the report mentioned above they found salespeople spend 32% of their time selling. Having been the president for two companies and CEO for one, this is the kind of data that drives me nuts!

 

What are my salespeople doing most of the time?

 

  • Searching for data and content to help them sell, 30% of the time
  • If they can’t find it they are creating their own content (that should really scare you)
  • Updating CRM and reports
  • Administrative duties
  • Customer service functions

 

Sales spends as much time selling as they do searching for meaningful content and or creating their own sales tools.

 

That’s a broken unproductive sales model.

 

In this report 79% of sales leaders plan to hit their numbers by improving sales productivity.

 

62% said they plan to increase head count.

 

What if sales were spending 60% of their time selling this year?

 

*30% of the time selling as they have been

+

* And 30% more time selling because they are trained in the right sales process and where the right content tools can be found

 

In a recent post I share one company I helped that sold training. We conducted customer win loss interviews; mapped how the buyers were buying today and identified the HR managers had experienced a shift, a roundabout in the sales funnel where sales stalled and spun out of the funnel. HR managers now needed to get budget approval from the CFO and or CEO. (Something that was not the case prior). We listened for places in the sales funnel where sales experienced roundabouts and created tools to keep the sales on track to a close. We created content. We developed a very short slide deck to help the HR manager win budget for our training. We adjusted the sales process and introduced the instructor earlier in the process. We conducted sales training and shared the new sales process with our team, the slide deck for HR managers and other key content to be used in the trust building early funnel activities as well as case studies to be used after our quote. Within months we experienced a 200% sales increase.

 

Was our process perfect out of the gate? No, but we were experienced significantly improved sales close rates. I coached sales to adopt the new sales process and challenged them when I saw they shifted back to old sales tools or created their own.

 

We kept listing to our buyers, adjusting and experimenting with content until we consistently realized our sales objectives. This took a focused effort for over 12 months and after 12 months are team was breaking monthly sales records.

 

What percent of the time are your salespeople selling today?

 

How does your team measure sales productivity?

 

Do you track team and individual close rates for example?

 

To close this report also shared that 80% organizational leaders felt creating meaningful content and helping sales find it was a top priority.

 

However only 35% of those surveyed had a plan to do so.

 

Let me help your team improve sales productivity and not have to keep hiring more people.

 

Spend the time capturing the voice of your customer. Once you understand how your buyers buy, the journey they take, and the criteria they must have you will be able to create a repeatable sales process and sales tools that help your buyers buy. Your process will be a GPS system that takes your team, step by step to closing more sales.

 

I would appreciate your feedback…

 

What would be a good reason not to do this and set your sales team up to hit their numbers this year?

 

Understanding your customers and markets creates a foundation for a sales business development plan that creates sales velocity for your organization.

 

 

 

 

 

Speed Of Trust And Sales

Speed of Trust and Sales

 

 

In my last post I shared why most sales are lost is: Trust. Although salespeople and even buyers may say price, the real reason you did not win the sale in most cases is the buyer did not trust that your proposal would solve their problem. In this post I will share an excellent book: The Speed of Trust, the one thing that changes everything, by Steven Covey and how to apply its wisdom to increasing your sales.

 

How much time and effort does your team dedicate to establishing trust with your customers and markets?

 

Companies that understand the importance of building trust with their internal and external customers thrive.

 

Could growing sales and leading people really be that simple?

 

From what I have experienced over the last 30+ years I believe it is.

 

I have been read the book: The Speed of Trust, by Steven Covey over the holidays. I highly recommend this book to anyone who leads a team, and anyone who sells products or services.

 

The Harvard Business Review just published an article referencing this book focused on how if your employees don’t trust you its up to you to fix it.

 

If that is a problem you have in your team I recommend you read this article.

 

In this post I want to discuss how to build and leverage trust to help your team win sales quicker and more profitably.

 

Steven Covey shares:

 

“When trust goes down (in a relationship, on a team, in an organization, or with a partner or customer), speed goes down and cost goes up.… The inverse is equally true: When trust goes up, cost goes down, and speed goes up.”

 

I can confirm this is true based on my experiences. When I have served leaders who trusted their teams, and teams who trusted our leaders we accomplished record setting accomplishments in sales, market share gains, increased profitability, quality, buying experience and overall team morale. If things went wrong or not as expected, (and they often did) we had a culture that focused on the problem not the person. One outcome of this culture was employees freely sharing mistakes they made and we all learned from them and made corrective action. In our meetings we discussed things that mattered and were not weighted down by hiding political secrets that were an issue but no one wanted to touch them. The same is true with customers. I have served some large accounts and once trust is built we talk about things that matter. Customers who have trust buy more and openly share new problems that often turn into new products an services. As i shared in one post, a new market problem turned into a $38 million sales increase in 18 months.

 

Covey does an excellent job of discussing how a lack of trust adds friction. Friction can be caused by unethical behavior or ethical behavior that that was not executed properly.

 

In companies with low trust they see friction that slows down or even halts their progress.

 

The author shares;

 

Low trust creates hidden agendas, politics, interpersonal conflict, interdepartmental rivalries, win-lose thinking, defensive and protective communication – all of which reduce the speed of trust.”

 

On the other hand, when trust is high you loose friction and realize speed.

 

the greatest trust-building key is “results”. Results build brand loyalty. Results fire up a winning culture. Consistent results also put suppliers under the main tent as strategic partners, which is so vital in this new world class, knowledge-worker-based, global economy

Steven Covey

 

What can we do to build trust with our customers to drive results?

 

                                                                                                              Work on a trust culture in your business

I have seen companies identify in their value statements the importance of integrity and ethics in everything they do. Where the rubber meets the road is when something goes wrong. How does your company behave internally? How you behave sets the tone, and your salespeople carry that behavior into the market place.

 

Some sobering statistics on trust:

 

  • Only 51% of employees have trust and confidence in senior management
  • Only 36% of employees believe their leaders act with honesty and integrity
  • Over the past 12 months 76% of employees have observed illegal or unethical conduct on the job
  • So chances are you have some degree of trust issues too both inside and outside your organization
  • Less than 20% of sales teams hit their number in 2016 ( buyer trust issues?)

 

                                                                                                                                  Hire the right people

Make trust, ethics and integrity a key part of your hiring process. One bad hire can contaminate an entire department and if left unchecked your whole company over time.

 

                                                                                                                                              Training

Train your teams to act in a manner that builds trust. For example I am amazed how many salespeople feel they must have all the answers. So when asked a question they wing it and it often breaks trust. If you train your teams it is OK (safe) to admit they do not know the answer but they will follow up with the answer. I have seen sales people commit to a delivery date there is no way their team can execute so they don’t lose a sale. Be honest, if you can’t make this orders arrival date tell them what you can do. Even if you lose this order, you will be able to quote future business. Lie, and you have broken trust with that buyer and you may not ever have another sales opportunity. Train your teams to understand how your buyers buy and the criteria they need to buy today.

 

                                                                                                                                              Coaching

When trust is seen as important it is very easy to recognize situations that violate trust. Should one occur it should be handled immediately. Discuss what just happened, why it was wrong, reinforce your companies focus on trust and integrity and share a better way this situation could have been handled. Using a coaching tone also builds internal trust and reinforces that trust and integrity is not just today’s buzz words and will fade away. They are seen as a critical component in our team’s success.

 

                                                                                                                                              Content

One of the quickest ways I have seen teams build trust with new customers is understanding their buying process and criteria and providing content that supports what the buyers need. Most web sites for example spend way too much time talking about …best in class, best quality, we have been in business for 80 years and so on. Buyers want solutions to their problems and companies who have experience solving their problems. That is why I advise the teams to update their web sites and all sales tools designed to share the problems they solve. I recommend this be done with data sheets, third party studies, case studies, customer testimonials and past customer success stories. This content will also be used as sales tools for your salespeople when prospecting new customers.

 

                                                                                                                              Do what you say you will do

Trust is built over time. In a sales environment it’s about doing what we say we will do. If you say you will follow up on next Tuesday, do it. If you promise your order will arrive on the 15th make sure it does. A big part of this is your sales teams clearly understanding your company’s capabilities. If a salesperson does not understand your company’s capabilities today they run the risk of promising something your team cannot execute and this breaks trust. Salespeople run the risk of promising something that was once true and may not be true today. If you ask for a 20-minute meeting to present your company end the meeting at 20 minutes. If the buyer wants it to go longer that’s fine, but you are doing what you said you would do.

 

                                                                                                                                                  Truth

Take a hard look at all your company’s communication and make sure it is true…today. Nothing breaks trust quicker than stating something that is no longer true. I was in a meeting once and the salesperson said, what he was trained to say 15 years ago…”our company is the only company in North America with these capabilities”. That statement was true 15 years ago, but the buyer had completed her research and shared 3 other companies now offering it in North America. Make sure all your communications are true today.

 

The above are ways I have helped teams improve their trust with their customers and markets and increase sales and profits. The author shares 13 behaviors of high trust in his book.

 

Steven Covey does an excellent job of bringing home the financial implications of trust with the concept of a trust tax. Many of the teams I have served were led by someone who grew up through the organization in the accounting and finance side. I think this chapter will really get their attention.

 

in many interactions, we are paying a hidden low-trust tax right off the top-and we don’t even know it!”

 

Covey shares that the trouble is low-trust taxes are not a line item on your financial statements, if they were many more companies would focus on reducing their trust tax.

 

“- in a low trust culture, it’s possible that your being taxed 30,40,50 percent or more for something you didn’t even do

 

…and that impacts both sales and profitability!

 

The author also shares the upside of high trust…

 

“ When trust is high, the dividend you receive is like a performance multiplier, elevating and improving every dimension of your organization and your life

 

I hope you buy The Speed of Trust and apply it to your company and how you serve your customers and markets.

 

As we begin a new year why wouldn’t you make building trust in all you do a key priority?

 

Personal and professional credibility are key in winning in our markets today.

 

Make it a key objective of yours to build trust and watch your team thrive.

 

 

Avoid “Mariah New Years Eve Moments” On Sales Calls With Market Research

Avoid “Mariah New Years Eve Moments” on Sales Calls with Market Research

Why are some sales won and others lost? If you ask salespeople they tell you “price” is why sales are lost. However if you ask buyers “trust” is why sales are lost. The buyer did not feel your salesperson understood the entire buying iceberg, so they did not trust their proposed solution. In my last few posts I shared how understanding customer voice drives profitable sales. In this post I will share how it feels when sales does not understand their market and buyers and the impact it has on hitting their (your) numbers.

 

It was New Years Eve 2016 and my wife and I decided to make a fire in the fireplace, have a nice dinner at home for a change and watch the ball drop in New York City. We flipped between channels and watched various entertainers. For the past week the TV stations have been building up for Mariah Carey ‘s performance New Years Eve. Mariah took the stage and if you watched the show it was by far the most uncomfortable performance have ever seen.

 

We had such high expectations based on her singing abilities and the build up to this presentation. It was terrible! In her defense there were a number of technical difficulties like not being able to hear her music, the songs were in the wrong order and so on. She has an amazing vocal gift as an artist and this performance was not representative of her gifts. She looked beautiful but from the beginning of the performance to the end it was awkward at best. She tried to find her place in the song and regroup but failed. She tried to move around the stage and even tried a few dance moves and one of the other dancers almost dropped her. She eventually asked the audience to sing her song and at the end walked of the stage.

 

My wife and I were both so disturbed by how awkward that experience felt for us. My wife is a Mariah fan and felt bad about her technical difficulties. I shared the reason you practice and have training is not for when things go right, but its for when things like this go wrong.

 

Did you watch the attempted performance? If not you can view it here since social media was lighting up during and many hours after.

 

How did it make you feel,.. I mean feel inside?

 

It felt uncomfortable, awkward, and if you are like my wife you may even feel a bit sorry for her because we know she is much better than what we just experienced.

 

How you feel watching this is the feeling I get when I help sales teams who attempt to sell buyers but have dated value propositions, no formal sales process, and little if any sales tools or training for how buyers buy today.

 

One of roles when I help teams increase sales and fix sales a problem is assess and coach salespeople. I do this with a review of their KPI’s, past account feedback, CRM activity, but my favorite way is on four legged sales calls with them and their customers and prospects.

I use these joint calls to capture the current voice of the customers and markets, and I want to see (feel) if the salespeople are presenting their buyers in a trust building authentic way or does it feel canned, awkward, dated and not what the buyers need today.

 

When traveling with salespeople look for:

 

  • Conversation tone, comfortable and authentic?
  • Market and customer knowledge?
  • What sales tools were used(if any)?
  • Trust building conversation, use of stories and case studies?
  • Product knowledge / service knowledge?
  • Customer knowledge by salesperson?
  • Sales tools used at the right time?
  • Was the day planned well? 
  • Active listening to understand not to just reply?
  • Buyer non verbal communication?
  • What sales tools were used?
  • Did the salesperson know how to get to the account (don’t laugh I have seen this too)?
  • Did sales ask questions and take notes?
  • Did buyer(s) ask any questions about product or service we could not answer?
  • Did buyer require some criteria we were not prepared to deliver?
  • Understand key buying criteria and rank them?
  • Did we find all players involved in buying decision?
  • What are the competitors doing well?
  • Did the person we met with have the power to buy?
  • Does sales understand any shifts in buying at their accounts?
  • Would I buy from this salesperson?

 

I prefer to be in the market with my sales teams constantly learning how buyers are buying and what they need to buy today. I prefer to experience what our buyers hear and feel and coach sales quickly after each sales call.

 

After each buyer call I make it a practice to have a coaching opportunity with the salesperson:

 

  • How do you think the call went? ( do they know a good call from a poor one?)
  • What do you think the buyers biggest pain is today?
  • What did you hear the competitors are doing well?
  • How do you think your presentation went?
  • If you had to do it over again is there anything you would change?
  • What are our follow up items?
  • What new pain did we discover?
  • When do they need our follow up?
  • Are we dealing with power?
  • On a scale of 1% to 100% what % to you believe we will win this opportunity and why?

 

If your team has recently conducted market research in the form of customer voice workwin loss analysis, and or a value proposition audit your salespeople know their markets, common problems you solve for your buyers and have strong value propositions they often share in the form of stories. Because your team understands the buying journey and criteria today, you have the right sales tools that are used at the right time and you win sales.

 

What kind of sales calls are your team members having with buyers in your markets today?

 

A quick example…

 

I was asked to help a company whose sales were climbing consistently for years but then stalled for the last three years. I was asked to help get sales growing profitably again in the quickest way possible. As I have shared, the first step of my process understand market truth by meeting with customers and prospects. I asked the CEO who was his top performing regional manager because I wanted to experience what was working so we could scale it. I made arrangements to travel with Jason who has been a regional manager with this company for 20 years and has two of the company’s top customers.

 

Jason picked me up at the airport and we were off to the first meeting. On the way Jason was a very likable guy and was really curious about why I asked to travel with him first since he was one of the first regional managers. I shared that the CEO really valued him and I thought I could learn a great deal quickly working with him. We made small talk on the 90-minute drive and I heard about his career with the company, all the changes he has seen and how strong his relationships were with all his customers.

 

Our first call was with the company’s second largest account in North America. As soon as Jason turned the engine off his car door was opening and he was ready to charge in. I asked he slow down and help me understand what we hope to achieve in this call today. So Jason got back in the car and seemed somewhat aggravated.

 

The conversation went like this:

 

What’s our plan?

 

We are calling on our second largest account.

 

What do we hope to achieve?

 

Introduce you to account and follow up from my last meeting a month ago.

 

What did you present a month ago?

 

Our new product launching this month, the buyer promised to support it.

 

Great, so your goal today is to walk out with orders or a commitment to buy?

 

(Another awkward look) well let’s see how it goes this guy loves working with me and I am sure we will win some orders.

 

We signed in and were escorted to a very impressive conference room. I opened my note pad and got prepared to meet with the buyer. Lou the buyer came in and had a number of people with him: the engineering director, their sales manager, and the director of customer service and training.

 

Jason started out introducing me and letting me ask a few questions as the “new guy”.

 

Jason asked the buyer the status with the pre-order for the new product launch. He said everyone at our company is looking forward to his continued support and we want to make sure we ship you on time.

 

The room was like someone sucked all the air out of it. Everyone, from a non-verbal communications, was uneasy. The director of engineering was looking at our buyer; the buyer looking at customer service manager and the sales manger was visibly frustrated. Even Jason looked uncomfortable, as his face grew very red.

 

The buyer looked at Jason and said:

  • When we met a month ago I said I was very interested in supporting this new product launch, but since you are displacing an existing vendor who we too have a long relationship with we needed to have all the decision makers in the room and have you present your products to win placement.
  • I gathered all team members for this meeting and we expected you to come here today and present the products about to launch and answer any questions each of our department heads had.
  • After your presentation we meet, discuss the opportunity and give you our commitment unless there was some unforeseen issues within two weeks.

 

Jason was having a “Sales Maria New Years Moment”!

 

  • He did not understand the buyers expectation for this meeting
  • He did not understand the buyers buying process for displacing current vendor partners
  • He did not know the other buying decision makers/ influencers or what they needed in terms of criteria
  • He was not prepared, no sell sheets, no lap top presentation, no content on the problems this new line of products solves, why we were introducing it, or why its better than the current vendor’s.
  • He did not know nor was prepared to discuss a program to help the distributor sell out the current vendors inventory, and the buyer expected one

 

Jason showed up and counted on his relationship with Lou to help him place the new product line (like he did 10 years ago). He was not prepared for what the account needed to make a buying decision. He did not understand the impact such a change would have on other leaders at this customer. At one point of the meeting it was as if the audience was singing the words he should have known. The meeting was awkward to attend and we did not gain a commitment.

 

Being the new guy in the room I wanted to somehow save this opportunity while Jason cooled off.

 

“It sounds like we have some homework to do. Being new to this industry I would really appreciate each of you sharing what you would have liked to hear from us today.”

 

Engineering – is your product a perfect replacement for what we are buying now or is modifications required, if so what are they and did you factor those into your price? He had some very specific technical product questions we were not prepared to answer as well.

 

Sales Manager- what is your plan to train my sales team. A number of my guys love our current vendor and their rep. Do you plan a SPIFF to launch? What is it? When would you have a sales training? Do you have new brochures? When we explain to our customers the change to your product why is it better? It would be great to have some third party tests or any data you had.

 

Customer service training – since so many of our orders come in over the phone what’s the plan to train my team? When would that happen? Will the sales incentive contest include my team? Is your product a perfect replacement? Will your product ship with bar code labels like our current vendor? Will you drop ship my customers with our invoice?

 

Buyer – you know based on our purchases we buy in volume. What is my truckload price? Can I include this new product with other current products to get my free freight quicker? What is your program to blow out my current inventory? Will you province upfront money or a discount off my orders over time? Can I place a blanket order and draw from it to get a good cost like the competitor or is price based on each order? What is the delivery window from order placement to arrival at our warehouse? We moved to a just in time model and I am now being evaluated on inventory turns and dollars in inventory.

 

We gathered as much information as they would share and scheduled a follow up presentation in two weeks and offered to make it over lunch. I apologized this meeting did not go as they expected and assured them they would have everything they needed in two weeks.

 

In the car Jason and I went over the coaching questions about the meeting and I could tell Jason felt uncomfortable. He shared: ” I can tell you are new, no one has ever asked me so many questions after a call before here at ______

Like many salespeople who have sold for 20+ years Jason is a strong relationship sales person but needs to adjust his style to grow his market’s sales today. I wish what I experienced here was rare or unusual but it is not. Every day salespeople are showing up and trying to win sales like the always have and are losing sales they should have won. Why? The main reason is they do not understand how buyers are buying or what they need to buy today. They lack updated sales tools that speak to needed buying criteria.

So what do they do?

They count on having “good relationships” and lose sales they could have won with some market research preparation, sales coaching and training.

 

Are your salespeople having “Sales Mariah Moments” with your customers?

 

How would you know?

 

If this was a new customer what probability do you think we would have of selling them? or a second meeting?

 

Who on your team understand what your buyers need to make buying decisions today?

 

The rest of our meetings that day went pretty much the same. They were what I refer to as “ Hi how are ya” meetings. (Almost as bad as dropping off donuts and logging it as a sales call in the CRM) They lacked a purpose and often left me feeling like we wasted the buyers’ time. They felt reactive and not proactive. Jason is a great guy and has done many favors for his customers over the years. All his accounts shared how much they liked him and appreciated him fighting on their behalf with corporate. But Jason’s account sales were flat and he has seen limited success placing and selling new products. Looking at the sales data he hit his numbers when his large accounts had good sales years but has not added any new accounts in 18 months.

 

Today is a new day with buyers having as much as 60%-70% of the buying process done before they meet with salespeople. The buyer obviously trusted Jason and we can build on this, but some of that trust was broken when Jason failed to listen to what the buyer’s process was, who else would be involved in the buying decision and what those leaders needed. Was it beyond repair? No. Jason must do a much better job of taking notes in meetings and following up. The company owes Jason a repeatable sales process to follow based on how the buyers buy today and new sales tools for each of the common buying influencers in this market.

 

“Sales Mariah Moments” are painful to experience and expensive in cost of sale and lost sales we could have won.

 

Understanding your markets and buyers is key to avoiding Sales Mariah Moments. Like Mariah Carey your salespeople are talented and all have gifts. Your company provides quality products and good service. We must insure we equip and train our salespeople to win in their markets today.

 

No matter how long your salespeople have worked for you they still need to make adjustments to how they present their customers. My guess is if I not had been at this meeting the CRM would have read:

 

“Good meeting, buyer loves us, we have some tough competition in this account and we need to revisit our price strategy to win. I am confident if we give them a volume cost program we will win their support”.

 

Does your CRM have a number of “Good Meetings” notes with no sales increases to follow?

 

To insure sales and sales leadership understands and implements a proven sales process and tools based on how buyers are buying today you must understand your markets and have sales training and coaching.

 

The sales training and practice role-playing is for when meetings don’t go as planned but you still can salvage a commitment.

 

Coaching is to insure your team knows this is not some new fad that will go away in a month or so but your team is committed to a formal sales process to win more sales.

 

The foundation of your sales success lies in understanding your buyers and helping them buy the way they are buying today.

 

Market research is critical parts of helping your sales team win today.

 

What happens if your team fails to understand what your buyers want and need and how they buy?

 

Your team will have “ Mariah New Years Eve Moments” leaving you to explain to your board and investors why so many good meetings are not helping you hit your number.

 

 

 

Increase Sales: Key Buying Seasons Surface In “Voice Of Market” Work

Increase Sales: Key Buying Seasons Surface in “Voice of Market” Work

Market leading organizations understand the power in understanding the voice of their customers and markets. In my last post I shared how voice of the market work helps identify key buying triggers. Understanding how your buyers buy, the journey they take today to a purchase and the criteria they must have to buy is critical to growing your sales profitably. In this post I will share how Voice of your Market work identifies key buying seasons for specific products.

 

I was hired to grow the sales for Gardner Denver in the rust belt region. Gardner Denver is one of the leading manufacturers of industrial air compressors and accessories in the world. Industrial air compressors support manufacturing plants by supplying compressed air to power machines and tools used in the manufacturing process.

 

The first step in my business development process was to meet with as many end customers as I could on four legged sales calls with my dealer distributor salespeople. While the salespeople asked questions about upcoming changes that may require new or additional air compressors, I asked opened ended question and listened for unresolved market problems and buying trigger events.

 

Working with one of my larger dealers: Atlas Machine and Supply we identified a common problem end users have every year from May through August: Moisture in their air. Industrial air compressors compress ambient air and one of the by products of this process is water. Buyers purchase air dryers to remove moisture before it has a chance to damage machines and tools. What buyers shared was during the summer months in the Midwest they experience humidity and it often taxes their compressed air dryers and it is often a challenge to find new dryers when one of their dryers fail.

 

We developed a proactive business development plan based on this common seasonal problem our buyers were experiencing. Our dealer produced a postcard mailer that was sent to all their current accounts as well as targeted new accounts they have always wanted to serve. It was a simple message asking if they would like a free audit for moisture to insure their plant does not have any manufacturing problems when the high humid months hit. We conducted a sales training meeting and trained the distributor sales team how to execute the sales process.

 

Our distributor sales team followed up with each account within seven days of the mailer and scheduled audits to insure their customers and prospects they always wanted to serve would not experience any service interruptions in the humid summer months.

 

Our compressed air dryer sales more than doubled compared to the same months the prior year and new compressor sales increased. Since our dealer sales were contacting buyers about a common seasonal problem and offering to solve that problem, buyers trusted the sales and service people. They demonstrated they knew the industry and common unresolved seasonal problems. The sales and service team was not focused on “selling” but “serving” the market. While conducting audits proactively, our maintenance mangers and plant mangers openly shared other issues they were concerned about. These “other issues” resulted in new incremental compressor sales, service revenue and aftermarket sales increases.

 

Do your end customers have buying seasons for specific products and services?

 

Who on your team is responsible for helping dealer distributors grow their sales?

 

Does your sales team proactively reach out to buyers to address seasonal buying trigger events?

 

Would your team like to double your product sales in key buying seasons?

 

As we approach a new year, there is nothing more strategic than understanding your buyers, how they buy and the criteria they need to buy TODAY. “Today” is the key word. Think about all the changes we have seen over the years in how buyers buy. If you have not adjusted your repeatable sales process in the last 12 months or created new sales tools …I promise you have a broken sales process and you are losing orders you should have won.

The voice of the customer, voice of the market work becomes the foundation of your sales, marketing and business development strategic plans.

If you don’t have an understanding how how buyers buy and what they need to buy today…How do you plan to hit your sales numbers next year?

 

 

 

Voice Of The Market Identifies Key Buying Triggers

Voice of the Market Identifies Key Buying Triggers

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What triggers your buyers to start the buying journey?

 

Does someone on your team Know?

 

How has your team used this information?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

Voice of the Customer

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

Iperceptions

 

Voice of Market

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

On Product Management 

 

 

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

 

Who owns the voice of the market and customer?

 

Marketing!

 

Why?

 

A few reasons I have experienced over the years:

 

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

 

“Diluted Sales focus causes diluted sales results.”

– Mark Allen Roberts

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Possible market work deliverables include:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Does your team understand the voice of the customer?

 

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

 

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

 

When was the last time you gathered this information?

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leverage Customer Voice Into “Explosive Sales Growth”

Leverage Customer Voice into “Explosive Sales Growth”

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Go out into the market and meet customers

Listen for problems that needed solved

Understand how they buy today

What they need to buy today

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

What does our competitor do really well?

 

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

 

Another question I always use is:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  • Increase sales
  • Increase market share
  • Improve bottom line

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

  

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

 

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

  

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

How about your company?

 

Are you actively listening to your channel partners AND customers?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

“Show Me MY Money !” …How One Entrepreneur Solved A Growing Market Problem

“Show me MY Money !” …How one entrepreneur solved a growing market problem

 

 

Listening to your market, and solving unresolved market problems is key to any company’s future profitable growth. If your team wants to fix a sales problem ,go out into your market, conduct a value proposition audit, and identify new problems to be solved. I recently met with an impressive entrepreneur named Tim Dimoff of SAC’s consulting and he and his team nailed a solution to a current, urgent , unresolved market problem : when money goes missing.

My last few posts have shared how companies we recognize today as market leaders listened to market problems and solved them. I have received many kind calls and emails about these posts.

However one comment concerned me:

“Mark, I like what you are saying and I will try to do this value proposition audit thing, but I am a small company. I am no Yeti. I spend my time running my company and I do not have the resources these companies you write about have.”

This really bothered me. I apologize to everyone who reads my content if I made this process feel like added work or complicated. It is not. If I can do it you can too. It is strategic sales and marketing work you or your team must do. What I am asking, particularly if you are a small business who wants to be a Gunner Kennels or Invue one day is spend time ON your business talking with your customers and potential customers.

I met Tim at a local NSME association meeting and I mentally said I needed to know this guy’s story so I set up a meeting.

 

Tim was an Akron police officer for just over 20 years and he spent a great deal of his time in narcotics investigations. He retired but still felt compelled to serve the community. So he made a list of the top business leaders in the community and asked to meet them to understand their problems. No hard sale, he was listening for gaps he could fill. At first he provided security services, then HR consulting and training. As the years went by he continued to listen for gaps, needs his clients had and offered other service products like investigations, culture training, and building an site security consulting and solutions for growing problems for like active shooters.

 

He kept asking the market for problems they had, gaps, that he and now his staff of investigators and trainers could solve. One customer mentioned they had a big problem; someone in their organization had taken a large amount of funds and disappeared. Tim having a background in finding people took on the challenge and found this ex-employee in another state and helped get the money returned in less than a month. As it turns out this is a large and growing problem: People who take money and disappear.

 

Tim and his team created a service: Asset Tracking and Investigations offering to help his market find money. There are many forensic accounting firms who will help you identify your money is gone but few companies with an expertise of finding money and the individuals who stole it fast. Tim started being known in the market for this service through law firms, accounting firms and others who served businesses with this problem. These firms became his virtual sales and marketing. His expertise in finding people and money gave him national exposure on TV, Radio and investigative reporters frequently used him on their stories. Today his firm SAC’s consulting helps companies and individuals find stolen money all over the world. Some of his clients come to him after they have tried 2-3 other investigative firms.

 

Tim and his team are relentlessly improving and making their services and processes better every day based on market feedback. This has led to a proprietary data search software they developed that helps them find money and people in half the time it would take other firms.

 

In addition to having a growing and profitable business, what Tim is most proud of is his client retention rate. Most firms like his will loose 50% of their clients every five years. Tim’s firm has just over a 97% retention rate…why? He shared he and his teams are committed to understanding what our clients’ problems are and solving them. If the problem/ gap they need filled is not in our capabilities we find someone who can. If the problem happens frequently enough we will create a service to solve it. This is another benefit of serving your market and not just selling them.

 

He and his firm are obsessed with what he calls customer touches. They speak with their clients often and are always asking for new ways to serve.

 

So how about your company…

 

Have you identified and solved an urgent market problem for your clients?

 

Has your team been flooded with calls from a virtual sales force of others who serve your market because of your solution?

 

Does your team have a thirst for customer touches that drives your new products and services?

 

What would your business look like with a 97% customer retention rate?

 

What would it mean to your business to have your company recognized on national television as an expert in solving your markets’ current market problems?

 

The process I have been sharing over my last few posts is for anyone who wants to grow their business profitably. It is not complex; it does not require a strong IT department or some expertise SEO. It is a simple desire to listen and understand your customer’s problems and solve them completely.

It is acting as a servant to your market not a salesman.

Shouldn’t you contact your customers and potential customers today?

It will help “Show you money your team could be closing”.

How Yeti Realized Sales Leadership Nailing Their Value Proposition

How Yeti Realized Sales Leadership Nailing Their Value Proposition

 

 

In my last post I shared a process to conduct a value proposition audit. The goal of this exercise is to insure the value proposition your sales team is communicating still resonates with your buyers. Once you understand how your buyers buy and key buying criteria you can shape your value proposition so it instantly connects with the buyers in your market. One company who has done an excellent job of this is Yeti.

 

 

Ryan and Roy Seiders identified a market problem they understood intimately. The coolers on the market were just not holding up for outdoor adventurers. The lids would cave in, handles would break, and latches would snap off and gave them a bad overall experience. Could Colman or Igloo or others owned this market for high-end coolers? Yes…if they were listening to problems their users were having. They both were in the market long before Yeti.

 

Like Gunner Kennels, these two brothers set out to solve a market problem. In 2006 they were on a focused and simple mission…

 

Build a cooler we’d use everyday if it existed. One that was built for the serious outdoor enthusiast rather than for the mass-discount retailers. One that could take the abuse we knew we’d put it through out in the field and on the water. One that simply would not break.”

img_0024

 

The more intimately you understand the problem to be solved the clearer your value proposition will be. Just as I shared how InVue has a simple yet clear value proposition, so too does Yeti.

 

What started out as a quest to make an indestructible cooler has led to other products the market needed when they searched for problems to solve. Each of these products are designed based on customer feedback.

 

“ We decided early on product innovation would come from necessity and first hand experience”

 

Once they solved the problem for outdoor enthusiasts they asked themselves who else might have similar problems and they share this …

 

We are so glad we were not the only ones looking for a Yeti. Today it is the cooler of choice for outdoor enthusiasts, pro tailgaters and back yard barbecue kings.”

 

As the company continues to solve unresolved market problems I believe they will add other buyer personas to their list. For example, my son is a police officer and he and all his other officers use Yeti to keep their coffee warm and their drinks cold.. As my son puts it…

 

“I can put some ice and a beverage in my Yeti rambler and I will have ice cubes in my drink at the end of an 8 hour shift.”

img_0023

 

I now see road construction crew members, firemen and other service professions paying a premium to solve their problems with Yeti products. Knowing Yeti you will soon be seeing other indestructible products for service professionals who work outdoors.

 

When you understand the problems to be solved the burden is on you to communicate how you solve them. Yeti does and excellent job in their point of purchase that only a market leader would do.

img_0025

 

So how about your company and your market…

 

What unresolved problems are your buyers facing today?

 

Are you going to build a category based on an unresolved market problem?

 

What if your competitor finds it before you do?

 

Is there any reason why you would not want to do a value proposition audit to find unresolved market problems?

 

Increase Sales: Do A Value Proposition Audit 

Increase Sales: Do a Value Proposition Audit 

 

 

In my last post I shared how critical a value proposition that connects with your buyers is in today’s climate. Every industry seems to be undergoing some kind of a change. Market leaders are agile and they identify those changes quickly and they adapt.

What kinds of changes can impact your value proposition?

  • Your business was bought or you bought a new business ( buyers will fear the unknown, and your competitors will feed that fear)
  • Environmental regulations
  • New Laws and or regulations
  • New competitor enters the market
  • Technology change- think the impact the internet of things is having on your customers and markets
  • New innovative solution enters the market
  • Market consolidation
  • Major market shift like the impact the low oil cost is having on everything from fracking, trucking, truck building, and all the other trickle down businesses that are touched by oil and gas.

I have a list on a post I did about what causes growth to stall and you can review them here.

 

Market leading teams quickly identify changes, shifts in their markets and adapt their value propositions to what is important for their customers.

 

One thing we can count on is change. As you are reading this I would like you to think about the changes you have seen in the last year, last 3 years, and perhaps the last 5 years.

What changes to you expect next year?

If your team is like most, you have products you launched; services you introduced and your salespeople are diligently presenting those products and services as they were taught to do. Trouble arises when your salesperson uses a dated value proposition.

 

This is a problem for two reasons…

 

First it shows your salesperson and your company do not understand the market of today. This is something your buyer will feel and instantly doubt their ability to trust your team.

 

Secondly, and even more costly is when your sales team uses a dated value proposition, it will negatively impact future sales. Again, look at it from a buyer’s point of view. You have some salesperson in pitching a solution to a problem you no longer have. If they would have just read your website and or one of your brochures in the lobby they would have known more about your company. If they would have started the meeting asking questions instead of showing up and throwing up you could have helped them understand your current problems.The buyer will create a perception about the sales representative and your company based on this experience and it will hurt your ability to serve this customer in the future.

How do you know if your salespeople are using a dated value proposition?

The first step is to identify the changes buyers in the markets you serve have experienced since your sales team was trained, your web site was launched and your sales brochures were developed.

Second, I ask your VP of sales and or VP of Marketing to travel with salespeople and visit at least 10 of your current large accounts, call on at least 5 of the accounts you want to add and 2 you have lost. These four-legged sales calls as I refer to them are critical in identifying how your buyers buy today, the criteria they are using, and the problems they are solving today. While your salesperson is selling, you are asking questions like:

 

How is your business doing today?

 

Have you seen any significant changes that have impacted your business, how you are buying, your role?

 

I understand you buy some products from our competitors? That is not surprising, …what do you find they do very well?

 

If you were running our company ___________ what would you do to grow sales with your company and other companies like yours?

 

We are thankful for your business. If someone called you on the phone and asked: Why do you buy from ______________ what would you say?

 

(For customers you have not sold yet, or lost)

 

We would like to earn your business. If someone were to call you today and ask: Why don’t you buy from ___________ what would you say?

 

I am sure there are lists of customer questions you can ask, and you should have some very specific questions that illustrate your current market knowledge.

 

A couple of quick rules when doing this kind of a value proposition audit:

  • Ask and listen, do not try to defend or sell through any issues identified. This is the quickest way to end a conversation.
  • Do not have your salespeople ask these questions and report to you. You need to hear the information first hand. Besides, you need your team selling.
  • Do not do this process in a survey. Why? The most valuable part of this process is capturing the current market problems your buyers are having in their voice. A survey will not do this.

Once you have current market data you need to ask yourself one key question…

Based on what we heard from our customers, customers we lost and prospects we want to be customers, does the value proposition and tools we give our sales team match what our buyers told us?

In most cases what I have personally observed is the value proposition sales teams are using is dated and needs some tweaking to reconnect. Those seemingly little tweaks however will demonstrate you understand your markets and what is important to your buyers today. It will make your sales team stand out in a sea of other sales reps saying….

We are the best at….

We have the most….

We have been in business 70 years and….

We have the best quality in the industry…

We have the most innovative solutions…

You get the idea…

Instead, your salespeople will lead with questions that came out of your “value proposition audit” and they will stand out positively in your buyers minds.

Having served company  Presidents for over 30 years I hear that voice saying…” I hear what you are saying Mark but this seems like it is a lot of work and will take a great deal of time…we have numbers to hit…” If that is a concern you are wrestling with let me assure you, this market work should only take 30-45 days and it will make your team more effective, efficient, and become a way your company will be distinctive in your market.

 

What happens if you don’t do a value proposition audit?

 

You will hope what your salespeople are saying is connecting with current and new customers. If what your salespeople are saying, your sales brochures discuss and worst of all your web site says is dated it created a breach of trust with your buyers.

 

My challenge is why risk it? If you feel traveling to your top accounts is too expensive visit your top 2 and call the rest.

 

If you are looking for some great content on creating your value proposition after your audit I recommend the following sites:

 

Useful Value Proposition Examples (and How to Create a Good One) 

 

4 steps to building a compelling value proposition

 

How to write a value proposition that works

 

Three points to create a value proposition

 

How to wire a great value proposition

 

Words that get meetings

 

 

So how about your company?

 

When was the last time you updated your value proposition?

 

Do you feel comfortable sharing the impact that had on your sales?

 

Are you sure what your salespeople are saying is helping your business or hurting it now and into the future?

 

I promise you this value proposition audit is not difficult and can be completed in 30-45 days.

 

If it sounds expensive I want to challenge you…

 

How expensive is it to not be selling buyers you could be selling?

 

How expensive is your travel costs that do not produce new business?

 

What impact would a 20% increase in your sales close rate have on your bottom line?

 

The biggest challenge, if you are the leader of your company is hearing the voice of the customers in some cases. You must have a culture where your team is free to discuss things that may not be politically correct but can impact your business. The comments you are hearing are based on buyer perceptions today. If the value proposition you personally wrote 5 years ago is no longer resonating it is not about you! When you wrote it , it worked! Something changed. This exercise is not about you as a leader, your vision or capabilities. If you are a leader in your organization you have secured that position by making many good decisions over time. It is about positioning your products and services to win orders and growing your business profitably.

 

One last thought, assume you do a value proposition audit and find what your salespeople are saying does resonate with buyers. Great! If sales are not hitting your sales numbers you can now zero in on other areas where you can coach your team.