Have you found that your previously successful sales model is not working? Are you experiencing dramatic changes in how your customers buy today? Is it difficult to motivate your sales people to keep making those connections? Has sales changed?
In working with sales organization of all sizes and industries, selling services and products --- the answer is a resounding, YES, sales has changed. Sure, there are fundamentals that will remain timeless.
To stay stuck in your old models is the definition of insanity “doing the same thing and expecting a different result”. The answer to this question is one of the biggest challenges (and opportunities) facing leaders today. So, let’s unwrap 3 key elements that have changed:
Relationship selling is no longer enough – clients are looking for insights, ideas and innovations to drive their business!
In the past, the strongest relationships could create long-term sustainable revenues. Today, customers rely on their own research and education to build their objectives and therefore, are looking for true expertise from a sales professional. When you can make them say “wow, I hadn’t thought of that before”, then you have gained credibility with them and the opportunity to present your solution.
You must meet the buyer where they are in the process…not where YOU are!
The traditional pressures of “what have you sold today” drive organizations and sales professionals to devalue what they bring to the table. The focus is always on the close, the sales cycle and what’s in it for the business/individual sales person. This isn’t how the buyer makes their decisions though. This is a complete shift in looking at a customer centered sales approach to drive your process.
Interruptive sales and marketing techniques don’t work – they annoy your potential buyer!
People are overwhelmed with the amount of communication that comes their way today. How can they effectively sort through all of the messages coming at them to realize the potential opportunities that will impact their business? When you interrupt people, it annoys them. It annoys you when you are interrupted so why do we continue to focus on these old-style sales and marketing tactics? It’s time to connect and build community instead so that your prospects and customers value what you bring to them
For those organizations and sales professionals that embrace the reality that how people buy today has changed and look for ways to align with this new reality, incredible success will be achieved.
In a business world focused on driving revenue, increasing dollar spend per client, and upselling…I find “Customer Laurie” feeling like a checklist for customer service people. Creating a connection and being treated like a unique individual have been lost in the sea of building consistent approaches instead. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to support the necessity of processes in order to drive efficiencies and effectiveness but couldn’t we find a way to do that and treat our customers like they really matter to us?
With an admitted challenge in enjoying a diet coke in my daily routine and being on the road quite often, I will find myself going through a popular drive through to get my favourite drink. I don’t order anything else and yet am consistently asked if I would like “fries” with that. Wouldn’t it make sense that I would order food first? If you thought of buying habits, and weren’t given a script to follow, what might you ask me instead?
It’s time to get back to the foundational ways that people connect with each other:
Truly Listen to the Customer and adjust your conversation to what they are saying. Yes, you have to ensure that you have timeliness and business opportunity top of mind…when you listen you actually have the opportunity to really help your customer buy something else versus being turned off by your approach. What if you said something instead like…we have incredible warm blueberry pies that would go great with that drink today, are you interested? Still simple and yet, more effective!!!
Ask Relevant Questions to the situation so that you can connect with your customer personally. Connect with the customer’s needs by asking questions versus trying to tell/sell on your ideas. Human nature is to want to share your thoughts and yet the person asking the questions is actually the one that is truly in control of the conversation and therefore the outcomes.
Create Processes that Allow for Human Flexibility. Training and development are so important and creating processes that drive your business effectiveness and a huge part of what you develop your people on. The potential risk is that there is no freedom for being authentic and connecting with your customers. Ensure that you teach people how to be real and think through every interaction they have experience.
My daughter had recently been hunting for a new winter jacket. She is 15 years old so this isn't necessarily the easiest of tasks to accomplish! She found one that she absolutely LOVED though...just not in the right size! We tried all the stores in the city and they had the size bigger and smaller than she needed, just not the perfect size. After visiting 4 stores, we were told by a helpful young sales associate that we could order the size she was looking for on their website and it would be delivered to our home directly...and we could return it to the store if it didn't fit. That sounded fantastic (although not sure why it took 4 stores before someone shared that HUGE BENEFIT with us?)
We went home and promptly ordered her perfect jacket and it was delivered within 2 days. We were shocked and delighted with the service. This created a WOW for us both - sad news was that it didn't quite fit right either. So, this wasn't meant to be her jacket (and yes, we're still on the hunt). Remember the other piece of great news about using their website though - I could return it to the store around the corner from my home. So, I did just that.
I walked into the store, feeling very happy about my experience with this company so far. I approached the "people pleaser" at the counter and she was quite friendly and bubbly. I shared with her that the jacket hadn't fit properly and I would like to return it - with receipt in hand from my online purchase. She looked at it and said "you payed with Paypal so we can only give you a store credit". Nowhere during my purchase had this been communicated - if I had paid with Credit Card, I could get a refund but their company POLICY was that if you paid with Paypal, you could only have a store credit. Due to their POLICY, there was nothing else that they could do to help me.
I am of the belief that these happy and cheerful people helping you don't make the POLICIES and really aren't empowered to do anything to change it so after a couple of questions, I could tell that she was also frustrated and I won't take the issue out on them. I also won't trust this store with my business in the future as it left me feeling disappointed and unimportant to this company.
Customer Experience Tip: Customers should never hear the word "policy" come out of the mouth of anyone towards them in your company. Instead, customer loyalty needs to come first. Policies are meant to guide your business and should be created with a "customer first" philosophy. Make it easy for your customers to do business with you, come back again and tell other people about you!
My husband and I were headed out for an “escape” and celebration on a Saturday evening. He had made reservations at a tiny Italian restaurant that he had read great things about…quaint, quiet, romantic and exciting. We love to try new places when we go out and always feel exhilarated as we head out for a new adventure.
We arrived at our destination and entered into an already busy restaurant – we had made reservations and were just asked to arrive before 6pm as it was going to be tough to fit us in after that…it was 5:35pm. We were ignored for a few minutes before a harsh voice asked “do you have reservations” and after finding that we did, he signaled us to a cozy table at the front by the fireplace. In my plain view, he checked the reservation book, threw his pen and started to rant about how busy it was and “who did all these people think they were”…then he went to the kitchen and brought out another person to help him. The phone rang and the person he brought out from the kitchen answered, while the other started huffing as this person was calling for a reservation. It was quite the “scene” really. I started my career in hospitality and this was the first grown up “hissy fit” that I had experienced. We were ignored for a few minutes and I could feel my body tense up as the energy in the room was not friendly – not exactly the relaxing and wonderful night out we were hoping for. At that moment, my husband said “let’s go – it’s obvious that we are not welcome here”. As we stood up the person responsible for us leaving basically thanked us for leaving, I guess we were making his job easier, for the moment!
It made me sad as we left – for an opportunity lost for both the restaurant and ourselves. In today’s competitive environment, with the many choices that people have, it is the customer experience that is the key to differentiating your business – and yourself! A simple smile and warm greeting from this person would have made all the difference.
Customer Experience Tip: Hire the best…you want “people on fire” with passion and desire to be working for your organization and living your brand. How many people will we share this experience with? What can you do to ensure that this isn’t your business?
Competition, is it a blessing or a curse? Most would opt for the latter. And as of late there is a lot of competition in our industry. Competition affects startups and established agencies in different ways. For the established agency competition is good in that it forces us out of complacency. We must remain sharp and on top of marketing and operation innovations to stay relevant and competitive. For start-up agencies competition forces you to bring a better offering to your market than already exists. This is important. If you are not better than the existing agencies in your market why would anyone use you?
The following is an excerpt from a book I am reading by John Jantsch titled "The Referral Engine":
"The market already spends money here. Sometimes marketers shy away from competition. If market research shows that there’s too much competition in a given area or industry, the thinking is that the market is saturated and there’s probably no room for your start-up there.
To that I say, nonsense. While it may be true that your neighborhood couldn't possibly stand another coffee shop, I’ve found the success of several businesses in an industry, even in the same direct community, can spell opportunity.
If people are already spending money on a product or service then two thirds of your work is done. They understand and value the offering enough to whip out their wallets. All that's left for you to do now is show them how much better you can make the experience. Few businesses really provide great service. In fact, stealing market share in mature markets is one of the easiest paths for smart start-ups to run.''
Let me repeat the last sentence. "In fact, stealing market share in mature markets is one of the easiest paths for smart start-ups to run." And the way to do that is to "show them how much better you can make the experience."
Embrace your competition. For the older agencies ensure that you are staying on top, doing your basics and providing exceptional service. For the newer agencies ask yourself, are you better than your competition, really better, noticeably better? If not then you have to focus your efforts on delivering a better service than your competitors.