“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.
There’s fancy French Cuisine and there’s meat and potatoes. Which one best describes your sales pitch? Do you proudly tick off your product’s features like they are the appetizers and hope to keep the prospect on the line long enough to serve them the Cognac Shrimp with Beurre Blanc Sauce, or do you recognize that with your initial call that businesses want you to hold the appetizers and straight up serve the meat and potatoes? The truth is that they are busy people who want to know what your product can do for them – and they see all your bells and whistles as simply the fringe benefits that belong in future calls.
Every prospect; every company is an individual with specific needs. Selling to them isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. Do your homework. Find out enough about your prospect to know how you can actually help them before calling.
Identifying Right Benefits
- Are they a large, established company?
- Are they a smaller or start-up company?
- What is their product and/or service?
- Are they retail or wholesale?
- Do they do inside sales?
- Are they currently using a similar product that yours improves upon?
- How are market trends and the state of the economy affecting them?
What Do They Want To Hear From You?
- Numbers – how much time your product can save.
- Numbers – what percentage of revenue increase might they experience.
- How much easier your product is to use than their current one.
- They want to hear that over and above making a sale that you want to help them.
- They want to hear your respect for their time and your understanding of their needs.
- The want to know that you’re hearing them.
Take the time to analyze your sales approach and make sure that you’re not assuming that every person you talk to is a technology geek who will be enamored of your product’s ability to jump at the click of a mouse. That’s all fun stuff, but it’s not the meat and potatoes. If you budget time for the appropriate research before you start calling your prospect’s budget will reap the rewards that you’re offering.
Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships. Michael Jordan
There is a reason that we have multiple governing houses making decisions for our country. They are meant as a check and balance system, but too, it is a division of responsibilities and a way to tap into the experience and expertise of many. So it works in business too. Even the strongest, most dedicated, hardworking CEO of a company could not be successful without a solid team of qualified professionals under him/her dividing up the responsibilities. The success of a team depends on level of leadership and the success of the company depends on the level of team work.
Some years back I lived in a small town that had just one grocery store. The store had every appearance of one that belonged to a major chain. It was large, well-stocked, and clean. Prices were competitive. Its owners were known to be involved in the community and they placed full-page, color ads in the city paper. For all intent and purpose it looked like “the” place to shop.
I shopped there for some time, but I eventually took my business eight miles up the road to a store in a larger city. Why? The store lost my business because every time a bagger saw me to my car they expressed what a hateful place it was to work. (Keep in mind, in a small town everyone knows everyone, and most knew me because I was the editor of the city paper – so to them it was just friends talking to a friend.) It may well be right that they should have never voiced their grievances with a “customer,” but the fact remains – the sales team in the store from the bagger on up were not being led in a way that made them an effective team, and sales were lost.
If a sales team is comprised of qualified people who understand the value in working together; if their leader instilled common goals and principles through explanation and example, the odds of achieving success climb. People live up to expectations.
With a solid team, you don’t make a sales call alone; you do it with
backup. The stress, responsibility and work is divided, which makes your jobs easier. The prospect relaxes when they know you rely on your team members because they know the process is fine-tuned; each step managed by the professional who is best at it. It is a win for all.
Quality Sales Team
- Divided Workload
- Diversified Expertise
- Shared Accountability
- Less Stress
Quality Buying Team
- Purchase Considered from Multiple Angles
- Right Questions Asked
- Strong Change Leadership
Remember even if you’re playing a game of Bingo it takes five spots covered to win. One base covered just can’t get the job done. Strong leaders build strong teams. Collaboration and teamwork are the backbone of successful decisions.
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” ~Steve Jobs
While it is true that sales is a numbers game there is a fine line between what is best, quantity or quality, when it comes to filling your call list with prospects. You can argue that it’s a hit and miss situation so the more leads you have the better your chance of connecting with a voice, over a machine. You can tell yourself that if the person who answers isn’t the right person that they will gladly give you the number to call of the one that is. You can tell yourself that your supervisor will be happy just to see that you made an impressive number of dials. You can hang onto the idea that it is totally about persistence – but is it?
Statistically, according to Leap Job – “only 2% of cold calls result in an appointment.” Is that a statistic you simply have to live with, or could you change it if you thought about how to fill your call list with quality, instead of quantity? What if you took the time to actually differentiate between a good lead and a nonproductive one, and communicated that to those who are harvesting your leads? Gartner Group notes, “Typically if a firm has somewhere between 100 and 500 employees there are only about seven people who are actually involved in the buying decision.” Wouldn’t you like to find them?
Bad Lead – Quantity Harvesting
- A person who by virtue of their job title doesn’t have the ability or authority to invite a second call.
- A lead to someone in an industry that doesn’t fit your product.
- A lead with incorrect contact information.
- A lead that no longer works for said company.
Imagine how much time and money is wasted when your call list is filled with bad leads. You might make an impressive number of dials, but you won’t make an earth-moving number of sales, because it isn’t possible when you’re talking to the wrong people. On top of that – how frustrating is it for you to make dial after dial that is met with a negative outcome? How do you keep up your spirit – not to mention enjoy any measure of job security? It’s no wonder that there is such a high turnover in sales jobs. Anyone who can beat your success statistics can have your job. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different outcomes.” – Einstein
Good Lead – Quality Harvesting
- A lead with the job title that authorizes them to invite a second call.
- A lead who works for a company that you know that your product actually can help
- Leads that have undergone routine data cleansing and are verified to still work for the company.
Imagine how it would feel to be calling the right people. Trading quantity for quality means a higher level of success, higher job revenues and increased job security. While it may seem that finding the right person to call is like looking for a needle in a haystack, it really isn’t. It’s a matter of defining criteria, and then looking specifically for that. If you do an advanced search out on LinkedIn you can eliminate much of the hay and get down to the needle. Often times you can find the right person on a company’s website. An experienced sales person knows which job titles have authority and passing the word down to those who harvest the leads can make a difference. Setting up a schedule that keeps your lead’s job verification current within 6 months or a year will keep things cleaner and more productive.
There is one other important step. Once you have a quality call list you need to put it in an application that allows you to truly attack it. Incite2, a Salesforce add-on offered by ShadeTree Technology will impart magic to your call list because it allows for momentum you can’t get anywhere else. It consolidates all Salesforce data so that on one page you can click through calls, schedule next steps, send appropriate communications and keep track of your sales history. A few clicks during and after your call, and you quickly move onto the next call. With Incite2 you can triple your call volumne.
Laws of Attraction
In the early 1900’s there was a “New Thought Movement.” Proponents wrote about, and lectured that “both people and thoughts are pure energy and like energy attracts like energy.“ The idea came to be known as the Laws of Attraction. The concept was sold to the populace with a biblical reference which gave it more substance for people. Writer James Allen’s best known work was an article written in 1902 entitled, As a Man Thinketh.” The basis for the article was a verse in the Bible from the Book of Proverbs, chapter 23, verse 7: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Opportunists took flight with the idea and made millions of dollars preaching it. The jury is still out on whether it is true or not.
Power of Positive Thinking
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking,” published in 1952 took it one step farther. Personally, I think there is more substance to the power of positive thinking than there is to the so-called Laws of Attraction because to me “confidence” is the epitome of positive thinking.
I came to understand confidence when I was very young. I learned that as long as I believed when I put on my ice skates that I was going to fall; fall I did. A little practice, and my confidence grew and I stopped falling. That scenario played out thousands of times over the years. Every measure of success that I experienced was directly connected to my level of confidence in my ability to accomplish.
How does all of this translate to sales? If the prospect hears your lack of confidence, the deal is off. If you don’t truly believe you have a solution; that you can get that coveted second chance to call, odds are good that you won’t.
How to Gain Confidence
Confidence Relates to Education
Make sure that you know your product; not just the basic product, but every upgrade. Know your competitor’s products. How do they compare to yours? What makes yours better?
Spend Time with Peers.
There is power in teamwork. Social time spent with coworkers will always have nuggets of wisdom in it. We all have people in our field that we respect for their ability to get the job done. Spend time with them; observe their style. Ask questions about how they landed successful deals. Don’t forget to ask about the deals that didn’t pan out for them. Learn from their mistakes.
We never get so good that a little practice will hurt us. When you make improvements to your sales script practice it out loud to a friend, colleague, family member; the dog if no one else is around. Things said out loud showcases mistakes and bring awareness to ineffective content.
Read Articles, Blogs and Books on Sales.
While you certainly have a life outside of sales, you will find that making time to read current literature on the topic, will inspire and energize you. It will keep you apprised of changes in the market, advances in technology, and what company is acquiring what company. Embrace the Internet; the more you know, the more confident you will be.
Find Value in Seminars; Podcasts; Webinars and Sales Events.
Tuning in and/or attending such events will raise your level of engagement in your profession.
Social Media is a Source of Knowledge.
Twitter, for example, is a great place to find out what people are talking about. You can get the jump on new trends and technologies.
Consider a Business Diary.
While not everyone finds a comfort with writing, keeping a record of your wins and losses would give you something to look back on that might give you a tool to progress forward.
Take the pause out of your sentences, the hesitation from your information delivery, and the nervous energy out of your sales pitch by shoring up your sales education. Your prospects can spot fear, inexperience and bluffing from a mile away. You can positively increase your sales by building your confidence – by increasing your knowledge.