Beyond The Buying Process

LinkedIn, what a great way of connecting to people! Just a few months ago I was just scanning my network and got one of those “say happy birthday congrats to..”. It was one of those old friends I haven’t spoke to for years. Actually, it was about fifteen years since we worked at the same company, the same sales department. I remember he was one of the sharpest brains I ever met before or until now. His name is Bert-Olov Bergstrand, always called BOB.

I said “congrats” to BOB and he instantly replied by picking up his phone and called me. One hour later we were convinced we would be doing business together in the near future. One memory of all, still extremely sharp in my brain, came to me and I typed a blog post about our method how to win very large complex sales deals – The Sales War Room.

One case BOB was leading was the win of a building supplies retail store chain, let’s just give them the alias “Building Supplies”.

We had to beg to be involved in the procurement of Building Supplies new ERP system. We came in as the last one of 28 potential vendors. We were not even in their conceptual world at all. Their procurement specification was extremely functional detailed and we were not allowed to talk to them before we submitted our proposal. All vendors submitted detailed answers with a lot nice words and names, but did Building Supplies really understand?

bild1

Only 5 were invented to make a demo. But we were nominated to the final as number five!

After Building Supplies had spent time visiting four demos, they considered not to visit us – they said they’ve seen all possible solutions and it would be wasting time visiting us. Again, we had to beg them to come. And they did.

They started to shop their own items and goods in a building supplies retail store we built in our own office, just for this case. All our systems we aligned to their processes and their customers’ behavior and customer experience. Then we matched all their functional details to their own context; their own vocabulary.

After two hours they said we were the only ones that really understood their business. We didn’t only understand them, we WERE them.

bild2

Of course we won the multi million USD deal.

To wrap up:

Level 1: Today no-one is really arguing not having a Sales Process to control a stepwise sales method. The mindset on this level is that the customer is buying aligned to the sales reps’ recommendation but not always understands what he buys.

Level 2: A few sales organizations are also accepting the fact there are a shift where the buyers are getting more power in their Buying Process. To sell on this level you have to understand your customer’s business and Buying Process

But what comes BEYOND THE BUYING PROCESS?

Level 3: To make the customer buy, the sales rep not only has to understand the customer, he has to BE and ACT as a customer in all contexts.

That’s Beyond The Buying Process.

BOB and I would be happy to uncover all secrets for your journey to this promised land where you win all complex and large deals. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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)

The Sales War Room

Many times the sales rep is left alone to build his case, what products to sell, set the strategy to win, decide on how to communicate and how tough he should be in contract negotiations. And it’s often anticipated that these skills are mandatory for sales people to have. We all know there’s no such sales person available. The top ones may be close enough to make a success, but we all are a mix of congenital and trained skills. It’s like in every sport; the top performers are always those where optimal congenital skills are combined with the right sport, where these skills are utilized at the most. I other words, very seldom – Michael Jordan, the former Chicago Bulls basket ball star or Zlatan Ibrahimovic, soccer player for Manchester United, are such rare examples.

Still, there are ways to reach ultimate sales skills without invest a fortune in sales training of mediocre or even pretty good sales reps, to win large complex deals.

The Sales War Room.

Sales War Room

 

Shortly after the millenium shift, there was a huge dotcom death. Hyped IT companies valued billions of dollars just went bankrupt in a few months. I’d been successful in sales of IT for some years and was recently recruited by a large enterprise selling huge complex ERP systems to large companies. I was a young ambitious sales rep and it was a challenging business environment – nearly recession, but the most frightening thing was how I would be able to sell those complex systems?

But I managed. I was more successful than ever before. The secret was our Sales War Room.

When all other business units in our enterprise failed, my own unit won everything we decided to go for. The sales war room was a way of compress the very best experts available in one single place for one single day. The outcome was a sales case playbook for just that case: Exact what products or services to sell, how to sell, what to communicate to whom, how to get rid of competition, what to negotiate, what not to negotiate etc – simply all single details how to win the specific sales case.

A sales war room can surely be set up in many ways, but one of the keys for success is time. We gathered all the very best experts we could find in the entire business unit from all relevant areas. By doing that, the time was very limited. All best experts really have very limited time. So we decided pretty long time in advance what cases to go for and invited early – a month in advance was not unusual. We couldn’t book more than a day in total, just to keep it intense and efficient and the activities for the day were:

  • Brief introduction of the sales case by the sales rep (me)
  • Every expert then prepared a preliminary proposal or solution in his expert area
  • All experts were gathered without participation from the sales rep, to create a common solution together
  • Experts adjusted their proposals or solutions
  • The draft solution was presented to the sales rep
  • More adjustments were performed by the experts
  • The final presentation of common solution and proposal was done, where it was secured the sales rep did know exactly how to act and behave towards the potential customer.

I feel most sales reps are too lonely doing these steps, with the impact that less deals are won. A rep always need help, but in more complex cases there are no supermen available.

Having a Sales War Room at hand, you will win all your sales cases anyhow.

A New Customer Without Any Sales; That Isn’t Luck.

A couple of weeks ago a company just called me and said they will buy my product. I hadn’t heard of them before and, of course, I hadn’t done any activity at all to sell. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of their bare existence.

I thought; Ohh, that’s pure luck!

Luck

But it was not. I mean, I was happy having them as customer buying my product, but it was no “luck” involved in getting them.

Five years ago, I got in contact with – as I hoped – a new partner company. We were the perfect match; our products complement each other perfectly. One day they called me in to do an introduction for a couple of hours, so they would be able to understand my product better. Since my hope was that they would provide leads to me, I accepted.

How naive was that, on a scale? Instead of a short introduction, they really pumped out of me all my knowledge. I felt somewhat robbed, but nevertheless, I like to give, so that was not a problem, but after that session I didn’t hear from them. Not a single faint whisper for five years.

Until a couple of weeks ago when my customer told me where they got my name from. “Call Stefan, he’s awesome doing that type of stuff”.

In the new type of sales process, which more or less doesn’t exists in the same way as before, the buyer is king. And in the new internet economy, most things of commodity are anticipated to be free. This means you cannot sell first. To sell, it’s anticipated you give first, to have a chance of any reward.

Lucky you, Sales Rep! In the new social world it’s easy to give. Of course you need to have some sort of skill, that may be sought after. Use that expertise to get into discussions, but be aware: DON’T SELL! Just provide your knowledge in a humble and confident manner, and you will leave a good aftertaste.

Lesson learned, your chances to be rewarded is much greater if you give first. It may take a long time, but sooner or later you will see the positive effects of giving are greater than the negative.

Happy Giving!

Stefan

 

 

 

Real Customer Need Is Not What They Are Telling You

I’ve just started to use my new Apple Watch. It was an unexpected gift on my recent birthday. My first thoughts was:

  • What will I do with such thing?
  • I don’t wear any watch at all
  • Actual time is always displayed on my mobile’s lock screen

Today, that little thing is one of my best friends. And that happened in about four weeks. How did that happen?

Watch

The answer is of course Apple showed me an alternate behavior I couldn’t resist. As I know Apple they are excellent of showing alternate behaviors. The best – and most discussed – example is of course the introduction of iPhone 2007.

At launch, most people said a lot about the iPhone – it’s was too expensive, too bad to make calls, too slow, etc… But when the war was over, it was named The Invention of The Year in 2007 by Time.

In 2007, the market for smart mobile phones was completely dominated by the Nordic companies Nokia and Ericsson. They made phones evolved from a history of making just that – phones. They hadn’t the culture to create anything but phones. Of course, there were some alternatives – but who remember Microsoft CE nowadays…? A compressed windows interface into a small screen, delivered along with a stylus pen. Microsoft claimed it’ll be the way to go, since people would like to have the user interface just like the same as in user’s PC.

In summary, the dominators’ proposal was either to use just phones or micro-sized computers on mobile devices. What Apple created instead, was a new behavior for a lot of people, ending up by taking  the computer into the streets.

Exactly the same happened 2010, when Apple launched the iPad. I remember my words of wisdom; “OK, I have an iPhone and a PC; why should I bother to buy an iPad?” We all know, Apple took the PC to the couch, giving internet surfing it’s natural place or to the kitchen creating a fast and convenient way of searching and reading baking recipes. Again, Apple changed our behavior.

To learn from this stories in your everyday selling, you have to stop think about the needs your prospect tells you about. To make you successful, you have to make your prospect successful – that’s the usual way to go in all sales. To accomplish that, you will have to investigate harder not what they tell you they need today based upon what they see in the near future. You have to propose to them where you think they have to go to change their customers’ behavior.

It’s not enough to make them successful today, to be the one they hold on to in the future. You need to visualize for them what they need tomorrow to get major competitive advantages.

Just as simple as that, Apple Watch changed my behavior in many ways, for example while running. I can follow my pulse, average pace, distance and at the same time discuss my new sale with a colleague. All data collected and summarized in nice presentations compared to my health and business goals.

Apple took my office into my running trails – and gave me additional productive time while keeping my body in good shape. That’s a success for me. Think of what successes you would like to provide to your prospect’s customers in the future.

Only then you will be successful as a salesman.

 

 

Don’t Ask The Customer: Do Your Homework

Today was the third day in a row a sales person called and made exactly the same mistakes, ended up too suddenly.

Hi, I’m Paul. I’m calling from The Company X. Can you tell me who is responsible for Marketing in your organization?

Just a short sentence. I heard some background noise as well, imaging he was in a room where many people were doing the same as him.

It wasn’t abnormal. It was a typical sales call, but ended up in the same way as the other recent calls I got this week. I hung up. I never do such otherwise, except if I’ve not having time at all. I learn from bad and good sales people, just spending a few minutes, to get a fresh experience of how sales reps are working nowadays, to get the stories of behavior and to perfect the advice I give to sales and business leaders.

research

This week wasn’t a bad one. And I wasn’t in a bad mood at all. Still; I couldn’t stand the way these sales persons called. It was so many faults.

So, can you “Find Five Faults”?

First.

When you call, go to a quiet place. If I hear other voices, I think of two scenarios – both are bad. Either the working environment is too bad for the person calling: “are they really so many employees so close to each other?” or – and more obvious: it’s a call center guy with a list to call. So my feeling is that I’m devalued, only being a row in a list. If he doesn’t catch me, it doesn’t matter, he’s just going on calling…

Second.

He didn’t know my name. Addressing by pronouncing the receivers name means he want to speak with me personally, not my role or position.

Third.

Don’t ask for anything if you’re not giving something first. The sales rep asked me to give him the name of my marketing manager. Why should I? What do I get in return? A ticket to the cinema or theater? It connects to the Third as well: He don’t want to talk to me, just my role. To bad for him, since I am the marketing manager…

Fourth.

Do your homework. You may find most information about my company on the internet. As a sales rep, if you don’t have the time to spend a couple of minutes scanning my web to get who is the marketing manager, you probably not are having time to help me either. You will take my money and go away. I understand, sometimes the information on the net can be somewhat scanty, but again, that’s no problem. There’s lists to buy. If you can’t afford buying a list of names – I recognize that as a not solid enterprise you’re calling from.

Fifth.

Begin your call by mentioning a pain you know – and I mean really know – the prospect has. Even if most of the sales process is gone nowadays, the buying process is still ongoing. Take part in your prospects’ searching for help and best practise, using social media channels. Learn to be a helping star and you will get close enough to hear their biggest pains.

Don’t take me wrong here. I really care about you sales reps out there. I’ve been a rep by myself and I know the hard work you have to do. But why are you walking a path full of thorns?

Good luck out there!