Is Your Team Using An Out Dated Sales Process?…answer A Few Short Questions To Find Out

Is Your Team Using an Out Dated Sales Process?…answer a few short questions to find out

 

 

Many sales teams will have a sales problem this year. They will fail to achieve their sales and profit goals. Is it a sales team motivation issue? Compensation issue? Sales is not working hard enough?…Maybe… but from what I have experienced in most cases sales teams are failing to hit their goals because they are using an out  dated sales process. They are working hard (probably harder and longer than ever before) to execute an out dated sales process that no longer works with how your buyers buy today.In this post I help business leaders quickly determine if they have a dated sales process so you have time to adjust.

 

Everyday salespeople are hitting the streets working hard to achieve their sales goals with the tools and training they were given. Some will hit their goals and have a great year but unfortunately most will not. For those who fail to achieve their sales targets they are often resorting to what I refer to as “Bare Knuckle Selling” . They don’t understand what their buyers want , what criteria buyers are using today, and they do not know the buyer’s buying process. They resort to old out dated sales processes and they will have sales problems this year too if things don’t change quickly. For your sales team members it feels like they are pushing mud uphill and not making any progress.They are doing what they were told to do, using the tools and training they were given but nothing seems to work.

 

In this post I offer 15 questions for business leaders to help you determine if your team is using a dated sales process and what to do if you need to update it.

 

Let’s agree the buying process our buyers’ use has changed significantly in the past 5-10 years and continues to adjust and evolve. If you believe your buyers have not changed how they buy, they are not needing new criteria and there are not more people involved in the buying decision, and your buyers are not doing research online before they buy…you are wrong.( sorry)  It is like your salespeople are playing darts blindfolded. Once in a while a dart may hit the target, but most of their attempts fail to achieve sales velocity. They resort to selling on price and we all know the impact that has on your margins.

 

Sales and marketing teams who recognize strategic shifts in the buying journey and adjust increase sales profitably.

 

Unfortunately most sales teams either lack a sales process or  they are executing an out  dated sales process and they will experience sales problems this year. The severity of the sales problem you will experience is directly related to how far your sales process is disconnected to how buyers are buying today. Luckily most companies just need to make a few minor tweaks to their sales process and build a few new sales tools. However some teams struggle needlessly each year and are selling like their company did 20 years ago.

 

A friend who owns a manufacturing business asked me out to dinner and shared the following :

 

“What keeps me up at night is wondering…will we have a good sales year this year? How can I be sure? As you know I am not a sales guy, my experience is in  in operations and finance. My team assures me this will be our “best year ever” but how can I know for sure? (They told me the same thing last year and we missed our financial metrics significantly). What bothers me most is ….are there any better ways, strategies our team should be using to insure we meet our plan this year? I wish sales was more logical like operations, more of a scienceOur top competitor grew last year and we did not. My gut says there has to be better and smarter ways are out there. Sales should not be so variable, so hit or miss. I can’t have another year with our investors where we find out third quarter our plan did not work.”

 

I asked a question:

 

When was the lat time you and your sales team reviewed your repeatable sales process?

 

If you are like most teams you either lack a formal repeatable sales process or the one you are using is out dated.

 

It sounds like the selling process your team is using feels more like an art than a science?

 

“How can I know if we have an out dated sales process?”

 

Answer a few questions for me…

 

  1. What events trigger your buyers to shop today? Please list at least two.

 

  1. Where do your buyers go when they are looking for a new supplier, new product to solve a problem?

 

  1. When buyers in your industry shop what criteria do they use to make their buying decisions? List and rank the top three.

 

  1. How many people at your ideal customers are involved in the buying decision today? List at least 4 and what each needs.

 

  1. What sales tools, process and or content did sales use to open your last three new accounts? List three.

 

  1. List at least 3 urgent buyer problems your product or service solves for buyers in your industry.

 

  1. What % of the buying journey is done online prior to your fist meeting with a new customer?

 

  1. Why do your current buyers buy from you?

 

  1. In the last 10 quotes that did not buy from you? What were the top three reasons?

 

  1. What is your product’s value proposition that resonates most with your buyers today? Explain the specific financial impact to their business.

 

  1. Who are your top three competitors? what are their value propositions?

 

  1. When buyers choose one of your competitors over your company what is the reason specific to each competitor? List two per competitor.

 

  1. When a new buyer contacts your company, how (what process) and where did they find your company?

 

  1. When a possible net new customer visits your website, where do they spend the most time and what content bought them to your site?

 

  1. Can you describe your top 4 buyer personas? What are they and what does each need to make a buying decision today?

 

We went through the questions and for many he assured me “someone” on his team knew the answers but I could tell he felt uneasy.He asked if I wouldn’t mind emailing these questions and he would ask them at his Monday senior leadership team meeting. I shared how I used to qualify and coach new clients with these questions to help me know where to help most.

 

He suggested I should share our conversation on my blog to help others who may be thinking and feeling the same way as him, which prompted this post.

 

Below are some guidelines for you to consider based on how your team answers these questions and what the probability is your will hit your sales goals this year.

 

If your sales and marketing teams could quickly and confidently answer 13-15 of the questions…congratulations! Your team is in the top 10% of sales and marketing teams. You know your markets and buyers intimately. You know your buyers’ key criteria and the buying journey they take to purchase products. The plan you have should be market focused and customer centric and you will, if your team executes the plan and uses your sales process and sales tools at the right time in the buying process, have a good sales year.

 

If your sales and marketing teams could quickly and confidently only answer 10-12 of the questions… your team is doing good and with some voice of the customer work and a few win-loss calls your team can be a top performing sales team in your industry. You need to do some research over the next 30-60 days and adjust your plan, sales process, create new sales tools and train your teams how and when to use them. You could still have a very strong sales and profit year.

 

If your sales and marketing teams could quickly and confidently only answer 7-9 of the questions… your team has been experiencing some sales and profit challenges over the past few years. You have seen your sales success be highly dependent upon the purchases from large customers your team has sold for 10+ years but you have not been successful at opening net new customers in your markets. You have seen your gross profit margins erode at your large accounts over the last 5 years and if you Google problems your company solves you may not be found in the first two pages of a search. If your customers have a good sales year your team should have an OK sales year, but your bottom line may see some continued erosion like the last few years. Your team will continue to work on operational efficiencies as in the past but they will not contribute as much this year. You have a outdated sales process and you need to update it quickly. You need to do voice of the customer research quickly and map the current buying journey your buyers go through and create a new sales process that mirrors what your buyers want and need today. If you do this quickly your team could have a good sales year.

 

 

If you and your sales and marketing teams could quickly and confidently only answer 6 or less of the questions… Your team will have a sales problem this year and will not hit sales plan and significantly miss your net income target. Sales are flat if not declining for the past few years. Your top sales and marketing leaders may have said when asked about the poor performance:“ our markets are down and we are waiting for the business to return to normal again.” I am sorry to be the one to tell you this is the new normal and you must adjust, you and your team must adapt and quick. Like a ship at sea with a strong wind but no rudder to strategically steer your sales and marketing teams, sales feels more like an art than a science. Your senior leaders meetings are not fun and your company owners and or investors are looking to make changes if the performance does not improve. You will miss plan this year and you will likely see some of your key sales team contributors “just leave” to the surprise of the rest of your team. You will see at least one maybe two of your top customers fade away in the next 12-18 months. You need to quickly do voice of the customer market work, win-loss work and develop a new strategy and new sales process with the right tools at the right times for your buyers or you will have a big sales problem.(again)

 

I was happy to hear in a voice mail message my friend’s team could answer 11 of the above questions. He went on to share what bothered him though was how long it took some of his team to answer these questions.I shared if your team needs hours/days/weeks to answer these questions, they are probably tracking dated performance indicators and not the right KPI’s that drive success today and he may want to adjust what they report on each Monday.

 

How would your team answer the above questions?

 

Are the answers based on current market conditions or “ the way we have always done things around here”?

 

Can your sales and marketing leaders quickly answer these questions or do they need to do some homework?

 

I hope this post helped you do a gut check with your sales and marketing teams to see just how much they know about your markets, buyers, and the buying process your buyers are using today.

 

In my next post I will share how market-leading teams are constantly sensing for shifts in how their buyers buy and the criteria they use to buy, and they adapt.

 

One strategy market leading organizations are using to adapt, align and improve their sales is Sales Enablement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 The Customer” Increases Profits…Lesson From A Christmas Ham

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

 

 

 

There is strong power market leaders leverage in understanding the current voice of the customer and voice of the market. As markets change the key buying criteria may change and or change its priority in the buying decision making process. In this post I will share how understanding the voice of your customer and market will help your team better understand and prioritize key buying criteria and how this will result in increased sales and profits.

 

I heard a fun story a few years ago. It seems this couple recently got married, bought a home and wanted to have everyone over for Christmas dinner at their new place. So they went out and bought a huge ham and all the fixings.

The guests arrived and everyone was seated around the dining room table for the holiday feast. Much to the husband’s surprise the wife brought out two Christmas hams, or to be more specific she had cut the ham they bought in half. As the dinner went on the husband had to ask: honey, why did you cut the ham in half then cook it? She quickly replied well that’s how my mom always cooked it, Her mother chimed in, yes and that’s how grandma always cooked it. Grandma smiled and said: I had to cut the ham in half because our oven was so small, but with that huge oven of yours there is no need…

 

When I work with teams it is not unusual to find “Christmas hams” being cut in half when they no longer need to be.

 

Does your team clearly understand the buying criteria your buyers must have today to make a buying decision?

 

Of the criteria buyers are asking for, do you know the most import to least important?

 

Sales teams often make the mistake of assuming they know, based on how buyers have always bought.

 

If that is the case in your company, one of two things is happening;

 

  • Sales leads with a dated value proposition and the buyer does not buy

 

  • The buyer buys and the rest of the team scrambles to execute on something that is no longer a key criteria costing your team frustration and margins.

 

I was asked by a private equity group to help one of the companies in their portfolio struggling with both sales and profitability.

The first step in my business development process is establishing market truth. So I joined this companies’ salespeople on four legged sales calls with key customers. For the most part I was pleased the customers were happy with the products’ performance and (being the new guy) I asked a lot of questions.

 

One common sales approach all their salespeople were using was promising two week delivery. In this market the competitors typically delivered orders in 8-10 weeks but the company I was helping was offering two weeks. So I had to ask the buyers:

 

When you decide what vendor to order from, how do you make that decision? Or put another way…what is important when you pick a supplier?

 

I heard things like;

 

Quality Products

Good service

Do what they say they will do

Ship products on time

Reports from our engineers the product solved the problems I bought it for

Competitive price

Service after the sale

Warrantee policy

Payment terms

 

So I asked: if you had to rank the top three, how would that look?

 

 

#1 Reports from our engineers the product solved the problems I bought it for

 

#2 Do what they say they will do, I trust them

 

#3 Ship products on time so we can meet our commitments on time

 

What I kept hearing was: “ship on time” but not ship in two weeks.

 

So being the new guy in the room I had to ask:

 

How important is it that we ship our products in two weeks?

 

The buyers all consistently replied that it used to be really important 8-10 years ago when they lacked the buying planning systems that they have today. “Back then we were kind of ordering blind based on the past, however today our systems give us buyers a look into what production plans in the future and we order appropriately.”

 

How far out of a view are you able to see?

 

I can see as far into the future as I want, but I typically look 4-6 weeks out.

 

So if we shipped you product in 4-5 weeks you would be happy?

 

Yes, as long as it shipped and arrived on time.

 

We learned other things like new products our competitors were about to launch, problems our competitors were having with one particular product line and so on. We learned the warehouse employees at a number of the OEM accounts did not like the pallets we were shipping on because they did not fit on the common rack designs.

 

After spending over 30 days on the road in front of customers we gathered how buyers were buying today and what they needed to buy today. We gathered very useful information calling on prospects about how they buy, the steps they go though and where and how they search. For example they shared the key words they used when searching for solutions like ours and none of them were on our web site.

 

I presented the findings of our (VoC) work to the private equity firm and the management team.

 

I had to ask: In each of the calls I went on, sales was promising two weeks delivery, but none of the customers were requiring that anymore? When did that start?

 

The previous owner identified our ability to ship quickly as how we could win business from the competitors and that is how we have done things for the last 12 years…. (a Christmas ham , cut in half!)

 

As you can image, operations and quality were thrilled to hear buyers no longer needed two-week delivery.

 

To execute two-week delivery this company had a large amount of inventory and whip in hand since most of their vendors for the electrical components required 6 weeks and the glass vendors were 8-10 weeks.

 

As we kept peeling this onion we discovered;

 

  • Over 40 % of orders required overtime at time and a half assembly labor
  • To meet two weeks we were expediting component parts from New Jersey and paying overnight freight charges
  • To make our deliveries in two weeks as promised we were paying for overnight delivery more often than anyone realized
  • Because we worked people overtime we saw a direct correlation to an increase in quality rejects during pre-shipment testing when our assembly workers worked overtime
  • Since we had to order and store the glass components, they were often damaged and thrown away from moving them around the plant
  • We had to buy a truckload of the pallets we were using and we paid a premium for them. It seems the original owner designed this unique configuration to maximize the number of master cartons we could ship per skid and then designed our bin rack system to accommodate them
  • We occupied a large warehouse with expensive rent based on our perceived need for so much inventory, and proximity to the previous owners home

 

As a team we ranked what our buyers valued most today, and we created a number of projects to better serve our customers while reducing costs (and often frustrations)

 

Over 12 months our quality failure occurrences dropped to almost zero and our on time vendor sore cards improved significantly at our two largest accounts. We moved to a much smaller warehouse and we started using standard pallets that fit our customers’ racks. Standard pallets were a much lower cost and we bought them just in time not tying up cash in slow moving pallet inventory. The result of our voice of the market work was sales increased by 125%, but profits increased over 20%.

 

When was the last time you captured the voice of your customers?

 

Could your team be cutting a Christmas ham in half for no reason today?

 

How would your buyers rank their buying criteria? Do you know?

 

Could your team be jumping through flaming hoops customers no longer value?

 

How excited would your owners and investors be to realize a 20% profit increase?

 

Capturing and leveraging the voice of your customer helps your team understand what is important to your buyers, how they buy, what they need to buy and how they shop…TODAY.

 

Sales teams that “assume” buyers are still buying like they have for 10-15-20 years are losing sales they could have won, and or losing margins they could have enjoyed.

 

Market leaders leverage voice of customer to increase sales and profits.

 

Why not understand the voice of your customers today and leverage that information to increase sales and profits?

 

I guess you can “assume” your team knows, but you know what they say assuming makes you and me…

 

 

 

 

 

Voice Of The Market Identifies Key Buying Triggers

Voice of the Market Identifies Key Buying Triggers

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What triggers your buyers to start the buying journey?

 

Does someone on your team Know?

 

How has your team used this information?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Fix Sales: Knowing Buyer’s Journey Is Like Creating A GPS For Your Sales Process

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

 

 

The quickest path to creating a repeatable sales process that drives sales growth is understanding the journey your buyers take today. How do your buyers buy? Why do they buy? Why don’t they buy? What do buyers in your market need to have to make a buying decision today? One we have answers to these questions we can create a repeatable sales process that drives profitable sales growth. A sales process that mirrors how your buyers want to buy becomes a GPS for your salespeople.

 

I was asked to speak at an event for business owners and leaders. I prefer interactive discussions so I asked the room what problems they would like to solve ? We wrote problems on the white board then consolidated the list.

 

What we agreed as the top three problems these business owners wanted to solve were:

  • Finding and hiring good talent
  • How do we get found on the internet
  • Making sales more predictable and efficient

 

We agreed I would share my advice for solving business problem #3: Making  sales more predictable and efficient because this is a topic I have experience solving. In this post I will share the advice for creating a powerful repeatable sales process that drives sales results.

I asked the business owners and leaders to share how this problem is seen and felt in their organizations

  • Financial results
  • Service experience
  • Overall buying experience
  • Turnover –customers and employees
  • Margin loss – in an effort to serve the customer we run overtime, we purchase expedited freight, our cost of inventory is too high
  • Sales decline
  • Morale decline – throughout the organization
  • Brand damage

 

This group was really sharing some great ideas and the above we agreed were the top 8 ways not having a market driven repeatable sales process hurts their business.

 

Next I asked what one thing could we do that would make this entire list go away? (This question came from one of my favorite books: The Power of One Thing)

 

The room grew very quiet.

 

So I asked a simple question:

 

How do I get to the airport after this meeting is over?

 

One gentleman started with directions: turn left out the parking lot, at the second light turns right. Stay on that road until it dead-ends and take a left, merge onto the highway and drive North for about 11 miles and look for the airport sign. Exit the highway on the left and follow the signs to the airport and car rental return.

 

A young lady said I would not send him that way, …and she proceeded to list a series of turns and it had me on the highway much sooner with less turns.

 

The last person first asked me a question: What time of day will you be driving? If it is between 4 pm and 6 pm you want to stay off the highway and proceeded to give me a very lengthy and complicated series of directions.

 

I then challenged the room: Why did you all assume I wanted directions from here?

 

I went on to share how this is the most common problem we have when trying to sell current customers as well as new customers…we assume where the buyer is starting from. After they challenged me that this was not fair we moved on.

 

I pointed to the maps I drew of each of the directions I was provided with all the turns and so on.

 

This one, the one with the least amount of turns and steps is what its like to sell a current customer. They already know you, your company, they have some level of trust and they have a logical series of steps they use to buy, and criteria they need to have to make a buying decision. As you can see it has many less steps and hard to get lost.

 

On the other end of the scale is the direction that did not have me using the highway. This had the most steps, turns and twists to get me to my final destination. This has the highest probability of me getting lost. This is what it is like selling a new customer who has never done business with your company before, never heard of your company before. You will have many steps the buyer will use to build trust. Some of them may fee odd to you.Depending on the study you read, buyers today are completing between 53% and 70%b of their buying journey BEFORE they speak with one of your salespeople. We must know what they are doing!

 

The last directions resembles selling a current customer a new product or service. The number of steps the buyer takes is more than the short journey but less than a buyer who never heard of you before. They trust you and your company but must be assured this new product or service will completely solve their problem.

 

Not knowing how your buyers buy and what they need to have to make buying decisions today is a sales sin. (Note sin means “missing the mark”)

 

It is second only to asking your salespeople to achieve sales growth goals with a dated value proposition that no longer resonates with buyers.

 

I went on to share your business has common buyers we need to group into buyer personas. Once we do we need to understand how each of these buyers buys and what they need to buy when in the buying process. The more you understand about each of your key buyer personas the more your repeatable sales process and the tools your salespeople are presenting at just the right time will connect.

 

Eventually an older distinguished gentleman in the third row said: OK I see where this is interesting and important but how? How do you map this process and gather so much information?

 

Keeping with the sprit of the power of one thing I answered: ASK!

 

I shared the process I use to interview current customers, customers you lost and potential customers my clients have always wanted to sell. I shared my top 10 questions I use that work in every industry. The only people you do not interview are those currently in the quote process.

roundabout-39394_1280

What I asked everyone to do is ask the open-ended questions and listen, really listen. What you need to listen for is any place in the buying process the buyer enters a roundabout and goes round and round not making a decision. Listen for any time the journey slows down. . Red lights, if you will, in our driving example. What criteria does the buyer need to have and when? This is like me looking for the airport sign on the highway with enough time to still change lanes. Listen for any road construction that has changed how they buy in the last few months causing them to detour from their old buying process.

 

I closed our discussion with:

 

The best way to make your repeatable sales process effective and efficient is taking the time to understand your buyers, the process they are using and the criteria they need and when in todays market.

 

Put another way….

“Knowing your Buyer’s Journey is like creating a GPS for your Sales Process.”

– Mark Allen Roberts

 

Your salespeople’s and marketing’s activities  will mirror how your buyers want to buy and provide buyers the tools they need at just the right time in the buying journey to close more sales. When I used this process with a  company their sales to close % increased over 20 % and we added over 250 new customers in the last 18 months… (but I am getting ahead of myself as that is my next post)

 

How about your company?

 

Do you have a repeatable sales process? Are you sure?

 

How is it working? Are you hitting your sales numbers?

 

Does someone on your team clearly understand how your buyers are buying today? Who? 

 

Does your team clearly understand what your buyers need to buy and when?

 

How effective is your team’s sales process?

 

How efficient is your team’s sales process?

 

Does your team know when a buyer is entering a roundabout, and what to do to get them back on the buying journey?

 

Is your team showing any or all of the above symptoms of not having a defined repeatable sales process?

 

Could your buyers be taking a detour while your salespeople keep selling the same way and unaware ?

 

The markets we serve are dynamic. We must tune into how buyers buy and what they need to buy today. Market shifts and other changes happen all the time that can cause sales growth to stall. Market leaders are constantly asking their markets how they buy and what they need to buy. Leaders identify detours early and adjust.

 

In my next two posts I will share examples of how adjustments to the sales process and adding new tools resulted in increased sales results and lowering the cost of sale.

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

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.

Improve Sales; How do you improve sick sales before they become terminal? Not a sales training issue


It’s that time of year again…sales teams have received their new sales goals and often the results are sick and not close to plan. This time of year in particular, sick sales is an epidemic. Everything was going along well and then all of the sudden it hits you like the flu and your sales become sick. Sales are not hitting plan and worst of all not producing the planned return on investments made to support your new sales goals. How do you improve sick sales before they become terminal? That is what I plan to discuss in my next series of posts. But before we can improve your sales, we need to quash some myths that many leaders believe to be true about improving sick sales.

I went to Walgreens recently to get my annual flu shot. I interact  so many people in meetings, airplane flights and trainings I am pretty much guaranteed to bump into someone with the flu each year so I always get the flu shot. As I waited in line I heard others asking each other questions about the flu and it gave me pause. So when it was my turn to be a pin cushion I asked the pharmacist some questions about the myths I just heard in line. I thought I would be much better off getting advice from an expert than listening to the people in line sharing the myths they have heard, believe to be true, and are now sharing with others. It was no surprise to learn everything that was shared in line was not true and this reminded me of how companies also can experience the flu , particularly early each year when the new sales goals are distributed, and like those people in line they too may believe some myths they have heard over the years.

The biggest misperception about the flu is that it can be treated with antibiotics. The fundamental mistake most people make is self diagnosing symptoms as a cold and not the flu. They believe they can pop a quick pill or a series of pills and cure the symptoms. The flu is a virus and antibiotics do not cure the flu. They believe having a national sales meetings and my favorite; “sales training” to cure their sick sales results will make their poor performance go away. Fixing and improving sales not a “how–to “problem. In the Rain Group report they found 90% of sales training initiatives have no lasting impact after 120 days. In addition companies believe they are providing “sales training” but what they are actually doing is “product training”. Product training is not sales training.

What are some symptoms your sales has the flu?

  • new product sales missing plan by 30% or more
  • key sales performers leaving after last year’s bonus’s are paid
  • gross profit decrease of 3% or greater in the last 30 days
  • loss of a key account
  • 40% or more of your sales team missing sales goals
  • Your competitor launched a new product that took the market by storm

If your sales have the flu or you wish to prevent your sales from catching the flu, the first place to start is to clearly understand your market, buyers, and their buying process. Like the flu shot this process that often entails win-loss interviews with customers, past customers, and potential customers takes some time to work. This is the best way to immunize your sales team from experiencing sick sales. If you fail to understand your market, your buyers and more importantly how your product is positioned to solve buyer problems you are forcing your sales people to assume the position with buyers and this leads to sick sales performance.

Is your team experiencing sick sales performance this year?

Have you decided to have a national meeting?

Does your team experience a sales flu early each year?

Are you planning “sales training” to improve sales performance?

Trying to mprove sales performance without clearly understanding your market is like taking an antibiotic to make the flu go away… it does not work. You may mentally and emotionally  feel you are taking the appropriate action but the sick sales symptoms will linger and often make your entire team miserable much longer than they need to.

Assemble a 21st Century Sales Pipeline

By guest blogger Dave Barnhart

Have you ever said, “If I’d known that before I bought, I would have chosen that one instead of this one.” ? That is Criteria Evolution at work.

There has been paradigm shifts in the way people ask questions, get answers, and make buying decisions.  One of the casualties in that shift is the pre-sales conversation has been foreshortened.  As a result, buyers are sometimes missing crucial facts that would otherwise cause them to make the buying decision in our favor instead of our competitor’s.

Case to point: The number one complaint by kitchen remodeling customers is the dust and trash created by the contractor, yet most customers are blissfully ignorant of this when they make their buying decision. A smart contractor would:

  1. Institute procedures such as the use of an air scrubber to eliminate the problem.
  2. Engage in a proactive campaign to make prospective customers aware of the problem and how you solve it.

Now imagine your prospect learned this information from your website, an article online you’ve written, or from a strategically placed testimonial. While your prospect is talking to contractors on his short list, what happens when she asks your competitor, “Do you use an air scrubber?” You’ve just eliminated a competitor who cannot answer ‘yes’, and done so with no additional incremental effort on your part.

There is only one way this happens:

You must view your website, collateral, and all of those online articles and discussions as part of your company’s sales team, each with a role to play.

Start by putting your successful sales under a microscope. Become intimately familiar with the journey your customers take from complete stranger to paying customer. What do they want to know? What resources are they using to educate themselves? How to they find you? What are their buying criteria? Who else is involved in the buying decision?

The Truth Will Set You Free But First It Will Make You Miserable

Expect to learn that some of the time, energy, and money you’ve been spending on sales and marketing are being wasted. Expect to discover you are losing sales in ways that never occurred to you. And expect to find things that are working.

With this information at hand you can begin to assemble a 21st century sales pipeline – one that is tuned in to your customers’ buying process and actually helps them buy.

This post was provided by Dave Barnhart of Klaroty Strategic Marketing.
Klaroty Strategic Marketing
is a marketing firm focused on web development, website design, social media, and marketing strategy. We are based in Phoenix, Arizona with clients throughout the US and Europe. Dave’s firm actually designed my No Smoke and Mirrors blog and I have sent many clients who wish to have a 21st century web site that adds sales to Dave. Dave’s popular blog http://blog.businessbloggingpros.com/ helps business leaders learn how to engage with buyers in their market earlier in the buying process.

Is Your Web Site Adding New Sales or Just a Virtual Brochure Taking Up Cyber Space?

its hard to grow the sales of invisible products

its hard to grow the sales of invisible products on the web

Lets all agree that buyers are buying differently today than they did 10 years ago. I think most of us will agree buyers are buying different than they did 5 years ago. If you are out doing win loss interviews you will also find buyers are buying differently today than they did last year. With 70% -80% of the buying process completed by the time buyers speak with a salesperson we must adapt. In my last post: Invisible Products; The death of your new Sales Goal I shared how buyers today are doing online research and market leaders understand this behavior and strategically place content to help buyers shape their perceived ideal solution. Market losers keep cold calling and missing their sales goals. One way to fix your sales problems is to insure your web site is an active tool in helping you drive sales.

After my last post I received one of three responses;

Sales people; what are you saying; we don’t play as key a role in sales anymore? (I thought you were one of us?

I am a sales guy at heart, I have lead sales teams for 25 years but I have been forced to learn about how buyers buy and how critical market driven marketing is to achieving my sales numbers by helping my potential buyers buy. Sorry, but you are no longer the keeper of the feature and benefit keys.

Sales leaders; I have a web site but sales in my business occur belly to belly with buyers

Yes you could say that, but you would be wrong. Your buyers are now using the web early in the sales process and if you really want to crush that new sales goal, you must have a strong presence on the web to get invited to the dance.

Business leaders and owners: your post made me feel uncomfortable, if you are right how do I know if my web site is a tool to grow my business or a virtual brochure that looks pretty but is not adding any value to my bottom line?

I am not a web SEO expert but I will share the tests I do when helping a client determine if their web site is a sales tool or just taking up cyber space.

  1. Does your web site produce inquiries from prospective buyers? If so how many and is it enough to achieve your sales goals? If your answer is; yes we have more than enough leads that are turning into a record breaking sales year…, quit reading and get back to following up on those sales leads!
  2. Conduct a Google search for your products, your business. If you serve a particular region add that region. For example; “ ____(products and or services)  in Grand Rapids Michigan” If your products and business is on the first page of the search give yourself a score of 10 points, if not give yourself a 0. If your product and business are in the top three listings give yourself another 5 points and if you have a pay per click add that is also on the page give yourself 5 more points.
  3. Conduct the same process with Yahoo and BING. Score your results the same as above.
  4. What is your web sites bounce rate? The administrator of your web site can tell you this number quickly. A bounce rate is basically what % of visitors to your site found your site but bounced; they do not open a second page. If your bounce rate is under 60% give your score another 5 points.
  5. Does your website have content developed with SEO in mind? In other words content, stories that include key words your buyers use when searching for a solution to a problem they are having. If yes, give yourself 5 points.
  6. Does your web site have a blog? Add another 10 points.
  7. Does your web site have links to other thought leaders in your industry, supplier’s sites, complimentary products, and industry trade associations? If yes give yourself another 10 points for each link.
  8. Does your site have a Face book, twitter, LinkedIn , and you tube links? Give yourself 5 points for each link you have.
  9. Open your web site on a smart phone. If you can read your site and find products one of your buyers may be looking for give yourself 10 points.
  10. Do you have a pay per click (PPC Ads) strategy to complement your organic search efforts? If yes add 20 points.

So how did your web site score in its ability to drive sales for your business?

150- 200 points – you have a good site and it is a tool to help your salespeople hit their

sales goals

100-149 points – you have a good site with a strong foundation you need to build upon

70-99 points – you have a web site but it is not driving the leads and ultimate sales it

could be

Under 70 points – your products and services are invisible to the buyers in your market

In today’s market buyers are searching for solutions to problems they are trying to solve using the web. Yes you and your team can still cold call buyers and possibly work harder to hit your numbers. However why not work smarter and help your products and services be found when buyers are searching? What would you rather have….a cold call with someone who might need your product?… or a conversation with a buyer searching for a product like yours to solve an urgent problem they have?

Market leaders understand how their buyers buy and insure their web sites are tools to help buyers buy.

The above is how I quickly do a gut check to see if a client’s products and services are invisible. Do you have other ways to check the effectiveness of a web site?