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.

What Karate Taught Me About Making Sales Training Stick

What Karate Taught Me About Making Sales Training Stick

 

 

 

In my last post I shared how doing customer voice research can help identify needed sales training for your team. Training salespeople is over a $ 3 billion business. However studies show 80%-90% of training does not stick and will be lost within 24 hours. How do we train adults and make it stick? In this post I will share a training process that is proven to make training stick.

 

Somewhere, right now as you are reading this someone is in sales training. Training occurs for many reasons. One of the most common reasons teams conduct sales training is to change behaviors and beliefs. I have been hired to train sales teams for a number of reasons. The most common is: “we want to improve our overall sales efficiency, effectiveness and increase sales profitably. We want our sales team to be more proactive,…. more hunters than farmers” Sales training is about modifying behavior so the new behavior now becomes the norm. Why does some training create a positive impact and some does not? In this post I will share a training method I use that I learned as a Karate student.

 

While in college at Kent State University I took a Karate class as one of my non-business electives. I enjoyed it so much I joined the local karate club and over the years became club president and helped teach Karate classes.

 

I started out as a white belt. A big part of that training was getting our bodies in shape for the training that would come next. We were taught basic movements that we would build on as we progresses through the other belt colors.

 

If you have never taken a Karate class the design methodology of how they teach is brilliant.!

 

Organized

 

Everyone first lines up from the highest-ranking students in the front with the instructor to the lowest ranking new students in the back of the room. How the students participate and interact is designed into the training for the maximum expereince of the student.

 

Make us want to learn

 

Our Instructor first tells us what we will be doing and discusses the important parts of the technique and when we might use it. Next they show us what we will be doing.

 

Team Alignment and consistency

 

As we begin the entire class is moving in unison. If you are new you can always watch people in front of you to follow along.

 

                                                                  

Practice

 

We practiced techniques over and over. While we practiced our instructor would walk around the room and observe our form.

 

 

Coaching/ demonstration

 

If we were not moving correctly they would give us adjustments to make and once again show us how the movement is supposed to look.

 

 

Break into small groups

 

About half way though the practice our instructor would break us up into groups based on skill level. The white and yellow belts would work on basic techniques and would often be led by a green belt.

 

 

Teach based skill level ( fill in gaps)

 

The groups were broken out by our skill level and  belt rank. Our belt rank was something we were tested on to demonstrate our understanding and ability to execute a very well designed series of movements.

 

                                                    

Show me you get it

 

Once a student had practiced the basic movements for a specific period of time, usually months and we felt the basics created the foundation we could build on we introduced application. What is the movement you are doing designed to do? This instruction was instructor led and involved working with a partner. We practiced our blocks, punches, and kicks very slowly with a partner. Some times we were on the offensive and other times we were on the defensive side of each technique.

 

                                    

After foundation established build upon it

 

While the new students were learning the basics and how to apply them, the other ranks were learning more advanced techniques and series of movements called Kata’s . The more advanced your belt rank the more advanced your training. All training however was built on a common foundation of basic movements practiced over and over again.

 

 

Assessment to understood standards of performance

 

When your instructor felt you have consistently demonstrated your understanding of techniques for your belt rank you would be tested. The entire club would watch you perform what you have learned and hear the instructor’s comments and suggestions.

 

 

Importance of skill level badges

 

If you passed the test, and some did not, you would be awarded your new belt and the process would start all over again with new techniques demonstrated, explained, you execute them, practice, and the instructors would continuously coach you until you performed behaviors correctly without thinking to the agreed level of performance.

 

                              

Introduce stress to see use of new behavior

 

Once you have demonstrated your ability with basic techniques and applied them successfully you will begin sparing. Sparing is a controlled fight to use the techniques you have learned in a live situation. What we are looking for at this phase is does the student apply or try to apply what we have taught? Does the student freeze, and this often happen the first time they step into the ring? Does the student continue to demonstrate control or does their emotions take over in this stressful situation?

 

 

Create safe environment for coaching

 

When I taught it was not unusual the first time a student would move into a live sparing they would spar with me.

 

 

Training success is determined by student’s ability to demonstrate

 

This is not about winning but helping the student feel what it is like to apply what they have learned in a safe and coaching environment.

 

 

Ask students to teach other students

 

                                                                  

Coach

 

                                                              

Practice

 

                                                                

Repeat

 

Why all this talk about Karate and making sales training stick?

 

I believe all sales trainers would value taking Karate and learning how to make training stick.

 

The model traditional martial arts have used for centuries is brilliant.

 

This is the same model I have used for years when training, coaching and leading salespeople. The only thing I would add today is record your employees being trained and record your coaching in a digital format so they can take with them. As new training skills are introduced and practiced, the student can review the recordings and see their progress over time.

 

Using this training model helps your sales team own what you are teaching and make the behavior modifications you desire.

 

Teach me

 

Show me

 

Ask me to do it

 

Have me practice

 

Coach me

 

Teach me how to apply new behavior

 

Test me in a live situation, assess and coach

 

Follow up training with coaching

 

Add new skill sets once basics are consistently demonstrated

 

Break us up into small groups

 

Have clear training levels, in this case belts and everyone knows what is expected at each level

 

Today our sales teams need short bursts of teaching followed by how to apply and practice.

 

If you would like your salespeople to adapt to how buyers want and need to buy today I recommend you implement or hire a sales training company that follows the above methodology.

 

Does your team need sales training?

 

What new behaviors would you like to see your team demonstrate?

 

Does your sales on boarding training build on a foundation of basic skills?

 

How does your team assess the ongoing future sales training needs of your team members?

 

How do you currently identify gaps in new sales employee training?

 

Our markets and buyers are changing how they buy. Our teams must adapt and to help them adapt we must lead training programs that result in new behaviors that meet what our markets and buyers want and need. Implement your own or hire a sales training company that follows the above methodology and your training will stick and you will realize the ROI you desire.

 

For more information on training adults and trends in training methods please visit some of the following web sites.

 

Latest training methodology 

 

Most effective training

 

Effective training methodology

 

Creative training techniques 

 

Sales training do’s and don’t report 

 

Sales effectiveness training 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

A Cup Of Tea, And Why Strategy Work Is So Difficult

A cup of tea, and why strategy work is so difficult

 

Why is strategy work so difficult? What is the secret to developing strategy that drives profitable sales growth? Why will 90% of strategic plans fail? There is a high probability as you read this post your sales and marketing team have already decided the strategy your senior leadership team developed is not working and have retreated to the way we have always done things around here. Why? …and more importantly what can we do to create strategies that result in repeatable profitable sales growth? In this post I will share why most strategies are doomed to fail and how to write strategies that result in adding value to your business.

First we need to be grounded in common definitions because there is a lot of confusion when it comes to strategy work.

Strategy

Strategy is a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time.

The skill of making or carrying out plans to achieve a goal

 

Marketing strategy

A marketing strategy is a process or model to allow a company or organization to focus limited resources on the best opportunities to increase sales and thereby achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

Product Strategy

Is often called the roadmap of a product and outlines the end-to-end vision of the product and what the product will become. Companies utilize the product strategy in strategic planning and marketing to identify the direction of the company’s activities.


Sales Strategy
 

A sales strategy is a plan by a business or individual on how to go about selling products and services and increasing profits.

Tactics

Means by which a strategy is carried out; planned and ad hoc activities meant to deal with the demands of the moment, and to move from one milestone to other in pursuit of the overall goal(s).

Now that we have some common understanding with  words we hear often throughout the day we need to identify the leading reason why 90% of strategies (like those your team is supposed to be executing now) will fail.

One word: ….Hubris

Unlike the words strategy, marketing strategy and tactics, hubris is not a word often used so here is a good definition:

Hubris is from Greek, where it meant “excessive pride, violating the bounds set for humans” and was always punished by the gods. We no longer have the Greek gods, so in English it just refers to over-the-top self-confidence. If you call yourself the best in something, you better have the goods to back it up, since too much hubris can lead to embarrassment and humiliation. It’s an age-old human failing: pride goeth before the fall.

I have been very fortunate to have great mentors in my life that gave me gifts. One gift I use in strategy work ironically came to me through my Karate instructor Sensei Bill Marcum. I was attending Kent State University and I needed a non business elective so I took Isshin ryu Karate. After a few classes the instructor said she thought I seemed to catch on quick and I might consider joining the Isshin Ryu Karate club on campus go deeper than her class can offer.

I joined the club and the first year or so was just the basics and I grew anxious to learn more combinations of moves I could use in a self defense situation. The time came for me to start Kumite which is free style fighting. I found when I practiced all the new moves I was learning I could repeat them without much correction. When I stepped into the ring I went back to boxing which I learned at an early age. Looking back part of it was hubris….pride, not wanting to loose, not wanting to be embarrassed and the bigger part was what I was learning was new and often strange compared to what I have known for years and that I knew worked. However I was never going to become skilled in  the new , better techniques if I did not start doing them.

My instructor pulled me aside one day and read me a story titled; A cup of Tea out of a book: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones and it went something like this..

A Cup of Tea
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Just like Nan-in, my instructor Sensei Bill could not teach me new techniques that will feel and probably look awkward at first until I un-learn what I have been taught and believe to be true. The same is true when doing strategy work to fix sales problems.

I found a great quote in a book I am currently reading by Greg Bustin about accountability I want to share…

FullSizeRender (2)

How do you develop a strategy that works and results in profitable sales growth? You need a few heretics on your team to challenge truths and beliefs your strategy is built upon. In Art Kleiner’s book titled: The Age of Heretics , Kleiner‘s definition of a heretic is:

“a visionary who creates change in large-scale companies balancing contrary truths they can’t deny against their loyalty to their organizations.”

He discusses how managers get stuck into a rut and need heretics to point out new points of view to get past the deadlock and move forward. Later he describes some as “rebels unwilling to kowtow to the corporate bureaucracy.”

I also have used this quote by Peter Drucker often to keep me motivated…

“My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.”

 

If your team wants to be one of the 10% of companies that have strategic plans that work…empty your tea cup of how you think the market works, how we do things around here, how things have always been… Fill your cup with current market data gathered from both customers and prospects recently sharing why they buy and do not buy today.

Strategy work is difficult so we should not be surprised so many strategies fail to be executed and fail to deliver on their promises to increase sales and profits. To insure your team does not fall into the trap of assuming why buyers buy and why they don’t you must tune into your market on a frequent basis and adjust.

Does your team have a strategic plan that is driving explosive sales growth this year?

When was the last time you conducted a SWOT analysis?

Do you have a culture where your salespeople are safe to share market truths?

When was the last time you adjusted your value proposition?

Are you a salesperson asked to sell with a value proposition that is no longer true? How’s that working for you?

As the leader of your organization is it time to conduct a value proposition gut check?

If you would value more to read on this topic may I suggest?

Report: How to Make Your Number in 2016

Your “gut” and “intuition” are not enough…today

Why do 78% of Sales Strategies Fail? … Culture Must Come before Strategy

Will Your Strategic Plan Work?

9 Easy Steps to Developing a Marketing Strategy that Drives Business Results

Differentiation – Is Yours Real or False?

7 Key Steps to a Growth Strategy That Works Immediately

Are “Politically Incorrect Market Secrets” (PIMS) Stalling Your Sales Growth?

Stop Asking Your Salespeople to “Sell Naked”

Increase Sales and Profits; Create Distinction!

Stop Making Your Salespeople “Assume The Position” …

 

If you have other content on the subject of how to create strategies that increase sales please add a link in the comments section.

Pic credits http://www.freshesttea.com/black-tea

Increase Sales And Profits; Stop Asking Your Salespeople To Sell Naked

Increase Sales and Profits; Stop Asking Your Salespeople to Sell Naked

The process of sales does not need to be as difficult as we make it. Market leading organizations understand it all starts with understanding your market, its buyers, and the process and criteria they use to make buying decisions. Once you have a clear understanding of your buyers you position your product or service in your market with a value proposition that resonates with your buyers and you are on a path to a sale. Unfortunately far too many sales teams today are being asked to “just make it happen” in their markets and they are unprepared to achieve the increased goals they receive every year. They lack a current value proposition and distinction from competitors and therefore they are being asked to sell naked.

When I work with a company who is asking their team to sell naked I often give their CEO one of my favorite children’s books; The Emperor’s New Clothes. If you are not familiar with the story; there once was an emperor who spent a great deal on money on clothes.( consultant advice) One day two swindlers came to town and said they would make the emperor clothe the most beautiful he has ever seen, but if anyone could not see the clothes they were unfit for their positions and or just stupid. So the deception begins and the emperor does not want to admit he can’t see the clothes so he pretends to put on this invisible garment. His minister (senior management team) does not want to admit they do not see it in fear of being judged unfit so they pretend to see it and they compliment the emperor. So the emperor proceeds to walk around town naked and no one tells him until he comes across a little boy who is our heretic in this story and shares the emperor is naked.

Organizations that send their salespeople out lacking a value proposition that connects with buyers today are asking their salespeople to sell naked.

Like our emperor sales teams have been told what their senior leadership team believes (hopes) to be their value propositions; any maybe some of them once were true. However if you send your sales team out lacking a current value proposition that instantly resonates with buyers in your market because it shows you understand them, their needs, their pain…then you are sending your salespeople out to sell naked. Yes, you probably say what you believe to be your value position in sell sheets, and on your web site, or what a high paid consultant crafted for you, but the buyers instantly know you’re naked.

Note; just because you and your team say something over and over again is does not make it true for your market.

Like the child in the story buyers are not worried about your politically incorrect market secrets that no one on your team is talking about. Some (most) buyers will let your naked sales team discuss and play feature and benefit bingo, and when they leave agree to never meet with your team again. Not because your salesperson was not a good person, or did not listen, but because the buyer does not see how your product or service can help him. The buyer does not care about all the opinions your senior management team has shared about how brilliant your strategy is. Your buyers are not worried about being judged internally as unfit, non loyal, not a team player; they simply make judgments based on what your salespeople say and present on whether or not your company can help them with a current unmet need.

I can hear some CEO’s saying; “cute story and probably true for some small companies, but not mine, I have been in this industry for over 20 years”…well I hate to be the one to tell you, but you , your senior management team and your salespeople could be naked too! You are naked sitting at the head of the boardroom table and your team is afraid to tell you that your product or service lacks a value proposition today. They all know it but how do you tell someone their “baby is ugly”?

If your sales and profit results are not at plan I promise you, you look naked to your board, your owners, investors, your team, and other business leaders in your community.

Let me give you a quick example;

If a sales rep came to me and presented a Blackberry cell phone as the most innovative, best in class, state of the art, most robust, best service, highest quality….and positioned his product as the “only” cell phone that allowed me to have email on the go ,  he or she would basically be naked to me. Although the salesperson may have the best enthusiasm, product knowledge, presentation skills and desire to win, they clearly are not aware they are naked. What they are saying was once true and it drove sales, however the competition has not only caught up and offers the same thing, they leaped over and past Blackberry and offer solutions Blackberry does not. The CEO and his senior team at Blackberry can try; dictating, motivating, training, pontificating all they want, but the current market truth is their value proposition no longer connects with buyers today. “I hear some of you saying;” Oh well that I agree with for Blackberry, but that is not happening at my company”…are you sure?

So how about you and your salespeople…

Are you and your salespeople naked when they walk into a room?

Do you have a value proposition that resonates with your market and its buyers today?

Are you sending your sales team in wearing the robes you told them are amazing only to be seen as naked by your buyers?

Do you find the only way your salespeople win new business is price?

Have you lost one or more large accounts and were not given the opportunity to “sharpen your pencil”?

Have you been in a meeting with your senior management team and one of them makes a comment …” our buyers are just not smart enough to see…”

Has someone on your team justified losing a large account because they were a pain to deal with?

Have you seen your gross profit margin erode by more than 5% in the last 5 years?

Are your salespeople pitching Blackberry’s when your buyers need Apple I phone solutions?

If any of the above questions make you squirm a bit inside then you are sending your salespeople out naked. The good news is the first part of making any change is recognizing the need to change. I have helped many companies reconnect with the needs of their buyers today and quickly get them back onto the path of increasing sales and profits. You must do the “market work” and develop a value proposition for each market you serve that instantly connects with what your buyers are looking for today. Or you can keep telling your salespeople to drive profitable growth, sell on value not on price, and keep having those quarterly meetings with your board and owners you dread lately. How? How do you create value propositions that resonate with your buyers today? Well that’s my next post.

How to Create “Sales Velocity”; Turn “Street Legal Salespeople” into Servant Salespeople

It's not enough to just be "street legal"

It’s not enough to just be “street legal”

 

I am often asked by business owners and leaders; “What is the best way to create sales growth that becomes repeatable and predictable?” I prefer to phrase this somewhat differently to achieve what the business leaders really want;

How can I create real Sales Velocity?” 

When I hear someone say;

I want more sales

I need more sales

How do I increase sales quickly?

What I immediately think is ; how do we create sales velocity for this team? In this post I will share one way to insure you build a foundation for achieving and often surpassing your sales goals by creating Servant Salespeople .

 

So what is “sales velocity”? In a previous post I said;

 

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

 

Sales velocity is not just “more sales”. When you ask your team to “go get more sales”, or my favorite with regards to hitting their sales growth goals; “just make it happen you are in essence saying any sale is a good sale. We all know this is not true, but what will happen is sales will take a shotgun approach to the market and often bring in business you may not want and worse yet may not be able to execute effectively and create brand damaged buyers. In addition to often permanently damaging your brand in the marketplace you also run the risk of turning your salespeople into “snake oil salesmen” and they will make all kinds of promises your product or service was never meant to do. If left unchecked you will receive crazy orders you never should have received from customers you will never extend credit to and your team will jump through costly hoops to try to fulfill them.

 

When I used to conduct sales and marketing seminars, I would share the worst kind of business to win is one order. Once you win that “one order” you now have the liability of servicing it, hearing customer complaints (often now through social media), and sales assumes the position you want more orders like this.

 

I was in church last Sunday at Grace United Methodist Church and Pastor Don was talking about how it’s not enough to be a “street legal Christian”. Don does a great job of telling stories that have analogies to help people understand the message. In this message he shared how he and a buddy when they were 16 years old had this old beater of a car. He shared how the steering wheel had about 90 degrees of play in it and how the floorboards were all rusted out and you could see the pavement while driving. They had a rear brake light broken out so they covered it with cellophane and used red paint to make it look and somewhat work like a brake light. The car had all kinds of issues but technically it was “street legal”. The car met the basic requirements to be on the road, but really should not have been driven as it was an accident waiting to happen.

 

Don later pulled this analogy full circle and shared how Jesus taught us we are not to just be street legal Christians that go to church, maybe read a bible once in a while and go through the motions. As I drove home it dawned on me I have seen this many times over the past 30 years in leading sales turnarounds with “street legal salespeople” too. They have the title of sales and they go through the motions of sales but really do not have the heart to serve their clients and solve their customer’s problems.

 

What is a Street Legal Salesperson you might ask?

 

Received some basic product training.

 

They have some understanding of how to reach buyers.

 

They want to hit their sales goals and corresponding commission checks.

 

They often have some bad sales habits.

 

They come close to hitting their sales goal each year, not terrible but not sales super stars.

 

They try hard.

 

They are often commission junkies. (not their fault by the way)

 

At or below the acceptable targeted profit margin for your product or service.

 

Have problem customers, who complain, pay late or not at all.

 

When you hear them on the phone with a customer you cringe, but if it works… ah what the heck…

 

They go through the motion of sales…

 

The role of sales has evolved over the last 30 years from my perspective. At one time the salesperson was the keeper of the information keys. They did not need to be as good at listening and understanding customer needs as they needed to be aggressive and persistent and know their product inside and out. The salesperson had all the product information and used their sales product binders to answer questions as they arose. They worked hard on relationship selling. Back in the day we taught salespeople the objections buyers would probably make and how to overcome objections.

 

Next we saw sales consultants/ consultative selling emerge as product experts who would help buyers understand how their product or service might solve the buyers’ problems. In essence they were sales translators who translated what their products did in a language buyers understood once they found a problem they can solve.

 

Then the internet shifted the power from the salesperson to the buyer. The buyer now can Google almost anything and now has access to the product information keys. We have seen social selling emerge as buyers investigate products and their salespeople with tools like LinkedIn, blogs, online case studies and industry group forums where they openly share poor buying experiences. Buyers are connecting with companies who are seen as thought leaders and they make it their quest to understand buyer problems, criteria and buying processes.

 

I believe the next sales person emerging is  the Servant Salesperson.

 

What are the characteristics of Servant Salespeople?

 

They understand the various buyer personas in their market.

 

They understand why buyers buy and how buyers buy.

 

They understand the buying process and criteria buyers use to buy.

 

They are constantly sensing their market for any changes in how buyers buy.

 

They listen for problems buyers’ share that can be solved by their product or service.

 

They have a continuous improvement approach to both product and sales training.

 

They do online research prior to reaching out to a potential customer.

 

They have large social networks with many customer referrals praising their service.

 

They ask open ended questions to understand buyer problems.

 

They seek first to serve and believe if they solve customer problems income will follow.

 

The days of snake oil salesmen promising their products and services do whatever the buyer needs is over. Buyers are seeking authentic sales servants who seek to win their business by completely solving their problems,providing the best total buying experience, and salespeople who help them buy. Buyers today see a commission junkie coming from a mile away. Aggressive salespeople are blocked and filtered with email, voice mail and gate keepers. Buyers are looking for salespeople who are focused on serving them.

 

What stage of selling is your sales team in today?

 

Would a “servant salesperson” be welcome in your organization? Why or why not?

 

Why wouldn’t a buyer in your industry welcome a “servant salesperson”?

 

Just as we are not designed to be “street legal Christians” buyers today do not want “street legal salespeople” who go through the motions of trying to solve the buyers problems.

Servant Salespeople create sales velocity because they authentically seek to solve buyer problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Increase Sales; Take a Snake Oil Salesman Test and Implement Corrective Action

snake oil sales

 

In my last post I asked the question if your team’s execution is turning your sales consultants into snake oil salesmen. What I found interesting is the calls I received from past teams I have served. They sounded something like; “Hey, what are you doing sharing our dirty laundry in your blog? Everyone here knows you are talking about us…” In this case I shared that I am writing about a common problem I have observed over the last 30 some odd years that I would say most companies have in some degree or another. This post is for the business owner, and or leadership team to quickly determine if your salespeople tasked with driving revenue are perceived as “snake oil salesmen” in your market and how to quickly fix this sales problem to insure your sales team hits your growth goals.

 

As I shared in the last post, snake oil salesmen in the Wild West would travel from town to town selling their snake oil. They would make a number of promises and few were actually true so they could never return to the same town twice. They were knowingly being deceptive to close the sale. What I have observed as a common problem that prevents sales teams from experiencing explosive growth is when salespeople are selling based on what they understand to be true, have been trained that is true, and often what was once true but no longer true. If your salesperson is knowingly lying to customers to close the sale and make his or her commissions you do not need a blog to advise you on what action to take.

 

How do we know if our salespeople are unknowingly perceived as snake oil salesmen today and what can we do to quickly repair this and build a foundation of trust required to serve your markets?

 

I look at each new team in three ways;

 

Observe and Listen

 

Unfiltered Data

 

Open Ended Questions with Buyers and Market Influencers

 

 

 

Observe and Listen

 

I live in the markets I serve. So go out and meet with 10-12 customers and observe what your salespeople say, promise, and listen to what your buyers say. These four legged sales calls are critical as nothing speaks the volumes as current market unfiltered comments.

 

What do your buyers have to say…?

 

Did your last order ship on time?

Did you last order ship complete?

Did your product solve the problem your salesperson said it would solve?

Was the problem solved completely?

Did the buyer receive timely follow up from your salesperson, customer service, others?

When the bill arrived was it correct at the promised sales price and terms?

 

In one industry buyers told me: “your salespeople are the used car salespeople of this industry”…ouch!

 

 

Unfiltered Data

 

What does the data say? This is where, particularly new teams struggle with my approach to seek truth. Seeking truth by the way is the first step in my next book as it is a critical step in serving any market and building a strategy on a strong foundation. In the seeking unfiltered truth step you may be labeled a Heretic as I have been,…but let it go as your critics will all love you down the road when their bonuses grow 2X.

 

What kind of truths do we need to look at?

 

What is your actual on time shipments?

What is your current order turnaround capability?

What % of your orders ship complete?

What is your quality problem occurrences as a % of total orders shipped and total parts shipped?

What do customers say? Specifically, did your product or service completely solve the problem it was promised to solve?

Does your product or service solve the problems your web site and sales literature says it solves?

 

 

Open Ended Questions with Buyers and Market Influencers

 

Last we gather open ended buyer feedback. Our goal is to capture our buyers and leading influencers’ perception, feeling, confidence in our brand promise. Are we living up to our brand or are we branding backwards? Have we successfully planted our brand and executed it….or are we branding by default and the frustrated market thinks we do one thing and its no wonder we are losing business because that is not what we do( anymore). To gather this information I highly recommend you ideally meet with customers and potential customers your team has called on without the salesperson in the room. Your goal is unfiltered feedback. If meetings are too difficult and or costly, then conduct phone win loss interviews.

 

Some questions that have served me well over the years include;

 

So tell me some of the challenges your business is facing today? ( I am listening for problems we solve and the buyer is unaware we have products and services to solve them)

 

When buying what are the top criteria and considerations you use in choosing a vendor partner?

 

How did our team do in meeting those important criteria and needs?

 

Have you and would you refer us to someone in your network as a great vendor? Why or why not?

 

There are many win loss questions I have used but the top three are at the core and will get the conversation started. If you want other open ended questions you can go here , as well as here. There are a number of excellent thought leaders in this space and their web sites are below if you prefer to hire an outside firm to conduct win loss.

 

http://www.zhivago.com/revenue-growth-services

 

http://www.healthtrendresearch.com/about-us

 

http://under10consulting.com/about/

 

* there are many more firms that help teams with win loss but the above individuals I know and are confident you would have a great experience with if you are looking for win loss analysis.

 

So you have determined your salespeople are in fact (like many) perceived as snake oil salesmen?

 

What do you do?

 

  1. Determine what your capabilities actually are today.
  2. Communicate those capabilities to your sales team, buyers, and market.
  3. Do what you say you will do, consistently over and over again.

 

If you determine what you are currently doing and capable of doing does not meet the market criteria and requirements of today you must create a roadmap to quickly be able to serve your market as they now require.

 

So how about your company?

 

Do you do what you say you will do? Consistently?

 

Does your team consistently execute your brand promise?

 

Do your products and or services do what you promise on your web site and sales literature?

 

Are your salespeople told to “just make it happen” and they are promising things that were once true but are no longer true?

 

Do your salespeople know disconnects between what your brand promises and what you deliver but feel it’s “politically incorrect or safe” to share them?

 

Do you have a sales force sink hole brewing just below the surface of your sales team?

 

 

When you boil down why buyers buy and why buyers do not buy the root is always: Trust. The quickest way to establish or reestablish trust is do what you say you will do.

Improve Sales: Stop Creating “Snake Oil Salesmen”

 

making promises you can not deliver on

making promises you can not deliver on

 

 

The role of sales is a difficult one. You face more rejection than acceptance and have to break through the many roadblocks in connecting with potential customers you can solve problems for. We are paid to “make it happen” often in environments that are not conducive to sales growth both externally in our markets but also internally, in our own organizations. A common problem organizations face today is they are turning their sales consultants into “snake oil salesmen” because their operations is failing to do what they said they would do.

When you study why buyers buy as I have, you hear things like;

I buy from people, companies who take the time to understand my needs, the problems I am trying to solve, and who “do what they say they will do”.

… let’s boil this down a little more;

I buy from people who listen, hear, and I can trust.

We have seen many changes in our markets over the past 7-8 years in how buyers buy as I have discussed in past posts. The reality I hope everyone will agree with is that how buyers buy has changed. As I have shared ; If you have not changed your sales process in the last six months….it is broken and you are losing sales you should have won.

We have seen many changes within our organizations in the last 7-8 years;

Less People

Less budget

Less time to do our jobs

Less inventory of finished goods

Less product in work in process

Less inventory at our customers

Less time to deliver, just in time

…and more competition, often from competitors who are so aggressive it feels like they must not truly know their costs ( or they are that mush better than we are)

My challenge in this post is with all these changes do you really know , based on your capabilities and market realities of today, what your organization is able to do? able to execute regularly, consistently, predictably? If not your salespeople in the market working with you most valuable assets; customers and potential customers and making promises you can not deliver on. To put it another way;

When your company fails to do what it says it does and or will do, you turn your sales consultants into “snake oil salesmen” and it negatively impacts your trust factor.

Back in the days of the wild west there were traveling salesmen who would stop in a town and sell snake oil. When we Google the term “snake oil salesmen” we find;

” a snake oil salesman is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is himself or herself a fraud, quack, charlatan, and the like.”

Snake oil’s origins are believed to come from an oil the Chinese laborers brought to America made from a Chinese water snake believed to cure joint pain.  However the snake oil salesmen of the wild west were known to plant people in the crowd who would lie and say how the oil cured their various ailments. Snake oil salesmen had a sales process of basically traveling town to town and never selling the same people twice because once you bought the snake oil and found it failed to do what you were promised, you did not trust that salesmen.

When your salespeople serve customers , win an order from buyers it is based on a foundation of trust. Buyers naturally , because they have been burned so many times over the years ( by other traveling snake oil salesmen) do not trust salespeople. So trust must be earned and the simplest way of earning trust is execution. ( doing what you say you will do in the small things and the big things, over and over again) When your operations team fails to execute what the sales people have been told to promise, it immediately breaks trust and creates brand damage.  This is particularly a urgent problem when you fail to deliver on promises to new customers as we only have one chance to have a “good first date”. ( first order experience)

The unfortunate reality in the world your salespeople live in day in and day out is their buyer’s perception is the reality they must deal with. The buyer rarely talks to your shipping department, plant operations group, your purchasing department, quality, and they are not aware of the internal challenges your team may be facing nor do they care. What they do care about is buying from companies who consistently do what they say they are going to do.

So let me ask you again;

Is your current operational performance turning your sales consultants into snake oil salesman in the eyes of your customers? 

Are your salespeople making promises based on a dated information set that was probably true five years ago but not true today?

Is your team aware of operational issue but treating them as politically incorrect secrets you hope your buyers and salespeople do not discover? 

Are the competencies you share in your brochures and web site still true today?

What expectations do your buyers have, and how is your team performing to those expectations? 

If your team is not focused on understanding what your buyers need, what your salespeople are promising, and what your organization is capable of executing today you need to be and you need to reboot your business.

In my next post I will share how to quickly access if buyers believe your salespeople are snake oil salesmen and how to quickly repair this perception.

 

 

Improve Sales Execution; The Power of One Thing

The One Thing

 

Multitasking is a lie that far too many people believe to be true. Scientific data proves multitasking is not as effective as focusing on one thing at a time and completing it before moving on to the next task. This is particularly true for salespeople as we have the reputation of; chasing shinny objects. When salespeople develop the discipline of focusing on one thing and seeing it to a close they meet and exceed their sales goals. In this post I will share a great new book I have been reading; The One Thing, the surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan.

 

As I have shared before sales execution is often a common problem in sales teams. Senior leadership did their 2-3 day strategy planning, came away with the plan and rolled it out to the team. However in most cases, CEO’s find themselves frustrated six months into a new sales year when sales results are not achieving plan and upon investigation they find what I refer to as the great disconnect…sales is not executing the plan. Why does this occur and what can be done to insure sales execute the plan and achieve their sales goals?

 

Focus

 

As the authors of the book; The One Thing share we achieve more when we go small. It takes great discipline to ignore all the things we could do and focus on the thing we should do. The authors share six lies that stand in the way of our success;

 

  1. Everything matters equally
  2. Multitasking
  3. A disciplined life
  4. Will power is always on Will call
  5. A balanced life
  6. Big is Bad

 

I highly recommend you buy and read this book. You will find yourself highlighting each page and writing notes in the margins.

 

Having lead sales and marketing teams for over 30 years as well as coaching salespeople, one common area salespeople must get over to achieve sales plan and hit their goals is the myth of multitasking. They believe busyness drives business… and this is simply not true. What does drive sales results is focusing on serving the customer. However when you ask a salesperson a simple question; what did you do yesterday?…you will often hear;

 

  • worked with frank in shipping to get my order out
  • I helped Joanie in customer service with…
  • I worked with engineering to quote the part #…
  • I did my call report from my last trip
  • I called and left messages with 6 current customers
  • I did some research on a guy I have been trying to sell for over a year
  • I worked with Lisa in accounting to get one of my accounts to pay their bill
  • I booked my travel plans for the meeting we are having in two weeks
  • I chased down the reasons why my order for …..did not ship on time as we promised
  • I worked with scheduling to try to move up the delivery on my order for …..
  • I did my expense report from the trip I did a month ago…
  • I entered some updates into the CRM
  • I sent email follow ups on order ship dates to some of my customers
  • I read an article in our industry trade journal about how a number of our customers are moving to …..

So what is a sales manager to do? where do you start?

I am a big fan of four legged sales calls. This is where you travel with your salespeople and meet with current customers, potential customers and often past customers you have lost and are trying to win back. One of the things I am also doing is determining how focused the salesperson is. Yogi Berra said ; you can learn a lot by observing… and what I often observe that is also occurring in a salesperson’s day they may not be aware of includes;

 

  • Multiple calls from their spouse or the person they are dating
  • a text from one of their children or friends
  • an email joke from a friend
  • junk emails with links to content salespeople read
  • LinkedIn updates on who visited their profile, who found a new job, and who may have endorsed them today
  • Facebook updates
  • Twitter updates
  • Maybe Google + updates
  • You tube videos they just have to watch
  • Good articles from industry trade journals sent to their email
  • Emails from customers needing help with quotes, order status updates, why an order did not ship
  • Reading blogs about how to improve their sales performance
  • Reading blogs and articles about their personal interests

 

* to make this even more of an interruption all of the above and more come through or cell phones.

 

You get the idea….salespeople today have a tremendous amount of distractions and can easily fall into the trap of believing being busy, having a great deal of activity , adds value. What adds value is bringing in and closing more profitable sales.

 

A great quote from the book; “ It’s not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it’s that we feel we need to do too many tings in the time we have” – Gary Keller

 

What I really enjoyed about this book is how they blend in clinical research. Research shows workers are interrupted every 11 minutes and spend 30% of their day recovering from interruptions. We have an average of 4,000 thoughts a day flying in and out of our minds. We change a thought every 14 seconds so it’s easy to see how we fall into the trap of multitasking. But sales people who multitask get more done right? Wrong! Research shows;

 

  • the more complex the task you switch from when distracted the less likely you are to go back to it
  • chronic multi-tasker’s develop a distorted view of how long it takes to do things
  • workers who multitask make more mistakes
  • they have more stress
  • multitasking makes us slower witted

 

The book goes on to share more statistics and if you are like me will quickly agree we have been sold a lie with regards to multitasking.

 

How do we break this cycle of poor sales execution as a result of the multitask lie? The authors give us a grounding question to ask ourselves and our people each day;

 

What is the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or even unnecessary?

 

Let that question soak in, seep deep into the marrow of your bones….

 

What is the one thing your salespeople can do that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

 

What is the one thing you as the leader can do that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

 

What is your to-do list for today? How many to-dos do you have today?

 

How can you boil that list to one thing that you will do today that will have the most impact because you focus on it and see it to completion?

 

I highly recommend the book; The One Thing as at first it will help you, your team, and your ability to drive extraordinarily results. The hidden benefits will also arise as you apply its wisdom to your personal life….your health, your marriage, spiritual life, your relationship with your children and so on. This book, like Ctrl Alt Delete will be a resource tool in my library for years to come.