Filed under: Business Growth, Profitable Growth, Uncategorized
Like Captain “Sully” Sullenberger, does your sales team humbly acknowledge the whole company did the right things and luck had something to do with it.
Or, are they more like Libyan rebels victoriously firing their guns skyward celebrating their victory over Gadhafi regardless of NATO’s “shock and awe”?
What is your sales force’s self awareness, and more importantly what is the truth?
Despite your sales group’s humility or hubris, no one can control changes in your buyer’s behavior or marketplace forces.
Here are the three ways to gain insight:
1. How did your customers learn about your firm? Call the decision-making buyers and ask them why they decided to buy now. What did the customer initially want and what did your rep say that finally made them buy? If the buyer refers you to other influencers or don’t mention your sales rep, then their buying process has changed and you need to understand why and how.
2. How did your firm learn about these new customers? It takes 12 “contacts” or “touches” to close a new client including your advertising, traditional and electronic mail, referrals, reference checks and internet research. How did your company connect to the decision maker?
3. What did your sales rep do to prospect, qualify, develop and close his or her new customer? Was he or she a former, dormant customer or a brand new one? Was the decision made by the same buyer, department, and using the same criteria as before? Did it change during the selling cycle?
As Bob Dylan once sang, the times they are a changing, it’s highly likely that understanding and reconfirming changes in the customer’s buying process is critical. Here are four questions to answer.
- Has the buyer, reasons or criteria changed?
- Has the distribution changed?
- Does the product need to be repriced, turned into a service or unbundled?
- Has the target market changed, moved or disappeared?
There may never be a substitute for personal face-to-face selling in your business. Or is there a major change in how important and when it is the right thing? In the era of young people texting, internet and voice mail, you don’t want to be the last to know that you have a Willy Loman-style, “Death of a Sales Force”, holding your company back.
Filed under: Business Growth, Profitable Growth, Top Line Growth, Uncategorized
Do real-life stories hit home for you? Years ago, I had just been engaged by a partnership. After contracts and checks were signed, one of the partners waved me into his office and said, “There is something I need to tell you.” Closing the door behind us, he anxiously confessed his need to tell a secret. I responded, “OK.” Then he said, “I’m having an affair with one of my partner’s wives, is that going to get in the way of our growing the company?” Stunned, I responded, “You’re telling me this for a reason?” And he said, “I want you to know this because no one else here knows.”
What would you do if someone said this to you?
When I ask this as a case-study exercise in a workshop, most respond, “Void the contract and return the check.” Although this is the safe choice given that the client was trying to entrap me in his turpitude, there is a better win-win decision.
If you’re faced with a similar situation, don’t confuse the bad judgment of business leaders with the needs of the business. Despite the owners poor leadership, their company dearly needed a growth strategy to best support its customers, employees, vendors and their families and charities.
What happened? I told the irresponsible partner that I would not divulge his sin, but if asked I would not deny I knew. I took the project and helped grow their businesses, as it was clear their company needed to be split into two firms. Surprisingly, the other partner never discovered the unholy alliance.
The teaching moment: Small business serves many good causes and feeds many mouths besides the owners. Too often the brave, risk-taking intentions of owners get undermined by the actions they take (and don’t take) as ill-trained leaders. If you are running or trying to help another small business succeed, talk to the owners about the actions of their leaders, even if you are speaking to the same individual!