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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Do We Still Need Documentation?

In this day of being adaptable and agile, should we really spend time to document everything? Sure we need some documentation done but heck — it seems like I’m creating work for myself sometimes. Is there a fine line on what goes into configuration management and how strict of a practice we keep? -jd

Jon Quiqley: I think there should be, and I think there probably is. If you are in a company who is building Website applications, and you’re all self-contained and you know where the source code is at and it’s only in one place or two places, then maybe the risks associated with that make you inclined to take one approach that might be a little streamlined. The same is true with Agile; if you’re building something that has no potential for harm and there’re not many downstream consequences in terms of build, then you might strip away some of it. But the thing is this, it adds time but if you don’t do it, it’s probably going to add a lot more.

I will share a little story that’s a little embarrassing but, fortunately, it was 25 years ago, so I learned from it and moved on. When I was first out of school, a job at an industrial applications, I was building or designing 8051 embedded type control systems. I’m writing the software, I build a little bit, and it works, and I build a little bit more, and it works. They get a little complacent because I think I’m the deal because everything I build works fine. Then I sit down and I write, write, write, write, write, write, write and build, build, build, build, build, and compile it and I compile it with no errors. Now all along, I had not changed the source file name. I build a lot, I compile it, I burn it into the target integrated circuit, and I put it into the system, and the things that were working no longer work. In fact, nothing works; not what I added, nor what was there that used to function. I think to myself, oh man, I’m in trouble. Because my source code, I kept no traceability on what rev was attached to what. I didn’t bump the revision; I just kept on writing, and the compile was the same way. The only thing I had that worked was in an integrated circuit in another one of the prototype systems. I had to take the IC out of that system, put it into a reader and the hex code out of it and turn that into the assembly language.

That was a lot of work; a lot of unnecessary work. Why? Because I chose not to keep an iteration that I knew worked separated from an iteration that I was building in terms of source code and in terms of a compiled version. In fact, I got very lucky in that I didn’t just choose to overwrite the existing memory location of that IC with this new compiled version that gave me a good compile but didn’t do anything. That’s an example of a CM failure, and I will attribute it to my youth.

Jon is next week’s Podcast guest and this is his 2nd time on the Business901 podcast. The first time can be found here Discussing Project Methods.

About: Jon M. Quigley PMP CTFL is a principal and founding member of Value Transformation, a product development training and cost improvement organization established in 2009. He has nearly twenty five years of product development experience, ranging from embedded hardware and software through verification and project management.

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Outcome Realization is a Continuous Process

The outcome is really not at the end of the target. . It’s some place like in the middle because this should sustain until the end of its life cycle. -jd

Evan Leybourn:  You’re absolutely correct. The idea of an outcome is we should be able to incrementally achieve value towards that outcome. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to do one thing and achieve a 5% revenue increase, no. We’re going to do one thing after another, after another and this team or teams which are accountable for this outcome, they’re going to be constantly developing new capability, new tools, new features – whatever it happens to be, in order to deliver tools and outcome throughout the process. In a program perspective, we might call this benefits or benefits realization. But even within the context of a project, benefits realization occurs at the end of a project. It may start midway but when the project ends, the benefits are meant to be realized. Outcomes realization is really very continuous. So we may hit our 5% target, but then we go for 6% and 7%. There’s an ongoing change. There’s an ongoing improvement to the organization.

Joe Dager:  I like the sound of it. I understand it because I’m that service dominant logic type guy; value is in the use of the product. When you start looking at it from that viewpoint, it moves the customer to the center because there’s always something out there at the edges that you can build towards. Whether it’s a product or service, it takes a very disciplined company to think this way?

Evan:  Yes. We’re talking about high maturity organizations. If you’re a command and control organization, you want to know what everyone’s doing without giving them any level of autonomy that this approach is not going to work. What tends to happen in organizations that aren’t Agile, you’re a 5-person company, you know what everyone’s doing. You’re the CEO of a 50-person company; you know pretty much what everyone is doing. You get to 150, you get to 1500 people, all of a sudden, you don’t know what everyone’s doing. You can’t physically know what everyone’s doing. So what do you do? You create a process. You create an abstraction of reality that simplifies what people should be doing and you sort of expect them to roughly follow that process.

Now, that’s great because it gives you as CEO or CFO a very clear idea of what everyone is doing or should be doing, even if you don’t know specifically. But what happens in organizations that aren’t agile is that the process becomes the reality, rather than just an obstruction. Any real activity is going to have spikes and troughs in whatever that process. There are exceptions. There are workarounds. A process is only ever as good as the way of looking at that process if opportunities expose themselves. An organization that isn’t agile can’t move beyond the process.

Joe:   We limit ourselves a great deal because we’re not what I call maybe the edges and looking at the edges of projects or services because that’s where we find opportunity.

Evan:   That’s it. That’s exactly it. When you have a process, you’ve got the middle. The middle is well controlled, but that’s not where opportunities lie. And what also happens is that the middle in reality moves. You have a process that you created a year ago, it’s worked fine, but the market has moved on. Suddenly it’s now mobile-centric rather than web pages. If you’ve got processes around a particular way of working and the market evolves, then what you would consider as being edge is actually the norm, is actually the middle ground and you actually start to lose market share because you cannot compete.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Agile Business Management

About: Evan Leybourn pioneered the field of Agile Business Management; applying the successful concepts and practices from the Lean and Agile movements to corporate management. He keeps busy as a senior IT executive, business management consultant, non-executive director, conference speaker, internationally published author and father.  You can find our more about Evan on his website, The Agile Director.

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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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5-Step Process on Building Brands

Carolina Rogoll has been building some of the world’s most beloved brands for over ten years. Employed at Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer packaged goods company, she has worked across different product categories in global markets and led several complex initiatives with diverse teams. She has passion for building winning brands and a strong track record in business management and coaching. Carolina_Rogoll

Dedicated to growing capability, she has been on the faculty of the first-ever Masters in Branding program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City since 2011, where she created the inaugural (and very popular) brand management seminar. Her New Book is Star Brands: A Brand Manager’s Guide to Build, Manage & Market Brands.

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Sales Collaboration Using Explore – Exploit – Export

I like to use the term EDCA (Explore-Do-Check-Act) learned from Graham Hill to designate the Explore aspect of Lean. I view it as more of Design Type thinking content that allows for that collaborative learning cycles with a customer. Most of us design sales and marketing actions around how we think, not how the customer thinks. We have this idea that we know what is right. What I will say is that most of the time we are probably wrong. Or another way of putting it, move away from thinking that you are the “expert” or the smartest person in the room. Instead move towards the thinking that the “room is the smartest person.”

When thinking about implement EDCA in sales, I believe we have to change our mindset similar to the thinking process I outlined in the blog post, Old Style Thinking of Plan – Do. It is difficult for sales teams to not only shift from PDCA to EDCA but to manage the process of EDCA in the first place. Sales need to understand that at some point the discovery that takes place in exploration must move from that act of Exploration and assimilated into operational practices. Just as we would always blame quality people of the habit of paralysis from analysis, we will often find sales either bringing in half-baked ideas or always waiting for one more piece of data or report. We need a way to start the collaborative process between customers and our organization.

In my “exploration” of this subject, I found some excellent advice from, Debroah Ancona and Henrik Bresman, authors of the book, X-teams: How to Build Teams That Lead, Innovate and Succeed. In it they said:

Other teams error by forgetting about exploration altogether and moving immediately into the implementation and action of exploitation. The drive to get things done in these cases is so intense that teams just start with the solution that first comes to mind. Management can sometimes unknowingly emphasize this “solution mindedness” by pushing the team to make tough targets quickly. The trouble here is that members may be moving quickly in the wrong direction or fail to think outside the box.

Finally, some teams never want to let go of their product. No one is interested in exportation; no one takes responsibility for easing the product out of the team and into the rest of the organization. Without this transfer of enthusiasm and ownership, team members may find their work rejected or simply ignored.

So first, teams need to organize themselves to examine the world around them, think in new directions, and consider multiple possible options (exploration). But then they must choose one direction and organize themselves for effective action and implementation (exploitation). Finally, teams need to take one last step and shift their focus again toward ensuring that their work has traction in the larger organization (exportation).

They promoted the use of Explore-Exploit-Export. Sales must find a balance between the three areas, sort of an E3DCA approach. One more tidbit from the book:

The point is that team members need to be able to shift away from an emphasis on exploration—thoroughly understanding the product, process, opportunity, or task that the team has undertaken. They need to be able to move on to exploitation—using the information from exploration to innovate and actually make their dreams and ideas into something real—and finally to exportation, in which they transfer team member expertise and enthusiasm to others who will continue the work of the team, bringing the teaEDCAm’s product into the organization and possibly the marketplace. Each of these different phases requires a different focus and hence different amounts and kinds of X-team activity.

When most people think about Lean, they view Lean only from a problem solving perspective, that 5 Why stuff. In that context, a Lean sales person would assume the role of an expert solving a problem for someone. When I apply Lean to Sales and Marketing, I view Lean as a knowledge building exercise. It is the deeper understanding of the customer business that we achieve through the methods of PDCA and EDCA.

You may be thinking why don’t we just use EDCA for the entire process. My idea is that EDCA really does define the process but  E3DCA creates an iterative loop within the process. This way we involve teams, internally and externally in a much more collaborative way.  What is happening in the world of sales is that we are on the edge (or maybe already there) of a collaborative way of selling. We no longer can just sell to a customer; we have to understand our customer’s business and our customers customer’s business. The only way that I believe possible is if we are participating at the point of use of our product or service (Lean Thinking with Service Dominant Logic) and using a process to get the message in, E3DCA.

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