“Customer-Centric” isn’t a new noun in the businessman’s dictionary; it’s actually the verb that the early settlers built their businesses on.
Imagine the year 1849. You walk into the General Store and the owner, John, looks up, and says, “Hey, Joe, how’s the missus? Is she ready for the extra sugar for her blackberry preserves? You know; she promised me a jar. Is five pounds enough? I know your mare’s nearing her foaling date; bet the young-ins are excited. Do you need anything for her? Ok, then, I’ve got your regular order boxed and I tucked in some penny candy for the boys. I’ll put it on your account and help you carry the boxes out to the wagon.” That’s “customer-centric” in action.
Ask most any business these days if they put their customers first and most will tell you that they do. In truth, most are running on intention. Part of the problem is that it’s hard to estimate the amount of income that can be generated by such things as customer service improvements; customer-friendly packaging and staying in touch after the sale. It is a risk no matter how you look at it. Risk the change or risk failing for not.
Be Customer-Centric in Thought and Deed
- Plant the attitude. Make the mission to become Customer-Centric a company-wide training and discussion. Higher management must lead by example.
- Connect all departments with communication. Customers want answers fast.
- Empower your employees to make on-the-spot decisions for your customers. Give them the training, confidence and authority to put the customer first.
- Give your employees a personal stake in the customer satisfaction process. Reward them for getting it right.
- Make Customer-Centric a core value in your company. Hire people who understand it; who will live it.
- Trade control for co-creation. Listen to your customers and implement their suggestions to improve such things as customer support.
- Find ways to make your product more user-friendly. Think about packaging; sizing and where you put handles. Is your product easy to open? Heinz has an upside-down Ketch-up bottle; milk bottles have handles that cartons didn’t, and there are now squeeze handles on scissors…
“I think the success around any product is really about subtle insights. You need a great product and a bigger vision to execute it against, but it’s really those small things that make the big difference.” Chad Hurley
Think back. When you were growing up and you asked for something your parents often said, “No” with a variety of phrases. Each one meant something different to you; few of them were seen by you as an ironclad turn down – or you wouldn’t have asked more than once. Really, what kid settles for no?
The Way Kids Define “No.”
- “No” means not now
- “Not now,” means to ask again in a little while.
- “I don’t think so,” means ask the other parent.
- “I can’t afford it,” means yes, if you can mow a few lawns to help pay for it.
- “Maybe later,” means yes in a little while.
- “No, and if you ask again you’re grounded for the rest of your life,” – that actually means “No.”
“No.” You’re Not Talking To The Right Person
Before you make the call, know who you’re calling. Know their job title and function; determine if their characteristics are similar to your other buyers. If you have the wrong person, tactfully dig in and try and get referred to the right person.
“No.” Your Product Doesn’t Fit Their Needs
Less than 15% of prospects called believe that you know their needs. The best way to know their pain is to know their company. That means research, which doesn’t have to take a mountain of time. A practiced eye can make a fair amount of educated guesses in a small amount of time. If Sales and Marketing are working effectively together you may get someone to do this research and leave brief notes on an account. Teamwork gets more done.
- Do a keyword search using negative terms and phrases such as angry, bad service, frustrated, complaints, bad business, etc. along with the company’s name.
- Do a search that compares the company with their competitors. Company ABC vs. Company DEF
- Check the Better Business Bureau
- Check their Website and see what the topics are in planned webinars and conferences since speakers often address pain issues.
“No” They Weren’t Prepared To Make A Decision
Know that four fifths of the prospects that wound up as customers via nurturing – said, “No, ” first.
“No” They Prefer Your Competitor
Successful companies know the value in being on the lookout for better. Being complacent can be a waste of money. Think in terms of your car insurance or your Internet Provider. If you don’t periodically evaluate and check for a better deal you often pay more than you have to or you forfeit the chance to get better features.
“No” Simply Not A Good Time
Many things in life are about timing. You may have just caught the prospect when they have come out of a budget tightening meeting; they are just having an off day, or they are distracted by something personal. There are a multitude of reasons they may not be tuned into you. Leave them with an understanding comment and tell them you will check back with at a later date.
“No” Just Plain “No.”
Sometimes “No” really does mean – ask again and you’re grounded for life. Respect their decision and let it go, or risk that they will spread the word about your refusing to get the message. Use it as a learning experience and leave them on a positive note. Let it go and document it so someone else doesn’t pester them.
In Sales it serves purpose to take a page out of your childhood and listen to the way an Objection is phrased and try to figure out what “No” really means before you give up. Work at your technique and find ways to phrase your questions that will get a prospect to tell you their pain.
I was always a good student. I suppose it helped that I earned $2 for every “A” on my report card, but in truth, I really did like to see proof of my hard work. My brother, on the other hand, didn’t give a whit about school, so on the day he brought home a report card with three F’s on it – he literally buried it in the backyard and said he lost it on the way home. My mother told him to just ask the teacher for a copy, and let it go. Just about the time the after-dinner dessert was being served the dog came in through the doggie door with the dirty report card dangling from his mouth, and presented it like it was a prized bone. All these years later, I think my brother is still in time-out.
The truth is that without a report card; without accurate data to analyze, sales navigates wearing a blindfold. That means lost revenue, wasted time and slower company growth. There are two important things that data collection does to help increase revenue.
- Collected data can be used to create reports that organize and summarize data, allowing for evaluation and enhancement of the sales process.
- It provides statistics for sales analysis so that the data can be studied to gleam insight into improving business performance.
The Question Is…
Do you sell yourself short by skipping activity documentation; do you bury the proof of your achievements, or do you do your part to help grow your company?
Common Reasons Documentation is often Skipped
- The pressure to make more calls, have more conversations, and close more deals creates the urge to rush onto the next call, in lieu of taking time to document activity.
- The documentation process is too complex and time consuming.
The fact is both of the common reasons documentation is sometimes skipped are valid concerns because time does matter, but so does the ability to have accurate statistics.
What if you could send a follow-up email; leave a voicemail; make yourself a note; schedule your Next Step – and have it all documented in icons on an Activity Timeline – in about a minute and a half? Would it be worth it to you? Would it be worth it to your company? What would you have to have to accomplish that?
- Simplified Process all on one page
- Prepared Email Messages
- Prepared Voicemail Scripts
- Convenient Note Field
- An Intuitive Calendar that efficiently schedules your Next Step
- An automatically updating Activity Timeline that clearly shows what has already been done.
ShadeTree Technology’s Incite2 – a Salesforce add-on makes that and so much more possible. Minimal mouse licks completes your tasks, and because everything you need is all on one efficient page you get to save time and increase revenue with a lot less work.
Depending on which articles your read; whose studies you consider, it is said that as much as 60 percent of business deals are lost due to indecision. The prospect opts to hang tight to the “status quo.” While there are times that it’s prudent to keep the status quo most of the time doing so inhibits progress. Historically had our nation not undergone challenges to change the status quo we would still be attending the Church of England; plantation owners would still be buying slaves to pick the cotton, and women most certainly would not have the vote. Without challenging the status quo we wouldn’t have advances in medicine, science, and technology, nor would we be searching the Universe for a backup plan. Embedded in the very definition of life is the condition of change. Without change; without growth all things die or get swallowed by the competition, especially in this age of technology. Each prospect that you talk to who chooses to make no decision has their reason. The trick is to learn their reason and address their concerns by opening a dialog. Dig Deeper. Respect Prospect’s Perspective Even a “no decision” is based on something. You prospect knows their balance sheet and they know the team under them. They may see all change as a risk, whether the company is still trying to gain a solid footing or is in a comfortable holding pattern. Rule of thumb: Remember, when your mouth is open, your ears are closed. Let your prospect lead the conversation, and then reflect back your understanding with questions and comments that prove you are hearing what they said. Example: “I hear that your current system is effectively meeting your needs when it comes to call volume, but that it doesn’t track activity history at an ideal level. How does that affect your analytics?” A pro/con dialogue will give insight to both you and your prospect.
Validate the Difficulty of the Change Process
Discuss the different aspects of the change process ahead of time. There should be no surprises at the eleventh hour. Keep the conversations real and compassionate about how the steps will affect the prospect.
- It will cost time. Production may have to slow while new software is implemented and the users are trained. Time lost may show a temporary drop in revenue. The new efficient system will quickly make it up and continue to push revenue up.
- It will take energy. It will take structured effort to get everyone trained and comfortable with the new system. Schedules will have to be coordinated for training, and progress fastidiously monitored.
- It will take encouragement. Reassuring reminders about the benefits of the new software during the training process will ease the transition. When you know your product everything seems simple, but to the person trying to learn it, not necessarily so. Take care not to assume that everything is understood. Check and recheck. Patient, consistent re-enforcement will get the job done.
Give Control of Change Process to Prospect
It’s important that the prospect has control of the change calendar within reason, and that they choose the initial trainees. When customizing the software to meet specific needs, it’s crucial to keep an open dialogue and gain approval for significant modifications. Avoid buyer’s remorse by encouraging conversations that addresses any fears that develop during the transition, and make it comfortable for the prospect to put all issues on the table.
Just Guide; Don’t Take Over
There are two ways to teach. You can do it and let the learner watch, or the learner can do it while you watch. The fact is, people learn better with their hands on, and your position as just a guide will result in a smoother process. Mistakes during training are a great clarifier of understanding; easily fixable. Guide, and resist the urge to take over. Dissecting the sales process and digging a little deeper into the reasons for no decision being made will payoff for all concerned. Build long-term relationships through communication.
Okay, I’ve never admitted this in public before, but we’re friends, so I’m going to trust you not to snicker. I spent second grade in a one room school house. Yes, a box with a peaked roof, bell with a rope beside the door; a right off of Little House on the Prairie schoolhouse on the outskirts of Jackson, Michigan. No, I’m not older than….
The interesting thing about the one room school was that it was full of students of all ages from multiple grade levels. The one teacher couldn’t adequately cover all educational needs at the same time, so the solution was that the older students taught the younger, and the younger taught someone younger than them. It was a type of hand-me-down education, but it worked. Today I can tell you that I earned a Masters in Education in college, but I learned to teach in the field, in a give and take process. There are times I’m sure I learned more from my students than I taught them.
How did you learn to be a sales person? You may be sitting on more than one business degrees, but if you think about it – you actually learned how to sell on the job by following someone else, and I will bet you’ve paid it forward. Sales is a bit of an abstract, complex profession because techniques are varied depending on the product you sell, the environment you work in, and the unbending insistence that you stay on top of technology, so aside from following the leader, how do you fine-tune your skills and stay on top, while remaining a team player?
Internet Mentors to the Rescue
- How to Deal with Rejection in your Sales
- The best days and times to call prospects
- The Sales Pipeline Revealed
- Long or Short Sales Cycle Makes a Difference
- Is Research Overrated?
- Model Responses to Cold Call Objections. Sales Scripts to handle Blow-Offs and Sales Resistance
We all learn easiest from positive role models. Time and experience adds to our skill wealth, but you have one thing the one room schoolhouse didn’t. You have the power of the amazing search engine. If you have a question and can’t get the answer from a warm body standing nearby – don’t forget to just look it up on the Internet, and then make your sales team stronger by sharing.
Kids are so smart. Have you ever watched them in action? More often than not, when they want something they get it. Why? They get yes answers because they have a natural radar that tells them who to ask? Not really. What they have is a natural instinct to remember what does and doesn’t work depending on their want or need. They know if they want sweets at 4 p.m. that Mom will say,”No, it’s too close to dinner.” Dad will say, “Okay, if you bring me one too.” If they want new clothes, dad might say, “You have a closet full.” Mom might say, “All of your pants are getting short. We can make a stop at the clothing store on Tuesday when I go into town to get groceries.”
If you’ve been in the sales business for years you have most likely developed a sense of who best to approach based on trial and error, but what if you’re new to the game and your instincts are not yet fine tuned? It would be wise to avoid making assumptions about where the power lies to start the sales process. It isn’t as obvious as it seems on the surface. Starting at the top – just might be a waste of time and a quick step to “no thanks.”
There are no ironclad rules about who the right person to call is, but aside from your experience and gut instinct, there are things to consider.
Who To Call
- CEO’s – While one might assume it best to just start at the top, it could play out to be a mistake. There’s a reason a gatekeeper is often in place; a reason that a team of advising department heads exist. CEO’s like filtered information because they are busy with commitments that encompass the whole company. What software their accountant is using is not their top priority. The accountant best know what works for them. Starting with the CEO is a risky first call.
- VP’s & Directors – You could be in the right place, but whether they are regional or a major voice out of Corporate might have some bearing on their decision making authority, but they can invite your second call.
- Sales Engineers are a good place to start. They too can agree to a second call.
- Managers – Not a strong foothold, but not a total rule out either. The larger a company is the less likely your success with managers – especially territory managers. There are stronger voices higher up.
- Sales Effectiveness, Sales Enablement & Sales Coordinators are reasonable targets because they aren’t generally inundated with sales calls. They may listen with a fresh ear and be a back door in.
- Referrals – Positively a great foot in the door. Name dropping can be magic.
- About that Gatekeeper – They aren’t decision makers; nor can they invite a call back, but they do have power. They are a friend you want to have because you have to get around them to get to anyone else. If you can’t engage them, they won’t pass on your message. That’s their job.
Communicate with your sales team and share insights and pick up tidbits, and then urge your lead generators to target specifics. They can find most anything if they know what you’re looking for. I don’t know if they can help with getting you a cookie just before dinner, but you’re in sales… It’s always worth an ask.