Archive for February, 2011

“Customer Intimacy” The Key to Harvesting a Sales Relationship

Are you interested in “maximizing” your sales revenue?

If you have visited my website or followed me you will know that I believe that “customer intimacy” is one of the three critical elements in maximizing sales revenue (along with sales force optimization and marketing alignment).  Without it, the hard work of the sales and marketing departments is at risk and the potential for organic growth is greatly reduced.

Customer intimacy is all about the customer experience from the time they becomes a prospect forward. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon tells us that his whole focus has been on “the customer experience” and certainly this has paid off very well for his company.

Perhaps I can describe the value of customer intimacy by relating a brief story about how critical the relationship with the customer is if you want to maximize your sales revenue.

Let me explain….

I have this friend………..who wanted to build a website to house his BLOG and other information about his company and services. He talked with a number of web designers that represented a mix of services, value-add, pricing and portfolios.

The company he finally chose had the right mix of value-add, pricing and a fairly good portfolio. They also had follow-along services including web hosting and SEO optimization.

He found them fairly easily with a web search, so their marketing effort was working.

He had a few conversations with the salesperson and was made comfortable that they could meet his (fairly detailed) specifications at a reasonable price, so they moved forward together on a project estimated to take two to four weeks.

Following the Agreement and paying a deposit, he received an email from a project manager responsible for the conceptual design who began by saying “please fill out this form and tell me about your company and what you are trying to achieve”.  He responded…”have you looked at the spec I provided?” and the answer was….”what spec”.

So, at this point it was clear that once the sale had been made, the handoff from sales to customer service was not done very well and my friend became concerned about his decision. He emailed the specification and they began communicating via email.

After a few layouts and modifications they came to an agreement on the design and so he was passed on to the software engineer who would build the website. At this point they were four weeks into the process.

Next, my friend received an email from a new project manager who was responsible for engineering and delivering the final website. Attached were a list of questions about the website and the sample page that had been handed off from the conceptual design team. Unfortunately the sample was a design two iterations back from the final he had approved and the list of questions made it clear that the software engineer had not seen the spec either. A similar conversation ensued…”what spec?”…..”what final design” and so my friend sent the spec to the engineer along with the final conceptual design.

As they were building the site, the engineer on more than two occasions emailed and said that they never contracted for some of the elements of the specification and the cost was going to have to go up. After arguing that the spec was part of the Agreement the designer relented and agreed to do the work.

There is much more to the story, but I will “Spare” you the details, you have the essence.

The site took fourteen weeks to build, not four.

The final product was not what the specifications called for.

All communications with the engineers were by email only so there was no human interaction.

No one followed up upon completion of the project in any way to discuss satisfaction or the future of the relationship.

And so…. when it was time to select a hosting site and an SEO consultant, guess who did not get the business and guess who did not get to “maximize their sales revenue”.

The obvious lesson here is that “a good customer intimacy ethic” would have generated much more revenue and probably a good reference…..

Instead the experience became the subject of a BLOG about how not to take care of the customer.

If your company is not focused on the overall customer experience, you will not be able to harvest the investment you made in finding, creating and building the relationship in the first place.

What will your customers write about their experience with your company in their BLOG?

Daily Sales Coaching “A Tribute to Paul Castain”

If you are a salesperson and want to continue to improve your skills, and you are not connected to Paul Castain’s “Sales Playbook”  http://yoursalesplaybook.com/  you are missing some great daily coaching and sales advice at no cost or effort to you.

When I started selling one hundred  years ago, the manager handed me the yellow pages and said “Here’s the book…Here’s the phone…Praise the Lord…You’re on your own”

There was no internet. If you wanted to learn the art and science of selling, you watched folks better than you. You read every book you could find. You attended seminars (usually at your own expense) put on by the great motivators.

 Sometimes if the company was large enough, they would bring in a speaker.  If you were lucky, your company would invest in the “Xerox Selling Skills Program” which had group sessions lasting a week or more and became the defacto standard in sales training.

Today, the internet and social media provide many new avenues for skills development and often they are available at little or no charge.  You can find BLOGs, training DVD’s, webinars, etc. But very few of them provide a daily dose of exceptional sales coaching. And in my opinion, Paul’s Sales Playbook is one of the absolute best.

Paul decided four years ago that he felt indebted to the sales fraternity because in a way, they saved his life.  At one point in the nineties, he lost his job and eventually lost almost everything he owned because he could not find work. In 1995 he found a job in selling and after much hard work, he became very good and in time was able to bring himself and his family back from those dark days. He also found he was well suited to the sales process and loved the freedom and the earnings potential it provided.

Four years ago he wanted to find a way to give something back to the fraternity that had given so much to him and he felt the best way to do that might be to help other folks improve their selling skills. So he created the Sales Playbook web site and started blogging every day.  

As time went on, his community of followers continued to grow. He started using LinkedIn and joined groups and would provide commentary and feedback to discussions and answer questions. Eventually, after getting a little frustrated with some of groups he was following, he started his own “Sales Playbook“  group  http://linkd.in/fv057e  and today it is one of the largest groups on LinkedIn. He also has a fan page on Facebook and is very active on Twitter.

I could go on about his background, but to me that is just the surface stuff. What continues to amaze me is his constant and consistent ability to provide fresh coaching on a daily basis. He has one of the most thoughtful and fertile minds I have ever witnessed. His writing is clear, often humorous and usually makes you feel like you are having a one to one conversation with a (good) sales manager.

More intriguingly (to me at least) is that he is providing all of this without any interest in monetizing it in any way. And, he does it all while working a full time job. Sure he does some public speaking and many of us have been encouraging him to publish a book (most of which is already written in several hundred BLOG pages he has generated). But for the most part, he simply wants to give back to the fraternity of selling. I think if you looked up “altruistic” in an encyclopedia, his picture would be there.

At this point it should be clear that I like and appreciate the guy very much.

And I say again, if you could use some daily coaching and a five minute motivational push from a guy who knows a lot about selling, you cannot find a better resource than Paul Castain’s Sales Playbook.

But, don’t take my word for it.  I encourage you to join him today and decide for yourself. 

Good Selling!!