Sales

Have you done a Customer Relationship Audit?

I know your thinking that all you need is the Net Promoter Score and I will not disagree that it is an important question. However, sometimes just a good old audit and questionnaire might still have some value. You may not be able to do it all in one setting or even ask all the questions the authors of Building Better Teams: 70 Tools and Techniques for Strengthening Performance Within and Across Teams might suggest. The audit is divided into 5 parts with 15 total questions that can be rated 1 to 10 and 2 open-ended questions. My suggestions is to have not only your customers complete it, but your own salespeople and managers. The discrepancy itself might be alarming.  Pain Point

From the Book:

The process involves sitting down with your customers and identifying opportunities in five key areas:

  1.  Accessibility: How available is your team to your customers?
  2.  Responsiveness: How quickly, and with how much enthusiasm, do your team members respond to customers’ requests and inquiries?
  3.  Listening skills: How much attention does your team pay to customers’ inquiries and concerns?
  4.  Information sharing: How open is your team about sharing information with customers?
  5.  Collaboration and conflict resolution: How effective is your team at being collaborative, especially when resolving problems or conflicts?

The other part of this audit that I liked that it asked how collaborative you were doing conflict. Always a difficult thing to do. Are there other areas they are missing?

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Overcoming OCD in Sales Efforts

If not the top topic’ it must be one of top discussion points; behavioral mechanics or a more common word habits. In fact, one of my top podcasts last year was Habit Forming Products with Nir Eyal the author of Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit-Forming Products. In fact, most marketers are all running around trying to change customer habits and internally all organizations are investing resources in change management. I actually think it is somewhat obsessive compulsive behavior. Salesperson

I could not help thinking that this area might shed some light on how to manage all this. What I found was a simple 4-step Self-Treatment Method prescribed by Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz and documented in the book,You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life. To cut to the chase, these 4-steps from the 1st edition of the book are Relabel, Reattribute, Refocus, Revalue. After reviewing the material, in a quirky sort of way I found the method to be very familiar with other sales methods.

The Four Steps work together:

First, you RELABEL: You train yourself to identify what’s real and what isn’t and refuse to be misled by intrusive, destructive thoughts and urges.

Second, you RE-ATTRIBUTE: You understand that those thoughts and urges are merely mental noise, false signals being sent from your brain.

Third, you REFOCUS: You learn to respond to those false signals in a new and much more constructive way, working around the false signals by refocusing your attention on more constructive behavior to the best of your ability- at that moment. This is where the hardest work is done and where the change in brain chemistry takes place. By expending the effort it takes to Refocus, you will actually be changing how your brain works in an extremely healthy and wholesome way.

Finally, the real beauty of the Four-Step Method is seen in the REVALUE step, when the whole process becomes smooth and efficient, and the desire to act on unwanted thoughts and urges has been overcome to a significant degree. You will have learned to view those troublesome thoughts and urges as having little or no value and, therefore, your obsessions and compulsions will have much less impact on you. Things come together very quickly, resulting in an almost automatic response: “That’s just a senseless obsession. It’s a false message. I’m going to focus my attention on something else.” At this point, the automatic transmission in your brain begins to start working properly again.

Once people learn to perform the Four Steps on a regular basis, two very positive things happen. First, they gain better control over their behavioral responses to their thoughts and feelings, which, in turn, makes day-to-day living much happier and healthier. Second, by altering their behavioral responses, they change the faulty brain chemistry that was causing the intense discomfort of their OCD symptoms. Since it has been scientifically demonstrated that the brain chemistry in this serious psychiatric condition is changed through the practice of the Four Steps, it is likely that one could also change one’s brain chemistry by altering responses to any number of other behaviors or bad habits through using the Four Steps. The result could be a lessening of the intensity and intrusiveness of these unwanted habits and behaviors, making them easier to break.

When I equate to this sales and even somewhat to marketing, I think often we have a long way to go in understanding our customer’s behaviors.

Relabel: Seldom, do I see in most sales processes an accurate description of a customer needs and wants. We focus on how our product will benefit the customer and reinforce our own behavior by sales managers, end of the month, quarter incentives, etc. to get the customer on board. Little thought is given to an accurate portrayal of what we may want to call current state.

Re-Attribute: In the book, they use the terms anticipate and accept in the context that we must recognize or anticipate this particular behavior and accept it for what it is, a medical problem. In the sales process, I can see similarity where we must do a better job of anticipating our customer needs and reflecting upon them. We need to stop being so solution focused. We also need to recognize it is not necessarily a reflection on our company or ourselves, it is a perception on how our customer views the world at this moment in time.

Re-focus: If we recognize that maybe it is not our customer that needs to change but us. What if we re-focused our attention to the present moment and seek to understand the customer’s job they are trying to do versus the solution that we can provide. In the book, they emphasize activity and effort at this step. As they say no pain, no gain. Well, this could be the deciding factor. Also, this may be where you find out that you are not providing the solution needed. However, I believe that is you Re-focus to the customer, you may see more opportunity than you did before. When purchase decisions are being made by multiple parties, you are typical there for a reason. Accepting that and understand the other reasons may be your strongest asset. (Blog Post: How to See the Other Side of a Conversation)

Re-Value: This is the step we reflect on the entire process and make adjustments accordingly. If we practice this method, we will get better at seeing reality from other points of view (Re-label) and recognize when they happen and accept that they are going to happen (Re-attribute). At that time, we can Re-Focus and prepare to do the cycle again.

Even if you don’t agree with my direction,  I think the process offers a good guideline for structuring improvement efforts in the sales process. Not to put a hammer in my hand and think of this as a nail but it sure sounds a lot like PDCA to me.

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Question Transformation 0

Roger Schank wrote a book, The Creative Attitude: Learning to Ask and Answer the Right Questions: a few years ago that still is one of the better books that I have found on asking the right questions. From an Amazon review, “He describes how we think unconsciously using scripts. It is when this script fails do we consciously start to think. He calls this an anomaly. It is by asking questions and using “remindings” as inputs to questions that we can develop creative solutions to these anomalies. Anomalies + Explanations = Creative Thought.”

I re-visited the book recently to create a template on how to use the results of open-ended questions, we all ask them, into meaningful dialogue. In the process, I updated my mind-map on the book and thought I would share it. I spent most of my time in the area of question transformation.

Creative Attitude

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Are Your Sales People Asking Disruptive Questions? 0

We have all heard of disruptive innovation, but just in case or if you need a quick overview from the creator:

Disruptive innovation, a term of art coined by Clayton Christensen, describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors. – See more at: http://www.claytonchristensen.com/key-concepts/#sthash.hJDd3P5u.dpuf

An open-ended question is one that encourages a person to volunteer more information. On the other hand, a closed-ended question can be answered with a simple yes or no response. We instruct, encourage and practice this form of questioning with our salesperson. It is the way we learn about the other influencers in the decision process, competitors and their pains and gains. It is the foremost weapon in a salesperson’s arsenal. Question

We always want to lead with questions to understand the customer’s pains and gains. Through that questioning, we find ways to deliver our product and service to satisfy those pains and gains. We do this by constructing a value proposition or value statement that resonates with our client. It is a simple process, but it is not easy either. The reason is because someone else might be able to construct a stronger value proposition.

Is the value proposition a red ocean strategy? Can we differentiate ourselves through a value proposition? Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in developing  solid value propositions and even drilling down with them to market segments. I even go further to develop value statements that can be used in finer tuning segments reaching further into tactical usages.

What if we were able to make a disruptive question? One that stopped a prospect in their tracks. One that appealed so directly to that individual market segment that it left you alone in the solution, in a Blue Ocean? Most companies according to the “Disruptive Innovation”theory end up producing products that are too sophisticated or expensive for a given market. I may take that a step further, and they say that they lose sight of those individual markets by generalization of their topics or their focusing questions.

A disruptive question will require you to know your customer well. It may require you to know your customer’s customer well. Can you remember the last time a salesperson asked you a question that made you stop and think?

 

What is our

Make Your Company Indispensable Mind Map 0

A few years ago Joe Calloway wrote a book, Indispensable: How To Become The Company That Your Customers Can’t Live Without, that intrigued me. I made a mind map of the process and still take a few nuggets from it each time I review it.  The best reminder in the entire map is one of those Obvious Overlooked items; You had me at hello. I always wondered how many deals I have lost when I did not know when it was time to keep quiet.

Indispensable

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