How versatile is your business Endoskeleton?
So what is an Endoskeleton? In nature, an endoskeleton is a framework of bones and cartilage which protects the internal organs, supports the body, stores vital fluids and allows movement with limbs.
The human skeleton is an endoskeleton which has five main functions;
The endoskeleton also makes the body very difficult to damage through its strength and flexibility. Through the bone structure, it also makes it difficult for external threats to cause it serious harm. What is truly wonderful about the human endoskeleton is that it has a very low restraint on muscle development, so the more work that the human puts in, the bigger the muscles become, the quicker and stronger the person becomes. But what is also more wonderful is that it allows the human the freedom of choice about which muscles it wants to grow the most, which gives each body its own uniqueness. Along with all this strength and flexibility comes extra protection from threats and less chance of becoming paralysed.
But even with the best of design skill and knowledge, the human endoskeleton does have some disadvantages.
It cannot grow another limb if one of the limbs is lost. It also cannot shed all of its skin to refresh or perhaps look different and lastly it cannot reduce water loss.
So what does all of this have to do with the endoskeleton of a business?
Well the endoskeleton of any business is the internal organisation structure, sometimes called the organogram. This is what gives every business its strength, protection, flexibility and above all, allows a business to create and reinforce its uniqueness. It allows the business to be structured in a way that best suits the market it plans to build its strength in. It also allows the people of the business to grow and move as much as they desire so that they can add value to the business continuously. It can be designed specifically to meet the vision, culture, goals of the business and also deliver the results and outcomes desired by the creators of the business.
Sadly, in all of my years of working with all types of businesses, in multiples of markets and from just a few people to hundreds, even thousands of people, very few of them had a proactive, well designed structure to meet all the needs of the business.
In almost every business I have been involved in, the structure or organisational chart had become so flexible and weak, it was regularly amended or tweaked to solve a problem and was always totally reactive. This factor along with the people employed, caused most of the challenges for the business and its success.
The design of the structure of a business must come from the Vision, Mission and Culture or Values of the business right from the beginning. It must be designed to deliver the Vision and goals of the business and the team must be recruited and managed in line with these and not allow weak management to allow weak areas to develop and grow. The structure or skeleton of a business must carry out the same functions as the one in the human body, it must;
Alignment, the secret to modern business success
One of the biggest challenges facing modern businesses of all sizes is how to take the business to the next level of success and profit without the cost structure getting out of control. One of the biggest costs on most businesses Profit and Loss Statement is salaries and wages, or in simpler terms, people.
As a business leader, your challenge is to get more out of your people without making them work ridiculous hours or chasing them around barking orders. What would it mean to your business if all the people you employ were passionate about the business, understood and believed fully in the goals and ideals of the business and strived each day to deliver the goals and results their job was designed to deliver?
In the past, business leaders have often resolved growth challenges by employing more people and trying to get them to generate additional sales and improved customer service, only to find out much later that the growth in overhead costs has cancelled out the growth in sales. It has often been said that any business is only as good as the people in it, and today this statement is probably truer than it has ever been.
So how do we as business leaders and managers go about getting more out of the people we employ?
A famous quote states; “A fish rots from the head down” and this is true for any business or organisation. The senior leadership of any organisation is where any strategy to get more from the people must start. The leadership of any business must clear direction, rules and goals for all members of the business to follow, including the most senior directors.
Being a leader in a business is not just about explaining the goals and rules of the business, but inspiring the team in the business to become passionate about what the business is trying to achieve and why it is so important. Many leaders forget that you can only lead people, not a task or a job, and as such, it is the way the people feel and view their jobs that often makes the difference between a company that slowly moves forward and one that continues to outperform its competitors regularly. True leadership is about inspiring people where they care as much about the results and performance of the business as much as the directors and owners do.
Another key function of leadership that is often overlooked in modern business is that of retaining and developing the key talent currently in the business and to be constantly on the search for new talent to bring into the business to develop. Many of the business owners I speak to in the UK today, tell me that they often get very high numbers of people applying for jobs with them, but finding real talent in the market place is becoming more and more difficult. It is therefore very important that the most senior leaders in any business must align the culture and perception of the business to attract the kind of talent they are looking for and to retain the talent already within the business.
From this the owners must make sure that the structure or organisational chart of the business is aligned to deliver the goals and results the business is looking for.
It is amazing how many businesses have compromised their structure to fit the people in each of the roles which often results in lack of clarity about ownership of each area of the business and also major communication challenges within the business. This is what happens when the structured is not aligned with the results the business is looking for.
Once the structure is in place, it is vital that the job roles are aligned with the structure and results the business is looking for. One of the most common methods of creating a job role is to focus on what you want the person in the role to do, so the job role often becomes a long list of things to do and the overall function of the job role is then lost. A better way to create a job role is to start with the outcomes or results you are looking for from the job role and then define what the role must do in order to deliver those outcomes. Each job role must also have a measurement or set of measurements connected to it so that the person in the role and their leader can quickly and easily measure how the job role is performing.
I was recently working with a business on this very matter in their sales department and all the sales people told me that on average they spent around 10% of their time on sales and the rest on other functions and duties. When I investigated the matter, it turned out that most of their time was spent doing other departments work, the structure and roles were not aligned to deliver increased sales, the very thing the business was looking for!
Once this is all done, look at the structure as a leader and make sure you have the right people in the right roles. This is often a very challenging step for a leader to take as it often comes with the fear of upsetting people or causing disruption to the business. As a leader in a situation like this, take a step back and look at the bigger picture and just ask yourself, how much upset, lack of results and frustrations are being caused to the business and the team with the wrong person in the role. The answer to this can very often be a huge eye opener.
Once this is all aligned, it is important that the marketing strategy of the business is aligned with the key customers in each market sector they are looking to attract. It is interesting to hear how many business leaders complain about the large quantity of potential customers who contact their business and just waste their time. The key factor they are not seeing is that it is their marketing message that is attracting these people to contact them. Know the market place you want to be active in, identify your ideal customer in that sector, understand what your point of difference is in the market against your competitors and then align your market strategy and communication to attract the kinds of customers you really want. Then do this separately for every sector you wish to be active in.
The next step is to make sure that your sales process and all the people who take an active role in it are aligned with the marketing strategy and communication so that a consistent level of profitable success is achieved.
This process can then be applied to every department in your business and also to your supplier agreements and processes.
This may all seem like an article that points out the obvious, but the reason I have written it is because over the many years I have been a business leader and later a coach and consultant, I have very rarely seen it put into place across and entire business and as a conscious strategy.
It is vital that as a leader, you regularly test and check to make sure that each department and your business is truly aligned, the results you will achieve will make the investment in time worth it.
How Important Are Emotions in Leadership Today?
With the rapid pace at which the current business market changes, the ability of the leaders in any business to make quick and good decisions is becoming more and more important. As more time is needed from leaders to keep up to date with the current business market, they have less time to manage their people, so they need to delegate a great deal more of the day to day operation to their teams.
For many leaders, delegation brings out a number of fears that tasks and functions will not be done with the passion and commitment that the leader applies. They are torn between delegating and keeping up to date with the market and this is often the reason that slows or stops a business growing.
Recruiting, keeping and inspiring good quality people is quickly becoming one of the biggest challenges for UK businesses, wanting to grow.
So what role do emotions play in all of this?
The most important factor to remember in leadership is that it is about leading people, not tasks or jobs, and people connect with others in a predominantly emotional way.
The 3 key areas where emotions play a key role in the leadership of a business are;
The primary role that you have as a leader is to create positive emotions in all of the key areas above in order to create a competitive advantage for your business.
When people do not really know or understand each other or when relationships are plagued by lack of trust or bad feelings, the ability to grow or even carry out business deals becomes more and more difficult.
Successful business leaders in today's business environment are not just those who can see and act on opportunities in the market, but those who can inspire and connect with others so that they achieve and perform at levels higher than they thought possible themselves.
As a leader, building emotional wealth in your business is a great strategy to build a difference between your business and your competitors and could be the secret to taking your business to the next level of success and profit.
Many People Can Manage, But What Makes a Leader?
The business world is filled with people who can effectively manage tasks and departments to deliver results, but what happens when these managers are promoted up a level?
Before we continue to look at how people can make the step up from management to leadership, firstly let's understand better what it is that effective managers do.
Managers are predominantly in place to make sure that systems and processes are in place to deliver the end results the business or department are looking for. They make sure that the people who report to them understand and follow the processes in order to deliver the agreed results. Their focus is primarily focussed on the targets or bottom line results and as such their mindset is mainly short term.
Often, managers are a copy of the manager or managers that they have had before, bringing with them both positive and negative behaviours they experienced as a junior.
One of the biggest overhead costs on any business Profit and Loss Statement is almost always- wages, but what are business owners really doing to turn this cost into an investment?
While managers continue to focus on all the important aspects of achieving targets and driving bottom line profit up, what are they doing to inspire themselves and the people they lead to achieve more than just their targets? What are they doing to innovate the way they think and act to changing business circumstances?
With the speed with which the current business environment is evolving, businesses need both management and leadership to take their businesses to the next level of success. Great management allows the business to keep its operational excellence while the leaders inspire the team to find new opportunities.
One of the key factors that any business needs is a good balance between management and leadership; however it is the leadership aspect that is often the missing element allowing businesses to grow in a profitable way.
We need to understand that leadership and management are not opposing forces, but remember they should complement each other and add value to any organisation.
So what is a leader?
Leadership is all about the interaction, understanding and inspiration of people in the business environment. We cannot lead tasks, only people, so it is crucial that as a business leader, we invest more in getting to understand our people better.
True leaders can take a business to a complete new level of success as they make things happen, which without them- would never have happened. They are long term thinkers, and can often see opportunities to take a business in a better direction.
Leaders are people who consistently challenge the status quo and look for innovative ideas to move the business forward. A leader's main focus is the people in the organisation, as they do not just look at them to perform jobs within a process, but look to inspire them to be the very best they can be. With a good leader, team members feel more involved and have a greater passion for the taking the business forward often looking for ways in which they can improve their own roles.
So what can business owners do in order to develop themselves and others into true leaders?
There is a way of developing leadership skills to enhance leadership ability, and also measure current skills down to 10 key areas, it is called Emotional Intelligence.
Emotional Intelligence helps leaders develop skills that enable them to tap into the aspirations of people and show how the business can help them achieve these, understand that people need to belong to a group and understand how to engage with the main drivers of performance in people, their emotions.
Unfortunately the terminology of Emotional Intelligence can often lead to creating the wrong perception of what it really is. Many people believe that it is all about putting your arm around people as a leader and showing them that you care, when in fact, it is all about skills that help a leader understand themselves and the people they lead to create an environment where amazing results can be achieved.
"Leadership is the art of achieving extraordinary things with ordinary people; Emotional Intelligence is how you achieve this." Dr Martyn Newman.
Leadership does not just happen, it needs to be learned and developed just like any other skill.
If you are serious about taking your business to a much higher level of growth and success, how much time are you investing in developing your own and the other senior people in the business leadership abilities?
Great management will bring results and excellent operational efficiency, but it is good leadership that has the ability to look over the horizon and take your business to unprecedented levels of success and growth.
So what makes a great sales manager?
If you are looking for a way to take your sales management skills to another level of success, then this article should be of interest to you.
As a sales manager, you need to realise that what allowed you to be a very successful sales person in the past, will probably be the very skills that will cause you to fail as a sales manager. The skills that helped you close great deals and add value to your clients in the past, are not the skills needed to become a successful sales manager.
As a sales manager, the key people who will be responsible for creating your success are each and every member of your sales team. As a sales manager, you need to realise that your primary role is to lead and guide your sales team to achieve the profitable sales targets that have been set. Your focus has got to be on helping, coaching and mentoring your sales team to hit or exceed the targets that each one of them has been set.
So what are the key skills that a sales manager needs to develop in order to be the success they desire to be?
Firstly, get to know each member of your team as an individual. What are their strengths and weaknesses, what are their beliefs around sales, customers and themselves? Only once you have listened carefully to them, can you decide the best way to lead each of your team members.
Once you have got to know each of your team members really well, invest some time with your team understanding the sales process or processes they are following and then together, come up with a process that unambiguously defines all expectations and reports required. This process must also provide a clear set of measurements that will show how well the process is working for each member.
One of the biggest challenges many sales managers face is how to take control of their time. The most important factor to consider here, is the fact that your time is not your own. Your success will be generated not by keeping your team away from you, but rather by you investing your time in the people who will directly be responsible for building your success, your sales team.
Once you have got to know your team as individuals, built the correct management style and strategy with each one, created the sales process all are going to follow and the measurements that go along with the process, one of the most important factors to look at is whether each of your team members is the right person for the business and environment you are in. It is very surprising how many sales managers point the finger at their sales teams when a sales target is just missed. As a successful sales manager, you have to ask yourself, “If the opportunity arose, would I recruit everyone of the current members of my sales team again?” if you are not sure about some, then you must start taking the necessary actions to replace them with sales people who will help you achieve your goals.
The other important areas to address as a sales manager and leader in the business are;
Set goals and priorities with the team and make sure they are clearly communicated and understood by the team.
It is important that the sales people focus their time and effort in achieving the goals of the group rather than just being very busy. They need to keep the big picture in mind all the time and make sure that they invest their time in the top priorities.
Have a clear plan on how they will achieve their goals.
The plan must be clear and achievable while still allowing each sales person enough flexibility to apply their own approach to achieve the goals.
Build a strong team ethic and trust within the sales team.
Make sure all team members understand the goals of the group and how their personal goals and achievements will help deliver the group’s goal. They must also have opportunities to position their own ideas and strategies and have them listened to by the group. It is important that the strengths of each member of the sales team are used for the benefit of the whole team.
Be a coach and mentor to the team to help them achieve their full potential.
Make sure that you have a structured training and mentoring programme in place that challenges the team and makes them think in different ways about how they can deal with clients in a better way.
Learn to delegate effectively without just dumping.
It is vitally important that you only delegate to team members who have the understanding and skills to carry out the function you are looking to delegate. Never just assume that because they have been a sales person for many years, that they know how to do all aspects of the role effectively and well.
A great sales manager is always learning from all opportunities and mistakes.
The sales team must feel safe to share all opportunities, successes and mistakes with the rest of the group so that all members can learn from these experiences and grow as a team.
To become a great sales manager, you need to understand that accepting the role is a new start to your career that needs new skills and abilities to be successful.
With this in mind, it is still very surprising how many companies still select the top selling person from the sales team to be the new sales manager. They often still believe that excellent sales people will be able to just step into a sales management role and turn the whole team into replicas of them, all selling at a much higher level.
Business Leadership Lessons From Home.
The inspiration for this article on Business Leadership came out of a mentoring session with one of my clients a few weeks ago and highlighted the fact that we can learn lessons from all sources if we are looking to step up our performance.
My client is a professional lady who had risen to the role of Operations Director of the business very recently and was looking for some guidance on how to lead her people whilst building the group into a highly efficient team.
We had completed a 360 degree Leadership profile and after exploring all the positive reasons why she was chosen to become the director, we started looking at some of the areas she believed she needed to improve. She mentioned to me that recently, after some lengthy discussions and a great deal of patience from all people involved, a number of her direct reports told her that at certain times they felt that she did not listen to them or take their concerns seriously.
Wisely, she did not immediately jump to conclusions but decided to listen to something she had learned from one of our earlier lessons and ask them; “What specifically do you mean when you say that I don’t listen or take your concerns seriously?” This was a very well learned lesson, as many times during discussions we will interpret words and phrases from our own perception of what they mean when the person communicating them to us may have a totally different meaning in mind. By asking the question she did, she received the one thing all leaders need to have when dealing with any challenge, namely, clarity.
She told me that their answer was that when she was busy working at her desk in her office and they spoke to her, she very often did not react to them, so that they gave up talking and left feeling that she was not always interested in helping them.
I asked her if she remembered any of these instances where they had spoken to her and that she had ignored their questions. She told me that she could not remember this happening at all, but then smiled at me and said that it also happened at home with her husband and it often caused some heated discussions. She then stated that she was now very worried that this would seriously affect her leadership performance at work and hamper her team development plans.
I then asked her to tell me how her two kids communicated with her as they were around 5 and 7 years old. She told me that when they were younger and she was busy working, they would call her numerous times, sometimes having to shout to get her attention, but as they got older, they would not just call, but run up to her and pull at her clothing while calling, “Mommy, mommy.”
The secret to this solution coming from the kids was at the ages they were, the number of restrictions and negative beliefs that they had was very low, so they just went with their instincts and found a solution that worked.
I asked her how well this worked and she said that they still do it and it works very well for them. I then suggested that she told her husband to watch how the kids communicated with her and learn from the lessons they gave on communicating with her. This was a safe environment for her to try this new solution and evaluate how well it worked without any concerns.
The answer I received from her and her husband on this solution was incredibly positive and has improved the communication within their home considerably. It has also brought much joy and jokes whilst reducing those stress moments considerably.
The next step was discussing with her how she was going to implement what she had learned at home with her team at the office. After some lengthy discussions and strategies, she came up with a plan which I can happily state, worked exceptionally well.
She decided to tell the story from home to all of her direct reports and then ask them to come up with some ideas to discuss with her and agree her acceptance to them. They went through this process and today this is no longer a challenge in her group, in fact it is a very happy and positive addition to the group as they regularly tell others the story and then all laugh about it.
My guess is that it will not be long before one of her team come to her with a lesson that they have learned at home.
Where could you learn your next leadership solution from? Keep your mind open and your desire to improve, high and the solution will appear.
Do you have a KP in your business?
Now I am not going to profess that I know Kevin Pietersen personally or that I have any inside knowledge about any of the occurrences that he has been involved in, but I am South African and very passionate about cricket. The reason for this article comes from the similarities I have seen as a successful business leader and many of the situations that KP has been involved in with the teams he has been associated with.
Now I am not going to bore you with a great deal of cricket facts, figures and terminology but I am going to look at the behaviour patterns that have followed Kevin Pietersen around and how many of these behaviours are often replicated in business, many times with devastating effects on the business.
Before we start looking into the behaviour and outcomes that have followed KP around, it is important that we understand that KP’s skill as a cricketer is not in question, no matter what behaviour came out in the teams he was associated with, his performance levels were consistently of an extremely high level. So let’s have a very brief look at KP’s history of being a member of a team and what sorts of behaviour and situations have followed him around.
Kevin Pietersen’s career as a professional cricketer started in South Africa with the Natal team, but this did not last very long as he was tempted to move to England, where he immediately blamed the South African racial quota system for him not making it as a cricketer in South Africa. He joined Nottinghamshire for 4 years, but after 3 years Nottinghamshire were relegated and immediately he wanted to leave, but was forced to finish his contract. His career ended here when the captain threw KP’s kit off the balcony. This appears to be the start of team related issues. He moved to Hampshire for 6 years, but only played very few times for them as he was now a contracted England player and on constant call for the national side, so no team issues ever surfaced here. He is now contracted to Surrey, but until recently, has not played for them much due to his England commitments.
With England, there have been many well published incidents, from having a rift with the coach and then making this rift public up to the present day series of problems with Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower as well as a number of team mates in the dressing room. Through all these turmoils, he has still continued to perform way above average on the international stage.
In summary, he is a very talented high performance cricketer who seems to be less successful at working within the required behaviour and conduct needed to be a successful team player.
So what does this all have to do with business then?
If you are a business owner or senior manager within a business with a team of people reporting to you, have you ever had a real high performer, someone who you have repeatedly said that you could not do without, but who always seems to have instances of disruption and bad feeling around them? I have lead many teams of people in business and have had to deal with people like this on a regular basis and over the years learnt that it is absolutely vital that these people are dealt with. It wasn’t until I read the book, “Winning” by Jack Welch that I truly understood why it was so important to deal with the high performing but non team related performers. In this book he carefully lays out the 2 key criteria to measure people on, Values and Performance. If you have not read this book, then if you are a business leader, I highly recommend you get yourself a copy and read it many times.
The people I want to talk about in this article are the ones that have high performance levels, but who do not show the values or culture of the business.
So what do I mean by the values or culture of a business? Well these are the rules that the majority of people live and behave by on a regular basis and are often reflections of the key areas managers or business owners keep promoting in the business.
These are the people who many business owners regularly fear losing because of the talent or performance they deliver to the business, but who also regularly ignore processes, follow their own rules and often upset everyone they come into contact with inside the business. As a result of this, managers or owners often have to compromise themselves, the systems or spend great deals of time running around putting out fires these high performers have caused. The most important question in this regard is what impact are these high performers who don’t really fit into the culture of the business having on the rest of the people they interact with?
Over the many years I have been involved in building high performance teams within a number of businesses, every time one of these people with high performance but who just don’t fit into the culture have left a business, something remarkable has happened, the rest of the team have stepped up and overall performance has increased. What is more, the atmosphere within the business has improved, more ideas on ways to improve have come from the team and most importantly, the energy and happiness of the team has improved considerably.
If you are a business leader who has a person working for you who fits the description of a high performer but who works against the culture of your business, just take a moment to think about the impact this person is having on the business, but more importantly, you. How many problems are you forced to deal with on a regular basis where this person’s behaviour is the cause of the problem? How many times are you hearing grumbles or complaints from your other people about this person’s disregard of rules or processes and you are turning a deaf ear due to fear of losing their performance?
If you can recognise any of the scenarios I described above or something similar in your business or team, just ask yourself who is then actually running the business or the team, you or them? Depending on the amount of compromise you have to make, you may just realise that they are managing you!
So what do you do with these types of people then?
Well the simple answer is; they have to go, but this may create a serious problem to the wellbeing of your business. The most effective way to deal with this type of person is to get them out of the business, but at your convenience. The best way to deal with a situation like this once you have identified it, is to immediately start making an alternative plan to keep the performance of the business at the required level, and once you have a working solution, you can move them out via the disciplinary process.
In conclusion, fear is never a good management strategy, so be bold and start dealing with any KP’s in your business now.
'Outside In' Marketing.
I met with a successful business owner last week who has tried unsuccessfully for some years to break through a turnover figure which he has been desperate to achieve for many years. He has got very close in the last few years, without making that final break through which would bring him the level of success he was looking for.
Now there could be a number of reasons for this happening, but the answer he gave was most interesting, he stated that he felt the main reason why they have not broken through that magic barrier was mainly because clients and prospects just did not understand what his business truly did. Now if I could just have £10 for every time I have heard business owners tell me this, there would be no need for me to write this article. If clients and prospects do not understand what a business truly does, then how hard is it for that business to deliver exceptional value?
So why is it that some businesses are so misunderstood and that clients and prospects struggle so much to understand what the value their product or service really brings to them? Just think to yourself how difficult it must be to create leads or sell the services if even the business owner cannot clearly communicate what it is that the business offers its clients and prospects!
After a number of years of careful research, we have come to the conclusion that the major reason for this happening is twofold;
1. So what do we mean with Inside Out Marketing!
After years of research we have realised that the vast majority of business owners plan and execute their marketing plans on the views and opinions of the people inside the business looking out towards the market. So what is wrong with that? These people have often been providing these products and services for many years and understand how they work best for customers.
But this is actually the biggest problem, their knowledge and understanding of the product is so much higher than any customers will ever be and this often causes a communication breakdown.
The most important factor to consider is, what are the most important benefits that your product or service brings to customers, from their viewpoint, not yours. In our research we have found that many times, customers purchase a product or service for reasons the supplier has never considered. The only way to find out what these reasons are is by conducting proper market research with the type of customers who will bring you increased profitable sales.
And this is what we mean by Inside Out Marketing, the majority of businesses approach the market with their level of understanding and opinions of how the product fits best, only to then find that the results they are getting are considerably lower than their expectations.
So where do we start with correcting this process and creating an Outside In Marketing strategy?
2. How do we start to understand our own business?
The place to start to understand how your business fits into the market place is with something the majority of businesses neglect to do, proper market research.
So what do I mean when I say proper market research? Many businesses do market surveys by sending out a short questionnaire which allows people to rate the various aspects of their business, like service, product availability etc, but how many of these questionnaires delve into the key areas of what makes a person decide to choose your product or service over another? Proper market research is all about getting the understanding around the emotional reasons why somebody makes a decision to choose one company over another and is probably neglected by so many as it is not that easy to do without the necessary training and understanding.
Part of this research must also include identifying your ideal client. This is far more than just geography or spending power, it must cover their wants, needs and aspirations so that we attract a customer that buys from us over a long term.
Only once we know who we want to attract and what it is they are truly looking for, can we even start thinking about marketing to them. At this point we need to understand what our point of difference is in the market, what we offer that is different to our competitors, and what do we do that is going to attract those ideal clients that will ensure our profitable growth and help us out perform the rest of the market place we are in.
This is no longer about creating or finding a niche as it was once thought of, creating a niche is often a time consuming and expensive activity which often gets copied very soon after it is launched. Creating this difference is an interesting process as in many cases the business is already delivering something that makes it different to its competitors, it's just not aware of it and therefore does not communicate it.
The most important thing to remember when marketing is that your target audience measure your message and your business on the perception they create in their mind when they see any of your marketing material. The better your understanding is of what they are looking for and what it means to them, the more positive the perception you will create with them.
Creating the right perception with your ideal prospects is one of the key factors that are going to take your business to the next level of success and help you jump ahead of your competitors, but above all, it will relieve some of the price pressure you may be under and increase your bottom line profits.
If you would like to overall your marketing results and take your business ahead of your competitors and to the next level of profitable success, then give us a call and we would be delighted to come and chat with you about what could be done with your marketing.
Marketing...the forgotten piece.
I am surprised by the way the majority of businesses I come into contact with approach their marketing strategy. I was sitting with a business owner last week who wanted to discuss their latest marketing ideas with me so that I could help them develop a brand new marketing plan.
I started by asking them the question I always ask first when dealing with marketing plans, “So where are you going to start?” They looked at me with a great big smile and said, “Just to show you that I listened to you last time we met, I have already identified my target markets so that is where I am going to start.”
Now this was a huge improvement on where they had started last time and is an excellent place to start with any marketing plan, but it was the next few steps that I was most interested in, as it is in these next steps that the majority of businesses make the biggest mistake, or should I rather say, their biggest omission.
When building a marketing plan or strategy, we need to know where we are going to target, but the next bit is the crucial bit, “What are we going to tell them and why.” When I asked the business owner I was with this question, they started going off about their latest new product range and all the accreditations it had. They also could tell me why it was so important to each of the target markets they had selected. That was when I hit them with the killer question, “What is your information based on, fact or opinion?”
The business owner looked at me with a puzzled look and then said with a great deal of indignation, “Well fact, obviously.” My next question caused even more indignation to appear on their face, “Excellent, but where exactly did this fact come from?” They then proceeded to tell me how they got all the salespeople, product developers and management team together to brainstorm the answers. Now this is probably the way the majority of companies approach their marketing strategy and planning, however, this process has one major drawback, none of the people involved in developing the marketing material will actually ever use the marketing to purchase the product or service and probably none of them have ever bought the product or service. This is a term I refer to as “Inside Out” marketing and is one of the main reasons why the majority of marketing carried out by businesses is generally ineffective.
I shared these reasons with the business owner and then watched their face drop as I said, “Well then, I guess you have based your strategy on opinion then, not fact.” I then explained to them that they had left out the same major step the majority of businesses leave out, true market research. In order to market to new ideal prospects, we must truly understand why our current customers purchase our product or service, not what we think are the reasons from inside the business, but really getting to grips with why they choose our product or service over a competitors product or service.
I then proceeded to explain how many years of research had confirmed that 80% of any purchasing decision is based on emotion and only 20% is based on logic and that this was true for marketing material and messages as well. The market research they needed to conduct had to dig deep into the emotional reasons the clients use in making the decision to keep dealing with this business, from this we could create really effective marketing messages which would attract many more customers just like the ideal clients we had conducted the research with.
The business owner then explained to me that they regularly ask their customers to feedback on their service and product quality via a questionnaire, so they knew what their customers felt about them as a business. I then had to explain that they were actually conducting a marketing survey on how well their systems and processes that dealt with the customers was working, which is extremely important but did not give the vital emotional information needed for marketing.
Conducting effective market research is not as easy as it may first sound as how the questions are presented to the key customers is absolutely vital and then the questions themselves are just as important. If either of these steps are not thought through carefully and approached in the right way, then all you will collect is a great deal of meaningless answers which will offer no help to your marketing strategy and material.
How Emotionally Intelligent is your marketing?
If you have attended any top level sales training or read any of the numerous books on sales available in today’s market place, you will see repeatedly that the decision to buy anything is predominantly an emotional decision, in fact, most people who really understand sales will say that 80% of any decision to buy something is an emotional one.
Now that we have determined that any decision to buy something is mainly an emotional one, how do we transfer this across to the many marketing messages we put out into the market place?
Perhaps we need to start by understanding how people measure marketing messages in general. So how do we as people measure any marketing message that we experience? Just think how you react to any marketing on the TV, do you hear yourself saying words like, “I love that ad” or “I can’t stand that advert?” What about when those local newspapers arrive and as you pick them up, all those flyers fall out all over the floor, have you ever said, “I am sick and tired or words to that effect, of all this junk mail they send!” All these words we use are almost always emotive words, so how often as a business leader or marketing person, do you think about how the audience you are targeting will react emotionally to the message you are sending out?
Looking back on what I have just described, I believe that we measure marketing on the perception it creates within us and this perception is determined by the experiences we have had, both past and current.
So how do we go about creating the emotional reaction in our marketing communication that will make our target audience react by contacting us first or seeing us as their solution?
The starting place is in depth and effective market research, not market surveys. To understand more about the difference, please read my article titled, “Marketing, The forgotten piece.” The key difference between market research and a market survey is that market research is all about finding out and then truly understanding the emotionally reasons why people choose your business over others that offer the same or similar services.
Once you understand the emotional reasons why people choose to buy from you rather than others, we can tailor the marketing message to hit those key emotions within your target audience. In many cases, it’s not your product or service, or what it specifically does that makes people choose it, but rather the way it is positioned to them and the way that positioning connects emotionally to them that makes the difference.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. I worked with an Independent Financial Advisor who had dealt with my investments and pensions in an incredible way, completely different to any other advisor I had worked with in the past. His ability to listen to what my concerns were and what I wanted to achieve really gave me the wow factor, but what was even better, was that the results and level of follow up communication he had with me were exactly how he had said they would be. Based on my feedback, he decided to start a marketing campaign to attract more customers for his pension service. He created a flyer which he sent out to his database of contacts with the following headline; “Is your current pension plan going to deliver what you are looking for?” Now I am sure that many of you who understand marketing may be thinking, “Looks like a good headline at first glance, what is wrong with that?”
The problem with the headline on this flyer was all about timing, as at this moment in time, the press was full of numerous reports about how badly pension schemes were performing and that many people were losing money by investing in a pension scheme. When we did some market research around the flyer, we found that many people were reacting very negatively to the “pension” word and as such, as soon as they saw the word, they just stopped reading because of all the negative press. The fact that this persons pension investments were performing incredibly well just did not matter as the target audience’s emotional reaction to the pension word in the flyer just stopped them reading the details.
So in addition to researching the emotional reasons why your clients choose to buy from you over your competitors, you need to also be very aware of the emotional feelings that are happening in your market sector as well as being aware of any press or TV coverage that may have an emotional impact on your target audience.
Understanding the emotional factors in your target market and ideal prospects can help you position your marketing message in a very effective way and help you differentiate yourself against your competitors in the market place. When your marketing message creates the correct emotional response amongst your target audience, you may be amazed with the change in perception people will have about your product or service.
In closing, just how much are you really aware of the emotional reasons why your key customers and ideal prospects come and buy from your business? What perception is your current marketing communication creating within your target markets? It is important that you only measure the emotional response and perception from those clients and prospects that you consider ideal to the profitable growth of your business and not those who you would rather not deal with.
Being emotionally intelligent with your marketing communication will lead to a much better return on investment on your marketing budget and the kind of profitable growth your business is looking for.
Is your marketing a cost or an investment?
We all know that to grow our business we need to market effectively to generate new customers to grow our business, however, as soon as business slows, one of the first things to go is the marketing budget! Why is that?
One of the main reasons for the marketing budget being cut as soon as money becomes a little tighter is because very few business owners actually understand whether their marketing is working for them or not. Unfortunately, other professionals, such as accountants and bank managers will often tell business owners that their marketing is an expense and when cash flow becomes tight, they recommend that expenses are cut.
What if we could really understand our marketing strategies and be able to measure them in such a way that we knew with certainty which of the strategies were generating excellent leads that are in turn generating profitable sales. When our marketing budget generates profitable sales regularly, then our marketing budget stops being an expense and becomes an investment.
So where do we start to convert our marketing budget from an expense into an investment?
The place to start is with an effective marketing plan that is built on sound market research and involves a clear understanding of who our ideal clients are for each market sector we are looking to target. For more information on how to do this, please read my articles on, “Marketing, the forgotten piece” and “Outside In marketing.” Once we have this plan in place, we must also include a process for measuring each strategy that we use so that we are able to quickly measure if the strategy is working or not.
Measuring market strategies always seems to be a very big challenge for the business owners I meet as they all seem to believe that measuring their marketing is very difficult, if not impossible. In all the many years I have been teaching marketing principles, I have yet to find a strategy that cannot be measured, there is always a way to measure a strategy fairly simply. One of the keys to being able to effectively measure marketing strategies, is to make sure that all members of your team of people are involved with the marketing plan and that they fully understand why each of the processes are important. In the majority of businesses we come across, any marketing strategy seems to often be a spur of the moment decision by the boss and very few other members of the team seem to even be aware of the strategy, so any measurement process becomes hit and miss which feeds the belief that measuring marketing is very difficult. When the team are involved with the marketing plan and each of the strategies in the plan, it is considerably easier for them to understand why it is necessary for them to ask new prospects how they heard about the company and to record the results. One of the reasons why measuring new leads is very difficult for many businesses is the fact that very few even have an enquiry form for team members to complete, most of them just use a book or any scrap of paper lying around. When building a marketing plan for your business, it is vital that you have an enquiry form that has all your various marketing strategies on it to remind team members to ask the question and to record the answer.
Once we have the front end measuring process in place, we can then design how we trace enquiries through the business so that we allocate and measure sales against each of the strategies we employ. At first reading, this may seem very difficult to do in your business, but I have found that in the majority of cases a simple solution can be found by just making a few easy changes to the current process you are using.
I am sure that some of you reading this may be wondering if it is really worthwhile making all these changes to your current sales process just to measure the various marketing strategies you have in place. To answer this question, just stop and think about how much money you have invested in the many marketing strategies you have put in place over the years and then ask yourself how many of these strategies could you hand on heart say really generated profit for your business? I have met so many business owners who have invested thousands on a strategy without knowing if this strategy was generating any business for them or not. On the other hand, I worked with a business owner who cancelled an advert they had been running because they thought it had become old and stale. Within two months their sales had started dropping off at an alarming rate, so we put the advert back with a measuring process in place and sales started streaming in again, measurement showed that this advert costing just £200 per month was generating 19 sales per month with an average margin of £60 per order, a return of £1140 of profit against an investment of £200.
Once you are measuring your marketing strategies you are in a powerful position of being able to use your marketing investment wisely. At a glance you can tell which strategies are working and which need to be changed or cancelled. At this point your marketing budget has moved from being a cost into being an investment as you can measure the returns. While you are running marketing strategies without knowing whether they are working or not, you are just throwing your hard earned profit at opportunities without measuring the return, the same profit that you have had to work really hard to earn.
But just think of this, if all your marketing strategies are working well and generating profitable sales, what is your marketing budget? Every time you invest £500 into your marketing it is making considerably more than this in gross profit off all of those sales you are generating. At this point, your marketing budget becomes self funding as whatever you invest generates considerable return for you.
Marketing your business successfully is one of the key points in any business to master if you are looking to take it to another level of success, but it is absolutely vital that you understand and measure your marketing activities so that they do not become a huge expense on your profit and loss account.
Build your understanding on how to market successfully, measure every marketing activity you engage in, keep the ones that generate profit, change or get rid of those that don’t and soon your marketing budget will become an investment that helps your business grow profitably.
What's the Key to Success in Today's Competitive Market?
In the majority of businesses in the UK today, the biggest figure on the cost section of any Profit and Loss Statement is almost always; wages and salaries. The challenge facing most business leaders is to make sure that this cost on the Profit and Loss is actually an investment and not just a cost.
One of the major reasons for keeping this a cost in many businesses is when you have the wrong people in your business. Having the wrong people can create a number of challenges which directly effect efficiency, customer service and profitability in the business.
To start with, let's have a look at the different kinds of people you can end up with in your business and the possible effect they could have on your business.
The first group you just don't want or need in your business are those that can turn almost every positive into a negative. They love to go around sharing their feelings of doom and tell people millions of reasons why things cannot be done or achieved. They suck every aspect of enthusiasm and energy from the business and can have a major effect on a business or department. As a leader, I am sure you have met these people and just imagine trying to inspire them to help you achieve goals or results.
Then we have those who have the answer to every question, well that is until you ask them to go and implement the answer. They are always free with their advice and can't wait to tell everyone about how fantastic and clever they are, however, they never ever seem to get going and actually do or achieve anything. These people have a habit of frustrating any team they are members of and reducing the capability of the team to reach its targets. How would you go about driving change or new ideas into your business with one or more of these wonderful people around?
The next candidates we can experience in our business life are those who make sure you know they are around and will appear to support you and tell you how wonderful things are to your face, but the minute you leave the office; they get their knives out and start the stabbing. They have great ability to split teams, drag others away from focussing on the goals and slow every process down as they are masters of misinformation. Often they are admired and respected by other members of the team as they believe that they have the boss's ear and that they have great powers of influence over any decisions. With their powers of dividing the team, often energy, focus and direction are lost in the teams or businesses they are members of. As a leader with these types of people in your business or group, how will you inspire the team to a continuous level of increasing success and results?
The last group of people we really need to watch out for in our business or departments are those high flyers who appear to achieve great results but who break every rule and rarely follow company systems or processes. They are happy to step on colleagues as well as clients to make sure they fuel their own egos and get the results they are looking for. They are not team players and will often break teams down as all they are looking for is their own results. They do everything their way and as such; the overall result of the team or business is often of very little importance to them. As the leader of a group with these types of people in them, you could have an enormous task trying to pull the team together and inspire them to new levels of success and achievement. It is vital that you recognise this type of people, as once they are in a business it is often difficult for business owners or leaders to get rid of them as they are fearful of losing what they think are highly skilled and effective people. Almost every business I have worked with which had one of this type of people in it, the owner knew in their heart what was going on but were just too scared to lose the person that they turned a blind eye to the effects they were having on the team and the business as a whole.
Now that we have highlighted a number of different types of people which we don't want in our business, what types of people do we want in the business to make sure we can run a business which is happy and consistently achieves the results we are looking for?
We need to build a business made up of people who not only have the skills we require in the business, but who also engage with the goals and vision of the business, but what is more, people who understand and can live with the culture of the business.
So how do we go about dealing with any of those types of people who we do not want in our business, but are sadly already in the business?
The most important strategy to implement with all people in your business is to have relevant measurements for each position and person in the business. These are often called KPI's, Key Performance Indicators. There are two common errors that many business owners and leaders make with their people!
One is that they often do not measure all the people in their business. It is vital that all people are measured in the business so that if any reviews or appraisals are to be carried out, the owners or leader can deal with real facts of the performance of the person and not just subjective feelings. It is also a great deal easier to follow disciplinary processes when hard facts are in place.
The second error is that when they do measure a person or a role, they often measure what they do and not what the role is expected to achieve. It is important that all roles are measured against the results that the role must achieve and not just on activity.
To take your business to the next level of success and growth in today's very competitive market place, the performance and quality of your people in the business are most often the reason that makes your business stand out from your competitors.
What are you doing today to make sure your business has the right people in the right roles to ensure the growth and sustainability of your business?
So why should customers buy from your business?
I have had the good fortune to meet up and speak with a wide variety of sales people in the last few weeks. The point most of them wanted to discuss with me was what they needed to do to win business in this current tough market, however, in each of the meetings I managed to turn the general and lively discussions into absolute silence every time I asked them my question.
I asked each group the same question and the deadly silence that followed the question showed me that sales people often only think about prospects and customers from their own perspective and seldom look at the situation from the customer or prospects view point.
The question that I asked that received the silent answer was;
“If I was your ideal prospect and I met you and asked you why I should by from you and your company as opposed to a competitor, what would you tell me?”
Many of the salespeople started by telling me about their broad range of products or services, but I quickly silenced them when I said that their competitors had told me the same thing. They then started going town the personal service, large stock holding and many other features, but none of them were compelling enough to make them stand out from their competitors.
If you are a sales person, business owner or marketing person in a business, do you really know what your business does? What is it that you do that makes your existing customers keep buying from you?
What was obvious to me was that sales people thought they knew what their business did very clearly, but when they were challenged, they went back to the most common clichés used by sales people and marketing people, generic statements about breadth or quality of products or service, being customer focussed, offering outstanding service and many others. The problem with all of these statements is that they are all very generic and do nothing to make one business truly stand out from another.
I am aware from my over 25 years in sales, that almost every sales training course that I have seen highlights the difference between features and benefits, yet so few people really understand what that difference is.
From my view point, the main difference between a feature and a benefit is all about from which perspective you look at the product or service. Features are all about how sales people look at their product or service and benefits are how customers or prospects view the product or service. Customers are considerably more interested in what the product or service is going to help them achieve rather than all the details of how the product or service works.
If you are serious about reducing the number of pressurised price negotiations and lost orders your business or salespeople are experiencing, then it is vital that you spend time understanding what it is that your business does for your clients that keeps them coming back to purchase more and more and which makes you stand out from your competitors.
The best place to start finding this out is by asking some of your ideal customers why the use your business over any of your competitors. What is crucial in getting to the correct answers during this process is digging down deep with the questions until you understand what it is that your business does for your customers and how this builds an emotional connection to your business.
Many times I have helped businesses carry out this process and often they are very surprised by the answers they receive as the reasons are often very different to what they expect. What is also interesting, is that many times there are different points that stand out for different market sectors, so knowing what your business does may not involve only one answer.
I was recently speaking to a group of people who were looking to develop their networking skills in order to build a more influential contact base which could introduce them into new businesses. One of the areas they really struggled with was how to introduce themselves in a short time period but still build interest so that people at the event would want to come up and speak to them. Understanding what it is that your business really does is an excellent way to achieve this.
I would now like to end this article on a rather positive note.
I met up with one of the groups who could not answer the question which was met with silence some weeks ago just this past week. Before we got our meeting going, one of the salespeople jumped up and told me that he had found an answer to the question for his retail customers.
They had gone and found out that his business shipped 99.6% of their orders on the same day they received the order and that they also scored over 99% on order accuracy shipped to their customers. With this feature, he was able to tell his retail customers that they could offer their customers a 48 hour delivery service which they had found out, far exceeded any of their local competitors. They now have at least one stand out point from their competitors, but need to go out and find some more.
So if I was your ideal prospective customer and I asked you why I should buy from you and not one of your competitors, what would you say to me?
Positioning your marketing for better results.
How you position your product or service is vital to your success, whether you choose to do it proactively or reactively, and by reactively, I mean you don’t do anything at all about your positioning.
What then is positioning?
Positioning is how you make your product or service appears different to your target audiences’ perception. It is the standout points that come to your audience when they think of your products or services compared to your competitors. When you think of Harrods as a shop, what do you think of? Probably exclusivity, wide range of high quality products and outstanding service. That is the way they have positioned themselves and there is no confusion when comparing them to Lidl.
Why is it important that you proactively position your product or service?
It is vitally important that you position your product or service so that you can create that level of differentiation against your competitors, otherwise the market will just position you as yet another supplier of these products or services, which will normally result in more price pressure on your offering.
With a powerful positioning, it will help you stand out from all the other marketing messages that they are regularly bombarded with.
The whole point of this positioning is to keep your product or service foremost in your target audiences’ mind when they are looking for a solution that you can offer.
Before you position your product or service there are 2 questions you need to ask yourself;
1. Why do your existing customers buy the product or service from you? Most times they purchase from you because of what the product or service does for them, not just what it does. A design company I met did their market research and learned that they were winning business, not only because of their design expertise, but because they truly listened and offered solutions in a simple format that the customers could easily understand.
2. How is your product or service different to your competitors? What benefit does your offering bring that makes it stand out? Remember, all customers are tuned into WIIFM, What Is In It For Me. They don’t care how good you tell them you are, they only want to know how they will benefit. Market research of existing customers will give you this information.
Once you have asked and answered the above questions based on your in depth market research, you can start creating your positioning strategy.
Your positioning strategy must clearly define who your ideal market are, how you will reach them in large numbers, what they are truly buying from you (Their WIIFM), who your competitors are and most importantly, what makes you different.
In addition, your positioning strategy must focus on the following;
Be focussed, Only have one clear message at a time, do not try to market with a one size fits all strategy.
Connect at emotional level; Use your market research to understand what the emotional reasons are for customers buying what you offer and use these emotive reasons in your message.
Customer Benefits; Focus on the benefits the customers achieve by selecting your offering so that they make a deeper emotional connection to your company.
Is your offer believable; Will customers reading your marketing message be able to easily understand and believe the message?
Are you credible; Are you able to supply proof of what you are stating?
Once you have gone through all of the points listed above, you can start creating your positioning strategy to apply.
The most important place to start is with your ideal customer. Often businesses will define their ideal customer as any person who wishes to purchase from them, but often, many of these customers cost the supplier a great deal in lost time and profits because of the level of questions, process changes and complaints they make, so do you truly know what the characteristics are of your ideal customer?
With your marketing message and positioning, you only want to attract customers that are a pleasure to deal with and who make the sales process simple and quick.
The best way to determine your ideal customer is to look at your current customer list and pick out those customers you really love dealing with and then work out what makes them stand out from the other customers.
Once you understand who you want to target, you can carry out the next important step and that is your in depth market research. You only use your ideal customers for the research as you want to only know why they buy from you and what makes you different to other suppliers in the market place. Your message and positioning you create must be focussed on attracting high volumes of ideal customers.
Once you have completed your market research, you will have a clear understanding of what truly makes you different and stand out from other suppliers in the market. From this information you can now create a powerful statement that highlights your uniqueness in your offering, but remember that this must be stated from the customer’s perception, not yours.
Once you have created your positioning statement, test it out on a number of ideal customers to see how they react to it and if possible, ask them for their feedback on the statement. From the feedback, you will be able to make any changes to the statement until you are truly happy with it and then you put your statement and positioning strategy into action.
Once the positioning statement and strategy are in place, it is extremely important that your whole team are trained on it, understand the important aspects of it, know where it came from and lastly, use it on every customer they come into contact with.
Attention! Is This Headline Working?
Without a headline that truly attracts the types of customers you are looking for, your product or service will just remain hidden.
How do you feel about that?
How often is it happening to you and your business?
In this modern world that we all live in today, we are consistently bombarded with different information and messages all day long, so deciding where to invest our valuable time is becoming more and more important.
The headline to your marketing is going to determine not only how many, but also who is going to read your marketing piece.
The headline has got to be written in a clear manner that draws in only the people you are targeting.
The most important thing to remember is that the headline you have written will only determine one thing, will the person seeing it make the decision to read your marketing piece or not, that is all that it will do.
Firstly, consider "who" you are contacting.
Who are the ideal customers you are looking to attract?
What makes them stand out from other people who have bought from you in the past?
Once you know who you want to contact, don't tell these people why you think your product is so great, start researching what challenges they have and how your product or service can solve these for them.
A great headline must grab your ideal clients and make them sit up and take notice immediately!
Let's have a look at the simple points that make up a great headline.
Now go back and look at all your marketing material and see how powerful your headlines are, but remember the most crucial bit of advice is that they must appeal to your target audience, not you or anybody else who works for you.
If you are using email marketing as one of your strategies, please remember that that you have two possibilities to write headlines and the most important one is the subject line in the email. This is where the readers make the decision whether they are going to read the email or not. Many businesses have created a great headline for their email marketing piece, but left the subject line blank or put something really boring in the subject.
The whole idea of marketing is to get a conversation going between you and your ideal prospect and if they don't read the headline, no matter how great the product or service is, no conversation starts.
Now go out there, do your research on what your ideal prospects are looking for and then write some great headlines that gets them streaming in to buy from you.
So what are the key factors that make people buy?
In today’s competitive market place, the ability of businesses to sell effectively often determines the successful growth of a business. If a business is generating large quantities of great leads, but cannot convert these into sales, that business will struggle. So before we start looking at the key factors that make people buy, let’s firstly get a clear understanding of what sales is.
In any sales process, a minimum of two people are involved, one selling and one looking to buy a product or service. Sounds simple, doesn’t it, but let’s dig a little deeper. In this interaction between the buyer and the seller, where will the decision always be made? The only person who can place the order and then pay for the goods or service is the buyer, nothing happens until the buyer says, Yes. So with this in mind, surely the focus should be on helping the buyer make their decision! So much sales training available in the market tends to focus so much on sales techniques and ideas on how to question and close a sales deal, yet forgets the fact that the decision maker is not the salesperson, but the buyer. In fact, it could almost be said that there is no such thing as sales, only buying.
It has also been proven that any buying decision, no matter what the product or service is, is 80% emotional and only 20% logical.
With this all in mind, should the definition of sales not be; helping buyers make easier and more effective decisions?
With the above points all in mind, I would now like to take a look at the key emotional factors that will influence people’s decision in making a purchase.
I will only be looking at the emotional factors here and accept that the logical factors such as price, size, delivery and availability do all play a part in the decision making.
So what are the emotional factors all sales people need to consider when helping a person make a purchasing decision?
Making a positive connection with the prospective buyer.
They say that you only get one chance to create a first impression, and nowhere is that more true, than in a face to face sales appointment. How many sales people believe so much in the gift of the gab, that they forget to focus on the most important person, the prospective client. When first meeting a prospective new client, look around; take note of what you see that links to the person, read their body language, are they nervous, confident, how are they talking, tone, speed etc. From this the salesperson needs to decide their own approach to the sales meeting that puts the prospective at ease.
This is one of the most crucial parts of any sales meeting, whether it is face to face or over the phone, get it wrong and no matter how good your sales technique may be, the sale could be lost.
What problem are they trying to solve?
People only buy something when they need to solve a problem. It may be new equipment to manufacture, parts for manufacture, a service that will improve their business or anything else. What is very important to understand at this point, is that it is very often not the product that is most important to the prospective client, but what it represents to them. The focus of the sales person is to find out what the true nature of the problem they are trying to solve and what type of solution they are looking for. The keys to finding this out are very good questioning skills and attentive listening.
What is the buyer’s perception of the product or service?
When people purchase a product or service, salespeople need to understand that the majority of people will have some kind of picture in their mind of what the experience is going to be like before they meet the salesperson. As a professional salesperson, it is important that you find out what thoughts or picture is in their mind so that you can choose the right strategy to follow for that meeting. The more a buyer is put at ease and dealt with as a human being who has thoughts and feelings, the easier the sales process will become.
What past experiences has the buyer had with the product or service?
One of the first things to find out as a salesperson, is what past experiences has the buyer had with buying the product or service. This is important as past experiences will have a large affect on how they react to the salesperson. This may not appear to be fair, but as humans we have behavioural styles that are fashioned from past experiences and we go into these styles without even thinking about it. These past experiences also set up expectations in the buyer and as a professional salesperson it is important to find out what these expectations are.
What have they heard others say about the product or service?
This point is very similar to the previous point, but often comes where the buyer has not had many or any past experiences of purchasing the product or service, but has been told the past experiences of friends and colleagues. These will also set expectations with the buyer.
What will the product or service allow them to do or achieve that they currently can’t do?
Often the way a product or service is positioned with a buyer is the key point on which a purchasing decision will be made, especially when all other aspects of the competition are fairly close. Positioning the buyer on the positive outcomes they could achieve with making the purchase will often make a stronger emotional connection and secure the sale. With some types of products or services it is vital that the salesperson positions the solution within the bigger picture of what can be achieved.
These are just some of the key emotional areas that many salespeople forget or are unaware to focus on when conducting a sales meeting, yet they are often the most crucial points that will set apart successful salespeople from all the others.
Many sales training courses focus heavily on the importance of asking questions in a sales meeting, but many do not give too much insight into what to ask questions about.
I hope that this article helps you improve your sales performance, but if you are looking to take your sales performance to another level of success, then give us a call and we would be delighted to come and help you.
How much value does your sales process add?
The key strategy to grow any business has to be how effective it is at converting leads to profitable orders, or in other words, sales.
Now there are a wide range of beliefs held around sales people, from, “it’s what you do if you can’t get a proper job” to pride and joy in being able to communicate with people and virtually write your own salary cheque. But the most amazing thing that I have seen in the over 20 years I have been involved at senior management in a number of businesses, is how little time and effort is invested in thinking about the sales process the business follows and how little time is spent training and coaching sales people on this process and why it is important.
Many business owners and sales directors still believe that to be successful at sales, you need people who are technically good at understanding the product or service and who have the “gift of the gab,” and spend most of their time managing their sales force around getting more and more activity completed, but very little time working on a sales process that works effectively for their type of product or service.
So what do I really mean when I write about a sales process? Many of you are going to immediately think about a heavily structured and scripted document that allows the sales people no scope for allowing their own personality and techniques to be used while others may think immediately of the numerous telesales companies that call us many times a day with their very rigid scripts which allow for very little interaction. In both of these examples, the only focus seems to be on getting the specific sale and very little time and effort is placed on building a long term relationship and actually helping the prospect find a good solution to the problem or need that they may have, sadly, many of these strategies tend to create a much larger negative feeling with many people than a positive one.
With some of the more negative aspects of various sales processes out of the way, let me now explain why I believe that having an effective sales process is so important.
I am a very strong believer that in business, the starting point for any strategy starts with the outcome you are looking for.
A sales process must create a positive emotional experience for every customer or prospect that goes through it and must be focussed on 5 key areas;
I am sure that many of you may be really interested with the wording of the first point, to filter out the prospects that the business does not want to sell to. Many people I have helped with their sales process have been alarmed that any sales process should want to get rid of any prospects, but just think to yourself, how much time have you or your salespeople invested into prospects where nothing has happened time and time again with the same people or company? Where would the sales performance be if we could find a way to focus on the real profitable prospects?
How well is your sales process and salespeople focussed on solving problems rather than just selling as many products or services as possible? If it is just focussed on getting products and services out of the door, how does this make you appear different to your competitors? If you want to do a quick and rough check on how much value your sales process and people add, just add up how many price queries you receive each month or quarter, the higher the percentage of price challenges per number of enquiries, the lower the value you are adding to your prospects! All this does is lower your overall profit margin, add more value in the sales process and just see how that margin creeps up.
One of the higher costs in any business is the client acquisition cost. This is not just measured in purely money terms, but also time. Once a business has spent all this time and money on getting a prospect as a customer, what a waste it would be if that customer only purchased once from that business. This is why it is vital that your sales process is designed to wow the customer the first time, but then has a well designed follow up process that keeps consistent but acceptable levels of communication with the customer. This follow up process is probably the one area that the majority of businesses I come into contact with, fail on.
Probably the most challenging part of any sales process is the strategy that needs to be developed to make sure that all customers become clients of the business rather than just a client of a person in the business. How many businesses have bent over backwards to keep a salesperson in the business just because they were scared that they would lose a group of customers if this person left? Design this in from the start into your sales process and you will have considerably less lost customers if one of your salespeople leave.
Lastly, but very importantly, this sales process must be effective but simple to use so that communication between the various departments is easily understood and that new employees can be quickly trained. It has also been proven time after time, that simple processes always work better as people understand them quicker and they are easier to use.
If reading this article has challenged you to think about your sales process and wonder how much value it is adding to both your business and your prospects or if you just want to grow your sales without employing loads more people, just go through the sales process your sales people are following and then ask yourself at each step if it is addressing the points I have listed above.
If you need some help to develop and implement a sales process in your business, then why not just give us a call at Team Results and we would be delighted to come and have a chat with you.
Increase your sales with effective follow up
As the business market becomes more and more competitive, the effectiveness of our sales people and processes becomes more and more essential. When I meet business owners and sales people, it is so surprising how little they focus on the follow up as part of their sales process.
In the market place we find ourselves today, less than 4% of customers will actually tell you that they are unhappy with your service or product and most companies only realise that a customer has left them when the sales figures for that customer are zero for a while.
Here are some interesting statistics on why customers leave a supplier;
The importance of a follow up is to keep the emotional connection and stop the customer feeling that they are not important.
We need to start by understanding what a sales process is to understand why following up is such a key aspect of the process.
The main purpose of a sales process is to help the person who is looking to buy, make a decision that solves what ever problem they may have. It is an ongoing communication between the sales person and the buyer to make sure that the sales person totally understands what the buyer is trying to achieve and for the buyer to fully understand that the product or service they are purchasing is going to deliver exactly what they are looking for.
One of the most crucial points that many sales people forget, is that the power to make a decision lies with the buyer, not the sales person, therefore it is vital that the sales person builds a strong emotional connection with the buyer, as about 80% of the decision where the order will be placed will be determined by this emotional connection.
So why is following up so important and where in the sales process should we follow up?
Following up is essential in that it offers the buyer a review of what the last step in the process was and whether the sales person has understood the request, it keeps the buyer informed as to what is happening and when it will happen. What this does, is give the buyer a level of confidence in the sales person, it also shows that they are being dealt with professionally and it can also take pressure off. Although this might appear to be very logical, these steps are all deposits into the emotional bank account of the buyer.
I have heard so many stories where sales people have had a brilliant sales meeting and then done absolutely no follow up for some time, only to call some time later and find out the order has been placed with a competitor.
Probably a more scary story is one a client let slip during a training session just last week. He casually told me that they have an excellent follow up process for new customers but did not use it on existing customers. Just imagine what effect that will have on a customer! For a period they receive excellent service and follow up and then suddenly it stops. The most common reason customers leave a supplier is perceived indifference, so what effect could stopping a follow up have on your customer other than telling them you no longer care!
So where in a sales process should be have a follow up and what is the purpose of that follow up?
The first follow up must come after the first direct contact with the customer and the point of this follow up is to confirm what was discussed and what the next step is, show that you have really listened and understood the problem and concerns of the customer and consider them important as you have taken the trouble to make further contact with them.
This follow up can be done by post or email.
The second follow up must come after any meeting and must include a review of specifically all the emotional points that were raised in the meeting. List the concerns, problems and desired outcomes the customer is looking for and why they are important to them. The reason for this is that many sales people conduct an amazing sales meeting, really connect with the customer emotionally, find out all the key problems and challenges and then never revisit these points again, expecting the customer to remember all the keys areas they discussed and why they were important. The real fact of the matter is that most business people are really busy and many cannot remember what happened earlier in a day, never mind a few days or a week or two later. All that great connection and rapport is then lost and then when the next sales person turns up at the customer all the hard work could be lost if they then win the order.
The third key area to build in a follow up is straight after a quote is done. It is truly astonishing how many times I have seen businesses and sales people spend a great deal of time on a quotation, send it off to the customer and then just forget about it. It is almost as if they believe the sales process ends with the quote!
Based on my experience of running a number of sales teams in various countries, I have regularly increased quote conversion rates by building in a follow up call just after a quote is done. The timing of this call depends on the means by which the quote was sent to the customer; if it was by email then the call should be around 2 days after it was sent, if by post, allow about a week.
In this follow up call, we used to confirm that they had received the quote and that it was easy for them to understand and that it met with their requirements. We would also confirm the time frame for the decision to be made and ask if there was anything else they required from us. We would also use this call to once again highlight any key emotional issues that had been raised during the sales meeting or call.
The last follow up that is so often forgotten is the one after the sale which says, “Thank you for the order” and confirms the details of the order. Just think to yourself, how often have you received a thank you note or email from a company you have done business with?
The point of these key follow ups is to keep the customer feeling important and communicated with and most importantly, keep them coming back to do continued business because they feel important and enjoy doing business with you.
There is not that much you can do about the 5 reasons that make up for the 32% of customers that leave you, but building up an excellent follow up process can keep a great deal of the 68% of customers who leave because they don’t feel valued.
Empathy, One the Key Ingredients to Improve Your Sales Performance.
Sales is all about human interaction and the building of relationships, however, too often, sales people just follow their natural instinct and believe that sales is all about convincing the buyer about how great their product or service is.
One of the most significant barriers to becoming a successful sales person is focussing more on yourself as a sales person, than the prospect in front of you. In every sales opportunity, the only person who has the power to make any purchasing decision is the buyer, therefore all focus must be focussed on gaining an understanding of them and how they view or feel about the need of the product or service.
I have found that empathy is the most crucial building block I have used in my sales process; however it is often one of the most misunderstood words around. Many people get confused between sympathy and empathy. In my simple way, I define them as follows;
-Sympathy is looking at an emotional issue through your eyes.
-Empathy is looking at and understanding an emotional issue through the eyes of the person experiencing it.
In order to earn a prospects respect, their time and attention, it really helps when we approach the situation by understanding and looking at it from their prospective, as this is how we get to understand clearly why it is important to them. We need to stop talking at them and put yourself in the position alongside them.
How do we apply empathy to a sales meeting?
Let's start by breaking empathy down into some key areas and then look how we apply these to build better relationships with the prospects and buyers we come into contact with.
The three key components of empathy I would like to look at are;
In order to practise curiosity, we need to start in the mindset that we know nothing about the person or challenges they are facing, that way we do away with that old problem in sales, assumption. Curiosity is a road of discovery we journey down by asking open ended questions and exploring the emotional words we get in the replies. I like to equate the word curiosity with children, as I remember my kids when they were young asking continuous questions until they received the answer that made them happy. This is a skill that everyone of us had when we were children, but life just seems to often override this skill. If we are to improve our sales skills, then it is time to recall some of those wonderful skills we were so good at as kids.
The first point I would like to make here is that listening is not the same as hearing. Hearing is about the sounds and words you hear, whereas listening requires focus and the ability to understand what the person speaking to you is saying. Listening is not only taking in the words the person is using, but also picking up the tone and pace of voice and how the other person's body language changes. This is the only way we can determine what emotional impact the message they are giving you has on them. In sales, one of the most important things to listen out for are all the emotional words, as these are the key for asking those really penetrating questions that help you delve under the surface.
Building an Emotional Connection
The decision to buy something, no matter what it is, is predominantly an emotional one, so it is vital for sales people to build this emotional connection with their prospect. We started off by saying that sales was about human interaction and the building of relationships, so it is vital that we focus on understanding the emotional connection the prospect has with the challenges they are trying to solve. Relationships are built upon emotions and rely on us taking a true and personal interest in the prospect and really getting to understand their situation from their point of view. They need to feel that we are very much on their side and are focussed on helping them solve any problems they have in a way that brings the solution they are looking for, not the solution that we think is best.
If you want to make a dramatic improvement in your sales performance, then practising your empathy skills is vital. Not only will you improve your results, you will build deeper and longer term relationships with your customers.
If you want to reduce the amount of closing techniques and effort you are putting into your sales meetings, then practice your empathy up front in the meetings and the need to use harder closing techniques will decrease dramatically.
Optimism, the Skill That Can Take Your Sales Success to Another Level!
Everyone in business is looking for something that is going to make them more competitive in the current business market. Should we network at more business meetings or perhaps become more active on social media sites?
Change the process on how we interact with our customers or perhaps have a strategy for developing a new market to sell to? Create a new marketing plan? There is another solution that you can put into place quickly and easily. Sales people that understand that it is emotions that drive buying decisions will also know that optimism is a key skill to master. Before you start thinking that this is just another article on the soft skills that does not relate to a financial outcome, evidence shows that optimistic salespeople generate considerably more sales.
One of the best case studies on optimism comes from the work of psychologist Martin Seligman. He worked with the sales team at insurance giant, Metropolitan Life to help them increase their sales performance. He worked with the sales team and from the measurements he put in place, he found that the sales people who scored high in optimism sold on average 37% more than those who scored low. In addition, their customer retention increased as well.
How does your sales team react to the challenges that the market throws their way? Are they discussing new strategies and ideas for building deeper relationships with clients or are they just telling the management how bad the market is? In other words, are they a glass half full sales team or a glass half empty sales team? Salespeople should be concerned that they do not become too negative when markets become tougher. So what message or mood is the sales management team sending to your sales team? What message is your sales team communicating to customers and prospects? How many of your sales team are starting their sales meetings with words like, "I know that money must be tight for you" or something similar. With an opening like that, they are just inviting considerably more price pressure on themselves.
So what can the sales management do to turn around any negative moods and comments in the sales team?
There are five behaviour traits found in salespeople and sales organisations that have a high level of optimism. Start helping your sales team and increase your sales by teaching them to all your salespeople.
Optimism may be considered a soft skill but an optimistic mindset will generate great sales results. Optimistic salespeople are easier to manage. If you are looking to reduce the drama and negative sales stories in your business, start teaching your sales people on the above 5 points and get them to invest their time on coming up with new solutions and strategies for helping their customers buy more. Optimism is a skill that can be learned; just help your salespeople make the choice. Optimism does not mean turning a blind eye to tougher business conditions, but rather looking at the market place and deciding that there must be a better way of tackling the market and growing profitable sales.
Emotion vs Logic- The 80/20 Rule of Sales.
One of the biggest challenges I face when I am training sales professionals, is getting them to understand how important and how much effort is required to build a long term emotional relationship with other people.
In sales, it has been proven over many years that building the emotional relationship with a prospect are the most crucial element of achieving long term orders from that person or business. The majority of professional sales trainers and psychologists often discuss that all purchasing is made with: 80% Emotion and only 20% on logic or facts of that deal. Many of us know this very well- but how many of us find ourselves talking about features and benefits and not the challenge our customers have that we can resolve?
One of the key factors that drive the majority of salespeople is the desire for almost instantaneous results; they want to make contact with the prospect and leave with the order in hand. They are often under pressure from their sales managers or directors to get very quick results, which makes them focus more and more on the logic aspect of any deal, the bit that accounts for only 20% of the decision making process.
What stops people from doing what they have been taught to do, is both the pressure from management for instant results and the person’s failure to recognise the full impact that emotions will have on their behaviour and the ability to work out how to change these behaviours. This becomes even truer when the work situation becomes more stressed than normal, as in these cases the sales person will often go back to doing as much as possible to deliver results, forgetting to build relationships and finding their conversion rate drops.
As markets have become more competitive and customer requirements have become more complex, sales professionals have realised the increasing amount of decision makers within a business and the need to achieve ‘buy in’ from everyone involved in getting that cheque signed!
This increased complexity of the sales process has caused the emotional aspects to expand at an ever increasing rate often resulting in longer lead times. Which can cause fast paced sales professionals to feel frustrated, lost and out of control?
Learning how to build an effective emotional strategy to apply to a sales process will take time, patience and perseverance, none of these will happen overnight or without a great deal of understanding and application.
To build long term emotional relationships with the type of clients you love to work with- the sales professional must look at the bigger picture than what they currently look at when negotiating a deal. They must pick up on indicators in conversation around the customer’s pain points and ensure you have the cure they can’t refuse.
Many of the areas that are brought into the emotional decision making often do not appear to be directly related to the decision making process.
Some of the key areas that need to be thought of when looking at larger decisions are the following;
As you will see, many of the above points are going to require a high level of questioning techniques, time, patience and above all great listening skills.
If you are a sales professional just looking for very quick results then building strong emotional relationships is going to take you time and effort.
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