17 Benefits Of Voice Of Customer

 

 

 

 

Understanding the voice of your customer is critical to achieving your sales and profit objectives today. Taking the time to clearly understand your buyers, how they buy, what they need to buy and why they don’t buy today is critical in developing a strategic business development growth process.

 

Below are 17 reasons why companies who capture and leverage the voice of their customers consistently win year over year.

  

1.Fix Sales: Knowing Buyer’s Journey is like Creating a GPS for Your Sales Process

 

2.Fix Sales Problems With The Power in the  “Voice of the Customer”

 

3.Leverage Customer Voice into “Explosive Sales Growth”

 

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

 

5.Voice of Market Identifies “Roundabouts” in your Sales Process

 

6.Voice of the Market Identifies Key Buying Triggers

 

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

 

8.“Voice of the Customer” Increases Profits…Lesson from a Christmas Ham

 

9.Voice of Customer Finds “Sales Secret Weapons”

 

10.Voice of Customer: Understanding the Entire Iceberg of Purchase Decisions Today

 

11.Improve Sales Productivity With Voice of the Customer Research

 

12.What is The Biggest Threat to Customer Voice Research? (It may surprise you!)

 

13.Give Salespeople More Time to Sell With Voice of The Customer Research

 

14.Customer Voice Research Identifies Content Buyers Need Today

 

15.Identify Purchase Influencers with VOC

 

16.The End Of The Greatest Show On Earth and What We Can Learn About Training

 

17 Voice of your customer identifies new markets and channels

 

How does your team capture the voice of your customers today?

 

How often do you conduct this research?

 

Is there any reason you feel you should not understand the voice of your customer today? (please share)

 

Have you experienced other benefits from capturing the voice of your customers?

 

We serve dynamic markets today. How buyers buy today is much different than how they bought 5 to 10 years ago. How buyers buy tomorrow will likely change as well.

 

Market leading organizations understand the importance of capturing your customer voice today and leveraging what they learn to increase sales and profits.

Voice Of Customer Identifies New Markets And New Product Applications

Voice of Customer Identifies New Markets and New Product Applications

 

 

 

 

Capturing and leveraging the voice of your customers is a powerful tool to grow your sales. In addition to helping your sales team realize explosive growth in sales and profits, it also can identify new markets.

My daughter and son in law just bought their first home. Like a lot of starter homes it has a number of fixer upper projects. Each room needed painting, the kitchen cabinets needed updated and the wallpaper in the bathroom had to go. What I learned is, as dad’s we typically get the jobs no one wants like removing layers of wallpaper.

It is a small bathroom but the first day I spent four hours removing wallpaper. I shared my frustrations with a friend and without missing a beat she said…Did you treat the walls with downy fabric softener first? What? I was using a tool to score the wall and a steamer, what will fabric softeners do? I figured it could not hurt so I tried it.

It turns out this is something home remodelers use often to make removing wallpaper much easier and quicker. I searched the Internet and there are article about using fabric softener you typically would buy for your clothing for stripping wallpaper. There is even a You tube video that shares how using fabric softener helps making wallpaper removal easier. A do it yourself website talks about using this process.

It worked so well, if Downy did voice of customer research they might offer small 4-6 ounce bottles at Home Depot and Lowes in the wallpaper isles. I would recommend they charge between $3.50 and $4.95 for these small convenient bottles to be mixed perfectly with one gallon of water when stripping wallpaper.

 

How do your customers use your products and services?

 

What problems do your products solve?

 

Could you have a new market you are serving today that you can expand?

 

Take the time to capture the voice of your customers and learn how they buy, what they need to buy, and how they use your products.

 

You may find new markets and new distribution channels for current products that can grow into profitable new business.

The End Of The Greatest Show On Earth And What We Can Learn About Training

The End Of The Greatest Show On Earth and What We Can Learn About Training

 

 

 

Understanding the voice of your customer and voice of your markets is critical to hitting your sales and profit objectives today. With all the changes and shifts occurring at a much faster pace than ever before market leading organizations are capturing the voice of your customer to insure they improve sales productivity and achieve profitable sales growth. In this post I will share how customer voice research helps identify needed shifts in how we train our sales organizations.

 

I can remember, growing up in Cleveland Ohio when the Circus came to town. There was such an excitement. Streets would be closed for parades and as children we would line the streets to see the clowns, tigers, and elephants. Our families would buy our tickets and we filled the big top. If we were really lucky, our parents would buy a ticket so we could sit on an elephant. Even as a child I felt sorry for the elephants, they seemed to have a sad, almost surrendered look in their eyes. They looked more like their spirits have been broken than trained.

 

2017 is the end of the greatest show on earth. Why? I was not alone all these years feeling sorry for these magnificent elephants and other animals. Animal rights groups investigated how elephants were treated and trained. Elephants are first given a large tight chain around one of their ankles and the other end of the chain is staked into the ground a specific distance away. The elephant quickly learns the length of its chain. If the elephant tries to wander beyond its training limits it experiences pain. Over time the elephant surrenders and the chain is removed and a much smaller rope is used. However the elephants, now “ trained “ do not try to explore. They are set in their ways. Even with the chain removed they do not step outside of their understood paradigm. Consumers learned about training conditions and ticket sales decreased . The Circus announced it would no longer have elephants in its show by 2018. However they adjusted too late. The greatest show on earth is over.

 

At a recent Toastmasters meeting I heard this story about elephant training and it reminded me of how some sales teams have been trained over the years. Before the “Internet of things” we often chained our sales teams to features and benefits. Our training was 90%-75% technical and maybe 10%-25% communications and relational. I was trained in this time and it made sense back then. Buyers did not have easy access to your product specifications. If a buyer wanted and needed technical information about a product or service sales was the keeper of the information keys so to speak. There was no Google searches, Smart phones, …heck we did not have laptops or cell phones when I was trained to sell. Back then we were trained in 2-3 day long death by power point presentations and given 3” thick three ring binders with copies of all the slides and more product data sheets than we could ever want or need. We were taught to sell using features and benefits, and “overcome objections”.

 

In a post some time agoI shared the leading reason why sales stall or decline is a shift, a change occurred and the team failed to recognize it and failed to adapt and pivot. I see customer voice research work helping us to adapt how we train our sales teams for markets of today. What buyers want and need has changed. In most industries buyers have instant access to technical data now.

 

I want to emphasize salespeople who are our serving their customers and meeting with potential new customers must still understand the technical information and be able to accesses it quickly to give their buyers amazing service and win more business. I believe buyers are telling us through voice of the customer work their needs have changed and sales training must adapt to those changes. Your type of product and industry requirements will dictate how much your training will need to adapt to your buyers of today.

 

How should sales training evolve today?

 

In an excellent article by Bob Apollo the author shares …

 

 

 

“It’s a sad fact that today’s average B2B sales person is still far more comfortable talking about their products than they are discussing business issues. However the average B2B buyer regards a sales person’s relevant business knowledge as being far more valuable than their ability to regurgitate product features, functions and benefits

Even more telling the author explains ….

87% of the revenues in complex B2B sales environments are being generated by just 13% of the sales population. Needless to say, the gap between the best and the rest is far narrower in best-in-class sales organizations. What sets these top performing organizations apart?

There’s abundant evidence to suggest that one of the most significant differences lies in their ability to systematically create unique value to their customers through the disciplined application of value-based selling techniques

Buyers today no longer want (not that they ever really did) salespeople trained in overcoming objections. Buyer’s today value a salesperson that understands their industry and possible challenges the buyers company may be facing and offers value based solutions to those problems.

Why are many teams adapting Value based selling?

Jim Heffernan shares in his article: Why Value Based Selling Is So Successful ……

Good value-based sales techniques are tailored to the needs of the customer, making them understand why they are buying a quality product for the asking price. Value selling resolves potential customer issues with pricing and prevents the stalling of important deals and the wasting of precious employee man-hours.”

Market leading organizations listen to their buyers and are adapting. I see companies allocating 50% of training to technical product training and 50% to value based selling, understanding buyer personas, commutation skills. presentation skills and other sales methods like the challenger model. Studies show companies who have a complex sales environment experience 4.5 times greater performance when applying the challenger model. Teams are adapting based on their type of product, market and what their buyers are requiring in terms of much needed criteria to help them make buying decisions today. Market leading sales teams are no longer chained to training methods that fail to serve how buyers buy and what buyers need to buy today. They have a balance of technical, relational and strategic sales and communication training. As markets change, and they will, salespeople are encouraged to venture beyond their current skill levels and explore and learn new skills and adpat to better serve their customers.

Just as markets shift how our buyers shift. Therefore how we train our sales teams must also adapt to give our buyers the best overall buying experience and equip our teams with a strategic advantage to help them win more business. For example Richard Branson shares just how important communication is and how story telling is a powerful communication strategy. Warren Buffet recently shared how if we want to double our value we need to improve our communication skills. John Millen shared in an article ….

“Buffett believes so strongly in the importance of leaders being effective communicators that he offered his own return-on-investment estimate for effective communication.”

There are many benefits of listening to your customers and capturing and leveraging customer voice. One big benefit this current understanding provides is how we train and equip our sales teams to serve their customers.

We must also capture the voice of our internal salespeople and leverage that information into new sales training and tools. We need to ask and understand what our salespeople are facing and develop tools and training to serve them.

 

What do your buyers value today?

 

How do your buyers want to be served today?

 

What % of your sales training today is technical verse value based sales techniques?

 

Does your sales training today include communication training?

 

Could how your salespeople are trained to communicate with buyers become your value proposition?

 

Conduct internal and external customer voice research and adapt your sales training to how your buyers want and need to buy today and enjoy profitable sales growth. Sales today are no longer about being the greatest “show” on earth and have evolved into the greatest “value” on earth. Sales today is about serving your customers and helping them buy. Our training must help our salespeople build trust early and often in the sales process.

We must adjust how we train our teams.

 

What if the Circus was listening to their buyers voice sooner and learned new ways to train their elephants?

 

Would they be going out of business today?

 

My guess is no.

 

What new sales training is your team adding today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Identify Purchase Influencers With VOC

Identify Purchase Influencers with VOC

 

 

One of the leading reasons why sales do not grow as planned is something changed and your team did not adapt. Your salespeople are selling like they have been trained and coached to sell but it is no longer effective. Companies who identify change(s) and more importantly adapt to changes hit their numbers. Understanding the voice of your customer today empowers your team with current buyer information. In this post I will share how the voice of your customer helps your team identify buying influencers.

In my last post I shared how understanding the voice of your customers helps your team create content your buyers need when they buy. Companies who clearly understand what buyers must have to make a purchase today create new content that is used on their web sites and in sales tools to help move buyers through the sales funnel to a closed sale.

Understanding the voice of your customer also helps teams identify people who influence a purchase decision today.

What is an Influencer?

The influencer-marketing manifesto by Brian Solis shares:

Influence is the ability to cause effect or change behavior. Influence is not the act of trying to influence. Nor is an influencer someone who simply has a lot of followers. It should be very clear. Someone who influences does so because they have the capacity to have effect on something…”

What do companies who focus on influencer marketing have to say?

81% of marketers who have executed Influencer Marketing campaigns agree that influencer engagement is effective

65% of brands have plans to spend more on Influencer Marketing this year vs. last

Ad weeks shared an article that Influencer marketing is the next big thing in marketing. The article went on to share …

“There are few things that drive a sale more effectively than a warm word-of-mouth recommendation. A study by McKinsey found that “marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.” And of those that were acquired through word-of-mouth had a 37 percent higher retention rate.

Influencer marketing presents a glaring opportunity for brands to leverage the power of word-of-mouth at scale through personalities that consumers already follow and admire.”

I was asked to help a company that manufactured wheelchair accessible vehicles grow their sales. We spent a considerable amount of time out in the market speaking with consumers in wheelchairs to understand..

Why they buy?

Why they don’t buy?

What is their buying process?

What are the key criteria they must have to buy?

Who are the leading influencers in your purchase?

We discovered for consumers who recently started using a wheelchair because of a medical condition and or an accident their influencers included certified driving instructors, association groups like the MDA, MS Society, Veterans Association , personal injury attorneys and many more. However one key influencer they all shared was their rehabilitation therapist. As one consumer shared with me…

“When I need something or face a new challenge I turn to my rehabilitation therapist who taught me how to get dressed or take a bath again…”

We developed and initiated an influencer-training program where our regional mangers would conduct in service trainings at rehabilitation clinics and educate one of our top buying influencers about our vehicles. We shared how they worked, the right vehicle based on the five most common buyer personas and provided education and information. We connected training and education with these influencers with our local mobility dealers. Our local mobility dealers did a great job of building a relationship with therapists and were on call to answer any questions they may have.

 

The key to influencer marketing is education or as I share in my next book: “Serve don’t sell”. The quickest way to shut down an influencer is if you start selling.

 

Your mission is to provide much needed information and education the influencer can share. If you have created new content as I recommended in my last post you can leave that content with your influencers and or show them where they can find it so they can share it.

 

What our dealers experienced over time was consumers coming into their dealerships already sold so to speak. Their leading influencers shared our dealer who they had a relationship of trust with. The therapists shared content specific to what consumers needed to make a buying decision.

 

Understanding the voice of your customers identifies leading buying influencers in the purchase process.

 

Who are the leading influencers for your buyers?

 

Does your team strategically educate and share content with influencers?

 

Does your team understand the voice of your customers today?

 

Influencers play I critical role in the purchase decision today. As markets shift and change, influencers also change.

 

Make it a key initiative for your team to understand the voice of your customers today and whom they turn to as purchase influencers.

Customer Voice Research Identifies Content Buyers Need Today

Customer Voice Research Identifies Content Buyers Need Today

 

 

 

Companies who understand the current voice of their customers and markets outperform teams who keep selling the way we have always sold. Customer voice research helps your team identify shifts in how buyers buy today and the criteria they must have to make a buying decision.

 

In my last post I shared how understanding the current customer voice helps sales teams spend more time selling and less time searching for and creating content.

 

Capturing the current voice of your customers has many benefits as I shared in a guest post recently.

 

  • Increased sales
  • Increased Profits
  • Increase in market share
  • Improved sales close rate %’s
  • Identify new product needs
  • Improved operational efficiencies
  • Increase in current customer sales
  • Increase in new customer sales
  • Strong overall buying experience for your customers

 

What about benefits to your buyers?

 

How can understanding the voice of your customers and voice of your markets help your buyers?

 

In a recent article by Sales Benchmark Index they shared how buyers only have so much time to search for information. The article shares how one company uses content to help buyers solve problems.

 

For content marketing to generate revenue you must know exactly what your customers need, where they need it, how often they need it, and in what form they need to consume it. Miss any of these items and your content marketing efforts will fail to contribute to revenue growth in any meaningful way.”

  • Steve Keifer/Leaseaccelerator

 

If your team clearly understands why your buyers buy, why they don’t buy and the criteria they need to buy it puts you far ahead of your competitors to capture buyer mind share.

 

With as much as 57%-70% of the buying process occurring before a buyer speaks with a salesperson, market leading teams take the time to understand what their buyers need to buy today. Teams create content based on the feedback received from customer voice research. They update their sales tools and web site to include the content your buyers are searching for.

 

What content is your buyer actively searching for today to make a buying decision?

 

What criteria does your buyers need today?

 

Does your website provide content your buyers are searching for?

 

Who will buyers perceive as a market leader…someone with the perfect content they must have today, or a company that is not even found in their online research?

 

Capturing the voice of your customers today helps you understand how your buyer buys. In that buying journey it often includes research for meaningful content they must have to make a buying decision. When buyers find that content on your web site it starts to build trust with them.

 

Spend time understanding the voice of your customers and develop content that helps them buy.

 

Give Salespeople More Time To Sell With Voice Of The Customer Research

Give Salespeople More Time to Sell With Voice of The Customer Research

In my recent post I shared that capturing the current voice of your customers has many benefits as listed below. One of those benefits is improved sales efficiency. In this post I will share how understanding the current voice of your customers reduces non-selling time for your salespeople and gives them more time to sell.

Capturing the current voice of your customers has many benefits as I shared in a guest post recently.

  • Increased sales
  • Increased Profits
  • Increase in market share
  • Improved sales close rate %’s
  • Identify new product needs
  • Improved operational efficiencies
  • Increase in current customer sales
  • Increase in new customer sales
  • Strong overall buying experience for your customers

One side benefit I failed to share is customer voice work reduces non-selling activity for your salespeople freeing more time to do what you pay them to do…sell.

With the various Internet tools and social networks there is no excuse for a salesperson not to be prepared for a sales call with a current or potential new customer, and your salespeople know this.

When you study what salespeople do with their time as I do, I would argue all of the social networks and Internet search capabilities actually hinders their sales performance. It’s human nature to feel overwhelmed when we have too many options. In my experience salespeople are spending way too much time searching for information your company should already have.

In a recent report the authors shared the average salesperson spends approximately 30% of their time selling today. I have helped teams where I observed sales was spending less than 15% of their time in what would consider sales activity so I guess this report did not surprise me…but it was still disturbing.

What was the next time allocation? The next one surprised me in a way and confirmed my fears at the same time.

Salespeople today spend 30% of their time search for and or creating content to help them sell. (As much time as they spend selling)

Is that really how you want your sales teams spending time? …Yah, I didn’t think so.

I am a huge believer in sales having prep time before making a sales call. As leaders I see this as an opportunity to serve our salespeople and help them become more effective and efficient.

My what if questions are …

What if you had a repeatable sales process that mirrored the buyer journey your buyers take today?

What if your company had a content library, a library of tools, your sales teams knew how to find, and you trained them when and where to use those tools based on your customer voice research?

What if you clearly understood common problems your customers and prospects like your customers had today?

What impact would it have on your sales if your salespeople spent 15%-25% more time selling?

When my family moved back to Ohio from Arizona (yes on purpose) we found a beautiful older home built back the 1970’s. It has as the TV shows say “great curb appeal” but the inside was dated. Back in the 1970’s dark oak wood must have been the main design feature. Over the past couple of years we have been slowly bringing the interior of our home up to date. We took our dark oak kitchen and painted it white. We painted all the woodwork white.

I saved the painting jobs that take a lot of time for last like our stairway spindles. Anyone who has done painting will tell you just like sales the most important part of painting is prepping the area to be painted.

I had put this stairway off too long so imagine my surprise when I returned home from meetings to find my wife prepped the stairway as the picture above illustrates. A project that probably would have taken me 4-5 hours I now completed in two hours!

This reminded me how market-leading team’s work as a team. Sales sells and marketing owns understanding the voice of the customer and how buyers buy today.

What if marketing did the sales prep work through voice of the customer research and created the needed sales tools for your team?

What if your research shared how your buyers buy today and the criteria they must have to buy?

What if your salespeople where trained in a repeatable sales processes that helped buyers buy?

When conducting voice of the customer research you want to answer the following questions:

Why do buyers buy from your company?

Why don’t buyers buy from your company?

What does the buying journey look like today?

What criteria must you buyers have today to make a purchase?

In addition you are listening for common roundabouts as I call them where a sale stalls and or spins away from you. Each roundabout is a place you need a new sales tool.

Once you have completed your customer voice work I highly recommend you adjust your repeatable sales process to mirror how your buyers want to buy.

Create a digital library of sales tools based on what buyers told you in your research.

Train your teams to use the new sales process and where to find the tools quickly.

Monitor and coach salespeople to insure the new sales process and tools stick.

Salespeople will still need to do some research and prep prior to the sales call but you will increase selling time between 15%-25%.

What would your sales results look like if your team spent 45%-55% of their time selling?

What Is The Biggest Threat To Customer Voice Research? (It May Surprise You!)

What is The Biggest Threat to Customer Voice Research? (It may surprise you!)

 

 

In my previous posts I have been sharing the power of capturing and leveraging the voice of your customers. When we understand how our customers buy, what they need to make buying decisions and what they value we can equip our sales teams to win. I was recently asked: “ is there ever an instance when capturing customer voice does not help sales and profits? “ Yes. In this post I will share the biggest threat to leveraging customer voice research to drive sales and profits.

 

To review, I have studied why companies win and why up to 80% of sales teams fail to achieve their sales numbers. The most common reason is a dated value proposition and sales process. Their markets and buyers have experienced a change and sales failed to adapt their go to market plan because they failed to identify the shift.

 

The good news is companies who understand the power of leveraging the current voice of their customers thrive!

 

They experience …

 

  • Sales growth over 30% year over year
  • Higher than industry standard profits
  • Increased market share
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Improved customer retention
  • Discover and design more new products and services
  • Improved sales quote to close %
  • Reduced costs
  • Improved operational efficiencies

 

Based on the above why wouldn’t your team want to capture the voice of your customers?

 

After my last post I received a phone call. It went something like this…

 

I have been following your content for a few months and I want to ask you something about this customer voice topic.

 

Sure, how can I help?

 

Isn’t this what my sales guys are supposed to understand and adjust to?

 

No, I would argue really talented salespeople who serve teams that may lack a strong marketing competence might identify and adjust to buying changes. However in my experience we do not want sales out doing surveys and interviews, we want them out selling. I would recommend a senior manager on your team, like a VP of Sales and Marketing, or a marketing manager own capturing customer voice.

 

This kind of feels old school, too easy a strategy to add much value, thoughts?

 

Understanding your buyers, the buying journey they take and what they need to make buying decisions today is old school. It is how I was taught to sell back in 1983. The trouble we have today is the speed of change we are experiencing. Think about how the recent election is changing how some may view their business. Or another interesting statistic that today more Internet searches are done from a smart phone than a desktop. Just imagine the poor companies who have awesome web sites but they are invisible on a smart phone? If capturing the voice of your customer’s sounds too simple, it is because it is. The difficulty often occurs in getting buyers to open up and share beyond the surface. The good news is there are ways to: understand and capture why buyers buy, why they don’t and what they need to buy.

 

Is there ever an instance you have gathered the voice of the customer information and it did not increase sales and profits?

 

Yes, I have been doing this for over 30 years now and there was one instance where gathering the voice of the customer and voice of the market did not work.

 

Why didn’t it work?

 

Confirmation Bias!

 

What is confirmation bias and how can we avoid it?

  

The definition of confirmation bias is: the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.

 

Or put another way…

 

“While we like to imagine that our beliefs are rational, logical, and objective, the fact is that our ideas are often based on paying attention to the information that upholds our ideas and ignoring the information that challenges our existing beliefs.”

Verywell

 

Wikipedia describes it as …

 

The tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.[1] … The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations).

 

Years ago I was asked to help a 40 year old company in the irrigation industry increase their sales and profits. I was introduced to them through their new Private Equity investor in Arizona. A key part of the no smoke and mirrors process (as I call it) is to meet with buyers and understand..

 

Why do they buy?

 

What process do they use, what is their buying journey?

 

What criteria must they have today to make buying decisions?

 

Why don’t they buy from your company?

 

I met with this companies’ top accounts that represented 80% of their current sales. I met with three very large accounts they recently presented and lost. I also met with 5 accounts that were once very large accounts but sales have dropped 50% or more in the last 24 months. I ask the same open-ended questions to get the buyers talking. Two of my favorite questions for example are:

 

If you were the president of our company and wanted to grow sales with your company what would you do?

 

What do our competitors do very well for you?

 

I use between 12 and 20 questions depending on how much the buyer is opening up. If a buyer shares something that is an interruption I often ask for more information. I usually ask 2-3 industry specific questions that help the buyer feel comfortable and that I understand the market and some possible challenges they may be facing.

 

After meetings I write a customer voice market summary report and present it to the senior executives with strategic recommendations. If they agree that the report captures current customer perceptions, I propose new sales tools for common areas where sales stall, and a new sales process based on how buyers are buying.

 

I was asked to help a company on the west coast in the irrigation business. The good news in this client meeting was the senior executives and family members listened and took notes. The bad new was one senior leader’s reaction demonstrated he did not believe what his customers were saying…

 

I knew it; our salespeople have been doing a terrible job of selling value. (this was in response to identifying three competitors had invested in new technology that provided products faster and at a lower cost due. My client was the only one with this capability 10 years ago but the competitive landscape changed)

 

If a customer does not value all we do, we should not have them as a customer. (one common comment from their once top customers but are now down 50% or more was they needed to purchase products in much smaller order sizes because they switched to a just in time ordering process. Their competitors have adjusted and this company had not)

 

Our lagging indicators demonstrate that one point about on time shipment is simply not true. (my client did an excellent job of measuring things that matter and one were on time shipments. What I found was sales was still promising a delivery that was ½ the time their 3 plants could execute. The plants received the orders, shared a ship date with the buyers, and the buyers were aggravated the date was twice as long as what sales promised. This was not an operational issue but a sales training opportunity)

 

We are the only one in this industry who ————, and I do not believe our competitors now also has our capabilities. (a big part of why this client realized very strong gross margins was they were the exclusive supplier of a specific product type and the priced it based on this exclusive position( great strategy!). Before the Internet their customers used local regional suppliers. Their salespeople led with that exclusive supplier value proposition with current and targeted new clients. However two other competitors now have that capability  Buyers were now doing Google searches and finding these new suppliers)

 

One of your recommendations is we update our web site; I think our site is just fine; We are in a relationship business and not many of our accounts are actually using it. (a big part of customer voice work is understanding how buyers shop today. What consistently came out of my interviews was buyers searched the web first and the buyers even shared the key words they used when searching. This clients’ web site was not being found with the key words shared)

 

What was happening here?

 

Confirmation Bias!

 

This senior leader dismissed the new current data that was not in alignment with his thoughts that he has repeated over and over again to himself that became beliefs over his 22 years with this company.

 

Was he just feeling insecure or threatened? Honestly I thought I was dealing with an emotional intelligence issue.

 

The reality is what he was experiencing we all do to some degree with every judgment we make. Heck, I do it all the time so I needed to give him some grace. In his case there was, like many business leaders, a very strong emotional connection to the strategy of this business that he helped write 15 years ago. That strategy was strong, it worked for years and that is why he was promoted to senior management.

 

Psychology today does a much better job of explaining what is happening…

When people would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views (prejudices) one would like to be true.

 

I read a number of reports about confirmation bias. I read articles about leading scientist even unconsciously design experiments to have a result that confirms their hypothesis.

 

How do we prevent this problem from occurring?

 

How do we avoid confirmation bias from hurting our ability to be agile, to pivot and adjust to changes in our markets?

 

  1. Consciously look for information that feels like and interruption.
  2. Remove your ego.
  3. Discuss findings with a diverse group of people
  4. Allow contrary thought.
  5. Avoid anchoring; feeling like you have to make a quick decision hurts your brains ability to hear new contrary information. (Great article on this called ladder of influence)

 

How about your company?

 

Would your culture and leaders value new current market data based on the voice of your buyers perceptions today?

 

Has someone recently shared market information and that person was viewed as not being loyal or a heretic?

 

Could confirmation bias be negatively impacting your team’s sales and profits today?

 

The best and quickest method to increase a companies’ sales and profits is to understand how their buyers are buying today, and what they must have to make buying decisions today. Once you capture the voice of your customers today you can leverage that information by adapting your sales process, adding new sales tools and adjusting how you serve your customers.

 

The biggest threat to customer voice research is confirmation bias, what out gut tells us based on the past. It is based on data that was probably true at some time, but is not relevant in your market today. It could be based on a leaders desire for the way they want things to work based on their known constraints. Or how things used to be when times were good.

 

To be a market leading organization we must listen to the perceptions of our customers and adapt.

 

By the way…

 

Not everything customers share in customer voice research is negative. Sometimes they share they no longer value services that cause your team operational inefficiency problems and once eliminated, improve your operational efficiency and reduce your cost to manufacture. Customer voice is a key part of lean six sigma. And if your team is implementing LEAN you will need to understand your customers.

 

As the leader of your team be intentional in capturing the voice of your customers and look for interruptions in the data and adapt.

 

 

 

Improve Sales Productivity With Voice Of The Customer Research

Improve Sales Productivity With Voice of the Customer Research

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What is your buyers buying process today?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What are my salespeople doing most of the time?

 

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

 

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

 

That’s a broken unproductive sales model.

 

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

 

62% said they plan to increase head count.

 

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

 

*30% of the time selling as they have been

+

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What percent of the time are your salespeople selling today?

 

How does your team measure sales productivity?

 

Do you track team and individual close rates for example?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

I would appreciate your feedback…

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Voice Of Customer: Understanding The Entire Iceberg Of Purchase Decisions Today

Voice of Customer: Understanding the Entire Iceberg of Purchase Decisions Today

 

 

 

 

Understanding the current voice of your customers and markets is critical to winning sales. Companies who take the time to capture the voice of their customers understand how buyers buy, what they need to buy, and the criteria they use to make buying decisions and leverage that information close more sales . In this post I will share how the voice of your customer insures your sales proposals resonate with buyers and close sales quicker.

 

Why do buyers buyer from your team?

 

Why don’t buyers buy from your team?

 

If you can answer the above questions accurately you are well on your way to designing a sales and marketing plan to hit your number this year.

 

When I ask this question I usually get a very quick answer on why buyers don’t buy. As much as senior leaders want their sales teams selling value, I often hear “price” is why buyers don’t buy. I often hear many reasons why buyers do buy, and it usually accompanies stories of how they have won over the years. It is very rare however that I hear what I am looking for :why buyers buy and don’t buy today.

 

Think about all the changes we have seen in the last 15-10-5 years. We serve rapidly changing markets and it should not surprise any of us that market leadership positions change about every 10 years or so. Why?

 

“New market leaders emerge after identifying shifts in the buying process, buyer problems and or criteria and leveraging those changes.”

-Mark Allen Roberts

 

When sales says they lost a sale due to “price” or that buyers buy based on “price” this is what I hear…

 

  • You do not understand the value of your product or service to your buyer
  • You lack a strong current value proposition, or the one sales is using is dated
  • You do not clearly and completely understand the problem the buyer is seeking to solve
  • You do not completely understand how the buyer buyers and what they need to buy
  • Because you have not taken the effort to understand your buyer and their business, you have not earned the right to know all the buyer needs to buy today.

 

Earn the right to know?

Yes!

There was an excellent article recently in Brand Quarterly by Dave Tovey titled: Did Price Really Lose the Sale?

In this article Tovey shares that:

“Price is often blamed when we got something else wrong.”

Sales people are trained to sell; I think we can all agree on this. Salespeople have a very high utilitarian trait. If I do this …I get this reward quickly. That is why salespeople should not own the voice of your customer. ( but many leaders think they do) The voice of your customer, voice of your market work does not produce immediate reward. That is why salespeople should not own this information. It is their nature to sell, and buyers will feel their probing , open ended questions as a manipulation, a trick to win a sale and trust is broken. Marketing and or a senior executive in the organization must own deeply understanding the voice of your customer and markets no salespeople. Having been the VP of Sales and Marketing for a number of organizations I made it my job to own this information while my sales teams executed their sales development plans.

The author does an excellent job of describing what its like to meet with a new buyer. New buyers often act like Ernest Hemingway used to write…with the iceberg principle or often referred to as the theory of omission. Basically, they share just surface information and do not share the whole story until they trust you. What I like about the iceberg analogy is it’s not the 10% of the iceberg that you see that will sink your ship. (Your sale) It is the other 90% you do not see, or do not know. Most sales are lost because the buyer did not trust you completely understood the problem and therefore did not trust your proposal.

The author leaves us with this: 

You earn the right to hear more than a client’s story of omission when:

  • You ask insightful questions
  • You listen for understanding
  • You avoid manipulation
  • You behaviors are congruent with your marketing messages
  • You are authentic; selling ethically and with integrity.
  • You are human – remembering that buying is rationalized emotion.

The voice of the customer, voice of the market follows the above.

Market leading teams take the time to understand the voice of their customers and markets…that other 90% of the purchase iceberg. They know how buyers buy, what they need to buy and the criteria they must have to buy today. They are constantly scanning the horizon and sensing for shifts in how buyers buy and the problems they are trying to solve today.

Why do buyers buy from you?

Why don’t buyers buy from you?

What do your buyers need to buy today?

What does the buying journey look like today for your buyers?

Who else is involved in the buying decision today? What do they need?

What new problems are your buyers searching to solve today?

 

When your team understands the voice of your buyers and voice of your markets you know the answers to the above. Understanding this information you will train your sales teams to serve your buyers with exactly what they must have to solve the problems they may not share with everyone. Your sales proposals stand out in a sea of RFP’s because they speak to real needs your buyers must have.( and that they failed to share with competitors who only scratched the surface) When your competition is just scratching the surface with price your team will be providing a complete solution your buyers must have.

Stop blaming price for why your teams fail to win the sale and understand all buyers need today and you will find price is not even high on the list.

When you understand the voice of your customer today and the entire buying iceberg, you will equip your sales teams with the big picture and they will build trust much faster with buyers because they will demonstrate they understand them. While competitors are scratching the surface and awkwardly trying to build trust, your sales team will be discussing meaningful solutions.

 

 

 

Voice Of Customer Finds “Sales Secret Weapons”

Voice of Customer Finds “Sales Secret Weapons”

 

 

 

In my last series of posts I have been sharing how powerful capturing the voice of your customers (VoC) and voice of your market ( VoM) is in growing your business profitably. In this post I will share how to leverage customer voice into a “sales secret weapon“.

 

In my last post I shared how critical it is to understand the criteria your buyers use today as well as how those criteria rank in order of importance. You may be providing services and features that cost you margins that your customers no longer value. Or, you may be leading with a dated value proposition and not sharing the most important buying criteria your buyers are shopping for today and losing sales you could have won.

 

First we need to meet with our customers and prospects and understand how they shop, the buying journey they take, as well as the key criteria they must have to make a purchase. With out this information your sales team is playing what I refer to as: “feature and benefit BINGO”. They are calling out features and benefits in hoping the buyers jump up and say… yes, I need that one…BINGO! In this sales model you are relying on your buyers to figure out the problems you solve, or could solve for them. In todays market you must intentionally share the problems you solve for your customers.

 

Sales teams who have been trained to understand how buyers buy, what they need to buy, and are equipped with the right sales tool for each twist and turn in the buyer journey win sales.

 

I read an interesting article in Adweek this week concerning how sports teams use various give away items to increase ticket sales as well as encourage fans to arrive earlier to the ballpark. Fans who arrive early spend more money; it’s as simple as that.

 

What does ballpark giveaways have to do with your business?

 

Great Question!

 

Please answer the following questions:

 

What buying criteria must your buyers have today to buy?

 

What is the order of importance for these criteria?

 

How does your overall service offering compare to what buyers want and need today?

 

Some common giveaways I see companies offering include:

 

  • Time of shipment
  • Service level
  • Free freight or FOB freight
  • Payment terms
  • Packaging specifications
  • Quality specifications
  • Added value engineering
  • Marketing tools
  • On line order entry/ EDI
  • Customer sales force training
  • Technical support
  • Material recommendations
  • Discounted material costs based on your total buying power
  • Returnable freight packaging
  • Quality guarantees
  • Out going product inspection
  • Product testing

 

The list can go on and on based on your specific industry.

 

Based on your industry you have heard a number of requirements from buyers. Obviously the job of a buyer is to ask for as much as they can receive for the lowest price. The trouble occurs when your salespeople do not understand how they key buying criteria rank in order of importance for your buyers.

 

Market leading sales teams are trained to ask.

 

What I have observed more often than not is sales teams spill their candy in the lobby. They “show up and throw up” until the buyer agrees to buy. It is not your sales team’s fault. They are trying to use the tools they were given. My challenge is what if you could have sold the buyer with the ability to execute three key buying criteria and not all 12-15 your salesperson listed? If this occurs your team is incurring costs and performing features, benefits and services that are costing your team margins and are not of key value in the buying decision today.

 

For example I mentioned the recent AdWeek article. In this article it shares how major league baseball teams have taken the time to understand the voice of their customers, the fans, and in doing so identified a direct sales increase on the game nights they give away bobble heads. Bobble heads produce more results than any other giveaway.

 

Major league teams have given away all kinds of things (just like your business may be doing now) in the hopes of increasing ticket sales and getting consumers to arrive at the ballpark earlier. Things like tote bags, T-shirts, baseballs, baseball cards, towels and bobble heads.

 

When fans arrive earlier, they spend more money. It’s as simple as that.

 

The article shared the following:

 

  • Bobble head giveaways increase ticket sales 15%-30%
  • The Cubs realized a 71% increase in fans arriving more than an hour before the game

 

What I like about this information is it is simple, quantifiable and easy to execute.

 

What impact could your sales and profits see if you identified your one to three top “bobble heads” secret sales weapons your buyers need to buy today?

 

Do you agree how powerful this information would be to increase sales and profits?

 

With this kind of focus do you feel your team could execute in delivery? (I bet they can)

 

The trouble with most businesses today is they are providing a laundry list of features, benefits and services and are often not sure the top one or two that truly drives sales behavior. So what do most teams do? …. They offer them all. Just like giving away tote bags and baseballs fail to move ticket sales dials, your team may ( more than likely is)  giving things away that buyers do not value today, or do not value as much as they did in prior years.

 

How can your team know what buyers value today?

 

Capture and leverage voice of the customer and voice of the market.

 

How about your company….

 

Do you know the key buying criteria your buyers must have today?

 

What are all the features, benefits, and services your team is offering to win sales today?

 

What impact would just offering what buyers need today have on your operations efficiency?

 

What impact could knowing and ranking buying criteria have on your teams’ sales close rate and gross profit margin?

 

What additional profits could you realize by eliminating things no longer high on your buyer’s key criteria list?

 

What is your team’s one or two bobble heads that really drive sales growth?

 

I have helped companies increase sales and profits for over 30 years. I wish it was some crazy technical secret process but it really is not. If you take the time to understand your customers, capture their voice and leverage what you learn you will see what I refer to as explosive growth.

 

Why?

 

Simply put, most companies you are competing with have salespeople showing up and throwing up. They are verbally vomiting all kinds of promises to win the sale. Some are important, some are industry standard performance requirements, and some are no longer a value, and some are dated based on how we have always done things around here.

 

If you have not captured the voice of your buyers and market in the last 12 months I promise you …

  • Your sales process is broken
  • Your team is giving away things buyers no longer value
  • Your team is losing sales you could have and should have won

 

Once you capture the voice of your customers you can leverage that knowledge into a repeatable sales process  ,sales tools, and sales training that guides your sales team based on what your buyers value most today.

Customer voice helps you create your own repeatable sales process  GPS  for your sales team to close more sales profitably.

 

 

 

  • 1
  • 2