Beyond Networking

As a sales person you are fighting for the win. You follow the best possible practices, you out learn and out hustle all competition to land the sale and hopefully through excellent product and/or service quality convert that one sale into an account with a chain of future sales.

There is just one big problem with all of the above. No matter how well you perform you are always giving your customer one final thing, an invoice.

The customer has a direct responsibility, to pay the invoice and as such will endlessly be on the look out to ensure top performance on your part, while constantly being on the lookout for who is willing to outperform you on product, service or price.

You job it to then work toward developing customer loyalty, which on a good day is a tough challenge, unless you are practicing the ultimate in value delivery to your customer as follows…

Bring your customers new revenue.

Wait a minute, as a seller my job is to sell, get paid and line up the next sale, there is no place in the sales process for the process to work backwards, they pay you, and not you pay them. And in this singular logic lies the magic of bringing your customers value, in fact so much value that you are a hero, the receiver of the warmest smiles and a personally made cup of coffee by the gatekeeper and the receiver of your customers time any time you ask for it.

How is this done?

  1. Invest in “Quality Time” with you prospects and customers;
  2. Know your customers and what “to them” is the perfect customer;
  3. Know your customers problems and what “to them” perfect solutions look like;
  4. Connect the dots between those who need solutions (buy or sell) and those who deliver them;
  5. Literally arrange coffees between members of your network and make the contacts that bring new business relationships into existence, some are buyers of solutions, others the sellers;
  6. Systematically, over time you will have brought your prospects/customers more net profit than your own products/services cost, you are now a PROFIT CENTER to your customer.

Now how will the competition, compete with you. All they can do is sell, even if they drop their price to $0.00 they will not win because your value proposition is simply superior. You have brought and will continue to bring so much value to your customers that change will not even be considered unless you bring it.

Understand that this is not a “make sales fast” scenario, significant hard work is needed to generate the network and trust that leads to a true understanding of your prospects/customers’ needs so you are able to legitimately connect those inside your network with meaningful referrals, direct connections all powered by your personal recommendations.

Likewise do understand that the efforts when maintained over a prolonged period of time generate sales results and customer loyalty like you have never experienced before.

Change your value, change your world.

To learn how to apply this strategy to your business, get in touch.

And Now For The Last 25

Have you heard this saying; 25 years to learn, 25 years to live and 25 years to leave a legacy?

I think it’s a Stephen Covey line and I first hear it in the mid 90’s way back when I was in that second period, 25 years to live. At that time I never gave this saying (or what it meant) much thought or consideration, I was too caught up in the moment to worry about the future, self-actualization or even consider what my legacy might or would be.

How times have changed. The closer I got to 50 the more I realized that “I do not know, what I do not know”, and that while I may not be stupid, I sure was ignorant. I realized that to just keep going, let alone get ahead I needed a lot more EQ (Emotional Quotient) and not more IQ (Intellectual Quotient). In the most straight forward of descriptions I needed to learn and understand a lot more about the “WHY” people do things (or not) and stop worrying about the “HOW” things should, could or would work.

As a person not yet ready to rest on past accomplishments I refocused myself on further education, and while helpful it did not really fill the EQ need, in fact, if anything it reinforced how much I did in fact need to get on with developing a much stronger EQ.

Out of that educational process one piece of truly missing personal development became clear, I had no mentor, no confidant, no voice of sober second thought, no wise man/woman who would tell me what they really thought without anything to gain, fear of reprisal, or politics. Someone who would deliver the straight goods, and tell it like it is.

I took up the challenge of finding a well suited mentor, which as it turns out is a lot harder to do than one might think. Like all good things hard work and relentless effort is required to truly arrive at a meaningful accomplishment. However no matter how hard I worked at this, my mentor remained hidden from me, desired, but not found.

Then one day I was in a coffee shop having a detailed, and passionate discussion with a colleague regarding the merits of several different business books, and as we were leaving a gentleman, well my senior but who I had met once a few years ago stopped me and said quite directly “I would like to talk with you about those same books”. The rest as they say is history, I found my mentor, not just in business but in life.

The word MENTOR written in vintage lead letterpress typeI am now 53 and he is 68, he is semi-retired, and the past president of a local college and I am getting ready to put in the best 10 years of my working life. We talk about everything and from all possible angles, we talk mostly business but not so much the numbers and more about the important stuff (the “WHY”) leadership, role modeling, decision-making, decision impact, helping people grow, and unlocking opportunities for others, we examine life in terms of our shared Christian faith and from time to time about health (both), motorcycles (him), gardening (me), and the very essence of the mentor/mentored relationship itself. We ensure that we meet with a purpose and that out actions going forward are both purposeful and accountable.

I have gained immense value from this relationship, and I am in great debt to my mentor for all the grace, insight and advice he has given me. I do however have one major regret in all this and that is simply that I should have started this 25 years sooner.

Today, looking back at my career if I had a mentor of similar quality back then, today I know I would have worked less, accomplished more and would have done it leaving a better legacy in place.

So what does today look like, well I get together with my mentor for a breakfast every two weeks (when he is town) but I have also taken up the challenge of being a mentor, in fact there are three and sometimes four people I am mentoring in one way or another at any given time. Some once a month others every two weeks.

We are building truly great relationships, based on trust, confidentiality and full on, anything goes dialog and debate. The rewards of doing this are huge, for me not just for them. I come alive preparing for and being in these meetings, I take the role seriously and in turn I am taken seriously. I am almost four years into my 25 years of “leaving a legacy” but enjoying every moment of it.

So now the big question…

Do you have a mentor, if yes, excellent. If no then get one, you will not regret it.

Are you a mentor, if yes, excellent. If no then you should consider, seriously consider becoming one.

Pull up beside that young crew and the plant, in the office or on the job site, share a coffee and just start a relationship.  Talk about things that matter universally, talk about life, listen and consider thoughtfully and come back a few days later and say “I was thinking about what you said, have you ever considered…” guess what, you just started down the mentoring path.

It can be that informal or very formal with action plans, check boxes and strategic thinking, anyway it works, it’s a good thing. Bottom line is that IQ will only get you halfway.

EQ will get the other half and the school of EQ, it is best found at the feet of a mentor.

The Whistle Dog Factor

Or how $.25 destroyed a customer for life

The facts have not been changed to protect the guilty.
Gourmet Grilled All Beef Hots Dogs
Gourmet Grilled All Beef Hots Dogs with Sides and ChipsOK, I admit it I have a secret love of hot dogs, to be specific an A&W Whistle Dog, Onion Rings and Diet Root Beer. Now don’t get me wrong this is not a daily or even weekly thing, but it was a twice a month thing. So you say, “OK you like some fast food every so often, what’s that got to do with a sales based blog posting”. Well this is where things get interesting. My regular Whistle Dog fix costs me about $11.50 a hit and I go twice a month so that’s $23.00 a month or $276.00 per year.

I am a nice, quiet, very predictable, repeat customer and I bus my own table when done. This makes me pretty much every A&W shop owners dream customer right? You bet right, so then why am I now being charged $.25 for one little plastic disk of BBQ sauce to go with my onion rings? I mean WTF. I am seriously miffed.

I think it was Robert Burton (and not Ben Franklin) who coined the phrase “penny wise and pound foolish” and that’s exactly what is going on here. I just dropped $11.50 on a hot dog, badly cooked onions rings and $.03 worth of root beer and they have the nerve to put the touch on me for a single serving of BBQ sauce?

Well first I asked the sales clerk if she was serious, and she was so I very politely paid the lady the $.25 and have not been back for two months, those two months will just keep going and going as I have now started my one man boycott against dumb sales policies and practices. Be warned from now on if I see them, or experience them I am going to write about them.

Yes, the A&W shop owner got their $.25 and now I am going to keep my $276.00/year times the next 20 years and believe you me that $5,520.00 plus inflation is going to by me… well I guess I am on the lookout for a new hot dog shop. Oh and I do hope that the A&W shop owner comes to realize that no matter how many coupons you give it, it will never make up for “Taking Your Customer For Granted”.

OK, my rant is over, now let’s look at the sales lesson, you have a fully qualified customer, who is paying their bills on time, every time, so what happens? Some number-cruncher in the organization says we are losing money on (enter your example of the BBQ sauce here) and we have to pass this charge onto the customer no matter what.

If you agree to start doing this; congratulations you have just joined the Penny Wise, Pound foolish club. You will lose customers by the dozen all because you did not follow one of most primal product pricing policies… Thou shalt not insult your customers by “nickel-and-diming” them.

There are dozens of pricing strategies to not only get incidental costs covered but to use them to build customer loyalty (none of which appear to be covered in the A&W shop owner’s operations manual).

Now apply this our daily industrial sales reality, we are busting our back sides, to make sales worth thousands of dollars a unit. Getting sales, providing great service and earning customer loyalty is hard work. Are you losing sales, sometimes big sales over policies and practices that are seen by your customers as them getting nickel-and-dimed?

Three key questions:

1.     Are you’re pricing policies and/or practices triggering negative emotions in your customers, compelling them to go shopping?

2.     What if your biggest barrier to more sales is the pricing program you are following?

3.     Are you taking the $.25 as asked for and trading away loyal customers for life?

If you want to know more get in touch.

What’s Today’s Challenge?

In just the last week we have encountered the following sales client challenges:

  1. How to find qualified, self-motivated sales staff?
  2. When to hire, who to hire?
  3. How to manage the post application process for internal candidates who applied for sales positions but did not get selected for the position?
  4. Who to send to a major international trade show?
  5. Do I hire a technical sales representative to take over part of my sales responsibilities or an executive assistant to leverage more time to sell?
  6. I don’t have enough sales horsepower but I have 200 qualified leads in a company whose average sales is 5mm/sale?

Read more

It’s Dollars Not Deals

Once again I have been witnessing an exchange of opinions on how to account for sales performance, this time taking place inside a Linked-In™ sales management group. I continue to be amazed that anyone who calls themselves a “sales professional” would engage in using a “deal count” as a “sales close ratio”.

The bottom line in sales is dollars not deals.

Case in point (names changed to protect the guilty):

If Sally writes 100 quotes in one month worth a total of $250,000.00 and then closes 50 deals worth $32,000.00. Her deal close rate is 50% but this is not SALES, this is deals!

Sally’s close rate is $32,000.00 / $250,000.00 = 12.8% and Sally sucks as a sales person.

Sales people like Sally, want to avoid accountability at all costs. When they are in the accountability spot light they want to be reviewed for non-tangible performance, such as time with customers, solving claims/credits etc. Then, when under real pressure, will throw out their quote to closed deal ratio as a key performance metric, in hopes of a positive review. This type of sales person wants top salaries, company cars, perks, spiffs along with no quota’s or commissions.

Sam wrote the 100 quotes in the same one month period worth a total of $250,000.00 and then closed just seven deals worth $167,000.00. His deal close rate is just 7% but this also in not SALES, this is deals.

Sam’s close rate is $167,000.00 / $250,000.00 = 67% and Sam is a rock star sales person.

True sales professionals only want to talk in terms of accountability, since real accountability “defines” real sales performance. Sales professionals like Sam want top commission rates and hold their sales quotas in contempt as minimum standards, they want car allowances, spiffs and scotches as tokens along the road to their success. Yes, they will take your perks; however, they really are focused on managing their sales franchise to their (and thus your) maximum benefit.

The difference between Sally and Sam is the attitude. Sally complains to all who will listen to her about her poor lot in life, her bosses’ unrealistic demands or her thin bank account. Sally lives a negative and unbalanced life, working paycheck to paycheck. Meanwhile, Sam spends his time in self-improvement, learning about his customers and sharing his positive attitude; not by talking about it, but by demonstrating his positivity to all he comes into contact with. Sam lives a positive and meaningful life, paid for by selling value into his many professional relationships.

Raising Employee Engagement Brings A 9% Increase In Operating Profits

Great but how do I make that happen? You start by shifting employee attitudes and to be more specific your attitude which is far and away the biggest single item that will determine your ability to get along with others, define what plans you will make and how you will execute those plans. The results of engineering this shift is well researched, for every 1% improvement in employee engagement you can see up to a 9% improvement in operating profit[1] .

Thankfully building a great attitude is a skill set than can be learnt and developed, allowing you to get significantly more out of life and business. Your positive attitude, or lack of, is what attracts or repels the people you come into contact with, and nowhere is this truer than in sales and customer service. We have all encountered the condescending, rude and/or fully disengaged sales person, these are examples of the negative engagement we encounter every day and unfortunately, too often found in our own businesses.

To take your engagement and your business to the next level you need to know three things:

  1. That a positive attitude is the result of deciding to have one;
  2. It will only work for you in direct proportion to the effort (learning, training, practicing and consistent application) you put into it;
  3. That attitude, both good and bad is highly contagious. As such when you develop and role model a positive and engaged attitude you lead others towards the same.

Do you have a positive attitude (most like to think they do, but, in fact do not)? Most do not understand that their lack of positive attitude and disengagement is keeping them from their own goal achievements.

Crafting a progressive attitude, and resetting your goals based on it will raise yours and others engagement levels and excel you towards the accomplishments you are hoping for.

Thanks for reading

Gerry L. Wiebe, Founder | President

[1] Sources: Gallop, US Bureau of Labor Statistics, IES & Towers Watson.

Is A Coffee Card Networking’s Secret Weapon?

In the last three weeks our company has secured three major new clients.

What’s unique is that each of these clients was referred to our company by a past or current client and our cost to land each one was just a cup of coffee.

How networking skills and a Coffee Card can be the secret weapons of business development and sales success.

Meeting for a coffee is a simple method of establishing a friendly meeting place and controlling costs.

Here is what you should be doing:

  1. Go out of your way to meet people, network purposefully and ask them what they do;
  2. If what they do is connected to what you (or anyone you know) might need, swap business cards and tell them to expect a coffee invitation;
  3. Go for coffee (somewhere convenient to them in terms of both time and place), pay with your coffee card and start asking purposeful questions that take time and detail to answer. Speak very little and listen a whole lot;
  4. During your meeting ask the question, “what is your perfect customer and how would you best like to deliver your product or service“;
  5. Use your speaking time to describe what your perfect customer is and how best you deliver your product or service to them;
  6. After 20 – 30 minutes have passed, coffee is over, and back to work you go. Your total time including driving was no more than 45 minutes and out-of-pocket costs are only about $5 – $7.

Now keep doing this, once a day with intent. Two times a day if you can. You’ll soon build up a network, not just of business cards but a working knowledge of what each and every contact does; and likewise they will know what you do.

Now Here Comes the Magic

When what someone does lines up with the needs of your network, you set up a coffee meeting with you and both parties. Again you buy coffee, you make introductions, confirm the connection, and give them both your best regards before leaving.

You have now provided unprecedented value. You have taken the risk of validating the supplier, and you have introduced a qualified buyer to the supplier.

In this process, aside from gaining a reputation as the value provider, it’s just a matter of time until you become the recommended supplier and land a job; this is when things get really interesting.

Over time your networking along with delivering great value to your customers will evolve into fans making raving recommendations about what you do. Now repeat, repeat, repeat. Build a network in which you deliver value first by connecting needs and your networking efforts will soon be landing you new business all for a bit of time and on a coffee card budget.

Thank you for reading

Gerry L. Wiebe, Founder | President

Accountability, Anaconda Style

Leading by Leaning or… Accountability, Anaconda Style

100550102-office-workers-goofing-off-gettyp.600x400

“Watch out guys, here comes the boss. Look busy.”

Unfortunately, the above is a common statement in many businesses and if you are not sure what this is a sign of, let me tell you. It is the sign of failed corporate culture, bad management, missing accountability and a tangible symptom that a cancer has taken root in your organization.

How little can you do while getting a paycheck or even getting promoted has become synonymous with business in today’s marketplace? It is by many if not most HR surveys the operating standard of today’s business climate.

To force the point, a recent infographic published by SocialCast© detailed that out of 42,000 employees who were surveyed, 49% were disengaged from their jobs, while another 18% were actively disengaged from their jobs and proactively engaged in harming their employers while picking up a paycheck. This means that 67% of the entire workforce is disengaged or worse. Holy crap, this is bad.

What has allowed this cancer to grow and in fact escalate within many businesses? Well, as usual I have a few rather pointed thoughts…

  • 1. Missing or failed accountability, resulting in…
  • 2. Failed executive leadership, resulting in…
  • 3. Failed management, resulting in…
  • 4. Failed supervision, resulting in…
  • 5. A failed business

Somewhere along the professionalism timeline it became a bad thing to be great at what you do. “Fear of failure” became rooted, accountability was used and abused to define what had not been done instead of measuring and rewarding what had been done.

Think about your own workplace, how effective are your metrics?

  • Are they well-defined?
  • Are they public?
  • Are they shared in real-time?
  • Are they a source of pride?
  • Are they a source of reward?
  • Are they a source of team dynamics that culls non-performers, prior to even becoming a management issue?
  • Is your team striving under their own self management to excel past all benchmarks and in fact redefine the metrics of your organization, if not your industry?

If your answer to any of the above in “no” then you have some excellent improvement opportunities ahead of you.

Long story short, in business excellence is gained by setting and striving towards demanding benchmarks, developing methods and sound practices, and holding to them. Solid metrics and accountability will then come into play.

anaconda-1How is this achieved? Just like the anaconda, you sink your teeth into your prey (goals and objectives,) wrap yourself around it (your methods,) and never let go or back off. You see, most people think that the anaconda crushes its prey, but what it really does is constrict just enough that the prey can exhale, but not inhale, causing the prey to succumb by suffocation. A masterful balance of expended energy, for maximum return.

Your choice as the anaconda wraps you up in his way of doing things (his culture,) is to escape or to let the unrelenting nature of the anaconda’s process take place.

So, if accountability is your anaconda, then the same process takes place. We select our goals and objectives, engage our methods/culture and hold to them with solid resolve until measurable results are achieved.

Accountability defines and measures true success, as real performers are attracted to accountability. Likewise, it repels poor performers as all they see is the stare of the accountability anaconda, now looking hungrily at them to perform or perish.

Thanks for reading,

Gerry L. Wiebe Founder | President

Marketing Strategy – Four Simple Marketing Ideas

Four Simple Marketing Ideas

techmarketing

As a part of a winning Marketing Strategy you need to review the use of a frequent contact program to communicate with customers in order to gain a larger share of their business.

When doing so, here are some simple ideas to carefully consider:

1.       Most businesses invest too much in chasing new customers and too little in doing additional repeat business with their existent customers;

2.       The satisfied customer is predisposed to purchase again. Purchase more and purchase something different (not to mention refer you to people he knows);

3.       It costs less to motivate a known customer to purchase again than to acquire a new customer;

4.       Customers are only fickle because a new competitor (or the previous company you got the customers from) is paying more attention to them than you are.

In business-to-business marketing many companies make the huge mistake of having all their contact with their customers go through the sales representative. This leaves the customers vulnerable to theft if the representative jumps to another employer. It also leaves too much opportunity for negligence on the representative’s part.

Regardless of the layers of distribution between you and your customer you should establish some direct link. The owner of a restaurant can do that by coming around and chatting personally with the customers. The chief executive officer of a large company can do it with a newsletter and maybe a hotline telephone number.

Here are some of the ways that direct mail or email can be used to communicate with established customers.

A.       To introduce new products or services;

B.       To reinforce existing products or services;

C.       To give advance notice of and explain price or fee increases;

D.       To offer special discounts or premiums;

E.        To provide useful information;

F.        To give recognition to top customers;

G.        To announce seasonal sales;

H.       To announce and introduce new staff and what they do.

I’ve rarely seen a business that could not increase and improve through increased direct marketing to present customers.

Now here’s a real marketing secret and it is a true secret. Most companies make a critical, crucial error in this area. I’ve personally made this error many times in the past and work hard at overcoming it.

Here’s the secret: When marketing to established existent customers you should still tell your entire sales story every time. Do not make the mistake of assuming knowledge on the part of the customer.

Do not take shortcuts with existing customers and do not feel that you are boring them by telling the same story repetitively. If you have quality, service, guarantee price or other advantages point them out each and every time you deliver a sales presentation.

American business desperately needs to place a new higher value on the customer. That’s been the message of Tom Peter’s initiated excellence movement. It’s the message behind the government hearings taking place investigating the airline’s industry of abuse of its customers. If your business is not performing as well as you would like it’s a message you should listen to also.

Bottom Line; communicate more with your customers and you’ll do more business.

This article originally posted on Craneblogger.

Customer Service Super Star – Case History #1

Customer Service Super Star Case History Number 1: Auto Shop Shocker

My daughter was in a small car accident and thankfully she was not hurt. The other driver quickly admitted 100% fault, so off to the auto body shop she went. While at the auto body shop my daughter asked for a few other things to be quoted on; one being the front bumper which was cracked (by yours truly) and the other, a few deep key cuts to her driver’s side door, unfortunately made by some wayward youth in our area. The shop quickly worked out some prices for her, but despite what was covered by insurance and me paying for the repair of the front bumper I damaged, a review of her budget meant the key cuts would have to wait until a later date.

A few days later I drive my daughter to pick up her car from the shop. Her car looks like new; impeccably cleaned, washed, and vacuumed. Overall, all of our expectations were met and the price we charged was exactly what we had been quoted. All was well, so we paid and left. A few hours later my daughter calls me saying, “Dad, all the key cuts on my door are gone!” Wow, what a nice thing to do for another person. The auto shop had no reason to do this, they went completely above and beyond. Since they had quoted us on removing the key marks (it was a few hundred dollars worth of work) we knew the exact value of their contribution to exceeding customer expectations.

Are we impressed? You bet. Are both my daughter and I happy to tell this story all over town and recommend this auto body shop to everyone we know? Absolutely. They understood what the two second rule, that extra effort, would mean to my daughter. They gave of their time and services to do so and in return receive many enthusiastic customer referrals from me. Plus, I have a great case history of exceptional customer service and now you know, so if you are ever in need of an auto body shop in Abbotsford, BC please check out Erv’s Auto Body located at 2736 Garden Street, Abbotsford, BC or give them a call at 604-859-7410. Just tell them a very satisfied customer referred them to you.

Check out the post How To Build A Customer Service Super Star In Two Seconds to learn how to deliver customer service like this!

Thanks for reading,
Gerry L. Wiebe, Founder | President