Filed under: Business Growth, Profitable Growth, Uncategorized
It is standard practice to qualify a prospect on the basis of time, need, authority and money, but why not by corporate culture as well? We all find it easier to work with some companies just as we prefer working with some employees more than others. In fact, as a result of outsourcing, with more and more work going to suppliers instead of employees, perhaps the supplier-customer relationship should (and will) start to mimic the employee-employer relationship.
If this is so, then as suppliers, we should start to assess our prospect’s corporate culture just as we did when deciding to accept a company’s job offer. While I’m not recommending pre-relationship psychological testing, we may need to run a relationship check just as we would a credit check. Since people still buy from people (as opposed to companies) some level of compatibility is essential. After all, customer-supplier relationships fail most often because expectations were not set, agreed upon and then met. Some relationships may be already doomed from the start!
So let’s take a few moments and decide whether we are picking good long-term partners or “one-time sales stands.”
- Does the decision-maker communicate like you do?
- Does he/she share some basic values with you?
- Does his/her company make decisions like yours does?
- How are disputes resolved, if they are resolved?
- Is it a conservative or progressive environment in terms of risk-taking, communications, problem solving, partnering?
While sales goals have to be hit, they are rarely accomplished through the first order. Therefore, developing an ideal customer profile before closing that first deal will help ensure that more will follow. Taking a few minutes when moving qualified prospects through the developed or proposal funnel stage before closing them will only enhance the chances of successful long-term partnerships. This profile can easily be added as part of your qualifying customer or pre-proposal questionnaire. Feel free to contact me if you would like some further thoughts on how to do this.
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!
Filed under: Business Growth, Profitable Growth, Top Line Growth
In our post-crisis, unstable economy, we have learned first to survive.
We have cut expenses, chosen needs over wants and take few chances.
What is more important than focusing on your existing customers in a cash-and confidence-starved world? Nothing.
Your profitable, paying clients are your quickest path to achieving Profitable Top Line Growth. They are already paying you and trust you to deliver.
Would you rather keep your customers or invest risky money to poach prospects from your competitors? The answer is clear, especially if your customers are at-risk being poached in return. Your loyal buyers need your focus because they already respect your value and provide you with cash.But have they changed along with the world in general?
Unless your current customers are going bankrupt, focus on them by learning know if and how they are:
- Staying profitable?
- Behaving differently?
- Pursuing new goals?
Chances are your customers have changed and will not buy just like they did. What new behaviors, needs and wants do they have? Now, who is your new real buyer? How has their approval process changed? What are their new expectations? Even before the economy improves and confidence grows, why would your customers keep buying as they did?
Instead, they are probably looking for new products, services, expertise, conditions and warranties when spending to meet their new goals. Knowing how they have changed is your first step to Profitable Top Line Growth, because if you do, you can change what you sell to profitably keep, grow or win-back your customers.
Refocusing on customers means changing your previous sales, relationships, margins and practices, often by reinvesting and retooling what you have been doing for years, just when cash is tight. Try to see your buyers’ changing behavior as an opportunity to meet their new needs and you will profit with them. But treat your historic relationship as a blueprint for a future you feel entitled to, and you will likely fail.
This blog will regularly bring you tools, techniques, resources and real-world examples on how you can leverage your customers first.