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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Not familiar with kick the can pricing?

It goes something like this….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does your sales team understand your value proposition?

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

How’s that working for you?

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Congratulations You Are A Sales Manager…now What?

Congratulations you are a Sales Manager…now what?

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

What is the definition of a sales manager?

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

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

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

To be an effective salesperson you need the following skills:

What skills are required to be an effective sales manager?

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

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

How about your team…

Will your sales team achieve sales plan this year?

Has your sales manager received training?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

  • Hyrum Smith

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

Values Gap

Time Gap

Beliefs Gap

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

Values Gap

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

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

  • Hyrum Smith

 

Time Gap

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

 

Beliefs Gap

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

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

  • Hyrum Smith

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

What do you believe about your markets?

What do you believe about your current customers?

What do you believe about salespeople?

What do you believe about your salespeople?

What do you believe about marketing?

How do you believe your buyers shop today?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are Your Salespeople Guilty Of “Sales Malpractice”?

Are Your Salespeople Guilty of “Sales Malpractice”?

 

How do market leading sales teams consistently achieve and surpass sales goals? What is the secret sauce…if there is one? Why do buyers buy? The main reason why buyers buy is a feeling of trust the salesperson understands their problem to be solved and what they are proposing will solve it completely. If your salespeople are not taking the time to qualify buyer pain they are guilty of “Sales Malpractice”.

Let’s say you were feeling off, just not right. You noticed a lack of energy and you occasionally felt dizzy.  This goes on for a while then you notice when you climb stairs you have a tightness in your chest. If you are like me, you probably ignore the symptoms and hope they go away. But then one day you mention them to your wife and the next thing you know you have an appointment at the doctor’s office.

You arrive and the doctor’s office and He or She quickly looks you over and starts talking…”I see you look to be in your 50’s or so? Based on my experience my patients in their 50’s have issues with blood pressure so here’s a prescription for Lisinopril  , and you look a bit overweight so you may have type 2 diabetes so I will prescribe Meltormin . You know, based on how you are dressed I am guessing you are a busy executive, and over the last 6 months I have seen a great deal of patients like you with anxiety so I will give you a prescription for Paxil. Oh and as we age, and if you have any history of heart disease I will give you a prescription for Coumadin. Please pay my office manager on the way out.”

Question: would you trust this doctor and fill the prescriptions?

I hope your quick answer is; NO!

Why?

I heard a great quote I want to share:

“Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice “

Is the doctor in the above example a bad person? No. Is there a high probability based on the frequency he or she sees people one of the above may solve your problem? Possibly? So where did they fail, why do you lack trust in their prescriptions? The simple answer is they did not take the time to understand you. They did not run tests to determine if the symptoms you are having can be tied to a specific problem. The doctor in the above example “assumed” what has worked for people who look like you will work for you.

“Mark, this is a crazy example, no doctor would do this, and they would be sued for malpractice!”

I hear you and you are right. Now let me ask you…

Are your salespeople guilty of malpractice?

Do you know?… I mean really know for sure?

What are some signs your salespeople are guilty of  Sales Malpractice?

  • Poor close rate on new customers
  • Lower than industry gross margins
  • Not prospecting the right customers
  • Having to deliver on promises your product or service was not designed to solve
  • Poor customer satisfaction survey results
  • Low repeat purchase percentage
  • New accounts slow to pay and or request return authorizations

If you ask salespeople why buyers buy and why they don’t you will often hear one of two reasons;

  • Price
  • Relationship with current vendor

If you ask buyers why they buy and why they don’t “price” is not on the list. You will hear things in the win loss call like;

  • Salesperson did not do their research on our company, asked me questions my web site could have answered
  • Salesperson did not understand the problem(s) I need to solve, so I did not trust their proposal ( prescription)
  • Salesperson assumed what my problems were and pitched me asking for my current vendors business.
  • Since I do not understand how this new salesperson and the company they represent are different, all I can do is compare price

Years ago I heard a great quote: Salespeople are like water and they seek the path of least resistance” If you are a salesperson you have that sales goal monkey on your back. You are accountable to a specific number and everyone in the company sees your results and asks questions if you fail sell. A common problem I have seen salespeople do is what we refer to as “spill their candy in the lobby” in hopes of closing sales faster.

When salespeople meet with buyers they have a bag of offerings (their candy) they can offer. Maybe it’s an onsite audit of your current system for free for a large commitment. Maybe they can offer extended terms if they need to. Your company may have the ability to do 100% outgoing product inspection, and if it’s a retail product your sales may be  empowered to offer free ½ page ad to support a large enough order.   The salesperson is so anxious to sell and get their goal monkey off their back they proceed to spew all offerings hoping one or more connects. In my training I refer to this also as “Feature and Benefit BINGO”. As I shared in a video in 2010;

Feature and benefit BINGO is a game untrained salespeople play far too often. They “show up and then they throw up” and they spew all the features and benefits they can think of waiting for your buyer to jump up and yell”…BINGO….I get it….I figured out what problems you can solve for me…”

Will a salesperson occasionally make a sale this way? Sure. What I recommend is teaching your salespeople meaningful questions by market and by buyer persona type that helps them clearly and completely understands the buyer’s pain. If your salespeople fail to understand pain they are guilty of Sales Malpractice and it will cost you….

  • Sales you could have won
  • Profits if you win the sale
  • Customer retention
  • And worst of all cause” brand damage

How about your company….

Are your salespeople guilty of Sales Malpractice?

Have you experienced any of the above signs of Sales Malpractice?

Have you seen other signs of Sales Malpractice?

Our markets are more competitive than ever before in the history of your business. Your buyer’s problems change and your salespeople must be skilled at asking questions, qualifying pain and prescribing solutions that make that pain go away. The quickest way to see if your salespeople are spilling their candy in the lobby is attend 7-10 sales calls with them. Once you train your team to diagnose buyer current pain you will be back on track to achieving your sales objectives.

Photo credits http://www.abpla.org/what-is-malpractice

Does Your Website Clearly Convey Your Brand Promise?

leatherBeltsCOL667_large

 

How do you compete with huge accounts that seem to have bottomless pits when it comes to advertising and media buys?…Smart internet marketing! The average buyer decides if a web site is right for them in 3 seconds to 1 minute. As I shared some time ago: you have a minute to win it when it comes to online sales. How do market leading companies insure buyers find what they are shopping for quickly, stay on their website and buy? I found a new company that clearly understands how to sell products online: Buffalo Head Leather.

As I watch retailers scrambling for position in the minds of buyers for black Friday sales I can’t help but be somewhat amused by the poor branding and positioning. Do these retailers who now sell online not understand marketing and positioning or they have become so lazy and complacent they just hope throwing it on the wall to see if it sticks is good marketing? Are they now aware that up to 60% of the buying process is completed online before a buyer interacts with your company?

When I look at the ads and the visual imagery chosen to sell a particular product I often wonder what if any consideration occurred for the brand of the retailer and the product when designing the communication? Who are their buyer personas? How well do they know them?  The ads that now fill my newspaper, television and websites I visit are all the same. They have dumb-ed down their marketing, positioning and branding as if they assume “everyone “could be a customer.

So imagine my delight in finding a new company online: Buffalo Head Leather. This new company makes and sells leather belts, wallets, key holders and accessories made from buffalo hides. When you visit their website they clearly understand the importance of imagery to support your brand and positioning. In addition this site loads fast. More searches are now done on mobile devices than desktops. I have read studies that share you web site has 3 seconds to load or a consumer will quickly bounce to the next site listed in their Google search. This site loads quickly and it was designed to be mobile friendly. Web sites that are not mobile friendly are quickly becoming invisible as I shared in a post titled; Is your web site invisible.

When I found this new company they obviously have done their homework in terms of marketing specific to branding, positioning, their ideal customer and buyer personas. The imagery found on this site says to me;

  • We make a high quality product that is competitively priced
  • Our research shows to target men
  • Our products for successful people who value quality
  • We did research and it showed consumers have a concern that Buffalo’s are endangered
  • The shopping experience is easy and fast
  • We believe in creating images and content so our customers can easily share us
  • We are not the cheapest

This site reminded me how new companies often execute better than companies who have served markets for years. New companies understand the market today and do their research. New companies take the time to define their buyer personas and their imagery and content supports their brand and positioning. I just ordered a book titled Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper (and what to do about it). I look forward to reading this book and discussing this topic future posts.

I was so impressed by marketing strategy well executed and the quality of their products I reached out to the company. I spoke with one of their owners who has experience in marketing buyer personas and visual imagery. I asked if my perception of what he was communicating online was correct and I think he was surprised how much I knew about his brand after just a few minutes on his website.

Below are a few of the questions I asked:

Any challenges in his market verification stage? He shared that when they tested their messaging prior to launch a common concern buyers expressed was a perception that buffalo leather was stiffer than cow hide leather and actually the opposite was true so he directed me to a web page that shares the difference and how products made from buffalo are actually softer.

I noticed you are not the only site or the first site, how do you plan to compete? Authentically sharing who we are, what we represent and everything we do is about a total quality experience. We are committed to knowing are targeted buyers and helping them buy , helping them shop.

What else? We believe in speaking to communities, the “tribes” Seth refers to. We have a facebook page, a newsletter, pinterest and instagram presence.

Why pinterest and instagram when your buyer persona is successful men who value quality products? Our research showed men want quality products, accessories if you will. Some shop searching for imagery and clicking pictures that match what they are looking for hoping the image brings them to a site to purchase. More importantly, we found successful men are hard to buy for, and women often shop for gifts for them on line. So based on how many women use pinterest and instagram we had to establish a presence there.

 

How about your web site?

 

Does the imagery speak to your buyer personas?

 

Does your web site proactively speak to concerns your buyers have that interrupts their buying process?

 

Is your web site mobile friendly?

 

Is your company at risk of a branding and positioning savvy new competitor entering your market and being 10 times better and faster?

 

 

Does your website imagery and content clearly convey your brand promise?

 

Congratulations to the buffalo head leather team for doing your market work prior to launch and positioning your products. It is time we all take the time and clearly understand our markets, buyers and buyer personas. We must create content and imagery that quickly resonates with our targeted buyers or they will find another site that does.

How do I  correct sales problems after a market shift?

 

foccet

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

 

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

 

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

  – Tom Bandy

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Tony Hsieh,  CEO of Zappos.com

 

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

 

Do you agree markets shift ?

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Write a market truths document based on gathered current data

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Determine your ideal customer profile

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Share innovative new products in your current markets.

 

Share product innovations in adjunct markets

 

Share product innovations in new markets

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Have your sales taken a downward turn?

 

Did your sales team experience a recent market shift?

 

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

 

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

Three Methods To Understand Your Buyers And Markets Today …ASK!

Three Methods to Understand Your Buyers and Markets Today …ASK!



It is not unusual the simplest of strategies are often the most difficult for some people to execute. Why? Why is it so important to understand buyer and market needs today? Sales teams who understand their buyers, how buyers buy and what they need to make buying decisions today achieve their sales goals. When salespeople approach buyers and their markets with dated value propositions and not address current market problems sales teams fail to hit goals. In this post I will share three ways to better understand your buyers and markets.

In my last post I asked a question: What if I told you growing your sales profitably is actually “Simple” if you focus on one strategy? I shared the key to growing your sales and profits are: know your customers and markets. So far no one argues with that premise. However the behavior that needs to change (and quick) is companies who assume they understand their markets based on dated information. They have leaders who believe their gut and intuition that have gotten them this far will help them lead their teams to future wins. My argument is, as I shared in 2009, the sales game has changed and your gut and intuition are not enough to win today. We serve dynamic markets that are constantly changing and shifting. A value proposition that resonated with buyers six months ago may no longer connect due to a shift in economic conditions and or a new technology.
“Companies who build strategic plans based on dated market information fail. “
– Mark Allen Roberts
In a recent post by SBI they asked the question: Could last year’s market research be killing your chances to achieve next year’s sales goals? If you have not read this post I highly recommend you take a few minutes to review it. As shared in their post:
“Strategic alignment is the ultimate goal, but it’s not a fixed destination. It’s a moving target. That’s because market conditions are always in flux. If you continue to rely on outdated market research, you’re not just taking a step backward. You’re returning to square one, year after year.
How do you stay current with your buyer and market data to insure your sales strategy leads to goal achievement?
How do market leading companies equip and empower their sales teams to consistently achieve sales targets year after year?
In this post I will share three ways I have used to insure the sales and marketing teams have value propositions that resonate with their buyers and markets.
The best technique is time in the market. I enjoy working with my sales and marketing teams in the field with what I have referred to in previous posts as “four legged sales calls”. You shadow your team members with current customers and as they call on new customers. Your sole purpose is to listen and observe. I have to warn you though it is very difficult to not jump in on a sale that feels like it is heading south or take over the call that seems to not be leading to a close. I highly recommend you listen with the intent to learn rather than to show what you know. You must put on a market research hat and leave your sales hat in your reps car to receive the most benefit. In this post I shared things I am listening for and setting out to understand;
• What are the buyers’ buying criteria today?

• What is the buying process?

• Who else is involved in making buying decisions? 

• Does your sales process mirror the buying process?

• What sales tools does your salesperson have and which ones do they use? Are they current, or something they created themselves?

• Does the buyer have other problems they verbalize but your salesperson fails to hear?

• Where does the buyer turn today when faced with an unresolved problem? …the internet, a trade journal, calls a local representative…

• What other products does your buyer buy from competitors that they could be buying from you?

• What % of the time is your salesperson listening versus talking? ( my favorite indicator)

If you are experiencing “death by meetings” at the corporate office and find it difficult to meet with buyers in your market I highly recommend win-loss analysis . I prefer win-loss calls face to face however if this cannot occur I have seen where win loss phone interviews have proven extremely valuable. If you have not heard of win loss analysis I shared how I use it and common questions I ask here. After approximately 12-20 phone interviews you will quickly see trends on why buyers buy from you and why they don’t. You will discover the buying process and criteria your buyers are using today to make buying decisions. Market leading companies strategically plan win loss analysis as an ongoing strategy to stay tuned in to their market.
A new technique to understand your buyers and get target buyers to share insights on their problems and how they buy is shared in the book: Ask… The Counter intuitive Online Formula to Discover Exactly What Your Customers Want to Buy…Create a Mass of Raving Fans…and Take Any Business to the Next Level , by Ryan Levesque. I just finished reading this new book and found it very useful.
In this book the author shares a proven process he developed and personally uses to understand customers, get customers to speak to you, and ultimately fall in love with your product or service. In 1970 we saw approximately 500 ads per day. With the average consumer seeing over 5,000 Google ads per day how do marketers break through all the noise today? In his book he shares a process to get answers to the following questions;
What do buyers want to buy?
When are they ready to buy?
Why did they not buy?
What I liked about this book is its’ “how to “approach. The author uses 4 primary surveys to capture current buyer process, criteria and it is done in such a way the customers fall in love with your product.
The key to insuring your team achieves their sales goals is a clear and current understanding of your buyers and markets and how they make buying decisions.

Companies who take the time to strategically  understand their markets and buyers and recognize shifts early achieve and surpass their sales goals.

Nothing compares to meeting with buyers and influencers in the markets you serve and asking them questions. If you struggle to break away from those “important” meetings at corporate you can conduct win loss analysis calls and now the book: Ask provides a step by step process to use surveys to capture what you need to know.

There is no excuse to lead by gut and intuition in today’s dynamic and shifting marketplace. Make understanding knowing your customers and markets a key action item in your strategic plan and your will consistently achieve and surpass your sales and profit goals.

What If Fixing Your Sales Problem Was Simple?

What if Fixing your Sales problem was Simple?

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Increase sales : 623 million results

Increase Sales and Profits : 270 million results

Fix Sales Problems: 85 million results

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

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

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

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

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

  • Mark Allen Roberts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do they describe them in their words?

What do your buyers need to make purchases today?

How big are their problems?

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

How do problems like this show themselves?

Who influences the sale at your customers?

What do the influencers need to make purchase recommendations?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Most Important Leadership Principle? …( it’s probably not what you were taught)

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What is the most important principle of leadership today?  How do we lead and inspire teams to reach outside of their comfort zones? What is the best way to lead teams to inspire results most only dream of? These questions have been rattling around inside my brain for over 30 years. I finally found the answers in a book titled: Lead for God’s sake by Todd G. Gongwer. As the cover of the book promised it caused me to: “think deeply about who you are as a leader, what success means to you, and why you do what you do.”

Last winter I was in a Wednesday night men’s group and one of the guys in attendance said he just finished the best leadership book he has ever read titled : Lead for God’s Sake. So I mentally made a note to myself that I need to pick up a copy of this book. Like I often do I bought the book and put it into my: to read stack. If you have read my posts you know I read a lot and often share books that I believe would benefit those who are always looking to improve and gain knowledge. I just finished a great book on emotional intelligence and the role it plays in sales and I thought I should balance what I learned with some content on leadership. I am a huge Ohio State football fan. While out to breakfast with a banker friend of mine he asked: have you ever read that book that Urban Meyer said changed his life?  I was not sure so my friend said he would send me a you tube link. There he was, Urban Meyer sharing how a book his friend Todd Blackledge gave him had a profound effect on his life. So as I packed my carry on for the next customer visit I threw my copy of this book in my bag.

Like Urban Meyer, Ken Blanchard, Lou Holtz and others who read this book, once I started reading it I could not put it down. It is written in the form a story. Stories create mental images and emotional connections that books that share data and theory cannot. The book quickly develops its characters and has a way of sucking you in. I found myself challenging my leadership style in the quite seclusion of my isle seat on Delta Airlines.

I have been trained to “manage” people for years. I found the style of management varied by the person training and their emotional intelligence. There was Chuck at Frito-Lay who was a; Look for an ass to kick or throat to choke kind of manager. (notice I did not say leader) . They believe they can make people do things by the threat of pain. In this style you are not focused on solving the problem, but you are looking for a “who” not a “what” or more importantly a “why”. In this book they refer to this as the hatchet. The beatings will continue until the morale improves kind of thought process. I loved working for Frito-lay until I reported to Chuck. I owe a great deal to the training Frito-lay invested in me and I still use to this day.  At first Chuck was kind of an interesting new boss. He was very loud, vocal, and did some things that other conservative Frito-Lay managers would never do. I observed him with customers and today I would categorize him as a relational sales guy. To avoid the pain of his critiques, often done in front of my employees and peers I did learn to improve my presentation skills. I did not do so to better serve my customers and y team, I honestly did so to avoid pain.

Another trainer I had was all about what the book refers to as “treasure”. He creating very compelling compensation plans that if you executed the plan you would earn a huge bonus. To accomplish these stretch goals with huge treasures attached you had to work 12-14 hours a day and often we worked 8 hours on Saturday and I would do my paperwork on Sundays. The trouble with this model is you become so focused on the treasure you forget about things, or do not give things like your family, your health, your friends the time required. You are so focused on chasing that brass ring and the treasure you mentally justify the time choices you make. (been there have the T-shirt)

It’s so easy to look for shortcuts but what this book reinforces is there are no shortcuts. What this book shares as the most important “leadership “principle is…you ready for it?….

Heart

This book does an excellent job of sharing how we need to be committed to something higher than the avoidance of pain, or stretching to reach that brass ring bonus treasure. It shares that if you truly want to lead people you need to do so with heart. You need to take a personal interest and invest in those on your team and truly serve them.

For years I have been shaking up customer sand those in my key notes when I say to: stop selling and start serving. I have seen CEO’s cringe when they hear me say this because instantly they fear sales goals will continue to be missed and may drop even further. After reading this book I believe just as we must serve our customers and help them buy, we must serve our teams.

If you are looking for something more, something more that an “atta boy” from the CEO, or a nice bonus, I highly recommend you read; Lead For God’s Sake. If you find you are serving a boss you believes the beatings will continue until the morale improves..Leave! You are worth so much more than the way you are being treated. As I shared in a post some time ago the reason why superstars leave a team is not money like some business owners and CEO’s believe. They leave because they do not feel valued. They leave because their intrinsic needs are not being met and they justify the decision to leave with extrinsic indicators like compensation. I did not leave Frito- Lay because I was not being compensated well, I was just recognized in the company newsletter for sales achievement and those sales resulted in nice bonuses. I left because Chuck was a jerk. I left because the avoidance of pain was not a long term motivator.

What this book did reinforce was just how blessed to serve a leader like Harry Jones. I mention Harry in the about page on my blog. Harry was the person who hired me at Frito-Lay. He took a genuine interest in me, my goals and the training I needed to achieve those goals. He was not “easy” as some would assume as his goals for me and my market was some of the toughest I have ever faced. Monthly I would receive a book or sometimes two from Harry and after about two weeks he would call and ask me questions about the books. He signed me up for Dale Carnegie and Toastmasters. He asked about what I did after work, my goals, and dreams and how he could help me achieve them. I am truly blessed to have served under his leadership. He even called and checked in on me after I was transferred to Chuck’s team. The day I resigned he asked to meet with me and apologized for what he saw I went through and asked how he could help me in my new role. Harry was my character Joe in this book.

 

Who was/is the Joe in your life?

Are you being a Joe for those you lead today?

Do you believe that if you lead from the heart you will not achieve your goals and be seen as weak? Why?

Have you read this book and applied its principles with your team? Please share some results.

 

Maybe its and over 54 years old thing… The first half of my career was all about accumulation…winning and I made some bad choices like the characters in this book. In the back nine of my life if you will it is about giving. The reason why I write is to hopefully help just one person learn from my mistakes or apply something I have just learned and avoid a mistake. Everyone is a leader. If you do not have the title of leader at work you may lead your family, a team in your church, a sports team, …you may lead and not have to title of leader ( but that’s another book and post).

I highly recommend you purchase Lead For God’s Sake. If you do please share what you experience reading this book and the success you have applying this principle.

Increase Sales And Profits (Faster) With Ideal Customer Profiles

Increase Sales and Profits (Faster) with Ideal Customer Profiles

How do you increase sales and profits quickly? Are there any secrets our team should consider in our new business development objectives? Yes! …teach your salespeople to disqualify potential poor fitting customers sooner with ideal customer profiles.

I can hear some old sales dogs saying; “what are you talking about Mark? Every sale is a good sale…” but I can assure you this is not true. I have learned the hard way that not every prospective account is an account you should sell.

My client had a major shift in one of their markets and this caused a sales decline of over 40% within 18 months so they brought me in to help fix their sales problem. This company had been serving their various markets for over 40 years and wanted to avoid possible layoffs at any cost. So like many companies they were focused on selling their way out of this problem. Quickly we reviewed our current customers, the industries they served and conducted win loss calls to better understand why they buy and why they do not buy. In addition we mapped the buying process and made a list of all the potential customers in this market. (Typically the customers you serve today only represent 25%-30% of the actual potential market.) The main qualifying filters sales and marketing used included;

  • Does this possible customer have a problem we can solve?
  • Is the problem painful enough they want to solve it?
  • Are they willing to spend money to solve it?

(…and that’s where I blew it, I should have required our salespeople to ask one more question…but that will follow soon)

Lists by sales region were created. A multi touch marketing campaign was launched; funded and new sales tools were created from what we learned in the win loss calls and customer interviews. Very quickly accounts were being qualified and salespeople were buying airplane tickets and having many potential new customer meetings. New accounts were being added to our mix. These are great results right? That’s what every company leader wants and needs right… new customers? Not so much… We engaged and sold some companies we wish we would have never sold. Some had cultures that were in direct competition with how we served our customers and more importantly how we treated our own employees. These new customers resulted in painful (and costly) experiences in service, payment, and became an overall a drain on our recourses that started to negatively impact the accounts we valued most. In a recent post I shared how “fit” is one of the three criteria we should use when evaluating salespeople. I can now say with 100% conviction sales must also qualify possible new customer partners based on fit. The additional question we should have asked was;

  • Does this account match the type of customers we value and have proven our capacity to provide exceptional service and profitable relationships with?

As the leader you must answer the above question. How do you know if this “whale” of an account will launch your needed sales velocity…or be an anchor that negatively impacts your teams’ sales and profits?

There are many resources on the internet on how to qualify customers you can search if you wish. However providing your salespeople your ideal customers is critical to winning new business you want and will value.

Some questions to consider as you create your ideal customer characteristics:

Who are your top sales accounts today?

What markets provide over 40% of your sales today?

Why do they buy from you?

What gross profit % do you realize?

What products do they buy?

What is the location of your most valued customers? North America…International…East Coast US…?

What is their service expectation?

What is their quality expectation?

How do they pay their bills? (net 30? net 60? Net 90?)

What is our value proposition for these customers?

How will your partnership be defined? …An informal discussion of expectations or a binding contract?

What is their preferred method for placing orders? Fax, call in, email, EDI, vendor portal?

What buyer persona’s value your brands promise most?

What sales cycle is your team familiar with? short…three to six months…over one year?  

Who is your ideal influencer that drives the purchase order? Buyer… Engineer…Owner…CFO… Operations… a team of department leaders?

What is their preferred form of shipment? Delivered or FOB your plant?

Is there a cultural fit in how their employees engage with each other and your team?

Can you serve the new customer today or will the new customer require new investment?

The above is not a complete list and I would encourage you to develop qualifying questions and identify the type of new customers that are ideal for your organization today. Once you create a list of the ideal traits and attributes of a customer for your organization you must map the areas that are non negotiable. For example I have served a number of startups and turn arounds and terms greater than net 60 days were a deal breaker. As our salespeople met with prospective customers the terms question was addressed very early in the relationship. Next create boundaries for other areas. For example; we will invest in the capabilities to receive orders via EDI for sales that exceed $xxxxxx.  The more detailed you can be in your ideal customer the faster your new business growth objectives will be achieved and they will have profits that meet your owner’s and investors expectations.

So how about your team…

Does your team need to sell its way out of a sales and profits short fall?

Have you identified potential customers you could sell?

Did you take the extra step to identify the traits and characteristics of customers you want?

Are you convinced the difficult customers make your organization stronger? Or do you agree they can negatively impact your service to all your customers?

 

The secret to turning around sales with profitable new customers is helping your salespeople understand what your ideal customer looks and feels like. The above questions may feel like extra work and may slow down your sales, but in reality they will improve your sales close rate, create more quick wins, and help your sales team win more profitable customers.