“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
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.
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.
“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.
“Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past… T.S. Eliot
Is it possible to see the future? Yes, if you take a look at the past. Time has proven again and again that history repeats itself. The repetition isn’t in a literal sense, it’s more conceptual. Mark Twain refined it. He said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” When considering the past as a forecaster for business decisions look for patterns, similarities and end results as the best indicators of what you might expect to experience again. With a firm hand on data collection there is the option to either repeat the past, or improve it.
MIT’s Weigh-In on the Purpose of Data Collection
Three years ago the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) did a study on “Data Driven Decision Making” (DDD). They reported, “Using detailed survey data on the business practices and information technology investments of 179 large publicly traded firms, we find that firms that adopt DDD have output and productivity that is 5-6% higher than what would be expected given their other investments and information technology usage.”
Since the MIT study, technology has continued its upward climb and today the tools at the fingertips of business are even more efficient. Today there is software available that will literally measure everything and anything, and without a doubt your competition is utilizing such to measure not only dollars and cents, but the performance of their workforce.
When home computers first became available there were many people who thought that the machine magically knew everything. It took a little stumbling around for people to understand that the machine only knew what it was taught. The bottom line is that you can’t get out what you don’t put in, and guesswork is costly in this highly competitive age.
Does your CRM track the actual data that you need to make informed decisions? Do you have the ability to make tracking adjustments that make the collection more relevant? Do you need to consider an add-on to enhance the process and make it more seamless?
Is documenting sales activity in your CRM a user-friendly process, or is it complex and distracting? Is it all in one place, or is it spread across different pages? Is it intuitive enough to help fill in such details as dates and times? Does it recommend your next step?
Hit or Miss?
Is sales activity habitually documented or is it often skipped because reps find it too time consuming? Are reps so busy having to scramble to make the desired number of calls that they see stopping to document their activity as a deterrent?
Incite2, an ultra efficient Salesforce add-on offered by ShadeTree Technology has taken the sting out of activity documentation. Consider a demo to see for yourself how beautifully the documenting process has been simplified. Incite2 not only makes tracking your history effortless; it also dramatically increases the number of calls that can be made.
You can’t know where to go, unless you know where you’ve been. Accurate data collection will open the door toward improving upon history.
Some years back I served as the editor of the city paper in a small bedroom community in California’s Central Valley. When you’re the editor of a small town newspaper you are also the interviewer, photographer, typesetter, public relations manager, and floor sweeper. You cover everything from fires and parades, to births, deaths, football games, bake-offs and award ceremonies. It’s definitely not a sit down, put your feet up kind of job. You lunch on adrenaline every day, more so as the weekly go-to-print deadline rushes in on you because there is absolutely, positively no excuse for not getting the paper out on time.
I learned something during those years. I learned that there is a distinctive difference between “stress” and “adrenaline rush.” Technically, the body responds in the same way, no matter which it is – but stress is bad and adrenaline rush is good.
Adrenaline is the natural hormone that your body produces that gives you heightened senses, boosts of energy, an increase in strength and stamina, and masks the pain and exhaustion that would have other-wise slowed you down. You use the adrenaline rush to meet deadlines, find all the right answers to all the right questions, and systematically get through your to-do list, and get the job done on time.
Stress is a product of fear; fear of mistakes and failures. More often than not we can trace our stress back to something we did or didn’t do that we were supposed to do or not do. More often than not, we create our own stress and panic.
Sales is a highly competitive field and sensory overload is the name of the game. Your time is spent talking to ever-changing, unpredictable personalities on the phone, attending business meetings, balancing relationships with co-workers, and managing your pipeline. You hear “No thanks, “more often than you hear, “Yes.” You have demanding goals to meet, and drawing a paycheck means closing deals. The question is, do you love it enough to ride the adrenaline rush, or do you allow stress it’s negative impact?
- Organization is at the heart of stress control.
- Keep your promises equal to your capabilities.
- Eliminate chaos and clutter from your environment.
- Give prospects honest facts about your product.
- When you don’t know the answer, admit it, and get it.
- Help colleagues; they will return the favor when you feel the crunch.
- Stay on top of technology developments.
- Avoid multi-tasking.
- Admit your limitations.
- Make conscious decisions.
- Open the window; fresh air feeds the brain.
- Schedule breaks and get away from your desk.
- Eat healthy.
- Get enough rest.
- Exercise eats stress.
- Don’t work during your time off.
- Indulge in a relaxing hobby.
- Enjoy a social life.
- Don’t skip vacations.
- Recognize it.
- Enjoy it.
- Use it.
- Relax when it passes.
When you take the time to reflect on what makes you tick; on how you spend your time, if you are honest with yourself you will find that you have the ability to control your processes. Avoid setting yourself up for stress and instead enjoy the thrill of the hunt and make more sales.
In 1974 I bought my first microwave oven from JC Penney. Whenever a technology is new to the consumer, the price is always high for a handful of years. The first microwave ovens hit the stores in 1967 so when I bought, I paid $750, which definitely taxed the household budget. The product came with a one year guarantee, and at the time of the sale I was offered an extended warranty – which I turned down. One year and three weeks later the microwave stopped working, and when I contacted the store, I was told, “Nothing we can do. You didn’t buy the extended warranty.”
I decided to keep the problem human. I sat down and wrote to the CEO of JC Penney’s. I told him that I didn’t buy the extended warranty because I had grown up with JC Penney being a part of my family, and I trusted that as family they would do what was right – whether I bought the extended warranty or not. I told him that their products were in every closet, on every shelf and in every drawer of our home. I asked him to not break the trust that I had grown up having for the company. He authorized the repairs at no charge.
When it comes to business, especially in this day of high tech everything, caution should be taken to not lose the human touch with your prospects. While everyone appreciates the speed, the accuracy and the convenience of technology; no one wants to be nothing but a statistic in your analytics.
Keep it Human
Keep it Warm
Talk with your prospects like they are professional “friends.” As you move through the sales cycle get to know them as people. Learn about their family, significant events taking place in their life – weddings, new babies, great vacations. Maybe they just built a new house; their child’s ball team took first place or they are thrilled with a new car they just parked in their garage. Share a piece of yourself to open the door of friendship; they will give back. You will build trust by letting them know you care about them beyond their bank account.
Email is awesome. It is fast, and it is free, and there is a time and a place for it. Some years back I was with a car insurance company that actually mailed me a birthday card each year, personally signed by my agent. Had he sent me a birthday greeting via email – I would have been a lot less touched. Yes, I know it was a marketing tool, but I still thought it a class act.
While you may think your customers are impressed when you have all the answers, know that they are equally as impressed when you admit that you don’t. There’s something reassuring and connecting when you admit to being human. If you promise to find the answer, and follow through, you’ve demonstrated your good character and earned their respect. Know too, admitting your mistakes and then responsibly fixing them, builds a level of trust that you can’t put a price on.
Let the Wisdom Kick In
The difference between a good teacher and a great one is that a great one will tell you that they learned more from their students than they taught them. Every prospect has something to teach you, even the ones who say, “No thanks.” It might be the questions they ask that drive you to research; it might be their leadership style that you get to observe, or it might simply be that they share something they’ve learned that makes your job easier. Learning from others is the best way for you to grow, both personally and professionally.
It’s a new day. Before you start calling consider your style. Will the prospect hear a sales shark, or will they hear a new friend who wants to help them? Will they hear irritation at a “No thanks,” or will they hear understanding and respect? What kind of impression will you leave? You can keep it business, and be real at the same time.
Hindsight is always 20/20 and that’s too clear a vision to waste. It is human nature to tuck away memories of extreme moments, so more often than not, our greatest lessons stem from the mistakes we make.
In business one of your most powerful, money-making assets is the lessons you learn when things don’t go right. In 1959 Ford lost $250 million on the Edsel and in 1964 it turned out the Mustang. A million of them were sold the first year. In 1977 20th Century Fox made the mistake of signing over all product merchandising rights for all Star Wars films to George Lucas for just $20,000. They lost over 3 billion. In 1975 Eastman Kodak developed the first digital camera – and then opted to sit on it and the core technology for the cell phone, and in 2013 Apple and Samsung split the profit on the 120 million smartphones sold.
Take time to reflect on the call that didn’t work; the deal that fell through and the renewal you didn’t get, and use what you realize to take your mistakes to the bank. What can you do to improve the process that you used on the ones that got away?
- Was there any pre-call research?
- Could your call script be better; your tone of voice more confident?
- Did you call the right person; someone with the authority to invite a second call?
- Did you push for a sale instead of a second call?
- Were you able to separate them from the last “no thanks” you got?
- Did you offer them something helpful?
- Did you assume you had all the answers rather than listen for their need?
- Were you respectful of their time?
- Did you leave yourself available in the event they reconsider?
- Did you leave a quality last impression?
The Renewal You Didn’t Get
- Did you give your client a reason to renew?
- Did you give them reason not to renew?
- Did your product update to stay current with the needs of the buyers?
- How was your after-purchase service?
- Did you foster a business relationship that had the ability to grow?
- Did you keep your product competitively priced?
The only bad mistake is the one you don’t learn anything from; the one you repeat. When something doesn’t work, make time to figure out why. Life is supposed to be a learning experience. Turn “no thank-you” into revenue by using it to make you better at what you do.
When you’re a kid the thing you want most in the world is to be a grown up, so birthdays are a big deal. Presents are fun, but the thing that I looked forward to the most was the birthday card from my grandmother. She always tucked a crisp, clean, brand new one dollar bill in it. Over the years it never changed. It was always a one dollar bill. Her rule, a dollar every birthday until year eighteen, and then that’s it, and it was. Long after my beloved grandmother passed, one day, just out of curiosity I asked my mother – why always just a dollar? My mother replied, “Your grandmother probably still has the first nickel she ever made.”
My grandmother wasn’t the first penny pincher, nor was she the last. People who watch every dime aren’t just those who struggle to make ends meet; even billionaires do it. For instance, Warren Buffet; net worth nearly 60 Billion; IKEA founder, Ingvar Kamprad; News Corp. Chairman, Rupert Murdoch, and Australia’s retail king Gerry Harvey are all worth billions, but they are known to take thrifty to the extreme.
We may laugh at some of the penny pincher’s antics; we may see them as eccentric and odd, but it’s a little hard not to covet their ability to manage their money better than the rest of us. Most people comparison shop for the big ticket items and feel a rush of happy when a good deal is had. The same people probably use coupons at the grocery store. The same people run businesses in less than cost effective ways because they tend to count their profit as just the dollars in the door, and ignore the dollars saved by doing things in time-saving/money-saving ways.
A Penny Saved…
- Piggyback Advertising: Advertise on everything. Put your company logo on items you can give away – pencils, Post-it notes, calendars, business cards, newsletters, and every email you send – even personal.
- Collaborative Marketing: It’s the electronic age, use the technology. Trade advertising links with other companies. Include “partner coupons codes” in email marketing or on your company website for like offers to give your partner’s customers. Share media space in print. Pick a partner and share the cost in newspaper ads.
- Testimonials: Let your happy customers tell others what you’ve done for them. Refresh the testimonials on your website every couple of months.
- Electronic Invoices: Convenient for the customer, cost effective for you.
- Online Meetings: Cut travel costs and save time with online business meetings. There are several sites on the Internet like GoToMeeting and WebEx that offer this service. Meetings can be held on desktops, laptops, tablets, cell phones – anything that can connect to the Internet. That means you can squeeze meetings in no matter where you are.
- Form Partnerships: Find other companies that you can trade goods or services with at no cost. It is a financial boon for both.
Saving Time is Saving Money
Stay abreast of the different types of software being offered that automate your selling process. Over 100,000 of the world’s most innovative companies of all sizes use Salesforce to close bigger deals faster. It only stands to reason that if you can speed up what Salesforce does, that you will make more money by virtue of the time you save. ShadeTree Technology’s Incite2 does just that. It is a Salesforce add-on that gathers the information that is spread across the Salesforce site and puts it all on one page. Your sales team can save a mountain of time by having everything they need to know about a prospect, scripted call prompts, emails and voicemail, as well as an active time line that easily documents every step taken, on one convenient screen. Time is saved that allows more calls to be made. Imagine the dollars you can add to your bank account.