Leaders, Help your Team Bust Through Sales Roadblocks by Becoming a “Reductionist”

 

 

I don’t care what business you are in or plan to launch there will be unforeseen roadblocks. There is a direct correlation to the effectiveness and thoroughness of your marketing prior to launch and the number of roadblocks your team will face after launch. If you intimately understand your market prior to launch your roadblocks will be few and often easy to overcome. If you launched on brash Hubris and gut…well get ready for a number of roadblocks and possible detours. While your team is plowing ahead, you as the leader can add the most value by becoming a “Reductionist”.

So you have launched your new product or service and your team is marching, attempting to execute the strategic plan and yet they keep facing roadblocks, unforeseen obstacles that are inhibiting sales. As the leader you have the ability to see, from 45,000 feet what is occurring and help shape and even change the plan. You see roadblocks that may feel unique to one salesman across your entire team and you can prioritize them based on impact to your bottom line.

I had a wise mentor named Hugh tell me once…” ya know Mark there are three kinds of information; Good, Bad, and none, leaders understand the difference and quickly gather what they need to make decisions that have the most impact” In one of my very first posts, I put it another way as well;

Market Leaders Know what they know and they know what they don’t know.”

One of the steps in my last post about trying to “manage fruit ripe” was; “Help your team identify common roadblocks and help create sales tools to help them break through them.” I am a big advocate of focusing on your gifts as apposed to your personal short comings. Too much time is wasted trying to make people gifted at selling also become “strategic market planners”. Luckily entrepreneurs by nature are gifted at creative problem solving so use your gift to help your team.

I often hear entrepreneurial leaders comment in frustration…” why can’t Bill see that the real road block is……and not …..?” Here’s why…

Your salesman Bill is focused on goal achievement (what you pay him to do). To Bill his market is defined by his last sales call. You however have the ability to review data from all your salespeople, customers, non customers, and potential customers to better shape a strategy that will add value to your bottom line.

You must look at the current sales process and seek out roadblocks, places where the process of the sale stalls, or what I often call…” goes dark”.

 Once you identify these common stalls or sale loss points you must prioritize them and build sales tools to help your team keep the sales conversation flowing. This will do two things at a minimum;

First, it will improve your inquiry to lead to sale ratio.

Second, by understanding how your buyers buy and providing them the perfect tool at the perfect time, you show you know them.

Buyers like to buy from people who listen and understand their problems.

Help your sales team break through the common roadblocks and you are on your way to improved results and overall morale.

If you chose to instead say things like;

 You need to overcome that objection

Or

“I can’t believe you could not sell through that…”

Or every salesperson’s favorite…

I don’t pay you to bring me problems I pay you to bring me orders…just make it happen”

If this is your leadership, then you are not positioning your team or your company to be the dominant leader in your market.

Find out quickly what you know and gather what you need to know.

Take that information and boil it down, become a reductionist for your team.

Create strategies and tactics based on market truth.

Constantly assess, test, and modify until you consistently overcome the roadblocks in the way of achieving your sales objectives.

So how about your organization…does you have leaders good at being reductionists?

Attention Entrepreneurs; You Can’t “Manage Fruit Ripe”

 

 

 

They say that which makes us strong can also be our biggest weakness. Entrepreneurs are no exception to this rule as our driven, confident, and focused nature can often inhibit new product success. Entrepreneurs often have such confidence in their personal abilities based on past success they take shortcuts in launching new products and when sales fail to meet plan they believe they can “manage fruit ripe.”

“When it comes to new product sales; you can not manage fruit ripe”

 

After my last post I had a number of people reach out to me saying: “ Ok we get it, we should do research prior to launch …but what should we do if we are in a launch that is not hitting plan?” As I have shared in past posts…I have made a number of mistakes over the years.I have kicked off new products and then had to figure out how to make it work; “make it happen ” on the fly.  So I thought I would do a follow-up post and share what I said to those who contacted me directly.

Entrepreneurs who launch on gut and not market truth often start trying to “manage fruit ripe”. They are so tied to their  plan their failure to achieve goals has to be a sales problem. Based on my experience, over 90% of new product sales falling short of plan are not the result of “poor sales execution” but the result of not having good current data  and or understanding of your market, and is actually a marketing problem. Without current accurate market data one if not all of your four P’s of markting are probably wrong. Entreprenuers are smart people. If given good information they make decisions that grow businesses profitably. If given old or wrong market data one or more of your four P’s will be wrong.

As the owner, leader,you are the boss… so if you want to try to manage the fruit (sales) of your new products ripe… go for it. I have seen many try ( heck, I have tried) and I have yet to see this approach correct new product sales below plan and create sales velocity. 

If you find yourself in a launch based on gut and old or poor data, what should you do?

 

  1. Assess what you have learned ( experienced) during launch so far
  2. Conduct win loss interviews
  3. Identify common roadblocks to sales and bust through them with new sales tools
  4. List what you still need to know and assign priority and timelines
  5. Adjust your strategy based on the current market data you gather
  6. Test new strategies before you scale them
  7. Repeat what works
  8. keep asking questions, determine why customers are buying and not buying
  9. Challenge your four P’s of Marketing ( at least one is off)

 

( or put another way; get the data to answer the four yes’s …as quick as possible)

 

 

So how about you…have you launched a product without having four yes’s first?

 

What did you experience ?

 

What corrective action did your team take?

 

Does it take longer to do research on the front end? Or fix roadblocks during launch?

“Pushing Mud Uphill” …Launching a New Product or Service Without Four Clear “Yes’s”

 

 

One of the most exciting things you can do in business is launch a new product, service, or entire business for that matter. As high as six out of ten US adult consumers are thinking about launching a business at any given time. If you chose to take the leap yourself, you will experience what I refer to as the “50 ugly truths…” but in so doing you will become stronger, and if you survive you will ultimately help people solve problems.

I can’t imagine anything more rewarding than helping someone solve a problem they thought there was no solution for. If this is true, then why do over 70% of new products (businesses) fail?

They fail because they failed to answer “yes” to four simple but key questions.

 

                                                             Question 1

 

Do you clearly understand the problem you are trying to solve and does your product (service) solve that problem completely? (if you have already said “no” stop, gather more data)

 

                                                             Question 2

 

Are there enough people, a market of people, with this problem to meet your desired ROA? ( if your answer is “I think so” stop and validate)

 

                                                             Question 3

 

Do the members of the market you validated as big enough have the ability to pay to solve their problem? (there are all kinds of problems we all have, but we are not willing to pay to fix)

 

                                                             Question 4

 

Are the members of the market you validated that is big enough, with the problem you solve, and ability to pay, “willing” to pay now? (there are many problems we have, and we have the ability to pay for, but not the willingness to pay for)

 

If you answered “Yes” with current market data (not data from three years ago when you first came up with this idea) go for it!

But remember; An Idea is not a product and it’s definitely not a Business.

Where most entrepreneurs blow it …as Jim Collins refers to it is; Hubris. They believe because they have launched products in the past and they were very successful they trust their gut and intuition that there new endeavor will also be a huge success.

 

 

So what happens if you launch based on emotion and Hubris?….

 

Your sales may come, but slowly

 

You will miss ROA targets

 

Need to add investment, instead of cutting bait

 

Your sales team (who trusted you) will push mud uphill each day…the good ones will leave due to frustration

 

You strain your entire organization (who is probably already multi tasking) morale suffers

 

You demonstrate to your market you do not know them

Personally you will become frustrated, aggravated, distracted, and you will loose focus

 

 

 

How can I rattle the above off so quickly?…Because I have done it. I have experienced the rush of growing companies by launching new products and or new divisions and when I find what feels like a huge unsolved problem in a market ….I get excited (emotional).

Instead of gathering current market date, I used to move into; validate my gut mode.

Instead of admitting what I did not know… and finding answers…I relied on past experiences to get me through the unforeseen roadblocks.

 

I have felt the emotion that builds, and heard that little voice in your head that says; “I don’t care what engineering, marketing, operations, and sales thinks we should do, or the more information they want to gather…we need to launch before someone else beats us to market”

 

What I lacked back then was a filter…simple filter that quickly cuts through the emotions and feelings and quickly lets you know if you have an “idea” or a “business”. The above four questions are the filter I recommend everyone use PRIOR to launching your new product, service, or business.

 

 

How about your company….

 

Have you ever had to push mud uphill?

While your team loyally pushes mud uphill, what is the opportunity cost of their time?

Do you have other questions to add to the filter to insure the products you launch do not fall into the 70% of those that are an expense without a ROA?

Again, having launched products, services, even new businesses in my career I understand that inner rush of adrenaline that makes your creative juices fire on all cylinders…I do. Maybe it’s an age thing…but I now highly recommend a pause, a strategic pause, before you launch and ask yourself the above questions.

To insure you maximize your percent of wins and your ROA for new products, make sure you use a filter, get the four “yes’s” prior to launch.

 

If you do not use mine above, I have also used the economic value added model back in the day. This model helps insure decisions are not made of Hubris.

Whatever you do, do not rely just on your gut, and or your key accounts, friends, and family members saying “go for it”.

If you would like to read more about this topic, I recommend you read;

Tuned In

How the Mighty Fall

Delivering Happiness

 

Do I need a Passion Statement for my business? Take the short quiz…

 

 

As I discussed in my post : Want to Jump Start Sales and Morale? Write a “Passion Statement” For Your Business…. A passion statement will jumpstart your sales and improves your team’s morale. Business leaders often spend a great deal of time on mission statements, their unique sales proposition as well as their stated team values. These are all needed , however nothing unties a team and inspires your buyers to buy like an authentic passion statement.

So how do you know if your organization needs a passion statement?

Please answer the below questions with the first answer that comes to your mind.

What I am looking for is your feeling more than an answer you spend time rationalizing.

  1. Do your customers perceive your product as a commodity?

  2. Has your overall gross profit as a % of sale decreased in the last 6 months?

  3. Do your team members work 9-5, no more, no less?

  4. When you work with salespeople in the field do you discover your key accounts are purchasing products from competitors because they were not aware you carried them?

  5. Has 50% or more of your sales team missed their goals over the last 6 months?

  6. Do your competitors always seem one step ahead of you with new products or services?

  7. When you launch new products, do they miss their ROI targets?

  8. When you review the performance of your last 3 new products would they be categorized as “evolutionary”? ( instead of revolutionary)

  9. Is you employee turnover greater than 20%?

  10. Have you lost one or more of your Key accounts in the last 6 months?

  11. Has your AR increase by 10 or more days to collect?

  12. Do your salespeople complain your products are significantly priced higher than competitors?

  13. Are salespeople listing features you must build into your product to make the next sale?

  14. Are you frustrated that your team does a good job of identifying roadblocks, but fails to develop plans to break through them?

  15. Have you ever said…” I am frustrated; I want my team members to act like owners and not just employees”.

  16. Have you lost a key employee over the past 3 months unexpectedly?

  17. Are you having difficulty identifying and recruiting new team members?

  18. Do your team members have more than 3 key performance indicators you evaluate them on each week?

  19. Is more than 3 hours of your week in meetings?

  20. Do you feel the need to create weekly objectives and activities for your subordinates, and “manage” them closely?

 

Here’s the deal….if you said “Yes” to more than 5 of the above you and your team need a quest, you need a passion statement to jumpstart your business.

If you answered “Yes” to 10 or more you are already on the slippery slope of becoming a Market Loser.( take corrective action now!)

 

How does your organization answer the above questions?

 

Based on your answers do you need a passion statement?

 

How do your clients describe your team and your products when you are not around?

Rip Off the Band Aide(s) and Position Your Business For Growth in 2010

What are you aware of that is broken in your business? You know that area, person, process, perhaps website that is not producing? It’s that area that you know you need to address, but you have tabled for now as you focus on bigger fish to fry. If you can’t admit perhaps it’s” broke”,(like a number of those who ask for my help)  let me ask you another way: What is that area that you know is just not right, but you slapped a band aide on to “get through until the business comes back to normal again”?

The reality is you will never see your business like it was unless you identify the areas that are roadblocks or worst yet broken ,and fix them.

I remember when my children were very young and when the would fall down playing and scrape a knee or elbow they did not want me to clean the minor scratch or put some medicine on it….they wanted a band aide. Band aides are magical in that once the problem is out of site they were miraculously healed. Tear filled faces became filled with smiles and the desire to get back to the play that resulted in the injury in the first place.

The difficulty came at night, before their bath when we had to remove that band aide. Back in the day, in an effort insure they did not fall off,…band aides were once glued   your skin and the removal of them caused some pain and or irritation. So what do you do? Do you slowly pull the band aide off? No, what you learned to do was to rip the band aide off quickly. Yes there is a momentary pain, but not nearly as long as trying to slowly remove it. Once the band aide is removed you can assess the true nature of the injury, clean it, and apply medicine to insure it heals and does not become infected.

As I work with a variety of companies in a number of industries I uncover band aides in a variety of areas; broken processes, people who are not adding value and should have been dealt with long ago, people in the wrong roles, websites that scare customers away instead of begin a discussion, antiquated costing systems, poor marketing, the use of old selling practices, …and the list goes on.

What I find is most leaders are aware of the problems, but quickly mentally ranked them, they performed a triage and determined what needed to be addressed immediately, soon, or something we can slap a band aide on and deal with it when the business gets back to normal. There is also some who seem to hope and pray they just go away.

The reality is you may never see the days you consider normal again.
If today is the new normal , what would you do differently moving forward?

The recommendation I give to my clients is to; reset their understanding of the market and their business. In that process we will identify band aides that were slapped on areas that needed repaired and now have become infected. The only way to determine if those broken areas miraculously healed themselves, or if they became infected and may be costing you business, is to rip them off quickly, and rip them off now.

Over the next series of posts I plan to share the process I have used to help businesses; launch new products, launch into new markets, grow in existing marketing, and rebound when they were faced with rapidly decreasing sales, profits, and market share. My commit to you is they are practical and you may even scratch your head and say “well it can’t be that easy”…the reality is; yes, it is.

I am not sure what caused it, or when it occurred , but leaders at some point decided problems were complex and therefore required complex solutions that none of us could execute if we had to … if the truth be told. The reality is when you boil problems down to their true essence there are no new problems. The problem may on the surface look or feel new, but in reality it has existed before. Identifying problems and the road blocks standing in the way of your team’s success and solving them is what we are paid to do.

How about your business…when I ask the question; what is broke and you know you need to fix it but it will be painful? …do you think about?
Are you sure the band aide you slapped on it long ago is working? How can you be sure?
Are you sure underneath that band aide you don’t have a festering infection that may spread throughout the body of your business? ( and worst spread to your customers)
Did you just address an area by “Ripping off the Band Aide”? If so please share what your learned.

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.

 

 

Entrepreneur best practices: #12 An “Idea” is not a product…and it’s definitely not a business

idea

 

 

At any given time 6 out of 10 US adults are thinking about starting their own business. Half of those will attempt to launch their own business. As I discuss in my eBook; 50 Ugly truths about starting your own business …and why you should do it anyway, they often enter into their own business with a false set of expectations. One of these false expectations is their “idea” is a product and even more disturbing is when they start investing to support their idea as a business. Recognizing the majority of those who launch a new business will fail within 18 months, one of the common contributors to their demise is not asking the right questions.

 

Before you ask friends and family for start up money, before you tap into your home equity and 401k, and definitely before you quit your day job…you need to play “20 questions”.

 

You must verify your “idea” can be monetized into a viable business before you launch.

 

20 questions to ask before you invest;

 

#1 what problem does your product or service solve?

 

#2 how big of a market is there for this problem? This pain and or need?

 

#3 how are those who have this problem solving it now?

 

#4 clearly articulates your secret sauce, other words what is your unique selling proposition?

 

#5 is there replacement products in existence that could solve the problem?

 

#6 who is the market leader in the space you plan to enter?

 

#7 how many other competitors are there in this space?

 

#8 what is your level of understanding of this market?

 

#9 is your idea a product or IP that can be patented?

 

#10 what stage is this market in terms of its lifecycle? Infancy, growth, mature..?

 

#11 what level of support will be required to serve this market? Do you personally have expertise in running a business?

 

#12 what are the distribution channels of this market?

 

#13 what is the buying cycle?

 

#14 what is the common payment terms for this market?

 

#15 Do the potential buyers of your new product have the ability to pay for it?

 

#16 is there any legal and or compliance issues this product must pass prior to launch?

 

#17 what do you estimate is the total costs per unit of sale, transaction

 

#18 what is the anticipated number of units sold in year one? What % of the market opportunity does this represent?

 

#19 what is the number of units needed to break even with your upfront investment?

 

#20 How much cash will you need, based on the buying cycle, the costs, payment terms and distribution channels to launch this product or service?

 

 

Once you have answers to the above we can start to have a good discussion about your new idea and how you may be able to monetize it. Unfortunately however far too often entrepreneurs get that rush, that “buck fever” and they stop asking rational , needed , questions and they attach their focus on the days when…

 

 

When they become millionaires…

 

When they are recognized in their community…

 

When they sell their business for millions and retire without a care in the world

 

 

All of these When’s can become a reality if you spend the time upfront understanding the market, its buyers and their needs.

 

Entrepreneurs must understand: You are not your market.

 

Although this idea you have may be so obvious to you, you can not assume nor extrapolate that assumption across the market without real market data.

 

If you have an idea, that may be the next iPod, do yourself a favor and play 20 questions before you invest one dime in making your idea a product or service.

 

How about your organization….

 

Do you launch new products or services because one of your Hippo’s says so, without market data?

 

Have you launched products that failed to meet ROI targets?

 

If you are in sales, how did it make you feel when you were given a goal, and told to make it happen …only to find out your marketing needed to “create a need for it”?

 

If you are the president or CEO, what processes and procedures do you have in place to insure your teams are asking at least 20 questions?

 

Market leaders understand the importance of building new products and services from the market need up, versus the ivory tower down.

 

Market losers have a; ready – fire – aim launch process.