If you could only do one thing to improve your sales and profit performance what would it be? In this post I will share a great book titled; The One Thing, the surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results by Gary Keller. The author shares how multitasking is a myth and we must find the one thing that makes all our other action items on your to-do list disappear.
Understanding the voice of your customer today is the best way I have found over the last 30 years to profitably increase sales.
As I have shared before sales execution is often a common problem in sales teams. Senior leadership held their 2-3 day off sight strategy planning and came away with “the plan”. However in most cases (as much as 80% of the time), sales teams fail to hit their numbers.
Why does this occur and what can be done to insure sales execute a sales business development plan that helps them achieve sales goals?
The difficulty I have experienced is the senior leaders often develop strategic plans based on their past understanding of the customers and markets and lagging indicators. These dated experiences are often not true in their markets today. Sales attempts to execute the new plan, they fail because the plan does not resonate with buyers today, and sales falls back to what has always worked before.
In today’s markets your buyers have power and you must adjust to this shift.
Has your team adjusted to this power shift yet?
I have been in strategy meetings with many teams. What you hear in these meetings, if no one has captured the current voice of your customers today are thoughts and opinions not current market truths.
Thoughts repeated over and over again become beliefs. Often these beliefs become things companies hold dear. For example one team proudly stated, “ There is no one else in North America who can do what we do”. Great, if that’s true there are a number of ways I can help sales leverage that. I observed each of their regional sales managers using this phrase in meetings with current and prospective new accounts. However after some quick research online I found that belief has been false for the last 24 months. (two strategic plans!)
The hardest part of my work with teams is sharing current customer perceptions from voice of the customer work. I share things senior leaders like and in some instances things they do not like to hear. Leaders with a high EQ appreciate the current market data.
Leaders who are insecure often see me as a Heretic, or not loyal. Note I said “customer perceptions” above. Right or wrong, customer perceptions are their truth, and if it is wrong it is our job to help shape those perceptions.
As the authors of: The One Thing share we achieve more when we go small. Each of us can make a long laundry list of things we could do, but that dilutes focus. It takes great discipline to ignore all the things we could do and focus on the thing we should do.
The most powerful thing leaders can do is to equip sales teams with a repeatable sales process, training and sales tools to hit their numbers based on how buyers buy today. You can accomplish this through understanding the voice of the customer today.
What do you need to know?
Why don’t customers buy from you?
What is your buyers’ buying process today?
What buying criteria must your buyers have today?
Emphasis is placed on the word today. Many of the teams I have served have been in business 10-20-80+ years. The most common reason I have experienced why sales stall or decline is a dated value proposition. At one time what your salespeople are using as your value to buyers problems resonated with buyers. (or you would not be in business today) In today’s market that may no longer be true. It may still be true, but don’t you want to know for sure?
“We serve dynamic markets that are always shifting and we need to adjust to those shifts or realize stalled or declining sales.”
-Mark Allen Roberts
As just a quick example, buyers did not use the Internet to search for and research solutions to their problems 15 years ago. They met with salespeople and went to trade shows, or trade publications to learn about new products and services. However today as much as 57%-70% of the buying process is over before a buyer speaks to your salesperson.
Have you adjusted your website to accommodate this shift in how buyers buy?
Many have not.
The majority of those searches now occur on a smart phone and not a desktop computer.
Is your web site viewable on a smart phone?
How do we capture current customer and market truth?
Spend time in your markets meeting with customers and prospects and gather answers to the above four questions. At a minimum meet with your top 12 customers and 3 customers you pitched but failed to sell. If you cannot fund field meetings do phone interviews.
It can’t be that simple. (I hear some of you saying)
Yep it is!…( been there, done it…have the T-shirts)
I still feel some doubters out there. Nothing speaks louder than results:
I could go on (and on… I’ve been doing this a long time…) but I hope I have convinced you there is a power in understanding your buyers today and leveraging that information into a business development plan that drives profitable sales growth.
In today’s competitive markets you must:
#1 Understand the voice of your customers and markets.
#2 Develop a repeatable sales process that mirrors how your buyers buy today.
#3 Create sales tools that proactively provide answers to the criteria buyers must have to buy today.
When your team understands your customers, how they buy and what they need to buy you will experience the following:
Understanding your customers today is that powerful “one thing” that will position your team for future success.
Is there any reason you would not want to dedicate time and resources to this?
Who on your team owns understanding the voice of your customer? (are you sure?)
What if your competitor is doing voice of the customer research now?
Teams who take the time to do this market work and then design business development plans realize the benefits mentioned above. Some teams hire a 3rd party like me to do this research and that works very well. The key is someone must understand the customer voice today.
Teams who keep doing things the way we always have always done things around here… and are waiting for business to go back to normal miss their sales and financial targets.
Spend time capturing your customer’s voice and position your team for success!
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