Verdict Day

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Verdict Day

Yesterday I listened to a passionate and customer focused presentation. In it, the speaker talked about many things in the realm of customer needs and satisfaction but I was particularly intrigued by something he called “Verdict Day”.

In the story-line of any customer who purchases a product or service he said, there comes a day be it tomorrow, a week from now, a month from now or even 6 months from now, when Verdict Day arrives.

On this day, the decision is made whether the value of the purchase has exceeded the cost. This day must happen and does happen for everyone because after all, the value of anything we buy, or any partner we trust or any investment we make in consultants, employees and companies, must exceed the cost or we would not do it.

Everything your company sells no matter where you work does something valuable for a consumer or a business. I suspect we sometimes forget that in the moment, and obsess with the revenue, the commission check or the marketing glow of that awesome sale we just got and have no idea that Verdict Day even exists.

Problem is the jury is still out and Verdict Day is real but not yet arrived. And if that verdict is “no” and value has not exceeded the cost, the phone calls begin to come in, the cancellations start arriving, the positive reviews never happen, the product or service stops getting used, the emails stop getting opened and by far the worst scenario often occurs; the consumer or business never returns for more or different from you.

Verdict Day needs to be part of your marketing, sales and operations plans. It simply must be. Figure out when that day is and what you must do to be judged still worthy of your client’s investment.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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How to Better Respect Small Business

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How to Better Respect Small Business

I had two recent experiences that made me think differently about respecting small businesses.  And if you are in the business of marketing, selling, servicing or supporting small business that’s an important thing.

The first was while reading some research. The research said that Small business owners overwhelmingly see themselves as unique and define themselves additionally by their unique contributions to society. 

And I thought why do we so rarely acknowledge and respect small business owners for how they respect themselves?

Sure we respect them by acknowledging their value as a customer, their membership in an industry, their work ethic, their entrepreneurship, their common pain points, their challenges, their contributions to job creation as a whole and blah blah blah…..but don’t you see it?

There is little unique about that to the Small Business owner, instead it’s a wide swath acknowledgement of them as a group which exactly not how they see themselves individually.  And there is nothing respecting their unique contributions to society.

Last week I tagged along with my wife to a local business association gathering at a new restaurant that recently opened in town.   There had to be near 40 local businesses represented sipping on wine and appetizers.

This was not how I remember these meetings way back when I used to attend in another life.   This meeting was about toasting to the “Alan’s business that is driving the benefit tomorrow night for the family who lost their home in the fire last week.” It was about the “needed sponsors for the summer band series”.  It was about how proud the association was for being the “sole group responsible for installing a landmark historic clock in the center of town”.   So little of the time was promoting their business and when they did – 80% of them shared how “different” they were than any another accountant, or restaurant, or mortgage broker, or Mary Kay representative they knew.

So why do I (and I suspect, we) forget so often what our eyes see, our ears hear and our research tells us about acknowledging and respecting a small business?

What if we were to ask more often “What are you most proud of”,  “What defines you” or “What contribution as an Small Business owner inspires you?” when we talked with small business owners? What could we do with that? What would we learn?   What if we identified their perceived or real unique differentiators and societal contributions and embedded those into our variable data printing or emails or CRM data or Facebook pages we build for them?  The leverages are infinite.

Respect anew the small business owner in the ways they respect themselves. It just makes sense.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Book Review: Effortless Experience [Matt Dixon, 2013 Penguin Books, CEB]

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Book Review:  Effortless Experience [Matt Dixon, 2013 Penguin Books, CEB]

Delighting your customers are you?  Waste of time.   Focusing on First Call Resolution?  You don’t get it.    Worrying about what channels customers prefer to communicate in?  Don’t be silly.

I couldn’t put this book down; read it in two chairs and one plane.

And what’s not to love with another Matt Dixon book (think The Challenger Sale) that is steeped in research from Corporate Executive Board and real life company examples of what you could truly do in the world of Service that improves loyalty, advocacy and profitability.

Dixon says and I believe him; “Service is the crucible of customer experience where all the companies’ claims, missions and values are tested.”  Gulp.

The secret though has nothing to do with service levels, getting higher satisfaction scores or striving for legendary service experiences (ya know, like the Nordstrom folks).

It’s simpler but not nearly as sexy; Reduce the effort. Don’t aim for delight, aim for relief.  Don’t dazzle customers, just fix the darn problem.   Reduce the customer effort before and after and you mitigate the rampant disloyalty that exists today.

Dixon and co. dismantle some beliefs for us too:  We have this illusion that our service departments are moments where we can inspire great trust and deeper loyalties with customers, yet data shows ANY customer service action is four times more likely to drive disloyalty than to drive loyalty.

A lot of the book focuses upstream before a customer even gets to you the service department, and delves into systems, websites and the need for simplicity.  Focus on Customer Effort Scores (CES) and not satisfaction scores.  Do that and you’ve mitigated the ease to jump ship.

Arguments and research abound about how incentivizing self-service vs. discouraging live service makes more sense.  How new hires should start their day 2 searching your websites and FAQ’s for jargon that confuses them and therefore complicates the customer experience.  How focusing on First Call Resolution misses the point that service issues are usually far more than that call but are “events” that may have begun weeks before ( like the purchase of a new service) and could continue weeks after.  How Delight based on corporate data, does not pay and how opening new ways for clients to reach you isn’t a real advantage as people will go wherever they get the best help.

I loved the robust chapters on teaching people to use “carefully crafted and thoughtful language” to engineer an experience that “actively guides a customer through an interaction”.   There is much neuroscience research there as well as in- the-trenches proven tactical applications that will have you rethinking your customer call approach.

I can’t do the book justice in less than 500 words but more than that and this post becomes an Article and not a blog.

Go get the book.  Take notes, highlight and/or export.   Study and then apply accordingly.   Here is a link to the book on amazon.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Don’t Worry About Your Customers!

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Don’t Worry About Your Customers!

Are your customers perhaps small or large businesses? If so, just forget about them.   Don’t waste your time focusing on them.  Quit obsessing and trying to impress, help, sell, service or support them.

It is a colossal waste of time.

Yet it’s what we’ve all been trying to do for so long we can’t think of any other way to think.    We love our customers.  We study them, observe them, train on their industry, study their social footprints and websites and basically stalk them hoping to learn what makes them tick and hence how to talk, market and generally influence them to love and buy from us.

And we wonder why the open rates are low, the quotas seem too high, the service levels sketchy and the NPS scores kinda meh.

We should think differently.

We should worry about your customer’s customers.   When you able to do that and do it gloriously; then you truly mean something and can influence them.

  • Is one of the clients you supply a small Sign& Painting company? Go and understand – better than they do – how local and state governments work their bid processes when they are looking for a client like yours.  Then you are different than any other supplier because you are worried about your customer’s customer and that is what they care about too.   And guess what – your sales go up along with theirs.
  • Is one of the clients you supply an automotive shop? Go and understand – better than they do – how consumers really shops online for service when they are looking for a client like yours.   Then you are different than any other supplier because you are worried about your customer’s customer and that is what they care about too.    And guess what – your sales go up along with theirs.
  • Is one of the clients you supply a small 3 chain restaurant? Go and understand – better than they do- the how consumers leverage social media in driving business to and from restaurants for a client like yours. Then you are different than any other supplier because you are worried about your customer’s customer and that is what they care about too.    And guess what – your sales go up along with theirs.

It is not semantics.  It’s a paradigm shift.   Think first about your customer’s customers.  How do they act? What do they think?  What’s important to them?  What influences them to work with your customer?

When you bring that to the party in new perspective, ideas and insights, you bring what really matters to your customer and regardless of what you sell, service or support, you’ve strengthened the partnership and profitability for everyone involved.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Role Players

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image from inthenetsportsacademy.com

Role Players

The New England Patriots are going about it differently this year.  The players have only received Playbooks; they are not practicing.  Sure, they’ve had lots of meetings at camp discussing and talking about the plays, why they are constructed as they are and why the plays will work.  But not a single player has practiced the routes, the blocking schemes, the throws or the running plays.

Why would they bother?  It’s not real.  Heck most of the time in camp they are playing against each other on the same team!  How silly is that? Nothing counts and someone could get hurt and what’s the point of that?  Besides, they’ve studied the plays; they get it.

Not.

Of course the Patriots are practicing this year.  Of course the Patriots are learning their roles by practicing these routes, those blocking schemes, the throws and the running plays.

But we either hate doing that stuff or just don’t care about doing it.

The day I walk through a sales site and see a coach and a sales rep leaning up against some old file cabinets on a sidewall spontaneously practicing a customer scenario about objection handling; I’ll just about have my coronary and end it right there.  I have never ever seen that in real life.

The day I can go to 3 training sessions in a row (live or virtual) where the role play portion wasn’t cut off, or skipped due to time or just wasn’t part of the session – I’ll have that second coronary (well hopefully not with the medication I’m on now and the life changing behaviors I’d have adopted) but—you get the idea.

The day that sales manager from half way across the country Skypes his sales executive and forces her to go through the competitive differentiation portion of the conversation that’s going to soon happen in the C-Suite with a real customer, I’ll have that 3rd myocardial infarction (metaphorically of course).

Maybe I need to get out more often and this stuff happens all the time now.  But maybe it doesn’t.

The sad part is I have a lot of memories when people do some intense role play and apply that Playbook in sessions with their coaches or in war rooms or in “bull in the ring” sessions.   I have lots of memories where those people said, out loud, that that was the best part of working their boss or in the team meetings or in the training classes.

The Patriots aren’t fools.  They know they have roles to play.  And they know they need to play these roles and practice even when stuff ain’t real.   They know because when the time comes; they need to be ready.

And so do we.  Hut! Hut!.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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2 Little Things Driving Me Nuts about Sales Advice

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2 Little Things Driving Me Nuts about Sales Advice

I’ll pontificate with the best.   And there are a couple of things I don’t agree with regarding sales advice of late that are bothering me enough to do just that.

Difference here of course is that when I pontificate I am right.  🙂

Presentations Should Never Lead With Info About Your Own Company.   Wait, what? If I had a dollar for every post, newsletter, tweet, LinkedIn post and e-book of late that said this I would be rich and then actually I would be poor cuz’ I wouldn’t sell anything.

I get it.  Everyone says your presentations should lead with and be about your client, the result of your research, your discovery and how your company solves problems or drives revenue.  Yes, I get it.   But the reality is your company, its credibility, its experience, the friends it hangs out with and the intelligence of its people are always a concern for a prospect especially in this democratized world where a 1 person operation with a slick website and a social media presence can look like a big boy that has done nothing but looks like it has.   Buyers and prospects are more wary than ever because while a national and global marketplace is advantageous to buyers, it is no assurance that providers are inherently credible.

I’m not saying blather about your years of experience, testimonial and client lists in slide after slide in your presentations but you must at least lead with stories that build the trust and credibility of you and your company with like clients and prospects and then move into your key learnings and what your company brings to the table for the client.

The Client Should Do All (or most) of The Talking:   Really?  I’ve heard and read this like from the beginning of time – and I still see it and hear it daily.   But talk to the best sales reps out there.  It’s not true.  These sales people who are killing it are experts, challengers, loaded with insight and play a consultant role with prospects and clients.  They do a lot of talking, a lot of teaching, a lot of the story telling, and a lot of the credibility building as well as some of the listening.  They don’t just sit back 80% of the time and just take notes through the sales process.    The key here is these sales folks inspire their clients to share and talk honestly about their needs and their ambitions as a result of sharing their insights and by asking great questions.  It is far closer in effective sales to be ~ 50%/50% between client and sales rep than 80%/20% in favor of the client.

These reps know that Interrogation is Not a Sales strategy.   These reps know that what they provide has to be different and more worthy than what the client or prospect can find on the company website or brochure and that requires communicating.  These reps know the mastery of communication and conversation is not excelling at a mute Freudian analysis absorbing the soliloquies of the prospect or the client.

***

You may disagree with my take on both of these nagging feelings about sales advice.  In fact, I expect many of you do.  But you would be wrong.  (Or maybe, it is possible, remote-though possible, that I am wrong).

Either way – only good comes from thinking about these two or discussing with your teams or colleagues; They are important places to focus

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

Mark’s Blog

That Hero Formula

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That Hero Formula

In a recent post,   Haven’t You Changed Yet? 3 Things Sales People Must Do Now I got a few questions about the 3rd piece of advice around storytelling, particularly about the Hero Formula.

  1. The customer who feared/resisted change or was down on their luck.
  2. Took the leap of faith.
  3. Ran into some unexpected challenges.
  4. Recommitted to the effort.
  5. Achieved mastery and had awesome results.

The hero formula has different iterations and is hugely popular in movies of course (think Rocky, Good Will Hunting, The King’s Speech and a dozen more).  But it is great in sales (no matter what you sell,  be it products or ideas).  And it is great in marketing and business (think Apple/ Steve Jobs, the band Aerosmith etc.).   Good stories stick and help you sell whatever it is that you do.

I got some questions about how it really sounds with a product or service.  Here is an example and it is true – I’ve heard it first hand from people in the trenches.   That is the key- don’t make stuff up.   Instead, craft (as I did here) the truth leveraging the formula- you’d be surprised how often success follows the formula.

  • “An electrician I know lost most of his commercial business in a bid. CVS stores were his life and now they were gone.  He needed to get into residential work in a big way and started smartly to build an online presence like a website, a Facebook page and trying to blog etc. as he knew the way word of mouth works is changing.  But he did it on his own and it was a huge amount of work for him and his family- much more than he thought.  He called us for a reorder of business cards one day and I started sharing how we could do a lot of that work managing his online presence making it so much easier for him and 4 months later he’s got close to 1000 followers on his Facebook page and gets about 30 solid leads a week off his website for residential work.”

The nice thing about hero stories is they don’t have to be yours.  You can share regardless.  “One of my colleagues has a client that…” will work just fine.   Hero stories are sticky sticky sticky.  They are centered on the Hero and how your product/ idea or service helped the Hero in their journey to success.   That’s nice.  And better, that’s effective.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

Mark’s Blog