How To Overcome The Top 10 B2B Sales Challenges

How to Overcome The Top 10 B2B Sales Challenges

 

 

The number of salespeople meeting and or exceeding sales quota is dropping each year. Why? If you were in the quality department and not sales you would find root causes. What are the top 10 root cause problems B2B salespeople face and how to you solve them?

 

Thomas Williams and Thomas Sain just released an excellent book: The Seller’s Challenge to help salespeople and sales leaders fix common sales problems.

 

Why is The Seller’s Challenge relevant to every B2B seller and their leaders?

 

Take a look at some of the common sales problems this book discusses and gives you applicable advice to solve.

 

  • What is the best way to sell multiple buyers?
  • What is the best way to research and execute a sales call that moves the sale?
  • How do I influence buyers who are strongly committed to a different course of action? (they are happy with what they have)
  • Why are y sales calls bombing and how can I fix this sales problem?
  • What is the best way to address gatekeepers?
  • Why is the status quo my #1 competitor?
  • When should I participate in an RFP?
  • Why is selling to committees so hard and what should I do?
  • What is the best way to manage price and discount demands?

 

Do I have your attention now?

 

The authors captured my attention because I frequently was asked to solve a number if not all of these sales problems in my career.

 

Not only did I find the content extremely relevant to solve seller challenges, but the way it is written is brilliant.

  • A summary of the sales challenge
  • A story to help you quickly emotionally connect to it
  • Discussion of the challenge and all the dynamics involved
  • An illustration or model to resolve the sales problem
  • A solution and best practices
  • Summary of key takeaways
  • Commitment and action steps quickly after the content for the reader to apply what they just learned
  • Chapter addendums illustrating exactly how to implement the best practices

If you are like me and have been in a sales role or leading sales teams you will agree sales has changed a great deal over the years. I find companies continue to be prisoners to outdated sales processes and they fail to identify the root cause of their sales problems they face each day. The result? Sales teams continue to fail to achieve sales and profit quotas year over year.

 

What do most sales managers recommend who have not read this book?

  • Try harder
  • Try more
  • Sign up for Sales training

Or my personal favorite: “Just make it happen!”

 

And how’s that working for you?

 

Be honest its just us…

 

I highly recommend The Seller’s Challenge as a strategy roadmap to help your sales team achieve and surpass their sales quotas by fixing some of the most common root cause problems they face in todays marketplace.

 

 

 

 

Fix Buyer Problems With Value Based Sales

Fix Buyer Problems With Value Based Sales

 

 

In my last post I shared how a Value Based Sales approach helped a marketing and positioning serve firm land a whale account. This was an example of how to sell a “to buyer”. A  “to buyer” wants to move to a future state. In this post I will share how a value based sales approach helped “away buyers”, buyers who want to move away from pain and how it resulted in a $38 million sales increase in just 18 months.

As we meet with buyers we need to quickly determine if they are a “to buyer” or an “away buyer”.

A “too buyer” wants to improve something, wants to be innovative and has an emotional attachment to a future state. As a salesperson our job to create a value based sales proposal to help them get to this desired future state. In my last post I shared how we helped a client enter a new market and increase incremental sales and profits.

The other type of buyer is the “away buyer”. An away buyer wants to avoid risk, pain if you will. They are singularly focused on moving away from current problems and avoiding future ones. As a salesperson once we clearly understand what they want to avoid it is our job to create a value based sales proposal that helps them move away from problems.

In the 1990’s I was the VP of sales and marketing for Alpha Enterprises Inc. We were a plastics injection molding company that provided plastic packaging and mechanical security devices for the music retail industry. (you know those plastic boxes and devices that have to be removed at the checkout counter? That was us)

In the mid 1990’s the music industry experienced a significant shift in how music on compact discs were going to be packaged. Prior to this time music on compact discs were distributed to music stores and other mass merchants in a 12” cardboard package. This cardboard package was designed to easily fit in what were once record album fixtures. This original packaging also added size to the compact disc jewel case to prevent and or slow down retail theft. Alpha Enterprises manufactures mechanical security devices in plastic for audiotapes and videos at the time. We had a design for a compact disc package, but we had very little sales prior to this market-packaging shift.

Recognizing this large shift in how compact disc music was going to be distributed, we hit the road meeting with as many music retailers, mass merchants and other companies that provided music to locations like book stores and so on and did voice of the customer research.

In our meetings we discovered a number of people in each organization that influenced the purchase of mechanical security products:

 

Merchandising

 

Loss prevention

 

Store design

 

Purchasing

 

Operations

 

We met with purchasing and all the other people who helped influenced the purchases.

 

We found each influencer was also primarily concerned with theft, since compact discs could easily be hidden in someone’s clothing. We also found each influencer had specific requirements and criteria they were looking for as well as pain and problems they needed to avoid.

 

For example: Loss prevention’ main goal was protect the small CD packages in some way to reduce theft and if possible help them reuse security tags that were costing them 6-11 cents per purchase.

 

Purchasing at mass merchants and music stores wanted devices that protected their product at the lowest cost. (and that was not us) They told us they did not have budget to buy loss prevention Keepers.

 

We took a value based sales approach to fix this sales problem.

 

Value based sales is about understanding the business of your customer’s business so we asked a lot of questions:

 

On average how many compact discs do you plan to merchandise per store?

100,000

 

What is your current loss due to theft for audiotapes and videos that have no security protection?

About 15% without a security package but we expect CD’s could be as high as 25%

 

We have heard some theft is internal, other words your employees, and do you have an estimate for those occurrences?

Yes about 2%-3%

 

One solution is to lock the entire product offering behind glass. Have you studied the impact on sales for product displayed live verse behind glass?

Yes, sales increase over 70% if product is merchandised live

 

Talk to me about those security tags you buy. What one do you use, why, and how do customers defeat them?

We use this brand and the customers defeat them by pealing them off or deactivating them.

 

And every security tag is deactivated at check out and leaves with the purchased product?

Yes

 

If I might ask, what do those little security tags cost you?

I won’t give you my exact cost but lets say around 6-11 cents

 

Help me understand your inventory turns how many turns do you want, do you see today?

They shared this number

 

We took all their data and created a value based sales proposal that included risk dollars based on their own numbers. And cost dollars of security tags.

 

We calculated the cost of security tags based on inventory and anticipated turns and shared that number.

 

Then we shared our hypothesis, a creative business idea as their business partner helping to solve this huge risk they wanted to avoid.

 

We created spreadsheets for buyers to plug in their actual numbers in each field to calculate their projected losses and some of those meetings became emotional. (this tool helped establish the cost of doing nothing)

 

Then we shared what we learned in our VOC work and how we redesigned our product to protect and reuse security tags as well as the compact discs.

 

We shared the test results other retailers like them experienced when using our devices and how it drove down their theft %’s.

 

Our buyers to win budget internally to fund our product purchases used our spreadsheets. Our presentations demonstrated the ROI for purchasing our products and it was often a 100% pay back within months.

 

When our competitor mass mailed a sample and a cover letter bound with a rubber band (really, I saw their direct mails on buyers” desks), we spent the time clearly understanding the pain this market shift would cause and the businesses of our customer’s business.

 

What was the result of gathering the “Voice of the customer”?

 

What was the sales growth impact from creating a value based sales proposal and not just selling on price?

 

We experienced a $38 million dollar sales increase in 18 months!

 

Or to put it another way: Market Dominance!

 

What happened next was even more fun.

 

Retailers started calling us because we did such a good job with music CD’s to solve other high theft problems. They shared other products they wanted to see 70% sales increase for but are behind glass but they wanted out live. They shared items in their store that had high theft rates that they needed to lower.

 

 

Large companies like Nintendo, Microsoft, and so on heard about us and asked to meet to understand how our products could increase sales for their retailers.

 

 

This led to many successful new product launches. Eventually this division was acquired by one of the world’s leading security tag manufactures at a high multiple and is thriving today with products.

 

Why?

 

We listened to our customers.

 

We qualified their fear and risk into real $’s.

 

We spoke the language of their business: sales, profits, ROI, inventory turns, shrink (how they described theft)

 

We had business discussions about how our products could impact their sales, reduce theft, reduce the cost of labels and increase net income. (Create value)

 

We showed them how to avoid a problem and pain.

 

After the sale we quantified value.( shared the impact of their purchase decision)

 

We did not “sell” our customers we “helped” them.

 

So how about your company….

 

Do you understand the voice of your customers today? Are you Sure?

 

Is someone on your team asking questions and listening for buyer pain? Who?

 

Have you turned the buying process into a value based business discussion and share how you can impact their bottom line?

 

Do your salespeople understand how to help “to buyers” and “away buyers”?

 

What sales tools have you provided for each buyer type?

 

What impact would an incremental $38 million sales increase have on your bottom line with high gross margins?

 

What shifts are your markets experiencing right now or in the future you can help solve?

 

What if your largest competitor is doing this process right now? (Ouch now that you’re your attention)

 

 

PLEASE take the time and dedicate the resources to clearly understanding what your buyers want and need to buy today, and the process they use. Once you do.

 

PLEASE create a repeatable sales process that mirrors what your buyers want and need to buy today.

 

The above is a value based No Smoke and Mirrors process I have used for over 35 years and it has always driven profitable sales growth. When one client converted to a value based sales approach their close rates went from 42% to over 80% in 18 months.

 

What impact would it have on your bottom line if your sales close rate were over 80% with profitable sales?

 

This strategic business development process always ends with a value based sales proposal and we discuss how what we are selling solves their pain and problem and we connect the dots to how what we are selling impacts their bottom line.

 

Do not “sell” buyers I “serve” them buy with a value based sales methodology!

 

 

Fix Sales Problems With Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Fix Sales Problems With Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

 

 

 

 

A few Salespeople have “IT”. They all need “IT” to achieve their sales numbers. ..What is “IT”? In this post I will discuss Emotional Intelligence and the role it plays in helping our salespeople achieve their profitable sales growth objectives. In the book:  Sales EQ, How ultra-high performers leverage sales-specific emotional intelligence to close the complex deal by Jeb Blount

Leading and coaching salespeople you find some salespeople just have “it” and some do not. It’s hard to describe. It is more of a feeling than a word you can use to describe it…at least until now.

For years I have assumed it was experience, product knowledge, sales skills, personality, communication and presentation skills but they just did not completely cover what I was experiencing. What I was seeing is called Emotional Intelligence.

I shared another book on this topic some time ago: Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success by Colleen Stanley.

In that post I shared Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include 3 skills:

  1. Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others;
  2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving;
  3. The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.

So the topic of Emotional Intelligence is not new. Solvey and Mayer first introduced it in 1990. However it really did not pick up steam until Daniel Goleman a Harvard trained psychologist wrote an article in 1995 for the New York Times about his book: Emotional Intelligence.

To add to this discussion I just competed an excellent book by Jeb Blount titled: Sales EQ, How ultra-high performers leverage sales-specific emotional intelligence to close the complex deal . Like the other books mentioned this book is a must have in every sales leaders library. Why? Why this book now you might ask? The short answer is to adapt to a shift that has occurred in “power” during a sale.

The author shares…

“ Technology has disrupted the traditional sales process by giving buyers unprecedented access to product and industry information, more control over the sales process, and more choices of products and vendorsTo differentiate yourself from competitors and hold the short-lived attention of buyers, you need to be a master of emotions, interpersonal skills, influence frameworks and human relationships ”

–       Jeb Blount

For years I have helped companies Fix Sales Problems.  Many companies believe if we just train our people in products, markets and selling skills we will achieve our profitable sales growth goals. However what they all were missing is something that was often a disruption for their leaders to hear:

Buyers buy with emotion and justify their decisions with data

Let that sink in a minute….

So we have been training salespeople for years…in my case over 30 years in product features and benefits, sales processes, closing techniques, how to overcome objections, the challenger model, the sales consultant model, value based selling…and the list goes on but how many of us work on the Emotional Intelligence of our salespeople? Not many I am afraid.

Jeb Blount captures this later in the book…

Managing disruptive emotions is the primary meta-skill of sales. The combination of situational awareness and the ability to consistently regulate disruptive emotions is what puts ultra-high performers on a pedestal above average salespeople….We know that the buyer’s emotional experience along with the buying journey has as much( or more) impact on their propensity to buy from you as anything else…the paradox of emotions is that the same time they are your most powerful ally they’re also your greatest enemy

Let me share a real example ( from my youth)  where I blew it and I hope helps bring the importance of emotional intelligence home.

It was early in the 1990’s and I was leading the retail division of a plastics packaging company. We made retail loss prevention devices to prevent the theft of music and we made video storage packaging for video rental. The video rental market had shifted and we introduced a new product to meet that need I branded: The Squeeze Box. The name described how it worked…you squeezed the bottom of the plastic storage box and the video tape would slide out. I named it that after the song,..mama’s got a squeeze box..but changed the lyrics ..and my competitors can’t sleep at night.

The industry was so excited about this new product we could not make them fast enough. One mold became two, two became four and the demand kept growing. It was an exciting time and did I mention it was also the most profitable product we were selling? We priced it based on the value it gave the end customers not our costs.  Because of the high demand we used this product to gain share leveraging availability based on buyers giving us more of their base business our main competitors owned.

One of my largest accounts was a distributor in Iowa, who was later acquired by Ingram Entertainment. I had a great relationship with this account, its executive team and the buyer. The buyer helped me in the gathering of requirements for this new product design and in our market verification. I helped them use this innovative new product to land large video retailers and some targeted grocery accounts they always wanted. A real win-win relationship.

I was calling on the buyer and he said: “Mark, I am moving to a new division and I would like you to meet Frank (not his real name) he comes from purchasing in our electronic accessories business and has made quite a name for himself here …”

He walked me to Frank’s office and we were introduced. Frank was very rude with my past buyer, almost dismissing him. I sat down to start trying to understand his needs and goals and he quickly said: “what are you doing, I don’t meet with salespeople in my office , this is where I get work done, go find a conference room and we will meet there

Huh?

You heard me, I am a busy guy, I manage millions of dollars of inventory and its time someone whipped you and your company into shape. “

I connected with the executive assistant for all the buyers who had become a friend over the years and asked for an open meeting room. She said: I suppose it is for a meeting with Frank? Sorry you got him Mark he’s kind of a jerk but quite the climber around here” (and she rolled her eyes.)

Frank came in, sat at the head of the table as I guessed he would and started…

I understand we are your largest distributor in this space.

My guess is you use my volume to be competitive with many people in this market?

To increase the sales of your products we need to increase the advertising allowance and we will not be providing you proof of ads as we have been doing. I have done this for 5 years and I know what I am doing.

I see you have been winning more and more of our overall category purchase dollars? …That ends today.

The last buyer was way too easy on his vendors, …I am not.

Your prices are too high and must be reduced immediately and I expect an adjustment for the entire inventory we have on hand. Here’s a report of our current inventory. I need to see the credit transaction in the next 5 days.

As a salesperson you probably do not understand the business we are in and I would not expect you to. Just give me what I need and we will get along just fine. Make me look bad and I will make you pay.

I hear you have a hot innovative product called a Squeeze box? We need an exclusive on it and we will sell it to our competitors.

The rep for your competitor is a golf buddy of mine and his line of plastic boxes comes from a much bigger and more impressive company than your little Ohio company.

Who are your large video chains buying this now direct? That is going to end and you will send them through us too.

The Squeeze box is twice as expensive as the other boxes we buy from you. I weighed it and it’s actually lighter than the other products you sell for ½ the price…you need to drop our price at least 30% immediately. I will not be a push over buyer like my predecessor (your buddy) .

I understand you have independent sales reps calling on all my locations? That stops today and I want their compensation paid back to us as a 5% year-end rebate.

If you do not have to power or you are not smart enough to understand what I am asking for give me the owner of your companies’ name and office number….tell you what… just give me his name I can tell you do not understand strategy…

Well?

( my blood was boiling)

I shared how we have grown with his company based on service and training his salespeople how to sell our products. I personally trained his telemarketers every quarter and his field salespeople. I shared the issues we helped his company with like; on time delivery, just in time inventory, new products we developed for them, training his salespeople, helping his people close large accounts and so on.

I shared I heard each of his requests…and was about to answer them one by one….

“Oh, you think these were “requests” do you? ( he stood up and slammed his hands onto the conference table) No.., you will do what I told you to do or you and I will have a problem, or don’t you understand this?”

You are going to do this right? You want our business right?

 

No!!! (I stood up nose to nose with him and I lost my temper).

How I was feeling inside was like I was in another street fight with a bully. I shared we do not do business this way, we value working with his company because they shared the same values and ethics as our company and I would like to speak with Earl, his boss now, who I have known for years, had dinner at his home,  so we can work this out.

 

Get the F@#ck out of here!… and don’t come back until you give me what I want,… if you call Earl …your sales here are over, do you understand?

 

As I left the meeting room I passed a number of people who obviously heard our heated exchange. I was angry, confused, surprised …and now worried how I will explain this to the president of our company.( dead man walking)

 

Why did this meeting go so bad?

Why did this new punk get to me so much?

 

Working with a coach later in my career , and receiving training and coaching I discovered my emotional triggers are:

 

  • Bully me

 

  • Bully someone who cannot defend themselves or are not there to defend themselves

 

  • Threaten me …fine no big deal, my family? My company? Or someone I care about…game on!

 

  • Treat me like I am stupid, inferior mentally

 

What Frank did in our first meeting was pretty much trigger all my emotional hot spots I was not aware I had at the time. This resulted in a reflex response of threatening him back by bringing the merchandise manager (his boss) into the equation. My voice became louder and my tone became attacking to mirror his. My face became red and the veins in my throat and forehead were enlarged. My physical size was much bigger than Frank so when he stood I stood nose to nose so to speak …all the things I did, I did not think about, they happened as a reflex like when the doctor taps your knee with the rubber hammer at a checkup.

 

I can vividly still remember this meeting as if it were yesterday.

 

Why?

 

Emotion!

 

I let the meeting get personal to me and I reacted with reflex and not strategy.

Frank made our company pay for about 6 months with significantly less orders.

Eventually Earl heard about how I was treated and intervened but Frank and I were never friends. He lasted about 2 more years and was let go. Who was the new buyer? My friend the administrative assistant who rolled her eyes when she booked the meeting room with Frank. She said I was one of the few “Factory Guys” who treated her with respect over the years and would appreciate me helping her be successful in her new role. As the years went by we grew to be a preferred vendor, and won almost all of their purchase dollars in our category.

Your salespeople will be in negotiations that build to red-faced moments.

Are they prepared?

The great news is Emotional Intelligence can be a learned skill and this book : Sales EQ, How ultra-high performers leverage sales-specific emotional intelligence to close the complex deal by Jeb Blount will help sales leaders and salespeople understand and leverage Emotional Intelligence.

Salespeople who are trained in Emotional Intelligence sell more at higher profits.

Leaders with high Emotional intelligence drive stronger team performance and are more resilient team members as the US Army found in their studies.

I highly recommend everyone add this book to your business libraries and apply the author’s practical advice.

Are your salespeople emotionally intelligent?

Are you losing sales you could have won with Emotional Intelligence training?

Is there a reason you might not want your salespeople trained in EQ?

As the number of competitors grows and buyers push to commoditize products and service, how your team sells can be your market differentiation.

Buyers today are hungry for authentic knowledgeable salespeople who have a strong EQ so working together you can work through those red-faced moments in negotiations.

I just met with an interviewed a senior level purchasing director with over 35 years of experience on the other side of the desk in a sale. In my next few posts I will share the strategies he teaches buyers to use to disrupt salespeople’s emotions to win lower prices, better service and a number of free services that companies typically charge for.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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?

Improve Sales Productivity With Voice Of The Customer Research

Improve Sales Productivity With Voice of the Customer Research

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What is your buyers buying process today?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What are my salespeople doing most of the time?

 

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

 

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

 

That’s a broken unproductive sales model.

 

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

 

62% said they plan to increase head count.

 

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

 

*30% of the time selling as they have been

+

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What percent of the time are your salespeople selling today?

 

How does your team measure sales productivity?

 

Do you track team and individual close rates for example?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

I would appreciate your feedback…

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Speed Of Trust And Sales

Speed of Trust and Sales

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Could growing sales and leading people really be that simple?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Steven Covey shares:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The author shares;

 

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

 

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

 

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

Steven Covey

 

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

 

                                                                                                              Work on a trust culture in your business

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

 

Some sobering statistics on trust:

 

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

 

                                                                                                                                  Hire the right people

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

 

                                                                                                                                              Training

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

 

                                                                                                                                              Coaching

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

 

                                                                                                                                              Content

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

 

                                                                                                                              Do what you say you will do

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

 

                                                                                                                                                  Truth

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

…and that impacts both sales and profitability!

 

The author also shares the upside of high trust…

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

When traveling with salespeople look for:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

A quick example…

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The conversation went like this:

 

What’s our plan?

 

We are calling on our second largest account.

 

What do we hope to achieve?

 

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

 

What did you present a month ago?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The buyer looked at Jason and said:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

So what do they do?

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

 

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

 

How would you know?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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