Why you should say no if you don’t match 100% of your prospect’s need

In the good old days, sales people were able to fill their portfolio with stock items and hit the road selling those, without much preferences if customers’ needs fit to that product. But now, customers are demanding 100% solution of their problems.

Some time ago, in a world of never ending market growth, goods had to be produced cheaper and cheaper, driving competition harder and harder. All eyes were focused on how to source and produce to the lowest cost as possible, not what customer really needed.

Customers thought they were needed the offered goods – and for sure, they couldn’t find anything else. And customers were right, not much were changing from year to year or even from decade to decade. Globalization – as we now it today – driven by the internet revolution hadn’t started yet. Companies were pretty happy to source their business with goods available.

Then something happened. A great paradigm shift, from producers’ point of view to customers’.

The introduction of internet started a customer education process. First at slow pace, but soon accelerating. Customers started to get informed using available information and with social media introduction, they were also able to discuss within their networks about their problems and needs, just to get as informed they could before they engaged with a salesman.

Today, this paradigm shift is fully completed. The customer has made himself comfortable in the driver’s seat and decisions are made fully informed. But they still need help to match products with their needs, in detail.

On the selling side, we meet with fully informed customers, so it shouldn’t be any problem – if you are informed at the same level about your products. In my blog post Why Expertise Outperforms Process , I explain why being an expert on your own products or services is mandatory these days.

But my point is, if the salesman’s offer don’t fit 100%, the customer don’t solve 100% of their problems. The result on your customer’s side is not reaching their fully potentials and goals, leading to decreased competiveness. On the selling side, you may lose the deal to a competitor meeting 100% of the needs. Or, have a lot more work to get it. Work including persuasion, product customizations, discussions, motivations an much more hassle to eventually end up with the signed contract.

My advice is simple. Only go for opportunities you know you will solve 100% of your customer’s needs.

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In an efficient sales process, the first stage – qualification – secures no deal is allowed to pass if not a couple of qualification questions are having positive answers. Common questions are such as if customer has budget, if you talk to the decision makers, if investment is intended in reasonable time frame, if competition is not too overwhelmingly and so on.

“If your product fit” sometimes is one of these questions, but not too often the most important and never the only one. Why? It should be.

Think about the “good old days” when everything you produced could be sold, no matter what. The salesman was king and customers were trusted him as The Voice from the world outside.

Those days could be revived once again, if your product is solving 100% of your customers’ needs and most of your time is spent on helping your customer understand and trust that.

Doing so before you qualify your opportunity in your sales process, will save tremendous amount of hassle and time. But to afford to spend all your time on fit matching, you need to say NO to opportunities that not have any potential to pass the “Fit Test”.

Good luck!

Stefan

 

 

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When does the simple become the complicated?

I recently read an article about Swedish entrepreneurs, how they struggled with getting funding to start their business and how they ran into unwanted issues as they achieved success. This blog is dedicated to all the entrepreneurs out there…

So, you started out your company with a great business idea, some money from your own pocket and the belief that you would succeed. Some years later you are standing there in an organization with 30 employees doing the exact same thing as before, but you are more lost than ever and your results are spinning out of control. “How did I get here?”, you might ask yourself.

It is really quite simple. As your business grew, you added people in your organization to meet the increasing demand. In times of fast growth this process is usually quite chaotic it can leave you with the feeling that you might have recruited some poor achievers. As you added people you also added a need for communication you didn’t  need before, you always knew what you were planning and acted accordingly, nowadays it seems like people in your organization constantly are working on the wrong thing or that time and resources are being spent in areas that are not according to your own priories. You have also found that people never tell you anything, all information turns up too late and you feel like you’re chasing to make ends meet.

Organizations require work and you have been in it for the business, the smell of the deal, the thrill of helping the customer, and so on. So you haven’t been doing what you should have been doing, and yet you have. There was plenty you could have done, but there is no point in bringing this up for your sake, you are already there and I seriously doubt that anyone starting up is reading (they are busy making the mistakes you made), so I’ll spare you the lecture.

Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up about it. You are where you are and it isn’t all bad.

Key words that describe an entrepreneur.
Key words that describe an entrepreneur. http://www.wordle.net.

What can you do at this point? First of all you need to seriously ask yourself the uncomfortable question, “Am I the right person for the job?” Communication and structure is not natural to all people, so don’t force yourself to work with something that does not make you happy and the end of the day. Look within your organization and see if there is someone with this ability or hire someone. Start by taking yourself out of the equation. This solves the management issue.

Now, you need to take what you have in your head and put it on paper, write down the vision you have for the company. Why do we exist and if I close down tomorrow will my customers loose a value they cannot find any place else? Already got one? Great! Start communicating this to all employees.

You also need to set the route how to achieve the vision. Of course you will never reach it, because it’s a vision, but you need a way to aim in that direction, your strategy. A strategy doesn’t have to be grand or complicated. IKEA had a strategy called 10 jobs in 10 years and it was communicatively genius. By the way, I believe we did it in 7 years. State what you want to achieve in a given time frame. Keep the language simple and leave out room for interpretation. You should create sub strategies to support the overall strategy: HR strategy (what competence do we want, how to we get there), Sales strategy (hunting vs. farming, product mix, market potential, resources, etc.), production strategy (make or buy, type of capacity, capacity volume, sourcing countries, etc.), and so on. Start communicating this to all employees.

What order do you want to do this in? What is first up on the agenda? Are there dependencies (A before B. C has to follow A, but is independent of B). Build in some flexibility to be able to shift priority and/or direction due to circumstance (still the same strategy though). Set a budget to keep track of income and costs. Now you are ready for setting the first year tactical plan.

Write the plan for the coming year, what you want to achieve from a business perspective, what goals you have for different product areas (what will grow and what will reside), what market shares to reach, retention rate, and so on and so on. Start communicating this to all employees.

The point of communicating each step within your company is to make you check your own work. If it does not sound right when you write the communication, then maybe you need change something, or if it is too complicated to explain, it most likely is too complicated to execute.

So, when does the simple become the complicated? When you stop managing…

This is just a quick guide, remember, there are really good professionals out there who can help in all these areas. Have patience, this can take time…