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“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.”



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.”



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.



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.



Fix Sales Problems: Do You Understand What Your Buyers Value Most?

Fix Sales Problems: Do You Understand What Your buyers Value Most?


In my last post I discussed the need to quantify the value the buyer experiences to increase your sales. In a typical sale the buyer has three options; the buyer buys, the buyer buys but not from you, or they do nothing. Market leading companies make it their job to understand their buyers’ problems and what they value most. When you clearly understand the market and problems to be solved creating a value proposition that instantly resonates with buyers is easy.

What is the buyers’ cost of doing nothing?

What do your buyers value most?

Let’s say you sell products that prevent people from stealing products on display in retail stores.

Having served this market back in the late 1990’s we asked a lot of questions and what we found back then was:

  • If a product is behind the counter because the retailer is concerned with theft, sales decrease 50% to over 75%
  • If a product is out ‘LIVE’ on the retail shelf without any mechanical security device or security tag you can expect over 50% theft
  • If product is behind a counter the overall customer buying experience is poor (this costs you a sale now, and more concerning with future purchases)

But that was old school…. check out this market leader in helping large retailers increase their sales!

InVue’s value proposition is focused and clear.

Their value proposition demonstrates they know their customers, their customers’ problems, and they have solved those problems completely.

“InVue develops and markets security products that enable retailers to openly display their high theft merchandise with confidence.”

They not only control theft, they help their customers increase sales as they share below.

“Displaying high value accessories next to hot selling smart phones and tablets will increase your accessory sales over 20%.”

This is a great example of a B2B company that took the time to do their market work and understand the buyers and the problems they want solved. When I speak at conferences I often have someone challenge me; “ I understand this knowing your buyers stuff when it comes to B2C products but I don’t see how it applies to B2B” My answer is it is absolutely critical to understand your buyers, the buying process they use and the criteria they must have to make a purchase. This is the case in B2B and B2C. B2B companies who do the market work prior to launch realize greater sales increases and higher profits.


How about your company?


Are you solving buyer problems?


What process does your team use to identify buyer problems?


How is your sales performing to plan this year?


The reason why some companies consistently achieve and surpass their sales and profit objectives is they understand their market, buyers and buying process.

Increase Sales: How Do You Establish Value?

Increase Sales: How Do You Establish Value?




In one of my last posts on pricing your products strategically I discussed the need to understand the value your product or service provides to the customer. Not long after that post was written I had a phone call from a small business owner asking: What is the best way to establish value for our buyers? In this post I will share some advice an excellent example of establishing value.

Before we get to that content I want to ask you a quick question:

Why do 42% of business start up’s fail?


The answer is they launched a business that had no unresolved market need. They did not clearly and completely understand the problem to be solved.


This group of entrepreneurs took the leap and often loose all their savings, their children’s college fund and so on. Why?


They failed to do their market homework before launching their business. Some questions they needed to answer include?


What is the problem you are trying to solve?


Who has this problem?… and how many others are like them?


Is the problem Urgent and buyers feel a pain to solve it?


Are buyers willing to spend money to solve it and how much?


It is not just small companies who make this mistake. Every day products and services are launched because companies can and not because they should.


How do market leaders, regardless of industry or company size consistently launch and grow their business?


They establish a high-perceived value for their products!


To do so they must first intimately understand their market, and the problems their buyers have.


With this information they solve the problem completely.


Then they make a compelling value proposition that resonates with their buyers.


They share this value in communities where there buyers belong.


Lets take a look at a great example of a company that established value: Gunner Kennels.

Man’s best friend deserves man’s best kennels


Gunner Kennels makes dog kennels. On the surface that does not sound too interesting. However if you have dogs, particularly hunting dogs they know you. They know the problems you often face when transporting your dogs and they solved that problem brilliantly.


Every detail of this kennel is built to make our traveling experience the best and safest it can be, whether we are on our way to the Mississippi Delta for a duck hunt or just running errands around town. Gunner has been my co-pilot since the day I drove to North Alabama to pick him up.

I built this kennel for my dog Gunner and for anyone else who loves seeing their dogs light up when you ask them to “Kennel,” and they know they are tagging along for your next adventure.

-Addison Edmonds, Founder


I wish I had found this company years ago! The downside of this crazy life of helping company’s fix their sales problems is we moved our family a lot. One of the biggest stress points for us as a family was safely moving our dogs. Will my Labs be safe in the belly of this big airplane? Will the baggage handlers be careful with my family members? What if something shifts in the cargo area and their crate gets crushed? (All these thoughts and more go through your mind)


Check out his video that demonstrates how much this company understand the needs of its buyers and how they establish value.



How about your company….


How do you establish value in the minds of your buyers?


Do you know how to quantify that value?


What techniques have worked best for your team?


When you clearly understand your market, buyers, how they buy, and the criteria they use to make buying decisions you can establish value.


In my next three posts I will be sharing other innovative companies who not only beat the odds of start up failure but also are extremely successful because they established their value in the minds of their buyers.

Why Does Sales Growth Stall?

Why Does Sales Growth Stall?


Your sales team has been hitting their sales goals and it’s an exciting time for your organization. Your problem to be solved shifted from growing sales to shipping orders on time. Then something happens …what seemed like an ever-growing sales pipeline goes dark. Sales stall and in some cases decrease. Why? What causes sales growth to stall and more important what can you do to prevent sales from stalling?

It was an exciting time. Our sales team had opened the majority of the targeted new dealers we wanted and we were hitting new sales records. The President and CFO were stopping by my office to give me high fives and our senior manager meets had almost a fun playful tone. My sales people were achieving their individual sales goals, hitting bonuses they have never experienced before. Everyone, even the workers on the assembly line who were getting all the overtime they wanted were happy.

Our strategic planning meeting was spent discussing fun things like how will we invest to support this sales growth…. And then everything changed quietly, slowing at first and then our sales stalled. What happened? Why do sales stall and more important what is the plan to get our sales back on that sales velocity of 140% year over year growth we were enjoying?

I have seen the above scenario play out many times in companies. I have heard CEO’s say: “ Mark the reason we are talking to you is sales were growing strong year over year and then we hit a plateau, we are stuck and we can’t seem to get back on the same growth trajectory we one had.” 


What Causes sales growth to stall?


If you read my content you know I like to read. Like is not strong enough of a word. I have a passion to read and research topics that impact sales team’s performance. One of my mentors at Frito-Lay used to say, “Leaders are readers and if you want to be a leader the burden is on you to constantly sharpen your saw”. I recently finished an excellent book I highly recommend: When Growth Stalls, How it happens, why your stuck & and what to do about it, by Steve McKee.

A quote that jumped out at me early was …

One of the biggest challenges any business leader faces is generating consistent, profitable growth. But stalled growth is the rule, not the exception, even for the best-managed companies. That’s especially true in today’s tumultuous economic environment

The author does a great job of capturing examples of market leading companies who experienced a growth stall like; Home Depot, Bear Sterns, Excite, Lehman Brothers, McDonalds, IBM, Kodak, Lucent Technologies, Sears, Kmart, Sun Microsystems, Tidy Cat, Mercedes, The Gap, Chrysler, and many more. Growth stalls impact both large and small companies. Publicly traded market leaders and privately help family business all experience stalls.

Most companies experience a sales growth stall at some time, and some experience a number of sales plateaus.

So what causes growth stalls?

Want a quick answer?…Look for what changed!

Today’s markets are dynamic. The first question you need to ask if your sales growth stalls is: What changed? The one thing we can all count on is change. If your sales were showing strong sales velocity then stalled I promise you something changed.

Changes can occur outside your organization as well as inside.


Outside your organization you can have a number of factors impact your sales growth…


Economic downturn

Market shift

Changing Industry Dynamics

Aggressive move from a competitor

New technology

Buyers need new criteria to make buying decisions

Buyers use a new buying process



There are also internal changes that can cause a sales growth stall…


Change in service level

Quality of product or service decline

Chance in price model

Lack of management consensus

Loss of Focus

A dated Value Proposition 

Loss of company nerve

Inconsistency within your organization

Your culture becomes dysfunctional


Any one of the above can cause what the author refers to as a “seismic shift” that disrupts your sales growth. If your team experiences a number of both internal and external changes your sales growth does not just stall, it starts a steady decline. The longer it takes your team to identify what changed and make a course correction the more difficult and the longer it will take to correct. If internal and or external changes go unchecked long enough you will experience what I refer to as a sales death spiral.

The best business book I have ever read is the Bible. The Bible does not say we might face adversity…it says we WILL face adversity. Adversity is a time teams can rally together and grow united or do blame storming and drift apart.

The first step is to identify what changed or as I prefer to call it… throw the skunk on the table. It is very uncomfortable to discuss problems for most teams. Teams with strong cultures openly discuss any issues that could be preventing them from achieving their objectives. Discussing problems, like having a dated value proposition that no longer resonates with buyers, becomes emotional.( been there have the T-shirt)

Someone companies may have developed processes and procedures (web sites)  10-15 years ago and now that person sits in the CEO’s chair. If you have a strong culture and a leader with a high emotional intelligence you will discuss the issues. One sign of an unhealthy culture are what I refer to as PIMS. This stand for: Politically Incorrect Market Secrets. Your team knows the issues holding your teams back from achieving their sales objectives but they do not feel safe to share them. I actually love it when someone who reports to me says…Mark, I just don’t get it, you are asking me to ——- but the market and even the buyers at some of our accounts are saying ——-. Awesome, let’s pivot and win the business!


The author shares how to get your company back on a strong sales velocity track in practical and applicable ways. I highly recommend this book for two kinds of companies:

  • Companies who have experienced their sales growth stall or decline
  • Companies who have not experienced a sales growth stall (yet)


How about your company…


Have you seen your sales growth stall?


Has your team thrown the skunk on the table or is still just stinking up the place?


What other kinds of shifts/ changes have you experienced that stalled your team’s sales?


How did you fix them?


If you are in a business experiencing a sales growth stall this book will help you identify places to look that may have changed. It will also teach you ways of getting un-stuck and practical steps you can take to getting sales growth back on track.






















Fix Sales Problems: Price Strategically

Fix Sales Problems: Price Strategically




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


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


Let’s start with a few definitions….


What is the definition of price?


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


What is the definition of pricing strategy?


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


What are the most common forms of pricing?


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

-Mark Allen Roberts

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


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


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


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


What kind of pricing method does your team use?


What are some examples where cost plus pricing may work?


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


Would you say you are market driven or internally driven? 


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.


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 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.


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

Will Your Strategic Plan Work?

Will Your Strategic Plan Work?


Why do 90% of strategic plans fail to produce the desired results? Why do only 14% of CEO’s say they do a great job when it comes to strategic planning? If this is true it should not surprise us when we hear 95% of most organizations employees do not understand the organizations’ strategy. Strategic planning is not as complicated or as time consuming like most people makes it out to be. In this post I will share the back of the napkin basic approach to writing a strategic plan that adds value and positions your team to achieve its goals. In future posts I will drill deeper in each of the common steps to insure your team is not one of the 90% who fail to execute…again.

If you ask 12 business leaders to describe strategic planning you will hear 12 different answers. People will often answer that question based on the discipline they are in and their experience. What I have seen with a number of leadership teams is each team member will describe what they feel the plan is specific to how it impacts their department. For example a CFO may share a plan that shares the financial costs and estimated financial forecasts when we hit “the plan”. The COO may share more of an operations type view that discusses aligning the business operations to support “the plan”. CEO’s will often speak in specific deliverables they promised the board… and so on. It’s only human nature to view the world through the lens of your personal experience and background. The trouble is true strategic planning is when each disciple comes together with an over arching plan. Once the plan is in place follow up meetings are scheduled to review KPI’s and make adjustments as needed. If your team is new to strategic planning the first mistake they will make is jumping to quickly into the weeds and sharing tactics and not doing the strategy work. The result will be a failure to execute the plan, because the plan lacked a foundation in a strong strategy.

Nothing frustrates CEO’s more than spending time on a strategic plan no one executes.

Over the holidays I had a chance to catch up with some friends and past clients. Jason, ( not his real name) the  President from one of the companies I helped years ago invited me to lunch. Once we caught up he shared the reason he reached out to me: “I think we have a good strategic plan this year, can you take a look and get back with me?” From the nature of the question I was already concerned. So I asked a few questions…

Do you think the plan is strong and will deliver the results the board is asking for?

That’s the trouble Mark, I thought the plans for the last few years were spot on and we failed to hit plan each year. The team clearly knew the goal and failed to hit it.  I am losing credibility with the board and some of my senior team and I cannot have another year where we fail to achieve our goals.

If I asked your senior team what strategic planning is could they answer me?

I hope so…I think they should since we have been doing it for years.

In the last calendar year did your plan fail or did your team fail to execute the plan?

(long pause) … that’s a great question , I never thought of it that way ( but did not answer the question)

OK, let me know what you thought would happen if no one on your team did anything new, anything different than the prior year?

I’m not sure off the top of my head… we clearly identified that…. but I can get you that number.

What did you need to hit last year?

( very quick answer, almost before I finished the question) We needed to achieve $X million in sales and $ gross profit and $ net profit. (based on how fast and clear he stated the answer this was a goal he owned)

What was the delta? The GAP between what you should hit and need to hit?

We needed to grow our sales 18% at X% net margin to hit our goal.

How did you plan to cover the GAP?

We planned to hit the goal based on growing current customers and opening new customers.

What is your team’s distinctive competence, the thing that makes your team unique that your plan was built on?

I’m not sure I understand what you are asking. You did work with us a while ago; you know we have the best service, best people, best products, best quality …. We just need to sell more!

… And that’s where the wheels fell off the strategy train for me. The rest of the discussion was specific to each business unit and ended with how sales …”just didn’t make it happen”. So I took a napkin pictured above and shared the basics, the root of any good strategic plan.

What do you think will happen?

What do you want (need) to happen?

What is the delta? The Gap between what you should do and need to do?

How will you fill that gap?

What will you leverage to achieve it? What is your distinction in your markets(s) you plan to leverage?

It is the last question is the most important indicator of future plan success or failure It is the one question most companies fail to answer. If they do answer the question they pick what they feel is what makes them unique in their market. Some teams share what it was or believe they can will it to be.

Very few teams can clearly share their value proposition in a short elevator pitch that resonates with their buyers today. When strategic planning is done properly and is communicated every team member should know your distinctive competence and how you plan to leverage it.

I connected Jason with a friend who also does strategy work following the same model I have used. I recommended he use my friend to facilitate the meeting discussions and gave him a list of questions to ask his customers and prospects prior to the meeting.

“The leading reason why 90% of strategic plans fail is they lack marketing strategy.”
– Mark Allen Roberts

How about your company…

Do you have a Strategic plan you feel will work this year?

Does your team have a history of hitting or missing your strategic objectives?

Is there a common reason why you miss plan?…or did sales just not make it happen again?

The gathering of market data and each business disciplines home work is the easy part of strategic planning. Unfortunately where most teams fail is in identifying the “how” they plan to achieve the objective…the strategy. The reason in most cases is they lack or have a dated value proposition they can leverage and have not been taught strategic planning. In my next few posts I will drill a bit deeper into this very important topic and I welcome comments and questions.