One of the more controversial posts I’ve written was Branding Is Crap. I shared my view that when small and mid-sized (SME) B2B companies start thinking about their brand, or engaging in conversations about “branding,” it’s a wasted effort and focuses them in the wrong direction.
I recently came across a major research study that completely supports this view. The Sales Executive Council conducted a study into successful sales that they completed in 2010. As part of the effort they interviewed and studied the buy-side to identify what it is they really want from selling organizations, and what actually drives their decisions.
The study determined that only 19% of the decision was based upon the perception of the company or brand involved. 19%! Far more important was the purchasing/sales experience, which accounted for 53% of the decision.
Here’s the purchasing experience they want from you:
- They want the sales organization to provide unique viewpoints on their business.
- They want the sales person to understand their business at a deep level.
- They want the sales organization to educate them, and to provide leadership that will allow them to avoid land mines.
- They want salespeople who will help them navigate alternatives.
- They want to be challenged.
- They want a sales organization that makes it easy to buy from.
- They want a sales organization and sales person to build widespread support for their offerings across the customer’s organization.
Here’s the great news for SME B2B’s out there: providing that experience is completely and totally in your control.
Building a powerful brand isn’t completely in your control, but, as the research demonstrates – who cares?! Sure the “big guys” may have more market presence and a stronger brand than you do, but that only impact 19% of the decision.
Better to build a system that challenges, provokes and cultivates – it’s what your customers/prospects are looking for and it’s what will actually drive your profits.
This weekend, there was an excellent article about what small businesses can learn from Google. I encourage you to read it.
The author identifies five key principles that drive Google’s culture. I agree that if you live by these five principles you’ll be happy with the outcome:
- Launch and iterate.
- Fail fast.
- Focus on the user (customer).
- Ask forgiveness, not permission (internally).
- If you see a void, fill it.
As with most successful philosophies, there’s nothing complex here. It’s all quite simple; just not common. As the summer months begin, make a commitment to live by these five rules and see what happens.
News yesterday that Southwest Airlines is going to enter the international travel market by keeping the Mexican and Carribean routes they picked up in their purchase of AirTran. They’re even talking about building an international terminal at Houston’s Hobby Airport, where they say they can add 25 daily flights.
This move is a major departure from Southwest’s traditional approach of great discipline and focused markets. While they’ve been drifting from this strategy for some time, the question is whether it’s a good idea or not.
Basili Alukos, an airline analyst at Morningstar provides the same first impression I had, “Flying into more congested markets, now trying to go overseas … it seems like they’re becoming a legacy carrier,”
Has Southwest jumped the shark?
I don’t think this move is stupid on Southwest’s part, but I do think it’s a statement that Southwest’s traditional growth model is no longer viable for them.
It is my hope that Southwest can maintain the internal culture they’ve developed, and in an industry as bereft of value as the airline industry is, that may be enough to keep their customers loyal. However, the radical difference between Southwest and other airlines is disappearing and I expect their overall performance will degrade.
Because Southwest is a public company, I understand their need to find new areas of revenue growth. From a profitability standpoint, I think they would be better off to stay smaller and special.
There is still time to register for Wednesday’s webinar, The 7 Steps to Shortening The Sales Cycle. I know that I just shared this a couple of weeks ago, and I apologize for the redundancy. I just put the finishing touches on the presentation today, and I can’t remember the last time I was this excited to share insights.
In 60 minutes (or less), I’ll be sharing:
- Critical research that highlights what it is the customer really wants from selling organizations (and it may very well surprise you)
- The reason sales cycles are getting longer and longer, and how selling organizations are often contributing to the problem without even realizing it
- Of course, I’ll share the seven steps.
The steps can literally serve as the manual for building our your sales and marketing approach to drive faster sales, more sales and more profit per sale.
We’ll be recording the webinar and so that all registrants will be able to watch the webinar on demand.
I hope to “see” you there – you don’t want to miss it.
After years of being able to use GM as a prime example of what not to do, they buck a trend and announce that they are revisiting their entire spend on Facebook.
My favorite quote from the story: “The sources said GM executives found the paid ads had little impact on car buying.”
How about that. GM, one of the kings of advertising, finally learning that paying for ads, especially on social sites, has little impact on car buying.
GM is not giving up on Facebook altogether, as they find that can be an effective way to engage with their consumers and share content. GM spends $40 million on Facebook, and I for one am quite confident that if they take that $40 million and reinvest in sincere, authentic approaches that, as my friend and client Steve Randazzo says, create deep emotional connections, they’ll find far greater returns.
I love the fact that GM is finally looking at results and not just process. Maybe there is a rebirth in Detroit after all. (I know, I know…don’t get carried away.)
Here’s the other quote I love. It’s from Steve Goldner, a senior director at digital-media agency MediaWhiz. He says this move “reflects that GM does not know how to integrate social-media into a winning marketing play.”
Well, maybe. Or maybe it’s just that paid advertising doesn’t actually drive behavior. Maybe there are more effective marketing “plays” that make a bigger difference. As I share with my clients, just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it works.
For too long, marketing agencies and consultants have been making the marketing process and complex and trendy as possible to enable them to justify exorbitant fees and to hide from accountability.
I congratulate GM for stepping up. I hope they follow through. Then maybe, just maybe, I’ll be sharing other examples of GM is doing that should emulated.
What profession is best suited for a liar?
How do you know when a salesperson is lying?
It’s unfortunate that salespeople have become the butt of so many jokes. In the past I’ve written about pests, peddlers and Demand Creators, and shared the advantages to being a Demand Creator.
As the world continues to move forward from the deep recession, there are still not enough companies that are building the organizational capability necessary to consistently grow profits. Selling, on the whole, is not creating the value necessary to support higher margins and faster profit growth for small and mid-market companies.
Ineffective sales efforts are actually contributing to:
- Greater commoditization
- Lengthening sales cycles
- Greater price pressure
As I’ll be sharing next week in our free webinar on The 7 Steps to Shortening The Sales Cycle, businesses need to create a new path and implement new approaches to sales. Now, more than ever, it takes an organization to sell effectively, not just a salesperson.
Done right, your sales effort is the most powerful, leverageable resource to accelerate revenue and profit growth, and to increase the value of your business. Building the capability enhances your brand, allows you to bypass competition and serves as a virtually insurmountable competitive advantage.
Selling properly requires that you stop focusing on making a sale. Instead, you need to focus on being relevant, helping your customers achieve their objectives and teaching your prospects how to improve their worlds.
It means slowing things down a bit, (really) putting customer’s interests first and understanding that sales, profits and business value are the result of a proper focus, and cannot be the focus.
When you realize that the job of sales is to help, and you build the system to make that happen, suddenly the sales process becomes easy.
The trends are not good when judging the effectiveness of small and mid-market B2B sales efforts.
- According to recent purchasing surveys, as many as 40% of organizational buying processes are ending in a “no decision.”
- A recent research project done by the Wall Street Journal demonstrated that on 37% of salespeople were actually effective, and a comprehensive research project done by The Sales Research Council shows number worse than that.
- Margin and pricing pressure continues to mount on businesses, even as we emerge from deep recession.
- Finding good salespeople is tougher than ever.
Most companies continue to struggle to find a successful growth formula that will work in the short-, mid-, and long-term. There are, however, a few businesses that have transformed the challenges before them into a significant advantage over their competition. They’ve developed new ways to shorten the sales cycle, bypass competition and grow margins.
These companies understand that their sales process is the most powerful leverage point available to their business. Companies that are able to materially shorten the sales cycle enjoy huge advantages over their competitors.
- They need less money or capital to grow.
- They are able to capture more revenue without adding people.
- They enjoy a significant cost advantage.
- They’re margins and profits are substantially higher.
Shortening the sales cycle should be a key objective for every growing company. Yet, only about 5 – 10% of small and mid-market B2B companies are able to do so consistently.
Make sure you’re one of them!
Join us on May 23rd at 2pm EDT, as we share the secrets to shortening your sales cycle in our latest webinar.
The days of sending your salespeople into the field (or allowing them to wait for prospects to come to them) armed with product brochures, company glossies and boring PowerPoint presentations and expecting them to “dig deep,” “discover,” engage and close are over!
Today’s world is too tough and too competitive, you’re customers are too time-pressed and overwhelmed with other issues, and your salespeople must deal with unprecedented complexity. Your organization can longer leave it to each salesperson to manage their sales effort independently.
Great companies have seized the opportunity presented by this challenge and are investing the time and resources necessary to create an organizational approach to sales. These companies understand that to gain an advantage and drive powerful results, the organization must provide their salespeople the:
- Provocative story to open doors and gain buyer attention,
- Ongoing, effective communication of this story to their market,
- Sales tools that support the salesperson’s ability to share the story,
- Diagnostic protocol, training and insights needed to enable the salesperson to tailor the story to their prospect, and
- Road maps to enable the salesperson to choose their actions and anticipate what’s next.
While investing in this effort is certainly an undertaking, the pay-off is huge. Companies that successfully implement this approach see their salespeople produce 200% more than the average in sales, while the profit difference is typically 4x – 10x average.
Plus, these companies build a momentum that makes sales and growth almost effortless, while the companies that are still doing things the old way are finding the market increasingly difficult and treacherous.
And please note, if you have great salespeople that are successful even without this type of support, you’re in grave danger of losing those salespeople to organizations that provide this support, where they’ll make more money and not have to work as hard.
The single biggest, most common, and most expensive mistake made by salespeople occurs when they go to their solution too early. The biggest cause of this mistake is the apparent readiness on the part of the prospect to hear about the solution.
The nature of most small and mid-market organization’s sales and marketing efforts leads to the primary contributor of this problem. 80% or more of the time, salespeople begin their interaction with the prospect after the prospect is looking for a solution. When they first meet with a prospect, or when a prospect first reaches out to them the conversation typical begins with the prospect asking them about their solution.
In my 25 years of selling and advising others in the sales process, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that just because the prospect asks about the solution, or appears ready to make a decision does not mean that the prospect is actually ready. Quite the contrary. At this point in the process, the prospect is not ready to understand the value of your solution, or the difference between what you do versus what your competitors do.
When the sales conversation begins with the prospect asking about your solution, the most effective thing you can do is to slow the process down. Ask the prospect why are they looking for a solution. Spend time clarifying and deepening your understanding of the issues and problems that the prospect has that leads them to believe that they need your solution. Ensure that they understand what’s causing the problem every bit as much as they understand the solution and the results they desire.
The time you spend gaining a fuller understanding of their issues will also help them gain an understanding of their issues as well, and even more importantly gain an understanding as to how your solution is different and better than that of your competition.
When I share this advice with salespeople, they all nod in agreement. When I ask what prevents them from acting upon this advice, the number one response is, “Well, the customer is asking me to explain what we do; they don’t want to take a step backwards.”
Please know, digging deeper and diagnosing IS NOT taking a step backwards. It’s taking a giant step forward by demonstrating that you are not merely a peddler of products, but a true advisor that will enable them to solve problems and achieve critical results.