Sales is a Science When You Have Strong Marketing….an Art When Your Marketing Sucks!

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is sales and “art” or a “science”? It depends….is your marketing strong, or does it suck?

 

In my last post: Is Sales an Art or a Science I shared how I opened a recent presentation to business owners and their senior leadership teams with a question;

Is Sales an Art or a Science?

 

The responses were pretty predictable;

Felt sales was a science: 30%

 

Felt sales was an Art: 60%

 

Felt sales was both an art and a science: 10%

 

This was interesting, however I heard the soft comment I was waiting for: “It Depends…on your industry, team’s training, product, price, availability of sales tools, your web site….” (Perfect! Now we are going to have a discussion!)

Then they asked me…what did I think? Art or science? I said “yes” as sales is often both. I find where sales falls in the spectrum with art on one end and science on the other depends on the organizations competency in marketing.

Marketing? Yes, because the fundamental job of marketing is to have an intimate understanding of your market, its buyer’s problems, and how they set out to solve those problems. Competent marketing teams clearly understand the buying process, cycle and criteria. They create tools to help buyers buy.

Market Leaders

 

If you have a strong competency in marketing, you know your market, and its problems that need to be solved. You know the buyers; you have clearly stated buyer persona’s and you understand the buying process. Your message is clear and does not require a translator (salesperson) to help buyers understand the problems your products or services solve.

Market leaders have such a clear understanding of the buying process their sales is more of a science. The art in the sale for market leaders is the salesperson’s ability to ask open-ended questions and apply proven sales tools for the right step of the buying process that keeps the conversation moving to a sale.

In market leading organizations, sales are 80% science and 20% art.

 

Unfortunately less than 10% of organizations would be considered Market leaders. Those that are, dominate their markets.

 

 

 

Market losers

 

If your team lacks a competency in marketing you will experience it for yourself on sales calls. Your team plays; “ feature and benefit BINGO” in hopes they rattle off all your features and benefits and at some point your buyer yells “BINGO” as they put the pieces together with the problem they have, and they understand how they “think” you solve this problem.

 

Market losers really do not know the problems their products solve for their buyers, the buying process, or buying criteria. In most cases their products were built from the inside out and marketing was tasked with “creating the need” for their products…losers! 

Market losers launch products and believe they can “manage by objectives” and meet their goals by managing key performance indicators created without any knowledge of their market. 

Market losers  have high turnover as they replace those who fail to hit goal, and skilled team members leave to join market driven teams.

Market losers have websites that talk about their company, years in business, and they prepare the feature and benefit BINGO card for their buyers and salespeople.

 

For market losers 80% of sales is an “art”.

 

The CEO and CFO of market losing companies go crazy because there is a lack of predictability, and they can not “manage” their way to market leadership. In this model your salespeople need to disregard what marketing does provide, and listen to their buyers, understand buyer problems, and create their own sales tools that discuss how their product or service solves those problems.

The danger in this model is sales may be promising things your product does not do, and the message varies by salesperson and thus is not repeatable.

 

From my experience, I would say about 50% of the companies out there are Market losers.

 

They build products because they can and not because they should. They are sales driven or bottom line driven. They have high turnover and ironically the salespeople they are letting go today won awards for sales performance two years ago….so what changed?

From my experience 40% of companies are somewhere in between but striving to improve.

They often launch a product that becomes very successful and then have a series of launches that fail. As they grow, the leaders who knew the market are now “managing the business” and lose touch with the market and its problems. They forget it was their understanding of market problems that caused their success and often fall into the trap that they think it was their personal brilliance and or hut spa.

As I closed the discussion I asked everyone in the room to do two things in the next seven days….

  1. Go out and meet with your customers and ask questions about their business and the problems they are facing, and how they try to solve those problems

.

  1. Look in your top salesperson’s trunk of their car and or lap top and see the tools they are using

 

The good news is everyone can become a market leading organization and realize higher than market average profits, lower turnover and increased shareholder equity. When you clearly understand your market and buyers, and create sales tools to help buyers move through their buying process, you create a win-win-win.

So what kind of organization do you work for? Market leader? Market Loser? Or someplace in between? Why?

 

Advertisements

Hey Delta, …Buyers Make Decisions in “their timeframe” Not Yours!Your Goals do not Matter to your Buyers

 

Organizations that create objectives based on their needs and timelines and not their buyers miss key indicators and create frustration for their internal and external customers. Why do so many organizations create goals and key performance indicators from high within their organizations and not from the market and buyers in market?

Most organizations lack an intimate knowledge of their buyers, their problems, and buying process so they operate in “gut and intuition  mode.”

 

When organizations start building market driven goals with an understanding of the problems their products and services solve, key indicators and EBITDA objectives are met and exceeded.

If you have not gathered it from previous posts, I fly a great deal. Domestic travel has become more of a necessary evil experience (with the exception of South West). I have traveled on  business now for over 25 years, so I remember when air travel felt like the airlines valued me and my business.

International travel has become even more challenging. I traveled  from Phoenix to Manchester England recently on Delta. I had a long layover in Atlanta and  then 7 1/2 hour flight over the pond and I was in business. The first leg of my flight left Phoenix at 6:10 AM. so based on the rules for international travel I had to check in at the airport by 4:00 AM. Luckily I do not live too far from the airport so I set my alarm at 2:45 AM.  I arrived, parked the car, took the parking bus to the terminal, went through security and arrived at my departure gate.

I settled in with a book I have wanted to read  by Jim Collins and I was not looking forward to my 5 hour layover in Atlanta,… but you have to do what you have to do.

The gate agent announced;

We are overbooked on this flight and we are looking for 4 volunteers willing to take the later flight and we will give a voucher to be used for future travel…

I went up to the check in counter, and found I could indeed take the later flight and still have a hour to make my connection in Atlanta. However, since I was already at the airport, I decided to decline.

In about 15 minutes another announcement needing volunteers and her voice seemed more desperate. ( don’t customers know how important it is to Delta to get volenteers now?)

 As the boarding  time approached we heard additional announcements and eventually they found their volunteers who had “flexible” flight plans and they received later flights and cash vouchers. ( while our take off was delayed)

 

Hey Delta…when did your system know you were oversold?

Is this the ideal buyer experience for your service? …I think not.

 

If your system knew within 24 hours of the flight it was over sold, it sounds like you have an unresolved problem you need to solve that may actually turn into a service your customers rave about and save your bottom-line profits…Interested?

 

If you have the technology to remind me to check in 24 hours prior to the flight, …can you leverage that technology to request volunteers for overbooked flights 24 ours ahead of check in? If so I would have volunteered for free to have a few more hours of shut eye!

How about your organization?

 

Do you set sales goals and timelines based on your needs versus the markets? How’s that working for you?

Are your sales objectives and timelines created by internal Hippos who have a dated understanding of your market?

 

Or are your goals developed with a clear understanding of your buyers, their buying process and criteria?

Let me ask you a key question….

What % of your sales team met or exceeded their sales goals last year? If you are like most organizations as high as 70% of your team missed their sales objectives last year.

 

While on this topic let me ask you another question:

What % of your salespeople received a goal increase this year?…( that many huh?)

 

So let me get this straight, 70% of your team missed their sales objectives in 2009, and 100% received a goal increase in 2010? Am I the only one who has heard Einstein’s definition of insanity? [Hell, chances are you have used it in meetings with your team, why not look in the mirror when setting goals?] So your employees also suffer whn goals are made wiout an understanding of your buyers?

So what happens next?

 

Objectives are missed

 

Goals are adjusted down or inventory far exceeds actual sales, and EBITDA objectives are missed…again

And / or you discount your product or service so buyers react to your goals and timelines

Market leaders understand goals should not be a shell game, and they must be created from a clear understanding of your markets and how (when) your buyers buy.

Market losers create objectives in their Hippo watering holes called boardrooms with little or no understanding of their buyers, buying timelines, and buying process.They focus on their needs and not those of their buyers. They demand buyers to buy on thier timeline. 

 

Market Losers get frustrated because objectives and key timelines are being missed, and they try to “manage” their way to bottom-line objectives.

 

What kind of company do you work for?

What kind of a leader are you?

 

If you are a Hippo, when is the last time you left “the watering hole”?

 

When was the last time you bought or used your product or service?

 

When was the last time you talked to a potential buyer for your product?

Are you dictating when buyers must buy?

 

The solution is obvious….

Get out in your market and get to know your customers and potential customers today. When you do you will discover market problems and see opportunities for your team to solve those problems.

Who knows, you may also create raving fans who value a few extra hours a shut eye more than a $400 travel voucher.

You Got a Minute to Win It…Your Buyers’ Attention

When you are shopping for a new item where do you start? If you are buying a snack or Diet Coke you find the nearest source. However, when you set out to buy more substantial products most of us start shopping with an internet search. Information once only available through a salesperson is now available on web sites, in chat rooms and blogs. Where most organizations’ web sites fail is their message is about them, how great they are, how many years they have been in business, who some of their key customers are, and awards…blah …blah….blah.

Market leaders know their web site needs a concise message that clearly states the problem they solve for their buyers because today you have less than a minute to win it…your buyers’ attention that is.

 

 Featured Content

Have you seen the new game show on Sunday nights titled; “You’ve got a minute to win it.” I predict this show will not only be a huge success but it will have entrepreneurs creating home minute to win it games and consumers will be making their own contests based on what they have seen on television.

 

As our family watched this new game show we found ourselves cheering for the contestants as they attempted challenges of varying difficulty. I thought how similar these contests are with the environment most marketers face when trying to capture consumer interest on line.

Your web site should not require practice for consumers to win (find answers to their unresolved problems)

 

The contestants on this show have all practiced their challenges at home prior to appearing on the show. So they practiced balancing bolts strung on a chop stick and bouncing a ping pong ball over three consecutive plates and into a fish bowl. What we as business people can learn for this includes;

  • your potential customers do not want to learn how to win , practice finding, the problems your product and or service solves for them

  • It is your responsibility to test and keep testing your web site and adjust it so potential buyers “get it in a minute.”

 

The moral of this blog post is;

*when your marketing team knows they have a minute to win it in terms of customer attention they will boil your message down and clearly explain the problem your product or service solves for buyers in your market. When done properly you receive more traffic, more page views, a reduced bounce rate, more inquires that turn into more leads, and ultimately more sales.

 

So how about your web site and your message…if you asked a potential customer to view your site would they understand the problem you solve for them?

 

Does the imagery on your site also clearly show the problems you solve for buyers in your market? Not sure?

Print your home page and give it to potential customers. Potential customers are buyers in your market that could use your product but you have not sold them in the past. Set your timer for a minute and ask them to quickly read and view your web page. [Warning; if you are a C level executive and chose to try this you will not like the answers you receive if you are like 90% of companies] If you are a market leader clearly explaining the problems you solve and not playing “feature and benefit bingo” hoping your buyers figure out what you do, you will enjoy this exercise.

You have a minute to win it in terms of customer attention when they are shopping on the internet.

Your web site must clearly state the problems you solve for your buyers in your market, ideally in the voice of your market. If you fail to do so they will be gone in a click to other sites until they find one that does not require practice to master.

 

 

How about your companies’ web site?

 

Do you understand the problems you solve in less than a minute? (If your answer is no you are really in trouble as you have more product knowledge than your buyers just starting their buying process)

 

Do you have the courage to ask potential customers to take the win it in a minute challenge on your web site?

 

Is your current web site a virtual brochure that requires customers to play feature and benefit Bingo to understand your message and the problems your product or service solves?

 

You have a minute to win it with buyers shopping on line for solutions to solve their problems. Your website must clearly state the problems you solve for your buyers in less than a minute or you loose the game.

Are Your Customers receiving a “Luke Warm” buying experience? …if so it’s costing you more than you know…

 

The climate for business is difficult with consumer confidence low, the access to cash tight and record unemployment. However some organizations are thriving while others know something is wrong, and they are just blaming the economy. The economy is a factor; however it may be the main “why” behind your organizations’ struggles to make numbers if your clients are receiving a “Luke Warm” buying experience. Luke warm employees create a “just enough to get by “buying experience and that simply is not cutting it in this highly competitive environment. I discussed how the buying process has changed over the last year in my post: Are you Enabling your Sales Force or Emasculating them?  With these added pressures, the last thing you want is for your clients to have a poor buying experience and seek out your competitors.

I just finished a book by Francis Chan titled; Crazy Love. It’s a book about growing your spiritual life.. In chapter four he discusses “the profile of Luke warm” and I thought how the wisdom he shares with regards to our faith life also applies in the business world. Chan describes how a Luke warm faith life is worst than being hot or cold and I feel this is also true for businesses and their employees. Specifically this is most evident in the buying experience.

What is it like to buy from your company? Are your salespeople trained and knowledgeable? Do they know how to find buyer problems and set out as if on a quest to solve them?

Or are you like most organizations who have built inside out service models and you hear executives challenged by “how our clients just are not smart enough to see the value in what we provide.” Or maybe you have downsized your sales and customer service teams and you are wondering why your business is declining and your customer satisfaction is at an all time low?

Luke warm team members produce Luke warm service levels.

The Bible discusses how being Luke warm is worst than being hot or cold and this rule also applies to your team members. I would much prefer a team member who tells me: “I just don’t get our plan and I am having a hard time getting motivated to execute my indicators” than someone who says they are on board and is just going through the motions to just get by.

As I discussed in my post: Third Part of truth …Motivation; Are You willing to go the extra mile like Chick-fil-A?  As a consumer we instantly recognize good service and an organization that has clearly set an expectation for how customers should feel in the buying process.

I need to ask…How you want your customers to feel in the process of buying your goods and or services.

Once you intentionally create this vision, you will need to identify team members who will need to be trained, and in some cases replaced.

14 warning signs a team member may be Luke warm and negatively impacting their service to internal and external customers

1.)    They do what they believe is expected of them and only what they believe is expected of them

2.)    They choose to follow Hippos, they do what is politically correct but may not be right

3.)    They are striving to survive not win

4.)    They rarely share their knowledge and experience as they use knowledge as power and not a gift

5.)    They focus on comparing their results to that of other team members versus their key performance indicators

6.)    Their actions serve themselves more than others ( customers both internal and external)

7.)    Their service is conditional, selective, and often comes with strings attached

8.)    They are focused on today and what’s in it for them today, they lack a future vision

9.)    They spend more time with their bosses than their subordinates and customers

10)    They do the bare minimum , and their goal is to be “good enough”

11)    They play it safe, they know the rules better than anyone in the organization and often site them

12)    They are visually busy, but not necessarily adding value

13)    When things go wrong they quickly blame others

14)    They seek the safety of their silo’s, and lack a “one company-one team” mentality

A half hearted commitment to the organization’s plan; mission and vision can be felt by customers. A Luke warm commitment to service disrupts your team from within and in the market if left unchecked.

If you read the above and could apply at least four of them to specific team members; employees, managers, supervisors, you now have to ask yourself a tough question;

Will I be a Luke warm leader and look the other way? Or will I take the market leader position and address poor service resulting in a bad buying experience?

 

 

 

What about your organization?

 

When you read the above did specific employees come to mind?

 

How about you, did you personally identify with any of the above?

 

How have you helped Luke warm employees become energized value adding producers again?

 

Have you experienced a loss due to not addressing a Luke warm employee and you would like to share?

 

What should you do if your boss is Luke warm?

 

 

Thank you to Francis Chan for his book; Crazy Love, as it challenged me on many levels.

Start-up’s….Like Wiring a House With The Power On…and getting zapped

The start-up phase is often one of the most difficult phases for entrepreneur as they often try to gain market knowledge while trying to meet sales goals. You know you should gather market data, but you often have limited cash, you are the chief cook and bottle washer, and you need to make sales to fund your future growth.

Start-up leaders need a strong emotional intelligence as many days you feel like you are; wiring a house with the power on and you keep getting emotionally zapped.

 

A number of years ago my wife was redesigning our upstairs bathroom and asked I change the electrical outlets from a cream color to a solid white. So we turned the lights on in the bathroom and I went to the fuse box and flipped switches until the bathroom light went out. I started to remove the outlet and saw a small spark. I thought to myself…”That’s odd as I know the electric power was off…” (My perceived truth) so I continued removing the old outlet. Zap! Next thing I knew I received a shock that sent me up against the wall and I fell into the bathtub. I latter found a new truth…the lights were on a separate circuit than the outlets so I was trying to change the outlet with the power on.

One of the most exhilarating as well as frustrating things you can do is launch a start-up company. Like I discussed in a previous post you feel like a plate spinner with more to-do’s than hours in a day. I go on to discuss how we can’t let the most important plates drop. I have discussed in earlier blogs how 2/3 of start-ups fail within 18 months. The main reasons we are all aware of for start-up failure include;

  • run out of cash
  • lack of a market driven plan
  • if you have a plan, your sales expectation is too high, too soon
  • if you have a plan, you have an unrealistic understanding of the buying process and cycle
  • trying to sell the need for a product you launched because you could and not because you should
  • market is not large enough
  • customers do not want to pay to solve the problem you solve
  • stress

 

Assuming your product and or service solves an unmet need, and you have a large enough market who are willing to pay you to solve their problem, the real danger for entrepreneurs is getting zapped by stress during the start-up season of your business..

To keep you from getting emotionally zapped from stress during the often hectic start-up phase, there are five key Biblical lessons I learned from a sermon recently.

1. Don’t wear yourself out – build the discipline to determine what is important, urgent, and focus on what is :urgent and important

2. Don’t shut out others – the reality is you can’t do it alone. Now more than ever you need your network, family, and friends

3. Don’t just focus on Negatives – that’s what market losers do. Keep your eyes on the prize and look for bright lights of opportunity as you launch.

4. Focus on your physical and Spiritual health – far too often those mounting to-do’s make us drop or delay other key areas of our lives. If necessary put time on your calendar for your fitness and faith.

5. Anxiety and fear are the product of looking back or too far into the future , focus on what is in front of you now, and leverage what you have. The quickest way to stop creatively solving roadblocks is to become fearful.

 

 

What about you? Have you experienced stress during the start-up phase?
What advice do you recommend to entrepreneurs in the start-up phase of their business?
What zapped you most in your start-up?

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #18 You will Receive Your Best Tips To Grow Your Company From Prospects Who Do Not Buy From You…

blog pics, tyler apt,kecia riely 004

For as long as I can remember I have heard “your customer is always right”. The spirit behind this statement was to make sure market leading organizations do not try to “overcome customer objections” and listen…as failing to listen is the #1 reason buyers do not buy from a salesperson.

However you will receive the best tips to grow your business from prospects who do not buy.

alpha security 1

I remember a time, back in the day, when I was serving a plastics company, Alpha Enterprises, which made mechanical security devices to stop consumers from stealing music. The record labels announced they were eliminating the “long box” cardboard package in 12 months and CD’s would now be sold in just the Jewel case (as they are today). The national retailers were concerned. So we designed a perfect security solution to house the CD that complemented the current line of audio and video products we sold them …it fit in the current fixtures, had a area inside the device to house the security tag so consumers could not peal them off, it was quick to remove at the checkout counter, used the same key as our other devices, and we even made some of them out of Lexan so the package was crystal clear so as not to deter from the graphics on the CD package. We were kicking but and taking names. It was my job to present our solutions to the various record chains and mass merchant music retailers and book preorders so we could grow our capacity to meet the market need.

And then I presented our various solutions to a Boarders Books

We had never sold Boarders before. We did not have a relationship with them, and the buyer politely said…”no thank you…we will pass”. I was taken aback…doesn’t he know how awesome we are? Did I forget to tell him how all the other chains are lining up to buy? I was always taught, back in my Frito-Lay Selling Skills training; the sale starts when the buyer says “no”… so I couldn’t let this one go. As I said we were on a roll…we were at about $38 million in sales and based on preorders alone we were forecasted to surpass $76 million in 12 months. We could have just kept trying to sell people who already knew us…but we wanted to know more about why Boarders did not buy.

So we flew up to Ann Arbor Michigan again and this time had a meeting in which we asked a lot of questions and did not try to sell. The buyer shared they were going to have a large roll out of music in their current and future stores, but they chose to merchandise the music as retailers did in Europe so our current products were not the perfect solution.

 

cd tray

We listened to his needs, visited his prototype store and based on his feedback as well as other clients in Europe developed a new line of security packages. The Sentry line quickly grew to include audio, video, video game and DVD. The Sentry line of security products provided a greater gross profit per unit than our current line of security products. We eventually won Boarders business and presented our new line in Europe, and it turned out this was the perfect solution for Libraries.

alpha security

Prospects who do not buy often give you the key tips to cause your organization to experience “explosive growth”.

 

Why?

  • they have no relationship with you, so they share the raw truth
  • they are intimately connected to their problems and are looking for solutions to solve them
  • current customers have a relationship with you, and therefore don’t feel comfortable telling you your current or “new product baby” is ugly

 

As you focus on growing your organization make sure and capture customer feedback and more importantly tips from those who do not buy from you.

 

Over time our current customers also experimented with merchandising like Boarders Books and thankfully we listened to that buyer who did not buy at Boarders. When our key current customers needed as new solution we already had a proven design.

 

Your best new product solutions and services for current products often come from prospects who do not buy from you.

 

 

 

How about your organization…

 

Are you capturing customer feedback?

 

Are you capturing feedback from prospects who do not buy from you?

 

What are you doing with this information?

 

Are your salespeople trained to listen when a prospect says no, or are they supposed to “overcome objections”?

 

Market leaders understand some of the best tips to explode their sales and profits come from prospects who do not buy.

 

 

Entrepreneurial Best Practices: #17 intentionally reward the customer behaviors you desire …

wolf 

There is an old Native American saying; “the wolf you feed is the one that grows”. Simply put, the behaviors we reward are those that are repeated. With that understanding it is critical market leaders intentionally reward customer behaviors they want and make customers pay for those that are not in alignment with your overall flight plan.

I flew back to Ohio last weekend on Delta/ Northwest to work with one of my new clients just outside of Columbus. At one point in my career I flew 3-4 days per week, every week, for just over 15 years so I guess I could wear the “road warrior” title. Back then air travel was not perfect, but it was at least predictable. I felt like the airlines and their employees valued my patronage.

On this trip I was greeted at check-in with a $20 fee to check my bag. Although I was aware Delta still charged a fee, it was an interruption for me as most of my flights this year have been with Southwest Airlines who does not charge for a checked bag. When I fly Southwest I feel valued, and the attendants and all their employees make me feel like a valued customer. When I flew Delta / Northwest this week I felt like a number, and I felt like I was being nickel and dimed.

So we board the flight and I noticed the amount of carryon baggage other people were trying to fit in overheads and under their seats. When I used to travel on British Airlines in Europe I was conditioned to check my bags and have a small carry on. As I watched people with panicked looks trying to stow their bags it dawned on me; the customers are responding to the charge for checked bags. Not only did we miss our departure time and take a considerable amount of time to board because some of the passengers bags had to be checked after all, but when we landed it also took a great deal of time to get off the plane. I noticed how slow things seemed to be moving so I timed how long from when the cabin door opened it would take for me, in row 23 to get off the plane. It took 13 minutes for me to walk through the cabin door.

Contrast the above experience with my flights on Southwest. People still have carryon bags but not nearly the amount I experienced on Delta / Northwest. Southwest is one of the most profitable airlines and interestingly they do not nickel and dime their customers. From what I understand one of the reasons Southwest is more profitable is their fast turnaround time at the gate.

As I walked to my connecting flight I thought about what I just experienced and was reminded how we teach our customers how to behave by the rules and rewards we offer them.

The key is market leaders understand to intentionally reward those behaviors that are in alignment with their team’s overall vision and flight plan for their business.

Market losers like Delta/ Northwest charge their clients because they can and not because they should with little regard for the overall big picture of profitability driven by turnaround at the gate due to quick boarding and unloading of passengers.

What about your organization….

What behaviors are you rewarding?

Are those behaviors in alignment with your overall vision and flight plan for your business?

What wolf are you feeding? And is that the wolf you really want to grow?

Do you have other examples of corporate led initiatives that feel like tripping over dollars to pick up pennies? If so please share…

For those in leadership positions at Delta / Northwest you have an opportunity to be seen as a market leading partner by your customers, or a market loser…it truly is your choice. You must focus on the flight plan you have developed to drive shareholder value and I hope overall customer experience is high on your intentional initiatives.