“Show Me MY Money !” …How One Entrepreneur Solved A Growing Market Problem

“Show me MY Money !” …How one entrepreneur solved a growing market problem

 

 

Listening to your market, and solving unresolved market problems is key to any company’s future profitable growth. If your team wants to fix a sales problem ,go out into your market, conduct a value proposition audit, and identify new problems to be solved. I recently met with an impressive entrepreneur named Tim Dimoff of SAC’s consulting and he and his team nailed a solution to a current, urgent , unresolved market problem : when money goes missing.

My last few posts have shared how companies we recognize today as market leaders listened to market problems and solved them. I have received many kind calls and emails about these posts.

However one comment concerned me:

“Mark, I like what you are saying and I will try to do this value proposition audit thing, but I am a small company. I am no Yeti. I spend my time running my company and I do not have the resources these companies you write about have.”

This really bothered me. I apologize to everyone who reads my content if I made this process feel like added work or complicated. It is not. If I can do it you can too. It is strategic sales and marketing work you or your team must do. What I am asking, particularly if you are a small business who wants to be a Gunner Kennels or Invue one day is spend time ON your business talking with your customers and potential customers.

I met Tim at a local NSME association meeting and I mentally said I needed to know this guy’s story so I set up a meeting.

 

Tim was an Akron police officer for just over 20 years and he spent a great deal of his time in narcotics investigations. He retired but still felt compelled to serve the community. So he made a list of the top business leaders in the community and asked to meet them to understand their problems. No hard sale, he was listening for gaps he could fill. At first he provided security services, then HR consulting and training. As the years went by he continued to listen for gaps, needs his clients had and offered other service products like investigations, culture training, and building an site security consulting and solutions for growing problems for like active shooters.

 

He kept asking the market for problems they had, gaps, that he and now his staff of investigators and trainers could solve. One customer mentioned they had a big problem; someone in their organization had taken a large amount of funds and disappeared. Tim having a background in finding people took on the challenge and found this ex-employee in another state and helped get the money returned in less than a month. As it turns out this is a large and growing problem: People who take money and disappear.

 

Tim and his team created a service: Asset Tracking and Investigations offering to help his market find money. There are many forensic accounting firms who will help you identify your money is gone but few companies with an expertise of finding money and the individuals who stole it fast. Tim started being known in the market for this service through law firms, accounting firms and others who served businesses with this problem. These firms became his virtual sales and marketing. His expertise in finding people and money gave him national exposure on TV, Radio and investigative reporters frequently used him on their stories. Today his firm SAC’s consulting helps companies and individuals find stolen money all over the world. Some of his clients come to him after they have tried 2-3 other investigative firms.

 

Tim and his team are relentlessly improving and making their services and processes better every day based on market feedback. This has led to a proprietary data search software they developed that helps them find money and people in half the time it would take other firms.

 

In addition to having a growing and profitable business, what Tim is most proud of is his client retention rate. Most firms like his will loose 50% of their clients every five years. Tim’s firm has just over a 97% retention rate…why? He shared he and his teams are committed to understanding what our clients’ problems are and solving them. If the problem/ gap they need filled is not in our capabilities we find someone who can. If the problem happens frequently enough we will create a service to solve it. This is another benefit of serving your market and not just selling them.

 

He and his firm are obsessed with what he calls customer touches. They speak with their clients often and are always asking for new ways to serve.

 

So how about your company…

 

Have you identified and solved an urgent market problem for your clients?

 

Has your team been flooded with calls from a virtual sales force of others who serve your market because of your solution?

 

Does your team have a thirst for customer touches that drives your new products and services?

 

What would your business look like with a 97% customer retention rate?

 

What would it mean to your business to have your company recognized on national television as an expert in solving your markets’ current market problems?

 

The process I have been sharing over my last few posts is for anyone who wants to grow their business profitably. It is not complex; it does not require a strong IT department or some expertise SEO. It is a simple desire to listen and understand your customer’s problems and solve them completely.

It is acting as a servant to your market not a salesman.

Shouldn’t you contact your customers and potential customers today?

It will help “Show you money your team could be closing”.

How Yeti Realized Sales Leadership Nailing Their Value Proposition

How Yeti Realized Sales Leadership Nailing Their Value Proposition

 

 

In my last post I shared a process to conduct a value proposition audit. The goal of this exercise is to insure the value proposition your sales team is communicating still resonates with your buyers. Once you understand how your buyers buy and key buying criteria you can shape your value proposition so it instantly connects with the buyers in your market. One company who has done an excellent job of this is Yeti.

 

 

Ryan and Roy Seiders identified a market problem they understood intimately. The coolers on the market were just not holding up for outdoor adventurers. The lids would cave in, handles would break, and latches would snap off and gave them a bad overall experience. Could Colman or Igloo or others owned this market for high-end coolers? Yes…if they were listening to problems their users were having. They both were in the market long before Yeti.

 

Like Gunner Kennels, these two brothers set out to solve a market problem. In 2006 they were on a focused and simple mission…

 

Build a cooler we’d use everyday if it existed. One that was built for the serious outdoor enthusiast rather than for the mass-discount retailers. One that could take the abuse we knew we’d put it through out in the field and on the water. One that simply would not break.”

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The more intimately you understand the problem to be solved the clearer your value proposition will be. Just as I shared how InVue has a simple yet clear value proposition, so too does Yeti.

 

What started out as a quest to make an indestructible cooler has led to other products the market needed when they searched for problems to solve. Each of these products are designed based on customer feedback.

 

“ We decided early on product innovation would come from necessity and first hand experience”

 

Once they solved the problem for outdoor enthusiasts they asked themselves who else might have similar problems and they share this …

 

We are so glad we were not the only ones looking for a Yeti. Today it is the cooler of choice for outdoor enthusiasts, pro tailgaters and back yard barbecue kings.”

 

As the company continues to solve unresolved market problems I believe they will add other buyer personas to their list. For example, my son is a police officer and he and all his other officers use Yeti to keep their coffee warm and their drinks cold.. As my son puts it…

 

“I can put some ice and a beverage in my Yeti rambler and I will have ice cubes in my drink at the end of an 8 hour shift.”

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I now see road construction crew members, firemen and other service professions paying a premium to solve their problems with Yeti products. Knowing Yeti you will soon be seeing other indestructible products for service professionals who work outdoors.

 

When you understand the problems to be solved the burden is on you to communicate how you solve them. Yeti does and excellent job in their point of purchase that only a market leader would do.

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So how about your company and your market…

 

What unresolved problems are your buyers facing today?

 

Are you going to build a category based on an unresolved market problem?

 

What if your competitor finds it before you do?

 

Is there any reason why you would not want to do a value proposition audit to find unresolved market problems?

 

Increase Sales: Do A Value Proposition Audit 

Increase Sales: Do a Value Proposition Audit 

 

 

In my last post I shared how critical a value proposition that connects with your buyers is in today’s climate. Every industry seems to be undergoing some kind of a change. Market leaders are agile and they identify those changes quickly and they adapt.

What kinds of changes can impact your value proposition?

  • Your business was bought or you bought a new business ( buyers will fear the unknown, and your competitors will feed that fear)
  • Environmental regulations
  • New Laws and or regulations
  • New competitor enters the market
  • Technology change- think the impact the internet of things is having on your customers and markets
  • New innovative solution enters the market
  • Market consolidation
  • Major market shift like the impact the low oil cost is having on everything from fracking, trucking, truck building, and all the other trickle down businesses that are touched by oil and gas.

I have a list on a post I did about what causes growth to stall and you can review them here.

 

Market leading teams quickly identify changes, shifts in their markets and adapt their value propositions to what is important for their customers.

 

One thing we can count on is change. As you are reading this I would like you to think about the changes you have seen in the last year, last 3 years, and perhaps the last 5 years.

What changes to you expect next year?

If your team is like most, you have products you launched; services you introduced and your salespeople are diligently presenting those products and services as they were taught to do. Trouble arises when your salesperson uses a dated value proposition.

 

This is a problem for two reasons…

 

First it shows your salesperson and your company do not understand the market of today. This is something your buyer will feel and instantly doubt their ability to trust your team.

 

Secondly, and even more costly is when your sales team uses a dated value proposition, it will negatively impact future sales. Again, look at it from a buyer’s point of view. You have some salesperson in pitching a solution to a problem you no longer have. If they would have just read your website and or one of your brochures in the lobby they would have known more about your company. If they would have started the meeting asking questions instead of showing up and throwing up you could have helped them understand your current problems.The buyer will create a perception about the sales representative and your company based on this experience and it will hurt your ability to serve this customer in the future.

How do you know if your salespeople are using a dated value proposition?

The first step is to identify the changes buyers in the markets you serve have experienced since your sales team was trained, your web site was launched and your sales brochures were developed.

Second, I ask your VP of sales and or VP of Marketing to travel with salespeople and visit at least 10 of your current large accounts, call on at least 5 of the accounts you want to add and 2 you have lost. These four-legged sales calls as I refer to them are critical in identifying how your buyers buy today, the criteria they are using, and the problems they are solving today. While your salesperson is selling, you are asking questions like:

 

How is your business doing today?

 

Have you seen any significant changes that have impacted your business, how you are buying, your role?

 

I understand you buy some products from our competitors? That is not surprising, …what do you find they do very well?

 

If you were running our company ___________ what would you do to grow sales with your company and other companies like yours?

 

We are thankful for your business. If someone called you on the phone and asked: Why do you buy from ______________ what would you say?

 

(For customers you have not sold yet, or lost)

 

We would like to earn your business. If someone were to call you today and ask: Why don’t you buy from ___________ what would you say?

 

I am sure there are lists of customer questions you can ask, and you should have some very specific questions that illustrate your current market knowledge.

 

A couple of quick rules when doing this kind of a value proposition audit:

  • Ask and listen, do not try to defend or sell through any issues identified. This is the quickest way to end a conversation.
  • Do not have your salespeople ask these questions and report to you. You need to hear the information first hand. Besides, you need your team selling.
  • Do not do this process in a survey. Why? The most valuable part of this process is capturing the current market problems your buyers are having in their voice. A survey will not do this.

Once you have current market data you need to ask yourself one key question…

Based on what we heard from our customers, customers we lost and prospects we want to be customers, does the value proposition and tools we give our sales team match what our buyers told us?

In most cases what I have personally observed is the value proposition sales teams are using is dated and needs some tweaking to reconnect. Those seemingly little tweaks however will demonstrate you understand your markets and what is important to your buyers today. It will make your sales team stand out in a sea of other sales reps saying….

We are the best at….

We have the most….

We have been in business 70 years and….

We have the best quality in the industry…

We have the most innovative solutions…

You get the idea…

Instead, your salespeople will lead with questions that came out of your “value proposition audit” and they will stand out positively in your buyers minds.

Having served company  Presidents for over 30 years I hear that voice saying…” I hear what you are saying Mark but this seems like it is a lot of work and will take a great deal of time…we have numbers to hit…” If that is a concern you are wrestling with let me assure you, this market work should only take 30-45 days and it will make your team more effective, efficient, and become a way your company will be distinctive in your market.

 

What happens if you don’t do a value proposition audit?

 

You will hope what your salespeople are saying is connecting with current and new customers. If what your salespeople are saying, your sales brochures discuss and worst of all your web site says is dated it created a breach of trust with your buyers.

 

My challenge is why risk it? If you feel traveling to your top accounts is too expensive visit your top 2 and call the rest.

 

If you are looking for some great content on creating your value proposition after your audit I recommend the following sites:

 

Useful Value Proposition Examples (and How to Create a Good One) 

 

4 steps to building a compelling value proposition

 

How to write a value proposition that works

 

Three points to create a value proposition

 

How to wire a great value proposition

 

Words that get meetings

 

 

So how about your company?

 

When was the last time you updated your value proposition?

 

Do you feel comfortable sharing the impact that had on your sales?

 

Are you sure what your salespeople are saying is helping your business or hurting it now and into the future?

 

I promise you this value proposition audit is not difficult and can be completed in 30-45 days.

 

If it sounds expensive I want to challenge you…

 

How expensive is it to not be selling buyers you could be selling?

 

How expensive is your travel costs that do not produce new business?

 

What impact would a 20% increase in your sales close rate have on your bottom line?

 

The biggest challenge, if you are the leader of your company is hearing the voice of the customers in some cases. You must have a culture where your team is free to discuss things that may not be politically correct but can impact your business. The comments you are hearing are based on buyer perceptions today. If the value proposition you personally wrote 5 years ago is no longer resonating it is not about you! When you wrote it , it worked! Something changed. This exercise is not about you as a leader, your vision or capabilities. If you are a leader in your organization you have secured that position by making many good decisions over time. It is about positioning your products and services to win orders and growing your business profitably.

 

One last thought, assume you do a value proposition audit and find what your salespeople are saying does resonate with buyers. Great! If sales are not hitting your sales numbers you can now zero in on other areas where you can coach your team.

 

 

Fix Sales Problems: Do You Understand What Your Buyers Value Most?

Fix Sales Problems: Do You Understand What Your buyers Value Most?

 

In my last post I discussed the need to quantify the value the buyer experiences to increase your sales. In a typical sale the buyer has three options; the buyer buys, the buyer buys but not from you, or they do nothing. Market leading companies make it their job to understand their buyers’ problems and what they value most. When you clearly understand the market and problems to be solved creating a value proposition that instantly resonates with buyers is easy.

What is the buyers’ cost of doing nothing?

What do your buyers value most?

Let’s say you sell products that prevent people from stealing products on display in retail stores.

Having served this market back in the late 1990’s we asked a lot of questions and what we found back then was:

  • If a product is behind the counter because the retailer is concerned with theft, sales decrease 50% to over 75%
  • If a product is out ‘LIVE’ on the retail shelf without any mechanical security device or security tag you can expect over 50% theft
  • If product is behind a counter the overall customer buying experience is poor (this costs you a sale now, and more concerning with future purchases)

But that was old school…. check out this market leader in helping large retailers increase their sales!

InVue’s value proposition is focused and clear.

Their value proposition demonstrates they know their customers, their customers’ problems, and they have solved those problems completely.

“InVue develops and markets security products that enable retailers to openly display their high theft merchandise with confidence.”

They not only control theft, they help their customers increase sales as they share below.

“Displaying high value accessories next to hot selling smart phones and tablets will increase your accessory sales over 20%.”

This is a great example of a B2B company that took the time to do their market work and understand the buyers and the problems they want solved. When I speak at conferences I often have someone challenge me; “ I understand this knowing your buyers stuff when it comes to B2C products but I don’t see how it applies to B2B” My answer is it is absolutely critical to understand your buyers, the buying process they use and the criteria they must have to make a purchase. This is the case in B2B and B2C. B2B companies who do the market work prior to launch realize greater sales increases and higher profits.

 

How about your company?

 

Are you solving buyer problems?

 

What process does your team use to identify buyer problems?

 

How is your sales performing to plan this year?

 

The reason why some companies consistently achieve and surpass their sales and profit objectives is they understand their market, buyers and buying process.

Why Do Salespeople Lead With Price?…They Lack A Strong Current Value Proposition

Why Do Salespeople Lead With Price?…They Lack a Strong Current Value Proposition

 

 

By Mark Allen Roberts

A common frustration I hear among senior leadership teams is; Why do my salespeople lead with price? In my last post I shared one is reason your salespeople may be “selling naked”. In this post I will share why you must create a value proposition that instantly connects with buyers and drives the maximum sales and profit increases.

To get started we need to answer a question;

What is a Value Proposition?

Simply put it is your promise of value you propose to deliver your buyers, and the buyer’s belief of how that value will be experienced by them.

Kaplan and Norton (the authors of the balanced scorecard) put it this way;

“Strategy is based on a differentiated customer value proposition. Satisfying customers is a source of sustainable value creation”

How do we create value propositions that connect with your buyers today?

When creating a value proposition you must conduct win loss market analysis and identify why buyers buy from you and why they don’t. You must clearly understand, through doing the market work, your buyers and prospective buyer’s problems and pains today.  You must clearly understand the problems they have, the criteria they look for to solve them and the buying process they are using today and create distinction.

At the end of the day, the two main core attributes buyers use to determine value and differentiate your product or service from that of your completion is: Price and Quality. If your product and company can produce a higher quality overall buying experience, and solve buyer problems completely you can command a higher price. Unfortunately this Gain /Pain teeter totter also swings the other direction as well. If your products or services lack a value proposition that resonates with buyers in your market(s) today, your salespeople can only lead with price.

Let me ask you;

Have you equipped your salespeople with current value propositions that shares how you serve your buyers today?

The most common problem I see when asked to help companies increase sales and profits quickly are they lack a current value proposition that connects with buyers. I have served many companies that make quality products and once clearly understood their markets, buyers and the value they provided was so strong buyers were often willing to pay a premium for their service. Then something changed…it could be a new technology emerged in your market, your competitors improved, your company stumbled  in delivering what you promise, and sales stalled and profit margins started to decline. What I have seen are the buyer’s journey and the criteria buyers using to make purchasing decisions have changed but your team failed to identify and adjust to these strategic shifts. The result is your salespeople sound like they are playing Marko Polo on sales calls, calling out possible problems they think they can solve for your buyers just waiting for the buyer to yell: “BINGO now I understand the problem you can solve for me!”When your salespeople have enough of these types of sales calls they resort to the quickest method in their minds to sell: lead with price…and that’s where the sales and profits death spiral begins.

Have I convinced you spending time you’re your value proposition is worth your team’s effort?

If so below are some excellent articles on Value Propositions:

4 steps to creating a value proposition http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelskok/2013/06/14/4-steps-to-building-a-compelling-value-proposition/

Value Proposition Kit http://www.jillkonrath.com/value-proposition-kit

How to write a value proposition http://www.kinesisinc.com/branding/how-to-write-a-powerful-value-proposition/

Creating a value proposition http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ValueProposition.htm

The Customer Value proposition http://www.appliedproductmarketing.com/resources/CustomerValuePropositionEssentials_eBook.pdf

Three rules to building a value proposition … http://www.raintoday.com/blog/3-rules-to-building-a-value-proposition-that-sells-like-crazy/

The Value proposition canvas http://www.raintoday.com/blog/3-rules-to-building-a-value-proposition-that-sells-like-crazy/

How to create a strong B2B value proposition http://www.slideshare.net/DanielNilsson4/how-to-create-a-strong-value-proposition-for-b2b

 

A couple more questions and I will let you go….

Do you have a Value Proposition that resonates with buyers in your markets today?

If so are your salespeople trained to use it?

Are you frustrated and feel like you are in a sales and profits death spiral?

Are you tired of explaining to your owners, investors, and your board why sales have stalled and profits are declining?

 

If so, creating a value proposition is critical to driving explosive sales and profit growth for your organization. If you lack a value proposition that resonates with your buyers today that Gain /Pain teeter totter will shift and you will experience poor financial results. Take the time to do the market work and understand your markets problems and how they solve them today and you will be on your way to creating a strong value proposition.

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.