Buyers say they don’t want you there. But they are lying.

You’re a salesman, right? Surely you’ve heard it. Companies are doing their buying process themselves, without connecting to you. To know they are in a purchase process, you have call them; they never call you. But if you call, they don’t answer or get hung up.

And if you’re not in their loop, then you lose. Maybe, it doesn’t matter, since you always can win back. Anyhow, they increasingly regret their buying decisions.

Or, you may consider they’re all lying when they say they don’t need you.

liar

According to new research, companies describe their complex-solutions purchase process as “hard”, “awful”, “painful”, “frustrating” or “minefield”. If they really describe their own selected purchase process in that manner, why do they decide not to involve you?

I think the reasons mainly are two:

  1. Companies believe they can manage a complex purchase themselves
  2. They think salesmen are too pushy

When companies think they are able to manage their purchase process themselves, they may think of the fact they have all information to make their decision. And certainly, they have. All information available on earth.

How efficient is that on a scale? The oceans of information make decisions almost impossible in first place. How to extract the right pieces of relevant information? How will they accomplish that? Maybe they perform another search on the internet, turn to their business and personal friends or industry colleagues for advice? That’s true.

According to the research, they increasingly involve more people to make their decisions. Two years ago, they involved 5.4 people to make a decision, but today 6.8. That’s more than two additional people!

Besides the cost to involve more people when decision-making, the time table for the final decision stretches a lot. According to the research, 65% of customers tell that they spent as much time as they’d expected to need for the entire purchase just getting ready to speak with a salesman. Isn’t that a waste of time, then?

Companies would be a lot more efficient making decisions with the expertise you as a salesman possess. So why do they not like to connect?

Then we come into #2. They think of salesmen as aggressive and too pushy, I believe. And I agree with that. After too many cold calls to me, trying to sell any- or something not relevant, I’ve decided just to hang up when a salesman call. Every now and then I let them answer my first objection: “What are you trying to sell to me?” before I’m clicking the red phone symbol. Because very few of them show any skill whatsoever being relevant to me, even if they do their pitch excellent.

What you should be aggressive about, is to find the potential customers’ need and pain. Do exactly as they do – use the net, social media, friends, colleagues  and so on to really find what pains people are talking about. Don’t look for “hot” solutions – search for dire pains.

The pains are real stuff. They cost money. They impact margins and make competition harder. They affect growth plans. They let management heads roll. They are the mothers of multiple layoffs. They shut factories down.

That’s really painful. So look for full pains. No little. Because with no huge and awful pains, there will be no awesome solutions to sell.

The great thing is, that you are the skilled expert of such pains. If you are able to transform yourself from a seller to a helper, you will be the decision-makers’ best friend.

Because you answer when they call, you are the expert to talk to on social media. You addresses the pains to defined problems. You understand them and connect them to real solvers of exactly that problem and finally suggest solutions that enable the elimination of the pains.

So the truth is that companies still need you. But don’t get upset when they are lying they don’t.

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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)

What is Lean sales?

To get to a Lean sales organization requires a few changes in how you as a manager view the role of sales and the roles your sales people have in your organization.

First off, this is as much culture as it is management. This is the really big uphill climb. Changing culture is not the easiest thing to do and it is not something you do very often. The culture you need to truly succeed in Lean is the idea that change comes from the people. It is the voice of your employees that needs to be the source of your future development. It is about teaching your employees to voice any activity that does not function within their area of expertise.

The second thing is that Lean is about money. Either you save money by cutting out an unnecessary expense or you gain money by removing time spent on something meaningless and using it to make money.

The third thing is that Lean is customer driven. You might think “We’ll duh, I work with sales, no one in the company understands the customers as well as I do. We live for our customers.” You might be right, but to be Lean you cannot try to push leads thru your pipe, hoping to transform them into customers. Lean is about working with the Leads that are partly on their way, Leads that you can turn into a profitable customer. You need to be good at giving your customers the tools they need to walk towards your sales pitch on their own, you need to make sure you are targeting the right markets and you need to have correct criteria for your qualification procedure (and NEVER deviate). Part of this goes back to how you market and communicate your brand, so get your Marketing department on board!

To make this possible you need to define in what area people work and what they do. You need a clear description of how the job is to be done in order for someone to flag if it is not working as intended or if there is a way of doing things better.

I know that in sales you have your key performers the lead sales person, the one that lands more deals than any other sales person and that they can sell manure as chocolate bars. You forgive them for all their eccentricities because they bring home the bacon.

“There are no heroes!”

There are no heroes in Lean, this is a team effort. You cannot be dependent on individual players and if you allow rogue behavior, how can you motivate the rest of the tem to follow routines and guidelines? Besides, top sellers can give feedback on how to improve the routines (share some of their magic) and use their creativity and drive to support the team improvement, move from being “I” focused to “we” focused. As far as team effort is concerned, let me put it this way. If you have 5 sales people and one of them is the top seller scoring 30% over the average group revenue, if you can increase the other 4 with 10% your top performing sales person can drop 20% and the team is still making more revenue than before. If the top performer quits because they miss their hero status and you hire another average Joe working according to your routines, you are still making more revenue. The time it takes to get Joe into the job has also been reduced do to clear routines and structure.

“Do not tolerate brilliant jerks. The cost of teamwork is too high” – Reed Hastings, CEO Netflix

As I understand most sales people are a bit competitive to say the least, so this is a bit tricky. As a manager it is important to have clear measurements and goals to be able to stimulate these thoroughbreds, directing their individual competitiveness to achieve the common goals. I understand if this is intimidating, it’s OK to be a little scared, but rise to the challenge!

With this way of working anyone within the same roll can do any other persons job within the group. This makes your job so much easier when someone quits or goes on vacation. You can still lift your individual players, good work should always be recognized. If you as sales person meet your goals, follow routines and find new and better ways of working, you should be rewarded. Just do not put the individual in a cape and lift them up on a pedestal…

Another important fact about standardization is that if you simplify a lot of the everyday work, there is more room for thinking and creativity that can be used for making your process even better and more efficient. Time that can be used to research your leads better in order target the right leads, make a better case or to present a better deal.

You also need to have a clear understanding of who your customer is. Not only externally but also within your company. External customers should be found by managing well targeted leads and correctly qualified opportunities. Internal customers can be any department your team delivers information to like forecasts, specifications, time lines for projects, administrative work and so on.

In the blogs that follow I intend to give my thoughts on how you can create a structured approach to a Lean way of working in your sales organization. This Infochart is my map. There will still be alot of valid points, even if you do not make your sales organization Lean, so if you are not convinced don’t stop reading, our journey has just begun…

// Featured image from http://www.almir.biz/lean-business/

Driving your car at full speed looking in the rear view mirror?

There are reasons the rear view mirror is much smaller than the windscreen. Are you heading to a defined destination it’s no sense turning back, taking another way. If you’re lost, you may turn back but the car’s front will still be turned forward. You’re losing time, but hopefully the turn you take is leading to your final destination.

Same in business. Things that have happened cannot be changed. If you’re not perfoming very well, you would make some minor or major adjustments. You’re losing time, but hopefully you are on track again after a while.

The Point is; can you afford losing that time? And how complex is it to turn around?

Driving a car at high speed; it can be dangerous stopping in very short time, as well as in business. It’s not that easy turning a business around as well, communicate your decisions and making people follow a new path believing it would be the right way to go and let them bear your enterprise towards your targets.

And, when you’re finished, will you still be the market leader? Have your competitors disappeared out of sight in front of you? Has the world been changing so fast your decision still is relevant? Finally; is it really possble doing the turn at all?

Geting the message? If are going wrong, adjust your path or turn around. You’re  losing time and momentum but the alternative may be driving into a rock wall. Contradictory, the only tool avoiding going wrong is to follow the trace of yourself of past events – the history. In sales, that means The Report.

Moment 22? No.

Since you cannot change the history, could you then change the future? Well, not really, but if you would understand what forces – and the impact of them – a little better, you would have a good chance seeing obstacles and signs early and be prepared how to act.

That’s called Scenario Management.

Scenario management or Scenario Analysis was initially used several decades ago. Implementations in areas like aviation and the military are common. Most implementations have been in rather long term perspectives, but I’m sure the method would work fine also for a more short term tactical perspective as well, as in the Sales Scenario App.

Scenarios

Scenario management is an alternative or complement to your existing sales report showing what has happened and maybe some sort of insight why it did. The scenario management process will help you:

  1. Be prepared for events that may come up
  2. Learn what driving forces would have an impact on your business and
  3. How to control them

It’s important to notice, the scenario management will not tell you the exact picture of the future, but rather a number of alternative developments that may happen. The nice thing is that in your work establishing these alternative outcomes, scenario management will also show you the paths to the outcomes.

By having the paths, you may act more proactively, eliminating going wrong. In driving the car, that’s the huge windscreen showing alternative ways to go, possibibities, obstacles, dangers etc, in time to act, being prepared for events coming.

And that’s all about driving a sucessful business, isn’t it?

Best Regards,
Stefan

Feedback makes your decisions better!

In Sales Scenario – your Sales Tactics App there are many things that will profoundly change the way you make sales decisions.

While running scenarios of the future, you ask yourself questions of the type ”what if”. As I mentioned before in this blog it’s much harder to ask the right question than give a proper answer. In your management team, members are gathered with different experiences, background and skills. That’s the basic requirement for such team.

The R&D Manager will inform about what impact the new product line has on the average order size, the Finance Guy about the cost for the sales organization, the Marketing Lady how many leads are possibly to generate, the CEO about the new targets. These expert’s experiences are the terrific foundation for creating your accurate what-if questions.

Get feedback.

First thing is to formulate the objective. That’s what problem to solve. Today it’s only less than one and a half month to go until end year’s target has to be achieved. The Standard Question at this time is: ”Do we reach our targets?”

Chat

The Sales Scenario App may show you that every sales rep has to initiate 9 new opportunities (instead of 7) every week from now on until year end to achieve the agreed targets.

So the objective is: How can we secure fulfillment of end year targets?

One of the future scenarios – what-if questions – may be: Is 9 new opportunities per sales rep really possible? In the Sales Scenario App you have the option to really make collaborative decisions by inviting your management team, friends or experts for comments or likes:

Furthermore; if you get an invitation but can’t answer by yourself (or need a more detailed perspective), you may invite another friend or expert in turn. That’s really collaborative!

The Sales Scenario App is on AppStore today. Happy playing what-if questions!

Sales Decision Making Revolution is Coming

When I first got in touch with sales management decision processes many years ago, decision making was a task for essentially an individual – the boss – based on a static sales report. It was up to his or her experience, management style or even gut feeling if the quality of the decision was high or low.

However, the lower quality of the decision, the longer implementation time for the decision itself. And the longer implementation time, the longer payback time for the anticipated good effects; if the effects at this time were relevant at all or out-paced in the fast moving business environment and hard competition.

Later, tools like tele or video conferencing systems entered the market. Those systems gave possibilities to discuss topics to decide upon. However, the basis for decision had to be prepared and sent out to team members in advance, providing actually no possibilities for alternatives to evolve.

Then came the internet based collaboration plug-ins like webex, teamviewer, gotomeeting, lync and many more. You now, all these softwares with their thousands of buttons, no standards, fuzzy Icons – all with one thing in common; you never remember how to use them. Yes, you may collaborate, chat, show your screen, but there is no context content with alternatives and you need all team members to be online at the same time. That’s a challenge even without time zones…

Now many talks about the social things; like LinkedIn, Twitter etc for collaboration. It’s not collaboration in my eyes, more like Inspiration. You can comment, share or Like, but It’s too open to get into your real sales problems.

Today, vendors like Qliktech, Cognos, Microsoft and IBM and many more provide you with sales reports showing the history, not the alternatives for tomorrow. The charts are colorful and you may understand them. They show detailed answers based on Big Data, but not to your questions. If you ask for the future, they will ask for your big bucks to prepare static alternatives to discuss around.

The worst thing is that you need to discuss your current situation and your alternatives several times a month, because things are happening so fast and you need to act – not react – to be on track.

There are modern solutions, that in one single tool let you run and elaborate among future sales specific scenarios as many times a week you need to, invite and chat with your management team, friends or experts – when they got the time to – and get inspiration from top sales gurus, to make better and more well-grounded decisions that are already implemented, so you can stay as the leader in your specific market.

Stay tuned – in the next days I would like to introduce the biggest news in the Collaborative Decision Making market history.

It will revolutionize the way you make sales decisions.

BR, Stefan