Voice Of Customer Finds “Sales Secret Weapons”

Voice of Customer Finds “Sales Secret Weapons”

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What does ballpark giveaways have to do with your business?

 

Great Question!

 

Please answer the following questions:

 

What buying criteria must your buyers have today to buy?

 

What is the order of importance for these criteria?

 

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

 

Some common giveaways I see companies offering include:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Market leading sales teams are trained to ask.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The article shared the following:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

How can your team know what buyers value today?

 

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

 

How about your company….

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Why?

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

“Voice Of The Customer” Increases Profits…Lesson From A Christmas Ham

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

I heard things like;

 

Quality Products

Good service

Do what they say they will do

Ship products on time

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

Competitive price

Service after the sale

Warrantee policy

Payment terms

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

As we kept peeling this onion we discovered;

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Increase Sales: How Do You Establish Value?

Increase Sales: How Do You Establish Value?

 

 

 

In one of my last posts on pricing your products strategically I discussed the need to understand the value your product or service provides to the customer. Not long after that post was written I had a phone call from a small business owner asking: What is the best way to establish value for our buyers? In this post I will share some advice an excellent example of establishing value.

Before we get to that content I want to ask you a quick question:

Why do 42% of business start up’s fail?

 

The answer is they launched a business that had no unresolved market need. They did not clearly and completely understand the problem to be solved.

 

This group of entrepreneurs took the leap and often loose all their savings, their children’s college fund and so on. Why?

 

They failed to do their market homework before launching their business. Some questions they needed to answer include?

 

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

 

Who has this problem?… and how many others are like them?

 

Is the problem Urgent and buyers feel a pain to solve it?

 

Are buyers willing to spend money to solve it and how much?

 

It is not just small companies who make this mistake. Every day products and services are launched because companies can and not because they should.

 

How do market leaders, regardless of industry or company size consistently launch and grow their business?

 

They establish a high-perceived value for their products!

 

To do so they must first intimately understand their market, and the problems their buyers have.

 

With this information they solve the problem completely.

 

Then they make a compelling value proposition that resonates with their buyers.

 

They share this value in communities where there buyers belong.

 

Lets take a look at a great example of a company that established value: Gunner Kennels.

Man’s best friend deserves man’s best kennels

 

Gunner Kennels makes dog kennels. On the surface that does not sound too interesting. However if you have dogs, particularly hunting dogs they know you. They know the problems you often face when transporting your dogs and they solved that problem brilliantly.

 

Every detail of this kennel is built to make our traveling experience the best and safest it can be, whether we are on our way to the Mississippi Delta for a duck hunt or just running errands around town. Gunner has been my co-pilot since the day I drove to North Alabama to pick him up.

I built this kennel for my dog Gunner and for anyone else who loves seeing their dogs light up when you ask them to “Kennel,” and they know they are tagging along for your next adventure.

-Addison Edmonds, Founder

 

I wish I had found this company years ago! The downside of this crazy life of helping company’s fix their sales problems is we moved our family a lot. One of the biggest stress points for us as a family was safely moving our dogs. Will my Labs be safe in the belly of this big airplane? Will the baggage handlers be careful with my family members? What if something shifts in the cargo area and their crate gets crushed? (All these thoughts and more go through your mind)

 

Check out his video that demonstrates how much this company understand the needs of its buyers and how they establish value.

 

 

How about your company….

 

How do you establish value in the minds of your buyers?

 

Do you know how to quantify that value?

 

What techniques have worked best for your team?

 

When you clearly understand your market, buyers, how they buy, and the criteria they use to make buying decisions you can establish value.

 

In my next three posts I will be sharing other innovative companies who not only beat the odds of start up failure but also are extremely successful because they established their value in the minds of their buyers.

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

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

 

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

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

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

  • Hyrum Smith

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

Values Gap

Time Gap

Beliefs Gap

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

Values Gap

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

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

  • Hyrum Smith

 

Time Gap

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

 

Beliefs Gap

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

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

  • Hyrum Smith

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

What do you believe about your markets?

What do you believe about your current customers?

What do you believe about salespeople?

What do you believe about your salespeople?

What do you believe about marketing?

How do you believe your buyers shop today?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 (Faster) With Ideal Customer Profiles

Increase Sales and Profits (Faster) with Ideal Customer Profiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are your top sales accounts today?

What markets provide over 40% of your sales today?

Why do they buy from you?

What gross profit % do you realize?

What products do they buy?

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

What is their service expectation?

What is their quality expectation?

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

What is our value proposition for these customers?

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

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

What buyer persona’s value your brands promise most?

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how about your team…

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

Have you identified potential customers you could sell?

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

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

 

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

 

 

What are the top 12 ways to keep and attract top sales super stars?

 

By Mark Allen Roberts

super man

 

I believe there is a problem festering deep within a number of companies that may, if left untreated be the single biggest threat to your team achieving sales, profits and your bottom line objectives. A study not long ago said 60% of your employees plan to leave when the economy improves. Well the economy has and is improving? Is your organization at risk? Most companies think they clearly understand salespeople, what motivates them and how to motivate them to achieve super human sales results…and most are wrong. In this post I will share what sales super stars need, why sales stars will leave, and how to keep and attract top sales performers.

 

Like all my posts this post has been swirling around inside my mind for weeks. This one however has bounced around much longer. I have my opinions based on leading sales and marketing teams for over 30 years…do I share them? what if the experts have different opinions? My desire when I write it to share what I have found to work to help you make strategic corrections , adjustments before you find your business in a crisis of chaos. So how do I best serve you? The more I thought about it the more I delayed following up my last post; Why Do Star Salespeople Leave? (it is not what you think)… I decided to share what I have experienced and provide thought leadership from others in hopes of helping better serve you and your organization.

When I am asked to help a company turnaround their sales, increase sales, I always use the same process and it starts by identifying current market truths. I bring them into the light as the Bible guides us to do for once in the light we can clearly see them and address them before they become terminal. Then I seek internal truths about your companies’ true strengths, weaknesses and ideally clearly define your distinctive competence in the perception of your market. Once we have this information we can shape and design a go-to-market strategy that drives explosive results. So I want to use this same process to identify what I am referring to a “Sales Force Sink Hole” that could result in one….two…or even three of your top sales producers leaving your team and crippling your results. I hear that voice of clients past saying; let them leave I will just hire more… Before you quickly jump to being defensive you need to ask yourself some practical questions;

 

How long does it take for a new salesperson to gain traction and start truly adding value to your bottom line?

 

What is the cost of lost revenue when a Sales Super Star “just leaves”?

 

If you are truly honest, it takes much longer than it should for a new salesperson to gain traction and losing a top producing salesperson (or two or three) is estimated to cost you up to 10 X their annual compensation package. Note; When I keep saying one-two- or three it is because when your top salesperson leaves, studies show there is a high probability your other top performers will leave as well.  So why not intentionally create a culture that keeps and attracts sales super stars? Why not understand what truly makes sales stars tick and meet those needs?

 

What are the top 12 ways to keep and attract top sales super stars?

 

Trust

Be a company that has a history of doing what it promises, doing what it says it will do for internal and external customers

 

Communication

Take the time to clearly articulate expectations, objectives and why those objectives must be met, and quickly follow up on questions and concerns

 

Competitive

 

Top sales people are competitive, they need it, and they thrive on it so intentionally build it into your culture

 

Be a winning team

 

Top salespeople win, its what they do. They win new business, more orders from current customers and they desire to be on teams of other winners. Do you have a team of winners or do you need to fix areas of your company that are underperforming and have been for some time?

 

Driven

 

Most executives that do not have a sales background assume its all about “money”, but in reality top salespeople thrive in organizations that are driven to be the best just like your top salespeople.

 

Leaders have High Emotional Intelligence

 

Teams that are open and transparent, that welcome new solutions attract and retain top salespeople, they have the courage to say “I don’t have all the answers today but I know a process to find them, and I will”

 

Strong Values and Integrity

 

Do not ask your salespeople to compromise what is best long term for the market and its customers to hit short term financial objectives

 

Strategic Compensation Plan

 

A results driven plan that is easy to understand, reinforces desired objectives of your strategic plan, and has no cap, no claw backs

 

Listen

Organizations that learn to actively listen to identify and bust through common roadblocks in the sales process, listen and sense their market, that are agile and adapt quickly to strategic shifts in how buyers buy and the criteria they are now using to make buying decisions

 

Sharpen the Saw

 

An almost paranoid drive to constantly improve your people and processes with training and new technology

 

Passion

 

Make what you do about more than you, your numbers, make it a quest , top sales performer embrace objectives much bigger than themselves

 

Lead and Coach, do not Manage

 

We lead and coach people, we manage processes, don’t confuse the two

 

 

If you are committed to focusing on this area and intentionally creating a culture that keeps and attracts top sales performers then I recommend you also visit the below links to content to serve you and your team.

 

Clayton Christensen’s “How Will You Measure Your Life?”

http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7007.html

 

Micromanagers: 6 Reasons your Employees Don’t Like You

http://www.recruiter.com/i/micromanagers-6-reasons-your-employees-dont-like-you/

 

War underway for top sales talent http://blog.sellingpower.com/gg/2013/06/3-reasons-to-apply-for-our-50-best-companies-to-sell-for-list.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+typepad%2Fgerhard+%28SellingPower%29

 

10 laws of successful sales management http://www.thepeasegroup.com/_blog/Articles/post/The_Ten_Laws_of_Sales_Management/?goback=%2Egde_2392593_member_246416948

 

Communicate clear expectations http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-57586930/great-leaders-manage-expectations/

 

How to hire, find a sales star http://www.salesforcesearch.com/download/eBook-How-to-Find-Assess-and-Hire-a-Sales-Star.pdf

 

 

Hire recruiter if you can http://web2.salesforcesearch.com/bid/148121/How-Can-Sales-Recruiters-Benefit-Your-Business?goback=%2Egde_71410_member_246012667

 

10 tips to motivate people http://humanresources.about.com/od/motivationrewardretention/a/motivating_employees.htm

 

How people are motivated to work http://humanresources.about.com/od/rewardrecognition/a/needs_work.htm

 

How to motivate sales people http://sales.about.com/od/trainingasalesstaff/a/Motivating-A-Sales-Team.htm

 

Want to Jump Start Sales and Morale? Write a “Passion Statement” For Your Business…. http://www.nosmokeandmirrors.com/2010/05/24/want-to-jump-start-sales-and-morale-write-a-%E2%80%9Cpassion-statement%E2%80%9D-for-your-business%E2%80%A6/

 

Does my business need a “passion statement”? Take a short quiz…  http://www.nosmokeandmirrors.com/2010/05/26/do-i-need-a-passion-statement-for-my-business-take-the-short-quiz%E2%80%A6/

 

I hope you found the above useful and you agree keeping sales happy and productive is about much more than just “money”.

 

      “Sales Super Stars leave when their intrinsic needs are not met and they validate this decision with extrinsic conditions”

–          Mark Allen Roberts

 

What have you found to keep and attract your top sales performers?

 

Do you agree with the above 12 ways to keep and attract top sales super stars?

 

Which of the above do you believe is most important? Why?

 

 

 

 

Why Do Star Salespeople Leave? (it is not what you think)…

 

 jump ship

I received a call from a past client a month or so ago, the CEO of a manufacturing company, and I could tell he was very upset. Being the typical busy business owner he jumped right into the reason for the call; “why do star salespeople just leave, no warning, …poof …they are gone , jumped ship, and now what am I going to do?” I asked a few more questions and Tom who had been his top salesperson for years just resigned and announced he will be working for another manufacturer in their industry that has some products that compete with my past client’s company. As we talked, it was clear this was first a big surprise, and CEO’s hate surprises that could interrupt their plan. Second, this experience has caused major unrest throughout the sales and senior management team. Third, he was concerned because Tom had most of their large key customers …What would they think? What has Tom said to them? …Is there a risk in losing their business?  Last the CEO had a hard time describing what he was personally feeling, but what heard was; betrayed, hurt, and concerned. “I just can’t believe it, after all Tom and I have been through he just leaves?”He was very concerned about how this exit would impact what should have been a high sales growth year. I agreed to connect with Tom and find out what made him jump ship so abruptly.

 

In any given year a business will have salespeople come and go. It is the nature of the sales beast. We created a high performance driven culture with a high degree of accountability in the work we did years earlier so it was not unusual to cull the sales herd and this typically resulted in under performing salespeople leaving of their own accord. However, when a sales star, a sales super star, A player  in this case, leaves it can be devastating.

Why do sales super stars leave?

I have seen this situation happen at a number of companies so I decided to spend some time in this blog discussing why sales super stars really leave.In my last blog post I shared the results of a survey I did in my various Linked In sales groups and networking with sales stars I have worked with over the years. I reviewed the most common reasons that sales mangers and business owners believe as to why sales leaders leave organizations; money, promotion, boss is a jerk…. I also asked sales super stars why they left past teams or why they would leave their current team.

What company leaders must realize is the reason most sales super stars leave is not “money”, money is  one  extrinsic measuring stick they use to measure how much your A player intrinsically feels  you value their contribution.

Intrinsic needs include feeling valued , trusting those they serve, and appreciated. They also include feeling challenged and learning new things as well as being proud of the work they do and the contribution they are making.

Extrinsic needs are things like base pay, commission, benefits, vacation time, bonuses, expense reimbursement , company car, vacation time policies and so on.

Sales super stars leave when their intrinsic needs are not being met and this is  validated by extrinsic conditions.

Keep in mind we are discussing” sales super stars”…these guys and gals who charge into a new market and open new business….they “just make it happen“…when a new product is launched they crush their numbers…your customer satisfaction surveys for them all come back A+….they consistently exceed sales quota…..their profit per sale is higher than the team average….their close rate is 20% greater …..and their cost per sale is the lowest. If you have a hard time determining who your star / A players are, you can find a great tool to do so here. These are the people you dream about finding, hiring and keeping so it should be no surprise when they leave it is often a shock. Sales super stars know how to drive results. In this post I plan to share the real reasons why they leave, actions you or members of your team have done ( or not done)  that have asked a sales super star to leave. What I am not discussing are personal life issues that cause a sales super star to leave like needing to care for their children or an elderly parent, or a health concern that makes them have to leave the job.

 

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs work he shared the continuum of needs most people have.

Maslows-Hierarchy-of-Needs

 

The needs start with the basic Physiological needs for things like food, water and so on and graduate to self-actualization needs for things like creativity, spontaneity, and morality to name a few. The ERG theory followed with a simpler model (Existence, Relatedness and Growth).  This model is what market leading business owners intuitively think about as they develop their sales cultures and compensation programs. However the disconnect I argue occurs in sales super stars at non market leading companies because business owners think if they take care of basic extrinsic needs their sales stars will be happy. Sales super stars however know their value and are driven by something much deeper and pay is something they know they can earn and expect anywhere. To put it another way, they are good, they know they are good, and they are not worried about being unemployed for long should something occur in their current job that is unacceptable. The threat of a compensation decrease does not scare them into submission like it does average or below average salespeople who have nowhere else to go. Sales super stars  know how to help buyers buy and they know if not treated well where they are they can confidently and quickly find new employment to meet their basic needs for food, shelter and so on. These sales super stars have a much greater need to feel valued, trusted, and to trust those they serve with their skills. They also see themselves as winners and must feel they are on and supported by a winning team . To make their value even greater a recent article it shared how the gap between good and great sales people seems to be growing wider…and sales super stars know it.

 

A better model can be seen from the work of the famous book: The five dysfunctions of a team as shown below.

fivedysfunctions

 

 

 

The reason why this is much more relevant to sales super stars is it is built on a foundation of trust, an intrinsic need. This model was designed to be used with teams of people to create a strong foundation that ultimately leads to best in class performance. In this case I want you to consider the above in the context of a sales super star. Your sales super star is a star at what they do and will be your star as long as there is a foundation of trust. How much do they trust you? How much do they feel valued by and trusted by you? If there is a break in that foundation; intrinsic trust, they will seek extrinsic factors to validate their belief, and when they find them…poof…they just leave.

 

I hear some of you saying…enough of the Psycho mumbo jumbo…so let me share common scenarios that illustrate why sales super stars actually leave.( and it did not happen in just a “poof “instant)

 

 

Scenario One: they left for more money

What you heard was they left for more money…here’s what really happened.

A lack of trust occurrence– they sold something and it had huge quality issues, they are asked to sell a new product that is not ready to go to market yet, they are given an unrealistic goal since they seem to crush their goal every year anyway. They made a large sale and when they receive their paycheck they are informed the compensation plan changed. They made a large and profitable sale and no one said atta boy…

Feeling they are not appreciated – may have been called out in a meeting in front of peers over something that was not their fault, criticized for misspelled words in their monthly report that highlights once again they blew past their sales goals or some other minor issue while they continue to crush their key sales performance indicators.

Validation of feelings of being unappreciated–  a change in pay, maybe a change in benefits, a new compensation model, a new expense limit program, take away company credit card asked to use personal credit card and expense reimbursement is very slow, change of sales territory, and a new targeted income model with a capped pay plan (nothing demotivates a sales super star like a cap on compensation).

Put out some feelers about job opportunities

Poof they just leave…

 

 

 

 

 

 Scenario two; Left because boss was” a jerk”

What you hear is they left because they thought their boss was “a jerk” a real “ass-kicker”.

 Not trusting new boss/ boss kicks ass and provides no help or assistance to help him hit quota- boss lacks product, market and management training,  in a recent survey of sales people only 34% of salespeople believed their manager and leaders knew what they were doing, boss believes the beatings will continue until the performance improves.  New boss implements micro management tactics and challenges how the sales super star spends their time and who they meet with although they continue to exceed sales performance indicators. Sales star feels he is not trusted, does not trust boss, does not trust where the company seems to be going.

 Concerned about the direction of company if they would hire someone like this – they feel a cultural shift, often not an intentional strategic shift. They refuse to be on a team managed by someone who adds no value to growing sales. “Help me hit my numbers or get out of my way.

 No longer trusting ownership and senior leadership- they have to know this is happening right?

 Feeling new boss does not appreciate nor value their contribution to the team’s overall sales performance, access to upper management cut off my new boss

 Possibly has a run in with boss privately or publicly-  new sales managers with low emotional quotients are often intimidated by sales super stars

 New boss does not back sales super star with customers or upper management when conflict occurs- new sales manager has strong political experience and plays it safe and fails to address real issues

 Sales star loses relationship with owners who in the past have shared how much they valued his contribution – you always had an open door to your team, particularly when you were much smaller , but you have grown and hired people to manage the front line so you can run the business.

 Puts out a few feelers

 Poof …Leaves team

 

 

 

 

 Scenario three: They left for a “better opportunity”

What you heard was they left for a “better opportunity”.

Quality changes for the worse, product, service, communication, lack of new innovative products, no new sales tools, poor marketing, no leads

 Feeling of being disconnected, alone in the market and unable to share all the quality issues that are hurting the achievement of sales results because it is not “politically safe” and they are accused of “just making excuses”

 Not trusting the company, what it says, or the products you are selling will do what they are promised to do in your literature

 Concerned about personal reputation in market

Missed a sales quota and gets less commission or no commission

 Lost a key account to a competitor with new innovative solutions that do not have quality issues

 Unresolved product quality issues from past sales sucking them into conflicts when they should be selling new opportunities 

Relationship with long term key account strained

 Less commission again, had to explain why to their spouse

 Put out feelers

 Poof…Leaves team

 

 

 Scenario four; Sales super star got a great offer they could not refuse

What you heard was the competitor made them an amazing compensation offer.

 Sales star sees favoritism to under performing sales associate(s) – basically poor results are not addressed and under performance is ignored and politically correctness is rewarded.

Sales Star is financially impacted by poor performance of under performing team member – the group’s sales number are down so everyone suffers, maybe the under performing team member is in product development and they keep throwing products over the wall the market does not want…need… or are not finished, or marketing failing to produce qualified leads, or manufacturing.

Sales star disciplined for results out of  their control – your comp plan is weighted to drive new product sales and the new product you launched is poorly designed, late, and has numerous quality issues so the sales star fails to hit compensation levels. The launch is late but the sales goal by month stays the same. Marketing does a “soft launch” and there are no or very little qualified leads and or support.

Under performing team members allowed to go on unchecked- poor performance issues not addressed, situations do not change, but sales star told ; “ you are not paid to tell me why you can’t sell, you are paid to hit your numbers, just make it happen”

Sales star wants to be working with other winners not B and C players- super stars want and need to be on teams of other super stars. They lack an understanding or the patience to accept team members who are not accountable

Put out feelers…

 Poof…they leave

 

Scenario five; offered a much higher position with more responsibility

What you heard was he or she was offered a much bigger job, role , with a competing firm.

No new products for 18-24 months – sales person sees competition launching new products, new marketing support tools and your team has not launched anything new.

Focus on making more profit from current customers and not growing market- the mood, strategy seems to have shifted and salesperson is hitting their numbers but can achieve those results with three-four hours of work per day.

They become bored- they are not having their intrinsic need to feel challenged, learn new things , “take new hills“, met

No Longer proud of what they do

Put out a few feelers…

Poof…they just leave

 

As you can see a sales super star does not just wake up one day and decide to leave. As a matter of fact sales super stars are actively recruited on a frequent basis because they are so good. They stay when they trust you, your company and feel their extra effort is appreciated. They listen to new job inquires when their trust is broken, they feel they are not supported, not valued, asked to sell something of poor quality and or find themselves on teams that lack a commitment and accountability to the goals of the organization.

What my past client was feeling was a lack of loyalty after all these years, and the sales star selfishly chasing bigger bucks for the short term. When I called Tom what I found was the reason he left was rooted in a thought that became a belief many months earlier and only validated by some external, extrinsic needs changed. As the CEO’s business grew he hired a number of new people; CFO, COO, VP of Sales and Marketing. Tom felt distanced from the CEO and his efforts to reconnect were seen as “not following the chain of command” and he was reprimanded by the new VP of Sales and Marketing.  Tom was hitting his numbers out of the park, but now the new team members were changing the compensation program, implementing a number of new rules regarding expenses and limiting what Tom can do out in the market without their approval. Tom felt unappreciated  he lacked faith and trust in the new management team, and felt he would be valued more somewhere else. The competitor has been after him for years and as Tom shared and it took one meeting over coffee to receive an offer. The offer was a little more money upfront, but he would once again be reporting to the CEO, and they had a number of new and exciting products to launch into current and new markets. The variable portion of his compensation was uncapped once again and he saw a huge opportunity and challenge.

The intrinsic fuse was lit when they stopped trusting you….and Poof they are gone when that fuse meets some external validation.

 

Have you lost a sales super star on your team in the last 12 months? Why?

 

What is the value of a sales super star compared to an average sales person in your organization?

 

Do your sales super stars feel appreciated and valued? How do you show them?

 

Or are your sales people treated like sales mercenaries and told to “just make it happen or I will find someone else who can” ( if so I promise they are already looking for new teams to serve)

 

As a leader/owner of your organization do you know how your salespeople are being treated? If so how, what have you put in place to prevent an “ass kicker” from chasing away your best people?

 

The economy is rebounding and our customers and potential customers have cash reserves they want to spend to solve problems they have needed to solve for years. It is the perfect condition for sales super stars to create sales velocity for your team and add real dollars to your bottom line. Will your huge growth year be sucked into a sales force sink hole when one, two or even three of your top salespeople leave? How can you be sure your year is built on a strong foundation for sales growth? In a recent survey 60% of employees said they will change jobs when the economy improves . What would happen in your company if the 60% who leave are all your A players ( and may become competitors)? In my next post I will discuss how to keep sales super stars on your team and how to attract other market leading sales super stars to want to join your team.


As the owner and or leader of your business I can hear some of you saying; “Mark, the above examples are obvious reasons why anyone would leave including a sales super star. However in my company this would never happen.

Are you sure? I have seen each  of the above, and many more occur in companies just like yours.

 

 

 

 

Good Sales Results Today Does Not Immunize Your Sales Team From Poor Sales Performance in the Future

By Mark Allen Roberts

Assuming since you have never experienced poor sales results you never will is like assuming since you have never caught the flu you will never get sick. I hear it all the time; “Mark your content about staying close to how and why your buyers are buying is interesting but we don’t have a Sales Problem to fix”. Congratulations, and I hope it stays that way. My personal experience for over 30 years now has seen however businesses operate in cycles. One predictable cycle you want to avoid is when the phone “just stops ringing” and you don’t know why.

The leading cause of why businesses experience poor sales performance is losing touch with their market, their buyers, and specifically how they buyers buy and the criteria they are using today.

I returned home from Walgreens after getting my annual flu shot and my mind was racing with all the misperceptions the others in line were sharing about the flu, how you get it, how to cure it and so on. Imagine my surprise when my own wife said “why do you get a flu shot every year?….I have never had a flu shot and I have never had the flu” I went on to share with her that I am happy she has never been sick with the flu, and that just because she has never had the flu it does not mean she never will. The flu changes, evolves and new strains are born everyday and she may have been immune to the past strains but that is no assurance she is immune to current or future viruses.

I will close out this train of posts on how just as there are myths about the flu we also find myths about sales, sales performance and how to prevent poor sales performance. Myths that become beliefs over time are dangerous as they often impede and impair the preventative measures that could have kept your business healthy. Businesses you do not stay close to their markets and their buyers run the risk of poor sales. If your business is in the practice of telling your market as apposed to serving your market are already infected and will experience a poor sales performance outbreak often at the least convenient time. As someone who helps businesses get back on track and build sales velocity, I listen for common statements that indicate a virus is present in the core of their sales team. I listen for comments like;

Our buyers don’t need that…

Our buyers do not value …..

No one in our industry does…so why should we?

Our customers are not smart enough to understand…

Everyone in our industry has this policy …

We have been in business for 50 years we know what our buyers need…

We can not afford to ….

And my recent personal favorite: No buyers in our industry use the internet or social media in making buying decisions.

As I have said before, (and will probably say again soon) you could say that…but you would be wrong!

As someone who spends time in markets, a variety of markets, meeting with buyers on a regular basis one common trait they all have is buyers use the internet to educate themselves. The role sales once played as keepers of the product features and benefits information keys is over. Industry statistics show  70%-80% of the sales process is over before the buyer calls you today. Where are they gathering information about products that can solve their immediate problems? We see they are using the internet, social networks, industry trade group forums, and utilizing technology to gain product referrals and recommendations.

Not sold yet? Don’t believe me? Ok….In a recent Forbes article the author shared 19 things successful people do using social media. The article shares how 69% of adults admit to using social media. Ah ..I hear those voices again …”Not in OUR industry Mark”…Really?

Lets take a look at a recent white paper by HIS Global Spec titled; Social media use in the Industrial Sector. I really want everyone to download and read this report’s content. Some of the findings included;

  • 81% follow business / groups within their industry
  • 26% reference or read work related content
  • 36% had a Google + account
  • 47% view you-tube for work related purposes
  • 85% viewed you-tube product demos
  • 80% viewed How to video on you-tube

Why? Why and how are people even in the industrial B2B sector using Social media?

  • 52% keep up with the latest industry news and technology
  • 48% reach additional contacts and network
  • 37% find peer reviews and recommendations

If your business does not believe that up to 80% of your buyers are doing their homework on the web prior to calling your salesperson, or that your buyers are not using social media I can only guarantee you one thing; your company is invisible to a large number of buyers who are actively searching to solve problems your company can solve for them. Web sites that are basically virtual brochures that take up cyber space because we are supposed to have one because everyone else does do not help sales teams achieve sales goals or create a 21st Century Sales Pipeline.

Market leaders understand how their buyers buy, where they shop and gather information and leverage technology to insure their product or service solution is found.

Has anyone on your team said: “our buyers do not use the internet”?

Have you been in a meeting where a senior leader said we do not need to invest in that social media mumbo jumbo…?

How were your sales results from your last new product launch?

Are your salespeople asking for more or less qualified leads to meet with?

Some business leaders believe because they have never had sales problems in the past they never will and this is like believing if you have never had the flu you never will. The reality is just as flu viruses change over time so too will your buyers, their buyer journey and buying criteria. One change we all must face is buyers today are using the internet more than ever before and they are leveraging social media. To immunize your sales from future sales problems you must embrace the process of understanding how your buyers buy and strategically embrace new technologies the buyers are using today.

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


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

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

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

What are some symptoms your sales has the flu?

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

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

Is your team experiencing sick sales performance this year?

Have you decided to have a national meeting?

Does your team experience a sales flu early each year?

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

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