I’ve always remembered what one of my early sales coaches asked me, “If your life were a commercial, what would it look like?”
I’ve always kept that in the back of my head. I’m as big a believer in the power of positive thinking as there is out there. I’m all for positive attitudes, and I firmly believe that you cannot accomplish anything without confidence. But I also understand that success is hard work. I know that without the hard work, the positive thinking, optimism, and confidence is wasted.
I think that’s why I love Nike’s commercial talking about destiny.
Today is the first day of February. January 2010 is in the history books. Here’s my question – what have you done this year to advance and gain control of your destiny?
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I just got back from 10 days in Vancouver speaking with companies about Creating Demand. I met and talked with CEOs and senior executives from a wide variety of businesses who are all taking up the challenge of moving beyond good to great with gusto.
On my last night there, I had a terrific opportunity to take in a Vancouver Canucks game with one of the executives. He’d just begun a new endeavor for a major western-Canadian organization with the edict to build a powerful brand from the company’s resources.
So in between goals, (the Canucks won 3-2 in an exciting game) we discussed how he may be able to do that. This executive came from the premium wine business, so we talked a lot about wine as well.
Returning to my hotel I realized just how much great wine can teach executives about great branding. So if you like wine or branding (or, even better, both), I share with you nine lessons great wines can teach us about building a great brand:
- Great wine is the result – not the process. There is not such thing as “wine-ing” (except when my kids do it, and it’s spelled differently) and there shouldn’t be anything called branding – a brand is an end, not a means.
- The people who drink the wine are ultimately the ones that decide what a great wine is. It is your customers, and the people who come in contact with you, who decide if you are a great brand.
- All the publicity in the world does not make a great wine. All the publicity in the world does not make your brand great.
- To be a great wine, the wine must deliver the goods. Just because the winery says the wine is great doesn’t make it great. Just because your website says your brand is great doesn’t make it so.
- The most powerful marketing component for a wine is inside the bottle. The marketing component that actually drives and creates your brand lies in what you do and/or deliver, not in your advertising, brochures, or logo.
- Wines have good years and bad years, and while good years help, great wines find a way to be great regardless of circumstances. Great brands deliver regardless of circumstances.
- When a great wine becomes popular and the producer or bottler tries to exploit it by ramping up production to “sell more,” the wine inevitably loses its aura, its specialness, and it fails. When businesses start getting traction and they exploit their brand to drive short-term revenues or profits, the brand loses its authenticity and inevitably fails.
- As anyone who enjoys wine knows, it takes a certain amount of time for a wine to gain its flavor, and you can’t short circuit that time. If you open a wine “before its time,” you lose. Building a company that becomes a great brand takes time and you have to give it that time.
- Great wines age well. It’s not about being the first, it’s about being best. Great brands age well. It’s not about being the first, it’s about being best.
What do you think of these lessons? Do you have any to add?
As I’ve written before, the biggest challenge companies face in increasing their profitability, is the increased rate and impact of commoditization. To increase your growth and profitability rate, you must escape the commoditization trap. Simply put, you must get people to place greater value on what you do. This is job #1 for all sales efforts that your company takes.
On Monday, I wrote about how to determine the price customers are willing to pay. Today, I’d like to talk about the two distinct sales that you must make to maximize the perceived value of your offerings.
Monday, I wrote that the price someone is willing to pay is determine by adding the value of the commodity with the perceived value of your intelligence. The two sales directly equate to those points. I call the two sales:
- The Account Sale – this is where the intelligence value is created
- The Transaction Sale – this is where the commodity value is determined
Over the course of the last five years, and especially over the year, I’ve noticed a critical selling mistake. The mistake? Focusing primarily (or only) on the transaction sale. This is an understandable mistake for two reasons. First, most selling organizations and messages are solutions focused; and second, it is the transaction that results in money being exchanged so sales processes have ineffectively over-focused on the transaction.
The Account Sale is all about determining the consequences of not buying from you – what I call making your offering a prescription drug. The reality is that there is only one reason a potential customer fails to buy from you or fails to pay what you want them to pay: they do not see the consequences.
The best thing you can do to determine your account or intelligence value is to answer this simple question:
What would go wrong (or what would fail to go right) if I didn’t buy from you? If I bought from a competitor, handled it myself or simply ignored the issues altogether?
Focus your message, and your sales efforts, on enabling your market to understand those consequences and the transactions will take care of themselves – all at higher margins.
So share. What would go wrong if I failed to buy from you? Share your response and I’d be happy to provide some feedback.
Whenever people buy from you, they are buying two distinct components. First, they are buying the “commodity” you are selling (and let us all remember that, at the end of the day, we sell a commodity), and they’re buying an “X-factor” from you. I call this “X-Factor” your intelligence. It manifests itself in a variety of ways, but fundamentally, it comes down to how you do what you do.
Determining the price someone is willing to pay for something is actually quite simple. Take the commodity value (which is pretty consistent and easy to assess) and add your intelligence value.
So, the next time someone doesn’t pay you the price you want for your products and services – understand that what they are saying is they don’t value your intelligence, or your X-factor. And that means one of two things:
- You are overestimating the value of your intelligence, or
- Your prospects are undervaluing it
If the first is true, you can either lower your price (not recommended as I do not believe this is sustainable) or improve both your intelligence value and your ability to communicate (read: enable your prospects and customers to understand) it.
If the second is true (and my experience shows that it usually is), then you need to improve your ability to get prospects and buyers to understand your intelligence and the value it represents. Stop focusing on all of the stuff you “do” and instead enable buyers understand what your intelligence means.
My next post will center on a key approach for doing just this.
Change has always fascinated me. From the earliest time I can remember, I’ve always believed that people can do, and be, whatever they chose, and that people do not need to be stuck in a rut. I’ve always believed that change is possible.
I guess that’s why I’ve always been attracted to a variety of theories about how to change successfully. The more I’ve read about it, the more frequently I am disappointed with what’s written. Books and articles either gloss over the challenges of change (I call this the affirmation school) or they dig so deep into the details that I don’t even know where to start (I call this the professorial approach).
On occasion, I come across insights that fall in the middle. Thoughts that address the challenges faced by changing in a thoughtful and effective manner, yet maintain an action-oriented format that allow readers to implement the ideas quickly and effectively.
It is for this reason that I highly recommend you read Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard when it comes out next month. I received a pre-release copy of the book and have found it highly effective and insightful. Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised as the authors are Chip and Dan Heath – who wrote the instant classic Making It Stick.
I’m quite impressed with the book as the Heaths wrote a completely different book from Made to Stick (this is not a sequel), and kept the same style and ease of it. The Heaths share a simple three-part concept to understand the change process:
- The rider –our rational side
- The elephant –our emotional and instinctive side
- The path – the methodology to achieve change
The problem is, “Anytime a six-ton Elephant and the Rider disagree about which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose. He’s completely overmatched.”
Switch doesn’t rely on the overly simplistic idea that you must appeal to the emotional side, it clearly communicates that effective change initiatives integrate all three. I’ll let you read the book for the details.
In a world where the only constant is change, The Switch gives you a path to thrive. Read it.
Over the holiday break, one of my friends put a picture of her dog on Facebook, with the caption, “If I sit here long enough, surely she’ll drop something.” I joked, that it reminded me of a lot of salespeople I know.
Unfortunately, it’s a little less of a joke than I’d like it to be. The thing I’ve always loved about selling is that it’s an action sport. As a bit of a control freak, I love how the process of selling always leaves me with some degree of control. Sure, I don’t control everything and buyers are unpredictable, but I could – and can – always make things happen.
Things aren’t working well? Great, pick up the phone and call a prospect that I haven’t talked with in a while. Business is down? No problem, double down on the activities that aren’t working, put in a few extra hours and I’m back on track. Great salespeople always control their destiny.
For most of the last 20 years, there was so much “food falling on the floor” that I’m afraid salespeople have gotten too passive. This passivity shows itself in many ways:
- The buyer’s cut their budget, so we can’t compete.
- They’re just not buying right now.
- They’re only interested in the lowest price.
These and many, many more are the equivalent of my friend’s dog waiting for the buyer to give them their food. I define selling as making a sale that would not have otherwise occurred.
There has never (NEVER) been a time when businesses have needed salespeople who can create demand more than the present. Additionally, while commissions are falling because buyers are buying less and paying less – those salespeople who create demand will see their incomes triple – and what’s better is that the companies tripling your income will love it for all the value you create for them. What’s worse is that salespeople who don’t create demand are at the beginning of a long-term significant decrease in their income.
For salespeople, the choice is clear – if you’re not creating demand you better start.
For companies, the decision is equally clear – if your salespeople aren’t creating demand you better find some that will.
I came across an interesting question (I can’t remember the source). The topic was listening and the question was after talking with someone “did I really listen? Did I understand what they really wanted me to do – and what they wanted me not to do?”
It was the last part that I found most interesting. In the super busy time we are all in, we have a tendency to listen for what others want us to do, but rarely do we think about what they don’t want us to do. As an executive myself, and an advisor to many other executives, I often experience the exasperation of ineffective communication. I find myself thinking – and saying – “Why did they do that?” I realize the intent is almost always in alignment with my desire, but the action often isn’t.
A long time ago I learned that a “stop doing list” was far more powerful than the traditional to-do list. I shouldn’t be surprised to uncover that this theme also applies to communication. I think that if we all spent more time understanding what isn’t expected, and communicating it when we establish expectations, we’d all be more effective.
What do you think?
With the official announcement that NBC is killing the Jay Leno in prime time “experiment,” I’m reminded of the post I wrote questioning the decision and I can’t help but notice some important lessons we should all learn from it.
- NBC focused on its needs while ignoring its customer’s needs, then rationalized that what is good for NBC is good for its customers. Had they considered the world from their viewers’ perspective, their affiliates’ perspective or even their advertisers’ perspective they would have made a different decision.
- NBC kept calling it an experiment and then went all in. As I wrote in my previous post, Jay Leno one, even two days a week, may not have been so bad. Had Jay done well one night, they could have added a second and so on. If they made the change incrementally, a) it would have had a better chance of working, and b) NBC wouldn’t be in the bind that they are, with virtually no programming to fill the five hours. I see businesses do this all the time. They allocate critical resources from their core business on “experiments” and end up weaker all around.
- NBC viewed the world from their competitor’s eyes and were more worried about what they could lose than strengthening what they had. The original move was made more than five years ago, when NBC was worried they’d “lose” Conan O’Brien. They put Leno in prime time, not because it was part of a strengthening strategy, but because, having contractually promised The Tonight Show to O’Brien, NBC was afraid they would “lose” Leno. Strategy and growth are all about making and managing trade-offs. When you try to keep it all, you often times lose it all. I see this happen when businesses keep ineffective employees, especially salespeople, because they’re afraid the person may go to the competition.
- The entire rationale that was announced was one about managing weakness, as opposed to becoming stronger. NBC insists that Leno’s performance from a ratings and corporate perspective are what they expected. That even though the ratings are down by more than 30%, the show was still more profitable because it was cheaper to produce. That’s the attitude of a growth business – not! Businesses are acting this way every time they use the recession as a reason to cut or “control,” rather than to become stronger. The only way to get stronger is to focus on growth.
So what do you think? How can you apply these lessons to your business?
Google (and Bing) have gotten a lot of press and attention for their real-time search function. I have to admit that I’m quite impressed by just how quickly I post something with my name in it, and Google lets me know it’s out there.
But, I’ve got to tell you – I don’t like it. Frankly it’s increased the noise level, without providing any real value or benefit. Sure, I get the value it may provide for “brands” who are trying to “listen” to what others are saying. And if someone starts saying something bad about you, knowing sooner would certainly help.
However, Google has always succeeded because it focused on benefiting the searcher, rather than the searched. Google’s famous algorithm was tremendously valuable because it filtered a lot out. It made my life (and the lives of millions of others) simpler and easier.
The benefit of Google was very similar to the original benefit of mutual funds. When they came into existence (in 1929), their fundamental value was that they enabled people to make sense of a very complicated investment world. Paying attention to every potential stock was (more than) a full time job. Amateurs just couldn’t keep up with it.
So, mutual funds filtered the stock world for investors. While the average investor didn’t have time to research every stock, they didn’t have to. They could simply select a mutual fund – and the mutual fund manager did the filtering for them. Mutual funds are one of the primary reasons that America became an investment culture.
This worked great until the 1990s. That’s when more mutual funds existed than stocks. The product designed to simplify the world by limiting choice became more complex than the world it was supposed to simplify. It’s no wonder that the underlying performance of these funds deteriorated.
I’ve always lived by the philosophy that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I think Google could learn from this as well. While Google focused on more (and focused on matching its competition), I think they’ve opened the world up for a competitor that provides the very proposition that Google originally offered.
Fast growth companies can learn from this. In today’s complex world, customers are looking to you to make some choices for them. To filter the world a bit. Sure, the decisions you make will annoy some (just ask Apple), but done properly they’ll delight a few. The key to real growth – and real profit – in the future isn’t making everyone happy; it’s in delighting the few.
What do you think?
2009 was a challenging year for many companies. It was one of the most rewarding for The Fast Growth Blog. Here are the 10 most popular posts from 2009. Thank you for your readership; I look forward to continuing the conversation this year.
- Why Brochures Kill Profits – a focus on why traditional marketing and the constant focus on “we-do’s” gets in the way of making sales and standing out.
- The New Marketing Funnel – one of our breakthroughs of 2009. The New Marketing Funnel provides a new model to guide your marketing investments and to understand the buying cycle better.
- Good is No Longer Enough – our theme going into 2010. This post focuses specifically on sales efforts and sales people.
- The New Marketing Funnel In Action – a primer on how to utilize The New Marketing Funnel.
- Is It Time to Kill The Cold Call – this post stimulated a lot of conversation and several additional blog posts. The title speaks for itself.
- The Inspiration For Fast Growth – this was a very personal post for me that resonated beyond my intention. A tribute to my dad, Philip Davidoff, who passed away last year.
- Can You Give Me A Price – this was the post that surprised me the most. I found a Dilbert cartoon that I thought was funny and insightful. I’ve already used it with buyers who are unreasonable.
- Mistakes-Improvements – a focus on some of the most common and critical mistakes made in the sales process – and what to do about it.
- Are You a Pest, Peddler or Demand Creator – another breakthrough for us in 2009. I introduce the five levels of sales performance and the implication of each level.
- Driving Sales With Content – content was the hot topic in marketing circles in 2009. This post connects the issues around content marketing to the sales process.
I posted this at the beginning of last year. This year I’m going to post it at the beginning of every quarter to remind you to define success before taking action.
Stop what you’re doing and answer this question:
It’s April 1st, 2010 and you’re reviewing the first quarter of the year. Precisely how will you measure success? What will it take to give yourself an ‘A’?
Are you done with the list?
Now, choose the single most important item – if you could only achieve one item on your list, what would it be?
Why is answering this question so important? Because we all have a tendency to try to do too much and to lose focus. The key to success, especially in challenging markets, is to focus. It is far, far better to over-allocate resources to fewer opportunities than it is to underallocate resources to many. Don’t ever lose sight of what is most important – and ensure that you over-allocate your resources – time, money, and energy – to that.
What to exponentialize the results? Have every single person in your company answer the same question and post the answers in a central location – or company wiki?
If you’d like the benefit of public accountability, share your most important success in the comments section.
Mine? Add four franchisers to our pipeline.
What is 2010 going to be worth for you this year? Take a moment and figure it out. Don’t cheat by reading further until you’ve figured out your number – I promise this will be one of the most important things you do this year.
Now write yourself a check for that amount. Keep the check with you and work your plan so that you can “cash” it.
I often think about the story of comedian Jim Carrey, who famously wrote himself a $10 million dollar check for “acting services rendered,” while he was a struggling actor. Of course, Carrey became one of the most bankable actors in history. Carrey’s ability to visualize success (and in my opinion, the dollar amount is only the scorecard) before he experienced it had a lot to do with Carrey’s ability to break through.
The courage to claim your number will help focus your efforts. As the year presents various opportunities and challenges, and you get overwhelmed with choices, a key filter you can use is which decision – and what action – will best allow you to cash your check.