Archive for October, 2011

Customer Intimacy – The Third Step to “Maximizing” Sales Revenue

Are you interested in “Maximizing” Your Sales Revenue?

If you are, the first thing to do is “optimize the sales force”. The second thing you need to do is create “alignment” between sales, marketing and customer service. Both of these were discussed in my two previous BLOGs. The third thing you need to do is take care of the customer.

In an interview with Charlie Rose recently (http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11138 ), Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon.com) said that “our whole business effort is built around the customer experience”. They want their customers to know that they care about them, that they will treat them well and that they will fix any issues or misunderstandings that might happen now and long after the customer buys a product. They want to create an intimate and longstanding relationship.

You may not be as familiar with Zappos.com, but that same customer ethic is in place there. They have every brand and style and size of shoe you may want to buy and at reasonable prices. When they ship the shoes, they come with an automatic easy return process in the event you don’t like the shoes or they don’t fit and here is the best part…the return shipping is free. They stay in touch after the sale on an infrequent basis so that you remember them but are not annoyed.

Your business may or may not be an on-line one, but the lessons here are applicable to any business no matter what you sell or to whom you sell it. Put the customer first and let them know that you truly care about them and their experience in dealing with you.

Many businesses believe that customer intimacy begins once the customer makes a purchase and the delivery process begins. That simply is not the case.

Customer intimacy begins with the marketing effort to find those prospects that are best suited to utilize your product or service. The prospect will generate an early “good” or “cautious” attitude about the company very early on in the relationship. Once in the sales cycle, the level of intimacy should increase as the prospect moves from a prospect to a customer relationship.

This is sometimes a dangerous point in the intimacy process because the sales person may have set unreasonable expectations with the customer. Once the sale has been made, it is up to the delivery and support organization to meet the expectations set and also to keep the client happy, satisfied and engaged. Therefore the customer service organization needs to be aligned with and coached in the process of keeping the customer for life. It takes ten times as much effort to win a new customer as it does to sell a satisfied customer something else or to renew.

Customer intimacy is the responsibility of everyone who communicates with the client from the reception desk to the delivery specialist. Often the customer relationship grows warmer once in the hands of a caring and involved delivery and support organization, but it all starts when the prospect begins the buying journey.

If you can master the three key elements of 1.) Sales Force Optimization 2.) Marketing Alignment and 3.) Customer Intimacy, you will be well on your way to “maximizing sales revenue”. 

I love helping business grow their revenue. If you would like to discuss ways to “maximize your sales revenue” simply send me a comment below or contact me and I will be happy to spend some time talking with you and trying to assist you in any way that I can.

Thanks!

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Marketing Alignment – The Second Step to “Maximizing” Sales Revenue

Are you interested in Maximizing Your Sales Revenue? …If you are, the first thing to do is “optimize the sales force” (discussed in my previous BLOG). The second thing you need to do is create “alignment” between sales, marketing and customer service.

Creating alignment is the hardest part of the process of maximizing your sales revenue. It requires that you actually change the culture of your organization. You need to take three disparate organizations and align them into one.

The sales and marketing organizations of most companies have been at odds with each other for years. They have lots of approaches, squabbles and stories about how what they do is not appreciated by the other side. At the end of the day it boils down to “the leads we get from marketing suck” and “they never follow up on the leads we give them”

The main reason for this disconnect is that each organization has a different objective and definition of a lead. Marketing is interested in influencing the buying decision and sales is interested in turning the buying prospect into sales revenue (i.e. a customer).

Having worked in and managed both sides of the argument, I get it. And I can confirm that I have found proof of both arguments over the years. But the times they are a changing…..

Probably the biggest thing driving this change is the internet along with some forms of social media. These elements have allowed the prospect to do a lot more investigating of solutions before ever contacting the sales force for a meeting or just to get a quote.  This process has been described aptly by Christine Crandell as the “Buyer’s Journey”.  http://christinecrandell.com/

If a prospect calls or writes that they are interested in your product or service and would like a price quote, you will have no time to sell unless the marketing process has done a lot of pre-selling with programs and in which case you would already have the lead.

There are three key elements to alignment. That may make the process sound easy, but it is not. It is hard and takes work and commitment from all involved. These elements include:

  • A clearly defined strategy and message
  • A newly defined process of helping the buyer
  • A new definition of success and measuring it

Clearly Defined Strategy and Message:

Without the assistance and participation of the senior executives you will never get your company aligned. The senior executives need to clearly define the strategic objectives of the corporation and everyone in the organization must demonstrate that they clearly understand the strategy. I have found that more times than not, most people have a vague understanding, but many differ in the definition. The strategy is usually defined after the senior executives have a few work sessions where they clearly articulate the strategy in writing and then disseminate it company wide.

From that strategy, the sales and marketing organizations (together) can begin to craft the message to the marketplace. The message relies on agreement by all parties on their definition of the buyer’s process, an agreement on an “ideal customer” profile and a very clear definition and understanding of what is a “qualified lead”. Once you are in agreement on these elements, you can construct a model of the buyer’s process and determine how your marketing and sales process blends with it.

A New Sales Process Aligned to the Buyer’s Process

Many ‘aligned” organizations originally established a team approach to getting to agreement on these elements above. The team included members from the sales organization, the marketing team, often a customer service rep and a senior executive. The senior executive may be the sales manager or the marketing manager or both, but they must come to this leadership post committed to rewriting the process.

The sales organization needs to take marketing members along on sales calls. Sales team members must be brought into the marketing strategy and research sessions. The team members must also be the ones to carry the new messages to the entire (now transparent) organization.

As team members begin to understand each other’s area of focus and how it contributes, they can fairly easily craft a revenue funnel or process to capture the buyer’s attention up front when the buyer is looking but not talking. The message is distributed in the marketing literature, the PR campaigns, and the corporate web site and to some extent through social media arenas; although very few companies have learned how to use social media effectively.

The process definition needs to have a clear understanding of the point at which a suspect becomes a lead and then becomes a prospect. Often leads are passed to quickly and the resultant effect is that the sales organization feels that the leads are not valuable.

Prospects may change direction as well and when they do, it is imperative that they get handed back to the marketing process for continued nurturing.

New Definition of Success and Measuring It:

Finally, the entire organization needs to have a clear understanding of what constitutes success. Usually it is most clearly defined as winning a new customer or selling a new product or service to an existing customer. Because all parties worked the new process to generate this success, they need to be compensated for their efforts.

If marketing is going to be charged with bringing more profitable leads to the table, they need to be compensated in some way so that they share in the success. This means the compensation (often commission) model for generating sales revenue needs to be rewoven to include a share of the pay. This redesigned compensation plan will only work if the sales and marketing teams are fully aligned and agree that they all have contributed to the success.

In conclusion, if you can master these three key elements, you will be well on your way to “maximizing sales revenue”.  In my next post I will discuss the “Third Key” of this process which is “Customer Intimacy”.

Please stay tuned.

Sales Force Optimization – The First Step to Maximizing Sales Revenue

Are you interested in Maximizing Your Sales Revenue? …If you are, the first thing to do is “optimize the sales force”.

Your sales force is responsible delivering the majority of the revenue to your company. Therefore you need to be certain that your sales organization is competent, focused, and well managed and coached and they are spending their time in the area where they can make their maximum contribution. There is always room for improvement in any sales organization.

Assessments:

Before you can begin to optimize the sales force, you need to conduct an assessment of the team as a whole as well as each individual. If the team has been in place for some time and the sales manager is competent, the assessment is probably fairly complete already. Often however, the assessment resides in the manager’s head and not in any formal document. You need to get the assessments down on paper for use as you continue this process because they are important to use in developing a coaching plan.

If some or all of the team is new, or if you are experiencing high turnover, it will be wise to utilize some testing programs that are used for competence (skill) and attitude assessment. Some sales specialists believe that competence can be measured through “personality” testing. I disagree with that premise because I have regularly seen people with outgoing personalities do poorly and vice versa. I feel a better measure is how focused and tenacious they are given the objective laid out for them along with their attitude toward customer service.

These assessments will help you to create training and/or coaching plan. I have often seen situations where the testing served to convince the manager or owner that his gut instinct was right regarding the reps real capability.

Structure:

Following the assessment phase, you need to look at the “structure” of the sales organization to determine if the team is well organized to go to market. You should confirm that there is a specific (written and understood) sales process in place. You must confirm that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities.

Different types of companies will have very different sales processes defined. These depend on the product or service they are selling, the customer makeup and if they are utilizing multiple channels to go to market. All processes however should clearly define the sales steps and how they are to interact with the marketing organization (See Alignment in next week’s post) and the customer’s buying process. The sales process is very dependent on the corporate strategy which needs to be defined by top management and understood by anyone in the company who touches the customer.

Sales Management:

The sales force needs to be well managed by providing specific goals along with the metrics that will be used to test their success. Often managers feel that the compensation plan drives performance, but again, I disagree to the extent that money is not usually the strongest motivator. Continual coaching is a better method for maximizing sales rather than intermittent sales training sessions and compensation plans.

The sales manager’s role is usually divided into four activities. These include:

  • Selling Time with Reps in the Field
  • Forecast Management and Sales Projections (Pipelines)
  • Internal Training, Coaching and Strategic Reviews
  • Internal Meetings with Management Peers

The sales manager’s needs to become deeply involved in each of these activities and I could develop several posts on sales management alone. I am simply working with a broad brush in this article to lay out the structure of sales optimization. If your sales manager is not spending time in these four areas and you are experiencing low revenue production, it may be time to conduct an assessment at this level.

In conclusion, if you can refine these three key elements, you will be well on your way to “maximizing sales revenue”.  In my next post I will discuss the “Second Key” of this process which is “Marketing Alignment”.

Please stay tuned.