Learn from Social Selling to make your e-mails hot

It has happened fast, the shift from using social media in your daily selling. Studies such as this from CEB and Google tells more than one-half of the sales process is gone. Or, more precisely, customers run their buying process at least 57% before they get in touch with a sales rep, in some cases much longer than that.

Conclusion: There’s not much time left to make some impact on your prospects’ decisions.

New social media techniques are therefore essential for your sales success. However, one part of your sales lead production is still left to be traditional, such as sending a prospecting e-mail. It may not be a great part of your sales work and it will definitely be decreasing. But you’d better not ignore it in a foreseeable future.

The challenge is though, partly because of the mentions above, it’s getting harder to create sales leads from traditional methods. So what to do?

Why not turn the knowledge transfer the other way round? Why not learn from recently learned social selling skills and apply those best practise on traditional prospecting as well?

Social selling to e-mail

To do so, you need to define what elements in your social selling that are key to your success and map them to traditional selling tasks. The very best experts in this area is Barbara Giamanco. My own key elements are these five:

  • Curiosity
  • Relevance
  • Value
  • Expertise
  • Ease

Curiosity. Most of us are crazy curious about things we are interested in. You might be interested in discussions in your specific marketplace and what your competitors are doing right now. Social media lets you see what they are discussing and bother about for the moment.

Relevance. In today’s overflow of information you need to be mega relevant when you discuss things. Don’t bother participate in social media discussions or write articles if you’re not relevant.

Value. Only pure customer value counts in social media. Value is measured by the customer, not you.

Expertise. Customers are doing a major part of their buying process without contacting you, but they still need information. They turn to their personal contacts and relevant public information to make their decisions. In social media, it’s easier than ever to be their “personal” contact and provide in depth relevant information.

Ease. In social media you cannot sell. Your only “sale” is a “like”, comment or an accepted invitation on LinkedIn. Easy actions from prospects are connected to a sort of “cost” for them, but it’s affordable low, such as “Yes, I can like this article”, “Well, I should comment on this” or “Fair enough, I can afford to be his friend or contact”.

OK, I will now try to apply my social selling key elements to a traditional prospecting e-mail that turns it from cold to really hot. For some years now I’ve been able to test a method using these social selling key elements in traditional prospecting e-mails with extraordinary results.

In 96% of the cases I’ve got contact and a booked meeting with the right people, access to the decision maker and a list of people that have an impact on my sale.

My method uses both phone and e-mail, and requires three prerequisites:

  1. Cell phone number to the most top manager you can get
  2. E-mail address to the same
  3. At least one success story this top manager can relate to (a competitor to his business is ultimate)

Prepare a short manuscript for leaving a short voicemail (because he will likely not answer your call) to the top manager when you call. Don’t forget to finish with: “…I will also send you an e-mail summarizing what I’ve said for your convenience”. This is just a heads-up when the e-mail arrives and connects to your first sentence in your e-mail.

Now it’s time to compose the e-mail.

Subject line. The only purpose of the subject line is to make the top manager to open your e-mail and should consist of two things and in this order: Relevance + Curiosity. The part of the subject line “Heat Exchangers” makes Relevance (if e-mail sent to top manager in a industrial construction company) and the part “Competitor X” stimulates Curiosity (“what have they done that makes relevance to us…?”).

Example: Heat Exchangers to Competitor X

First sentences in Body. The first sentences in the body will do two things; connect to your voicemail and pitch Value. These first sentences are maybe the only few the top manager will read, so plan your words very carefully. The sentences have to be short and describe the value generally so the top manager easily can understand it. The value has to be relevant to his role, challenges he may struggle with and in words such as money, bottom line, etc.

Example: “I was trying to reach you earlier today but didn’t succeed, so here’s a short summary of my voicemail. As you certainly are aware of, the Challenge B has become a major concern to companies in your industry. As I mentioned in my voicemail, we’ve been working together with Competitor X and by implementing our heat exchangers with our unique feature Y, Competitor X has decreased their total cost by 20% and improved their bottom line with more than 15%. I would like to discuss with you how we’ve been able to achieve these improvements related to your specific business environment”.

Middle body. This part has to be written pretty complex. The reason is that when the top manager starts to read it, he may understand what it is about, but need to involve expertise to determine if it’s interesting enough to spend time on. What will he do?

Yes, of course the top manager will distribute the e-mail to whom it belongs to. And this is exactly what you want!

You want other people impacting your case to be engaged. Also, when anybody later on get in touch with you it might be by forwarding your own e-mail message. If so, you can just scroll down and see all relevant names by reading cc:s etc.

The body should further explain what you’ve done at Competitor X and what more value they’ve got by implementing your solution. You have to show your deep expertise. But please note, I don’t encourage you to reveal competitors’ business critical details and break non-disclosure agreements. Your text in the body should therefore consist of industry details that the internal experts or department managers can relate to and judge to be true and credible, without having you to reveal secrets.

Communication should be in context of “from one expert to another”. This part of your e-mail has to win those experts’ hearts. They don’t easily change their minds investing in new partners or technology, because they’re not embracing change and are definitely prioritizing low risk above most other things. But they also are pragmatists and may be convinced by market leaders. That’s reminds me of the most excellent book in marketing strategy I know, Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A Moore. It tells the higher relevance you have to their needs and greater market leadership you may prove, the higher chance you’ll get. Maybe you’re not the well-known market leader, but nobody says how tiny markets should be defined…

Finish. The finish will call for action, but in bite size. It really should be “at no cost” to further engage with you. That makes the Ease for them to engage. “Why not, a meeting with this guy only cost us the time of one hour…?”

Example: “I’d like to schedule a one hour meeting at your premises, anytime that fits your schedules and of course entirely unconditionally, where I may further explain what we’ve done for Competitor X and other companies in your industry”. You see, you conclude your message with curiosity as well to improve your snakebite rate…

Now you have to wait. Don’t disturb the process for a while by calling them too early to follow up. My experience is that a minimum “radio silence” of three weeks are necessary for their process to execute. Think about it; there are lots of things you may have set in motion on the prospect’s side: e-mails that have to be forwarded, internal discussions, meetings etc.

So just wait. Your social selling boosted e-mail is hopefully just getting hotter than ever.

 

 

3 stories that reveal if your sales attitude is out of date

It’s not easy to cope with all dramatic changes now happening around how to sell. High performing sales reps do, but my following true stories tell many people within sales and SMB’s still have a long way to go before they would be able to compete in the future.

outofdate

Story #1

In my garden there was until recently a huge red leafed beech. It’s height was almost 60 feet and due to that we couldn’t leave it for another year. We had to take it down. In my former life I certainly was a monkey or such animal, so I went out climbing up to the top, taking down one branch at a time.

One day later I was satisfied with my work. However, the tree trunk was still left. I scanned the internet after firms that could help me taking the trunk down. I called a few local firms and selected one that already the coming Friday was able to finish the work. Being an experienced sales person, I appreciate if a buyer comes back to me, even if it’s just to tell me I lost the deal, so I went out texting those firms that lost my deal.

Here’s the text dialog with one of them:

Me: Sorry, but I have to tell I selected another firm for the job. Thanks for your time anyhow 🙂

The sales rep: Now you lost a lot of money! We’re always 30-40% below our competitors.

Me: (slightly sarcastic) Ooops, then it certainly was a lot of money, maybe several dollars? But you didn’t check all of my needs when you called – I wanted to get the job done already this week… By the way; care about what you’re texting – just a small tips.

The sales rep: I always stand up for what I write or say. I’ve been in business since the 90’s and last year we got 96% of all jobs in your town.

Me: (increasingly upset) Think about if I had another tree I needed to take down? Regarding your attitude, do you really think I would be contacting you again? Blaming a potential customer is not a good choice. I’ve been in sales for a long time and teach sales reps, it might be a good advice to join one of my sales training classes…?

The sales rep: You should consider a training class in Foresight to earn some money!

End of story.

Lesson learned. Always accept a lost deal with a smile and a “good luck”. Look at it as a new opportunity that starts. We all know prospecting takes time and even if you lost this deal, you got in touch and next time it’s a warm call.

Story #2

This story is recently shared from my brother. He had some problems with his chainsaw (I know; you may think we are all in forestry…) and went to a retail store to get it fixed. He asked for service and the sales rep took the chainsaw into his repair shop. The brand was one of those they were selling in the store and the sales rep promised to fix it. But this was what happened next:

The sales rep: OK, I know what’s wrong, we’ll fix it. By the way, where did you buy it?

My brother: (little embarrased) On the Internet…

The sales rep: ON THE INTERNET????? Just go away and take your worthless chainsaw with you! People buying things ON THE INTERNET are not welcome in my store!!!

Lesson learned. Not adjusting your attitude and business to modern buying processes where customers using the internet and social media to educate themselves, buy things and compare, are just out of date. It’s a major threat for SMB’s but not aligning to reality is only stupid. Such aligning might be: “Great, we have a special offer for those buying on the internet, it’s a service agreement for only 99 dollars per year and I can make this included as the first repair. Would you like to fill in this form, please?”

Story #3

This story is a short one, also shared from my brother. His mower was not starting, so he called a local shop to get it fixed. However, the shop was closing at 4 PM and he knew he was a little late calling 4.05 PM:

The sales rep: (first thing saying) Do you know what time it is???

My brother: Well yes, I actually do, but I took a chance and called anyhow; and lucky me, you answered.

The sales rep: We’re closing at 4.00 PM, you cannot call later. Come back tomorrow! Then he hung up.

Lesson learned. Nothing is closed anymore. Business is always open, 24/7. Opening hours are restricting in itself, but here’s the worst thing about the short conversation above: The sales rep was actually picking up the phone. It’s not just missing the call if he didn’t answer, he also damaged his brand and that may be unrepairable.

Recognize any of these stories by your own? Do you have any more examples of out of date sales attitudes? Please tell in the comment line below! Maybe we all as high performing sales reps would get a big laugh at least 🙂

 

What is Lean sales? – Create a plan of execution!

Finaly I have managed to continue from my last post

As a recap, take a look at the Pictochart.

As you are creating your sales plan you need to look at how your organization can support your ambitions. Let’s say you want 100% delivery performance to be your lead argument in sales and you believe you can boost sales by 20%. Even if your company has a track record of 100%  on time delivery, a 20% increase could disrupt your current supply setup and you could potentially lose customers long term due to lack of living up to your promise.

To ensure that you have captured the capability of your company in the future and initializing necessary change you can use some of the following tools:

  • Value Chain Analysis
  • SIPOC
  • Competence Analysis
  • WorkshopsDefine how to work with Systems/Tools
  • Define Documents/Workmethods

Value Chain Analysis

Value Chain Analysis is a three-step process:

  • First, you identify the activities you undertake to deliver your product or service;
  • Second, for each activity, you think through what you would do to add the greatest value for your customer; and
  • Thirdly, you evaluate whether it is worth making changes, and then plan for action.

Step 1 – Activity Analysis

The first step to take is to brainstorm the activities that you, your team or your company undertakes that in some way contribute towards your customer’s experience.

At an organizational level, this will include the step-by-step business processes that you use to serve the customer. These will include marketing of your products or services; sales and order-taking; operational processes; delivery; support; and so on (this may also involve many other steps or processes specific to your industry).

At a personal or team level, it will involve the step-by-step flow of work that you carry out.

But this will also involve other things as well. For example:

  • How you recruit people with the skills to give the best service.
  • How you motivate yourself or your team to perform well.
  • How you keep up-to-date with the most efficient and effective techniques.
  • How you select and develop the technologies that give you the edge.
  • How you get feedback from your customer on how you’re doing, and how you can improve further.

Step 2 – Value Analysis

Now, for each activity you’ve identified, list the “Value Factors” – the things that your customers’ value in the way that each activity is conducted.

For example, if you’re thinking about a telephone order-taking process, your customer will value a quick answer to his or her call; a polite manner; efficient taking of order details; fast and knowledgeable answering of questions; and an efficient and quick resolution to any problems that arise.

If you’re thinking about delivery of a professional service, your customer will most likely value an accurate and correct solution; a solution based on completely up-to-date information; a solution that is clearly expressed and easily actionable; and so on.

Next to each activity you’ve identified, write down these Value Factors.

And next to these, write down what needs to be done or changed to provide great value for each Value Factor.

Step 3 – Evaluate Changes and Plan for Action

By the time you’ve completed your Value Analysis, you’ll probably be fired up for action: you’ll have generated plenty of ideas for increasing the value you deliver to customers. And if you could deliver all of these, your service could be fabulous!

Now be a bit careful at this stage: you could easily fritter your energy away on a hundred different jobs, and never really complete any of them.

So firstly, pick out the quick, easy, cheap wins – go for some of these, as this will improve your team’s spirits no end.

Then screen the more difficult changes. Some may be impractical. Others will deliver only marginal improvements, but at great cost. Drop these.

And then prioritize the remaining tasks and plan to tackle them in an achievable, step-by-step way that delivers steady improvement at the same time that it keeps your team’s enthusiasm going.

SIPOC

SIPOC is a way to map your processes, use it to break down your value chain.

S (supplier): Entity that provides input(s) to a process

I (input): All that is used (mostly as variables) to produce one or more outputs from a process. It is worthwhile to note that infrastructure may not be considered as inputs to a steady-state process since any variability induced by such elements remains fixed over longer periods of time. (Exceptions include new infrastructure being introduced or a greenfield project.)

P (process): Steps or activities carried out to convert inputs to one or more outputs. In a SIPOC, the process steps are shown at a high level.

O (output): One or more outcomes or physical products emerging from a process.

C (customer): Entity that uses the output(s) of a process.

To explain SIPOC in good way will add too many pages to my blog. I found this site helpful in explaining how to use the model. It may seem complicated, but you do not have to follow it too 100%. Find a levelel that gives you an overviewof the process you want to define.

Competence Analysis

To be able to execute your sales plan what competence do you need. Not only in your sales force, but in the entire value chain. From a value chain perspective, you may demand change in competence from product development to new transportation methods.

Understand and identify opportunities (and limitations) in competence and companay capabilities end-to-end, that will impact your business’ development. Define what is needed to deliver to the wished position, growth and change drivers.

If you have structured your Value Chains (Customer processes), created SIPOC charts for each process, you now need to connect the competence you need and compare it to the competence you have.

  • What are our strengths to build on?
  • What necessary competence do we lack that have significant impact on our business forward? Competence gaps linked to business risks?
  • How do we create learning in the Business?
  • How to organize and lead for success?
  • Example of areas: competence needs end to end and competence needs both for generalist and specialist competence.

Workshops

These first tools work really well as workshop material.  Don’t do this on your own! Lean is about empowering the people performing the work, and involving them is crucial for your success! This can also be used when creating your sales plan…

Remember to have a clear goal with your workshops!

Workshops without clear goals is a coffee break. Nice to sit there chit chatting, but it is not productive.

Have you got the right scope of the workshop?

It is also important not to take on too big a topic. The group needs to be able to get a handle on the subject.

Be clear in the invitation!

If the people attending need to prepare, you need to tell them and you need to give them time to do so. This will also set how people prioritize your workshop. If the invitation is fuzzy, the turnout will probably not be that good.

Invite the right people!

If you have done your homework you will secure that the right competences, organizational levels and types of personalities are present.

Meet at place that suits your workshop/group!

Staying at the office is a great way to kill creativity and focus. Find a place where you have the amount of rooms you need, if you for instance plan to split the group in small groups

Create an Agenda!

Now that you know your primary objective and who will attend, you can start to develop an outline of how you’ll achieve the workshop’s goal.

  • Main points– Create a list of main points to discuss, and then break down each larger point into details that you want to communicate to your audience.
  • Visual aids– List the visual aids, if any, you’ll use for each point. If you need technical support, this helps the people providing it to determine where they need to focus their efforts.
  • Discussions and activities– Take time to list exactly which group discussions and activities you’ll have at which point in the workshop. How much time will you allow for each exercise?

Remember, the more detailed your plan, the more you’ll ensure that your workshop will run to schedule – and be successful

Make sure you have a Follow-up Plan

The only way to find out if your workshop was a success is to have an effective follow-up plan. Create a questionnaire to give to all participants at the end of the event, and give them plenty of opportunity to share their opinions on how well it went. Although this can be a bit scary, it’s the only way to learn – and improve – for the next time.

It’s also important to have a plan to communicate the decisions that were reached during the workshop. Will you send out a mass email to everyone with the details? Will you put it on your company’s intranet? People need to know that their hard work actually resulted in a decision or action, so keep them informed about what’s happening after the workshop has ended.

Define how to work with Systems/Tools

If you are making changes to your Sales Plan, or if there are effects on the organization, make sure your system users are up to date on how they enter or use system information.

Make sure you involve are your super users and system owners in the process of changing the way the organization works, the products you are selling and or the services you intend to introduce.

Remember that systems have limited flexibility and that though you may find a change insignificant, it can be close to impossible to do without changes to the system environment. Also remember that these changes can take a long time to implement and failing to bring the systems in early in the process is a sure way of failing before you even got started.

Define Documents / Work methods

If you are changing the way you work, make sure you have defined how you want the people in your organization should work in order to make the work easier, reduce errors and make the task repeatable with the same results every time. It may seem obvious when you just agreed that something should be done in a certain way, but down the line you will be glad you took the time to make the task clear.

The same goes for documents. Make sure templates are ready, certificates prepared, legal documents written and approved and agreements made with external parties.

The Plan of Execution

So I have listed all these tools, what are you supposed to do now? You need to look at what you want to do and what you can and write down what you will do. It is about finding the easy executions, the necissary and painful challenges and the ambitions you will need to put off for the future because they are just to damn difficult to pull off…this year. Remember that it does not end here, it begins here! Knowing your organizations limitations and possibilities is the only way to move forward. It is just a matter of putting a plan together and to set it in motion…

The No 1 Reason Losing Your Customer

(the blog post also available as a podcast here)

Recently one of my friends Richard told me he got a new customer, barely without efforts. He was served the customer with a golden spoon – he didn’t even searched for the prospect first.

Most of us wouldn’t believe in such luck. We know the hard work to set up the selection criterias, search for potential customers that fit the criterias, cold calling to book the meeting, be lucky they’ve got need and budget for you stuff, get rid of competitors and, if you’ve passed the needle’s eye so far, negotiate and win the deal.

Richard told me he got the lead qualified: the potential client got the need, the budget and he was also invited to exactly the right decision maker when the timing was perfect. He just closed it straight away.

How could that be?

And, if you think about it a little further; he replaced an existing vendor before they had any chance to stop it! Could the same happen also to you?

chains

Of course it can. If I explain what happened, you may get some clues to prevent it happening with your customers.

So, it all started with a friend to my friend. Let’s call this person Joe. Joe was just about to change job when Richard met him. Politely, Richard asked Joe where, and Joe told him. Nothing more, until Joe really started his new job.

Joe saw, as most of do when we come into new situations, needs and problems at his new job with new fresh eyes. Quickly he increased his credibility and gained confidence from the bosses.

Most of us make business with people we trust. Joe’s bosses were listening to Joe’s ideas and trusted him when he told them he got a friend – guess who – that could solve exactly their problems.

Richard became invited just in time to meet with Joe and his bosses. Of course Joe had told Richard every little details about their needs, problems and decision makers he needed. The win was almost ready when the meeting started.

I don’t say this will be true in all cases, but if you don’t take control over such potential situations, you’ll be out before you may react. And vice versa, may this be a strategy to gain new sales as well?

Good luck,

Stefan

(BTW: Richard and Joe have another names in the real world)

What is Lean sales? – Create a Sales Plan!

Continuing from my last blog…

In order to pursue customers you need to define how you will seek new customers, how you will win them over and how to retain them. A sales plan is the best way to create a clear communication of how you will do this in your company. This plan should build on the strengths of your products/services and the people in your company.

In my earlier blog “Sales role in Sales and Operation Planning (Demand Planning)” I talk about what is needed as output from the plan and who to collaborate with. Essentially you need to take the following steps. Set a budget -> Set a strategy -> Connect budget to Strategy and decide how to make it happen (sales plan). You need to describe how your sales team will work towards your goal and how you operationally will measure if the goal is being achieved.

I have listed some models I find useful for creating a Sales Plan:

PEST (Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural and Technological)

Using the tool is a 4 stage process:

  1. You brainstorm the relevant factors that apply to you, using the prompts below.
  2. You identify the information that applies to these factors.
  3. You draw conclusions from this information.
  4. Use your conclusions in your SWOT analysis.

The important point is to move from the second step to the third step: it is sterile just to describe factors without thinking through what they mean. However, be careful not to assume that your analysis is perfect: use it as a starting point, and test your conclusions against the reality you experience.

PEST Analysis is a useful tool for understanding the ‘big picture’ of the environment in which you are operating, and for thinking about the opportunities and threats that lie within it. By understanding your environment, you can take advantage of the opportunities and minimize the threats.

PEST is a mnemonic standing for Political, Economic, Social and Technological. These headings are used firstly to brainstorm the characteristics of a country or region and, from this, draw conclusions as to the significant forces of change operating within it.

This provides the context within which more detailed planning can take place, so that you can take full advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)

SWOT Analysis is a simple but useful framework for analyzing your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats that you face. It helps you focus on your strengths, minimize threats, and take the greatest possible advantage of opportunities available to you.

Strength and Weakness are an internal focus, whereas Opportunities and Threats are external.

SWOT Analysis can be used to “kick off” strategy formulation, or in a more sophisticated way as a serious strategy tool. You can also use it to get an understanding of your competitors, which can give you the insights you need to craft a coherent and successful competitive position.

When carrying out your SWOT Analysis, be realistic and rigorous. Apply it at the right level, and supplement it with other option-generation tools where appropriate.

KANO model

Kano Model Analysis is a useful technique for deciding which features you want to include in a product or service. It helps you break away from a profit-minimizing mindset that says you’ve got to have as many features as possible in a product, and helps you think more subtly about the features you include.

To use Kano Model Analysis, follow these steps:

  1. Brainstorm all of the possible features and attributes of your product or service, and everything you can do to please your customers.
  2. Classify these as “Threshold”, “Performance”, “Excitement” and “Not Relevant”.
  3. Make sure your product or service has all appropriate Threshold Attributes. If necessary, cut out Performance Attributes so that you can get these – you’re going nowhere fast if these aren’t present.
  4. Where possible, cut out attributes that are “Not Relevant”.
  5. Look at the Excitement Attributes, and think how you can build some of these into your product or service. Again if necessary, cut some Performance Attributes, so that you can “afford” your Excitement Attribute.
  6. Select appropriate Performance Attributes so that you can deliver a product or service at a price the customer is prepared to pay, while still maintaining a good profit margin.

Tip:

Where possible, get your customers to do the classification for you. Partly this will keep you close to your market, but partly it will keep you and even the most out-of-touch people in your company up-to-date with people’s changing expectations.

Also, make sure when you choose customers who are typical of the market you want to sell to.

RUMBA

When setting goals the goal should always be:

Relevant Helps the employee understand how the expectation fits with the company’s/department’s goals.
Understandable Makes the goal clear to the employee. May need to be restated in different language or the employee’s own words
Measurable Describes the results for which the employee will be accountable. Usually stated in terms of quantifiable criteria.
Beliveable Goal must be stated in a way that it is relevant and credible
Achievable Goal is realistic

Get started!

The year has started, the race is on! Sit down and put a plan together! If you as a manager don’t know what needs to be done, you can be sure no one else has a clue either. Bring your team on board to help if you are stuck. If they get a clear understanding of the budget, your strategic thoughts on what customers to approach and what products to promote, they should be able to give you some good advice. Using the tools I have mentioned or other tools you are familiar with you will have a good structure for keeping the information structured/understandable and also help you ask the right questions.

What is Lean sales? – Identify your internal customers!

Continuing from my earlier blogs:

What is Lean sales?
Identify your external customers!

This is where I believe we all assume too much. Most people in an organization have their own networks and routines for communicating within the organization. This has been developed during a long period of time and is handed over from person to person as people change position in the company and as the company grows. It has not been put in place, it has just happened…how do you know that this is the best way to perform the tasks in your company?

Understanding is better than believing, so find out who in your organization you as a sales group hand over information to. Is there a secondary party within your organization that receives information that comes from your group? Should this information not be passed on directly?

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” ― Albert Einstein

Is there a white spot on the map? Is there a group within your organization that is seeking information that you could be providing, but you are not?

I heard a great example of a white spot. In a company working with industrial installations in the 80’s. In some cases the customer provided engines that were supposed to be used in the final product. Normally the purchase department was responsible for all the incoming goods and when they placed the orders, goods management was already planned and article numbers were in place. The customer unique engines would turn up out of the blue, the team handling the receiving would call the purchase department and ask about them, but since the purchasing department had nothing to do with these engines they had no information to provide. The result was that the engines would be stashed somewhere and many where lost on their way to production costing a bundle of money and irritated customers. If the sales department had seen the goods receiving department as a customer and understood their responsibility they would have set up a routine with the receiving group and communicated to the customer how engines need to be labeled and shipped in order for their company to manage them.

These days Big Data is widely discussed. The requirements to enter information are constantly increasing. A lot is probably rubbish, but some will definitely bring value to you or to some other part of your organization who is a customer of this information. Look through your entire business process and organization scheme and truly define who is a receiver from your sales department. It is better to do a few things well rather than trying do a lot and making a mess of it all…so find out where your input will have the biggest impact.

What is Lean sales? – Identify your external customers!

Continuing from my last blog

By “External Customers” I mean customers outside the boundaries of your own organization. In sales this is who you define as your lead/opportunity/customer.

I admit that this area is out of my depth, all I have is the theory about haow to define a market, but I know what you need to use this for, so the requirements are not a problem to define. You need to have a clear aim on what types of customers you will be targeting, what the markets that will supply you with leads are. This is probably not something you do very often and I brought it up because of the importance this step has for the rest of the work.

When working at IKEA I was part of the teams in development of new products. My role was to assist with the forecast information regarding the potential of the new product and gather knowledge about the product so that I could make a plan for how the forecast for the new product and other products in the range will change once we launched.

This was about understanding who our customers are and how they would react (e.g. cannibalization on other products). This was also about understanding what customers we did not have, how the offer potentially would create a new customer base and how we could reach as many potential customers as we could.

I don’t see that B2B sales can be any different. If you have a clear idea of who you are targeting, the rest of the work becomes so much easier.

Usually when I talk to people about the problems they are facing at work I can hear that the client base is so diverse you wonder how they managed to find the deals and if any of the deals made any money. “Selling all we can to everyone…” is not being fair on your organization.

Once you have decided on who your customers are you should write down your assumptions. You have assumed that this group is correct for your company because… (fill in the blank). If you write down your assumptions it will make it easier to see what you might have missed over time.

This customer description needs to be communicated throughout your organization. Everyone needs to be in line with who your customer is. Now there may be parts of your organization that views the customer different e.g. Customer Service, because they deal with another part of the customers organization, but marketing, product development, project teams, production, logistics, and so on, need to have a collective idea of who you talk about when you  “the customer”.

“Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.” ~ Kevin Stirtz

In the next step you will need to create a Sales Plan in order to reach these customers, so you need to put some real effort into getting this right, because if we get all the other steps right, it will be a waste of time if we don’t target the right customers. The perfect execution of a misdirected plan is not something you would want…

First, let us get look at your internal customers.

//The picture is from my infochart over Lean Sales