C-Suite Network™

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Entrepreneurship Management Personal Development

10 Tips for a Startup Without Any Money Subtitle: The pros of being broke, but with a great idea

Yes, you need a bit of money to get started, but if you take advantage of a few of these suggestions, you can seriously reduce what you need. Each one of these worked for us.

  1. Start in your garage. Or in the guest bedroom, or even in your laundry room, like we did. Pick somewhere that doesn’t require a rent payment!
  2. Have your family help. Retired aunts, uncles, and grandparents would love the chance to make a difference in your life, and they could be thrilled to be a part of the “family business”. Who knows? They could end up being a lot more for your startup than just a pair of hands. They could also give you their objective opinion and insight. Bonnie’s mother thought up the term “Barefoot Bubbly”.
  3. Take advantage of someone else’s extra inventory. Think of a way to repurpose or sell unsold items. Once you do, you’ll find that sales will cure what ails you.
  4. Outsource everything—just not quality. When you outsource, you typically only pay when the product is produced—and produced to your specifications. Oversight is essential. The little money you do have is much better spent here than on a production facility.
  5. Utilize “Worthy Cause Marketing” to promote your goods or services. Search for the right nonprofit that echoes both your core values and your demographic—they will have a moral reason to buy your product if you support a worthy cause. Use your distribution channels to promote their cause, and in return, they’ll help you promote your products.
  6. Trade any goods and services you have for those that you need. Many startups usually prefer this option to spending money, especially in their early days. So find other startup businesses that you can trade with!
  7. Develop strategic partnerships with suppliers. Their business grows when you become a bigger customer. By extending your terms and offering discounts, they help you grow. The moment you know you won’t be able to pay on time, call them. Provide a workable payment plan to show that they can trust you.
  8. Offer discounts for large or cash purchases. This can put you way ahead of your bills. If your buyers put your products out at a discount and advertise, they’ll sell faster—and they’ll quickly recover warehouse space.
  9. Sell your product internationally. Most overseas sales are cash transactions based on a valid bill of lading through a letter of credit. It’s almost like an escrow account—you get paid once they take possession.
  10. Create just-in-time inventory. This refers to a product that’s created right in time for the sale, instead of sitting in a warehouse until it’s ready to move. You would ideally get the purchase order first. But if that isn’t practical, you can work with minimal inventory necessary to satisfy your customers, as long as you assume reasonable growth that can be reassessed every month.

These are just a few money-saving tips that Barefoot Wine relied on in order to survive and grow in our early days. Having less money forced us to think resourcefully—just one of the advantages that comes along with being broke with a great idea.

For more, read on: http://c-suitenetworkadvisors.com/advisor/michael-houlihan-and-bonnie-harvey/

 

 

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Growth Leadership Personal Development

5 Beliefs About Success That Are Going to Help You Fail

F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real) comes from the false beliefs and myths that exist around the meaning of success. Yet all fear can vanish once you own your beliefs and discover the real truth about success.

Once you define your own success with new beliefs, there’s nothing to fear. So let’s look at a few false beliefs or myths that contribute to failure, as well as the reality behind them.

False Belief #1: Success is all about power, wealth and fame

People who measure success only in terms of power, wealth and fame are looking in the wrong places. When someone believes you must measure up to those high standards, you may not even want to try.

Here’s the reality: Success is about feeling confident, empowered and committed to your core values. Your values are part of your overall success equation. Successful people stay connected to their true self by tapping into what they value most about themselves and their business.

False Belief #2: Success is hard work and takes forever to achieve

People who believe that it takes too long or that it’s too hard to achieve success will lose motivation and commitment to take action. But that’s not you! If success seems too far out in the future or even unattainable, people will start to make up excuses for why it won’t work.

Here’s the reality: Working hard for a long period of time doesn’t guarantee success. In fact, success can happen quickly and easily. If you have the right skills or talent, you can succeed with minimum effort. You can experience success easily every day through small achievements, accomplishments and personal growth.

False Belief #3: Successful people are selfish and self-centered

Those who believe successful people are selfish or self-centered usually feel uncomfortable standing out in a crowd and may also fear self-promotion. A person who believes this often feels that putting themselves out there will cause others to judge them as rude, pushy or intrusive.

Here’s the reality: You won’t find truly successful people focusing internally. They know how to self-promote effectively in the service of others. The only way to truly be successful is to get comfortable standing out and promoting your value, services, and ideas.

False Belief #4: You need a formal education to succeed

Some people believe getting a college diploma or another degree will make you successful. Some actually work hard at becoming professional students, while piling up debt. Others use the excuse that it’s critically important to learn more before going out into the world and taking action. In the meantime, they’ll hold themselves back from going after success until they feel “ready.”

Here’s the reality: You don’t need a formal education to prepare you for success. That can sometimes be the slower route. The most expensive university will only give you the tools to help you learn and grow. It’s still up to you to come up with a plan and execute it. Education comes in many forms and can be gained in a variety of ways. The key is to absorb knowledge and gain life experiences that will teach you how to apply your wisdom.

False Belief #5: Negative thinking patterns cannot be changed

When you engage in habitual negative thinking, positive thoughts will not come naturally or easily until you choose to change your thoughts.

Here’s the reality: All thinking patterns can be changed, even negative ones. Once negative thinking turns to more positive thoughts, it creates a greater sense of success. The more someone trains their brain to think in positive ways, the more it’s expected, acted on and achieved.

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Growth Leadership Personal Development

How to Reverse the Cycle of Disengagement at Every Level

Ingaged leadership is a new way of leading, founded on the belief that when leaders create an organization where everyone works together in open partnership, that organization becomes vastly more successful. Instead of telling people what to do, Ingaged leaders unlock the full potential of people’s minds, creativity, and emotions.

Key skills of Ingaged leaders include:

  • Setting aside personal opinions about what will work and letting people try their most prized ideas.
  • Listening constantly and actively for nuggets of high value in what other people are saying and supporting the best of them.
  • Asking for help, because doing so is a sign of strength, not weakness.

How Can You Apply Ingaged Leadership throughout Your Organization?

Ingaging with Trustees

When boards convene, many organizational leaders give them a report of company finances, introduce a few new hires, talk about new products – and that’s about it. Those practices represent disengagement, not Ingagement. Remember that members of your board were appointed because of extensive leadership experience, so invite them to share in open-ended discussions about the long-term mission, marketplace trends, competitive issues, and more. One way to start that discussion is to talk openly about the long-term issues your company is facing.

Ingaging with Your Top Executive Team

To be honest, I have observed that top leadership teams in many companies are hindered by internal fissures and factions that are never discovered until someone quits or a major problem arises. These problems often happen because top executives have ambitions and plans that are being stifled by company leaders or because the rejection of their ideas has caused them to self-censor.

The solution is to build a top management team that is positively disruptive. That means resisting the temptation to surround yourself with “yes people,” “people who are just like me” and people who prefer “group think” to shaking things up. Also, have the courage to recruit people who are genuinely better than you at doing certain things, and let them. Their efforts will free you and results will soar.

Ingaging with Middle Managers

The leaders of many organizations overlook the fact that middle managers possess the kind of reality-based, realistic and valuable intelligence that cannot be found anywhere else in-house. Instead of hearing directly from middle managers, they hear about them from divisional heads or other upper-tier executives. That kind of filtering is a crippling mistake. In contrast, Ingaged leaders interact directly with members of middle management. Even in very large organizations like franchises, they create – and visit – advisory boards made up of mid-level managers, leadership councils and other forums where managers can speak and be heard.

Ingaging with Front-Line and Entry-Level Staff

Too many companies seem to apply classic “mushroom management” to employees at this level. (“Keep them in the dark and hope they grow.”) What a loss, since front-line employees have critical knowledge and ideas that should be captured and reinforced. In smaller organizations, instituting an open-door policy or visiting hours can help. In larger companies, virtual suggestion boxes on the company intranet have worked well. So have general meetings where employees brainstorm and suggest ideas that are captured, responded to, and utilized.

Remember too that your company’s training programs offer a setting to invite and acknowledge new ideas from front-line staff. If you encourage your trainers to explore bigger company issues and invite ideas, you can begin to build high levels of Ingagement, literally from the bottom up.

Ingaging with Your Sales Team

Your salespeople know more than anyone else does about customers’ concerns, motivations to buy, opinions of your products, and much more. Yet many companies focus only on sales quotas and incentives, never soliciting salespeople’s insights. To tap this critical intelligence, invite salespeople to attend your top management meetings, listen actively to what you hear, and then implement new ideas. Another solution is to conduct brainstorming sessions during larger sales meetings, invite people to offer their best ideas, and then let them try them in the real world.

Still More Opportunities to Benefit from Ingagement

Ingaged leadership can be used to build more beneficial relationships with job applicants, clients, vendors, top executives at other companies, and many more people. The more you Ingage at every level, the greater you can become.

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Best Practices Management Personal Development Sales

Your Value Focus Journey: Organizational Alignment

Part 2 of a 4 part series

In my last article, I declared that “customer focus” is too vague to measure and implement, but that “customer value focus” was the essence inside customer focus that you were unknowingly seeking. Then I introduced three domains in which any journey toward value focus should operate. In this article, I’ll talk about the first of those three domains, and what the journey looks like at three different levels.

Every customer value focus journey needs to include some organizational work: alignment between departments. This amounts to de-siloing your organization.  I’m all for developing robust expertise in many specialties, but the act of creating silos/departments also creates gaps for important stuff to fall through (it’s science. Anthropology, to be exact).

Working in this domain is coming up with answers to the question:

How well aligned is everyone in your organization to customer-perceived value.

Below, I describe some of the telltale indicators of whether you’ve moved beyond average to Good, Great, or Elite, describing characteristic behaviors at each level.

I’m also grafting in some of the research basis for these three performance levels, using a highly respected research house.  Of the 12 organizational behaviors of world-class sales organizations identified by CSO Insights in their 2019 Sales Best Practices Study, (SBPS) three of them belong in this domain.

I’ll plug them in below with the note “CSOi 2019 SBPS”, then their description of the behavior they surveyed for.

Good Organizational Alignment

Moving from average to good means that an organization started de-siloing. This tends to start as multiple two-department alignments. Think of water droplets on your car roof merging with each other, two at a time — on separate parts of the roof. The drops are getting bigger, but there is still no single organizing theme.

Here is a typical progression for one alignment “convergence”:

  • Sales and Marketing become aligned on leads, working toward a single definition of a lead rather than a large disconnect between MQLs and SQLs (marketing and sales qualified leads, respectively)
  • Sales and Marketing also begin aligning on content: advertising, sales support, customer education, sales training content and the lie – not necessarily all at once.  There is growing consensus between the two groups on definition, design, and utilization.
  • Customer service may be brought into the “team” as well, giving their input. (CSOi 2019 SBPS:  Sales, Marketing & Customer Service effectively aligned on customer needs/wants)

Another convergence often takes place between sales operations and sales management. This is common in good organizations but becomes more forward-looking and strategic at the good level. If a sales enablement organization exists in the organization, all 3 have begun to work to a unified set of strategic goals. (CSOi 2019 SBPS:  Sales Management, Sales Ops, Sales Enablement effectively aligned to drive results)

There will also be a customer experience (CX) initiative, which tries to capture every role who regularly touches the customer. This CX often starts as a level one CX initiative:  everyone working not to be the weak link in a customer’s total experience. Getting all parties aligned is significant progress, but the bar is set low, to “just don’t screw the relationship up”.

Great Organizational Alignment 

Where good companies have started interdepartmental alignment, great companies go even further.

Sales & marketing alignment gets deeper, and more focused:

  • Additional customer-facing organizations merge into the expanding island. At minimum, sales, marketing & customer service are engaged. (CSOi 2019 SBPS:  Sales, Marketing & Customer Service effectively aligned on customer needs/wants = known value gaps. )
  • Often, technical sales/sales engineering/application engineering, client success, and possibly technical support are included, at least occasionally.
  • Content strategies are now persona-based, and/or optimized for place in the customer journey. Real account-based marketing might come into use.
  • Lead scoring becomes even more sophisticated almost always well-linked to a collaboratively defined ideal customer profile. Lead scoring analytics capture telltale buyer behaviors, not just opens and clicks.
  • A voice of the customer function becomes more robust and influential, and begins informing content, and possibly lead definition

Customer experience management often progresses to level 2: emphasis shifts from “don’t screw anything up” to “figure out how to delight”. Customer-facing roles are almost always empowered to resolve customer issues within their own scope  — (CSOi 2019 SBPS:  Customers have consistently positive interactions in every channel they use to engage us).  In rare cases, if channels partners are used, CX initiatives try to pull them under the CX umbrella.

After some time operating at a “great alignment” level, the organization begins feeling like it values continuous growth culture, and develops a tolerance for continuous change.

Elite Organizational Value Alignment

Where great organizations bring more and more customer-facing roles into alignment with specific personas & are responsive to the customer journey, elite organizations turn several radical performance corners:

  • In one radical change, they all align to customer value, not just customer needs/wants.  The language of customer outcomes becomes the common denominator in alignment discussions and customer engagement strategies.
  • Everyone who touches the customer is proactively engaged…and enlisted in the process of value discovery. Everyone is a “value scout” who brings value gap discoveries back to the hive, for use by sales, marketing, products, production, implementation…every function of the company.
  • Lead scoring flows smoothly into opportunity scoring…up to and including the same scorecard through the entire customer journey.
  • With deeper insights into the customer world, focus on customer-described and customer-known needs/wants can graduate to predictably-recurring, but customer-unanticipated needs/wants, which often have higher value.  Because there are many customer-facing roles engaged in the process, outcomes associated with unanticipated value gaps are much easier to find, and their value easier to articulate.

In Elite organizations, value-based analytics go wider: from sales to every role.  Sales, marketing, product training, sales ops/enablement, leadership, and sales coaching are ALL focused in not just on customer features and benefits – but on value.

Customer experience goes to level 3: Beyond “delighting the customer” all customer-facing roles are actively engaged in uncovering…then delivering additional value

I Want More for You.  Radical, Elite Value Focus.

Cultural alignment is only one of three domains in your journey to elite value focus.  It goes hand-in-hand with the other two: Value-focused Sales Culture, and Value-focused Enablement…the topics of my next two articles.

Comment below, like, and/or share. As always, reach out if you have more in-depth questions, or read the next articles…then call me. We can talk about where you are in your journey and where you’d like to go next.

To your success!

 

 

 

 

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Investing Management Marketing Personal Development Sales

Your Value Focus Journey: Sell…and Price…At Elite Level

Part 3 of a 4 part series

The ability to sell the value of your offer–then price it–is what pays for all of the value your company works so hard to produce.

Customer value is the kernel within “customer focused” that moves customer decisions, and you need to focus sharply on value. In the first article in this series, I introduced three domains in which any journey toward value focus should operate. Last week, I discussed the first of those three domains, organizational alignment around customer value, and what different achievement levels look like.

Your customer value focus journey also needs to progress in a second domain: your organization’s selling capability. Working in the sales performance domain is coming up with answers to the question:

How well is everyone in your organization able to build, sell, and price customer value.

I use the term buyer enablement (walking the customer through their journey, a value-centric take on sales) domain.  As you progress from average to “elite value-based seller”, skills deepen, and the number of participating roles widens radically.  I use three key components of customer value engagement to describe this domain:

  • Build: Uncovering and discovering value gaps, expanding them, and causing the customer to envision outcomes of having those gaps resolved.
  • Sell: Aligning the seller’s solution with desired customer outcomes.
  • Price: Facilitating the customer process of monetarily measuring the desirability of outcomes, then conducting a win-win pricing dialogue.

The most elite performers, those who employ radical value focus, are able to execute more sales at more profitable value-based pricing.

In this article, I describe the telltale indicators of whether you’ve moved beyond average to Good, Great, or Elite, describing characteristic behaviors at each level.

I’m also grafting in some of the research basis for these three performance levels, using a highly respected research house.  Of the 12 organizational behaviors of world-class sales organizations identified by CSO Insights in their 2019 Sales Best Practices Study, (SBPS) three of them belong in this domain.

I’ll plug them in below with the note “CSOi 2019 SBPS”, then their description of the behavior they surveyed for.

Good Sales Culture

Good sales organizations know that the sales process delivers more reliable results than “hire, onboard and hope”.  Good sales organizations develop playbooks and selling processes to track selling stages.

In addition, they implement a selling methodology to keep selling processes aligned with customer buying processes.

Perhaps more importantly, good performers consistently and proactively use — and preview — call plans to prepare for great sales calls. Call plans are one key marker beacon that you have a good sales culture. (CSOi 2019 SBPS:  We effectively use call planning tools to prepare for customer interactions).

Forecasting at good companies is based upon a combination of qualification criteria, gut feel, and progress through the selling process (increasing probability as an opportunity progresses through the sales funnel).

Profitable sales are usually not a point of emphasis in good companies. Pricing and discounting is seldom rigorously controlled. There is probably a nominal process, but the triggers for approving discounts/price exceptions are easy for certain salespeople to game. Companies at this level seldom formally track who is discounting, how much, and to which customers. As a result, they can’t even analyze the severity and scope of their discounting behavior. Compensation plans may include a profit component, but there is no formal system in place for sellers to be capable of consistently selling value.

Great Sales Culture

Where good companies use persona-based methodology tools as team selling tools, great companies make sure that all conversations add value to the customer’s buying process. (CSOi 2019 SBPS: We Consistently conduct mutually-beneficial sales calls with customers and prospects).

Great companies also leverage everything learned about each persona into handoff tools between (for example) sales and implementation teams – and/or account management.

Sophisticated account management methodologies, and executive interaction tools are used by great sales cultures to broaden and deepen relationships. (CSOi 2019 SBPS:  Our Sellers Effectively Communicate Value Messages that are relevant to buyer’s needs).

Forecasting rigor improves at this level: from feel and selling process completion to opportunity fit (varying degrees of precision here) and some estimate of customer engagement in their own buying process (CSOi 2019 SBPS:  We have a rigorous forecasting process that drives forecast accuracy).

Pricing and discounting rigor may develop at this level. There is probably a formal process, but discounts/price exceptions are probably still concentrated suspiciously. Even great companies seldom formally track who is discounting, how much, and to which customers, and it may not even be a point of emphasis. Compensation plans may include a profit component, but there is no formal system in place for sellers to be capable of consistently selling — then capturing (via price) — value.

Elite Sales Culture

In elite sales cultures, proactive call planning matures.

  • Instead of good sales calls only by salespeople, everyone who touches the customer is able to have at least a simple value discovery interaction.  Most companies find the idea of engaging all customer-facing roles in value discovery radical. Elite value cultures take advantage of the trusting relationships built throughout the customer organization.
  • Conversations are designed to facilitate a customer process of monetarily measuring the desirability of outcomes, then conducting win-win pricing dialogue. Such conversations inform value-based pricing, negotiation, and discounting/price exception processes. I can’t understand why this is so radical for so many organizations, but…it is.

Pricing and discounting rigor flourish at this level. There is a formal process in which discounts/price exception decisions are informed by accurate assessments of customer value. There is an objective system, understood by everyone in the company, for pricing decisions. Elite companies formally pricing/discounting behavior, with analytics on how much, to whom (which customers, which salespeople, which territories/regions, etc.) and on which types of opportunities pricing exceptions occur.  Compensation plans almost always include a profit component, and salespeople know how to maximize both their incomes and corporate profitability.

Underneath it all lies enough customer-world business insight so that your customers know that everyone who touches them understands their business and is trying to help them grow it.

Where Are You in Your Journey?  And Where Would You Like to Go?

Sales capability is one of three domains in your journey to elite value focus.  It goes hand-in-hand with the other two: Company-wide alignment around value and Value-focused Enablement…the topics of my other two articles.

Comment below, like, and/or share. As always, reach out if you have more in-depth questions, or read the accompanying articles…then call me. We can talk about where you are in your journey and where you’d like to go next.

To your success!

The value you create for your customers means nothing if they don’t know it…or if you can’t sell it…or if you can’t capture a price premium for it. Do all three, and you have a rare capability.

 

 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/selland-priceat-elite-level-your-value-focus-journey-mark-boundy

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Marketing Personal Development Sales

Your Value Focus Journey: Enablement and Elite Customer Focus

The last of a 4 part series

If you aren’t enabling a culture of continuously improving value focus, you’re falling behind some competitors.

In part one of this series, I introduced the idea that customer-perceived value is the kernel within “customer focus” that actually moves customer decisions, and you need to focus sharply on value. I also identified three domains in which any journey toward value focus should operate. In the second article, I discussed one domain, organizational alignment around customer value, and described successive achievement levels. Part 3 dealt with the second domain: your organization’s selling capability.

This installment: The enablement domain, which is any activity meant to improve the performance of the sales function. Generally, it encompasses talent strategy, training, coaching, and content services.  Your customer value focus journey needs to enable continuous improvement whether you have a formal enablement function in your organization or not.

Enablement improves with a number of services incorporated, depth of each service, and breadth: who is included. More importantly, maturity increases with transitioning from event focus, to process-focused, to closed-loop process.

  1. An event focus might look like “train and coast”, or “coaching sprint” then coast.
  2. The process looks like ongoing training or developing a consistent coaching cadence.
  3. Loops close when coaching drives changed training when sales insights are captured for improved content and product innovation.  The more loops closed, the more elite.

One way the journey from average to good starts is when a company realizes that front line sales managers performing as “super salespeople” or “deal saviors” doesn’t scale — or build bench strength — nearly as well as coaching everyone to save their own deals. Another key indicator of maturity is the organization’s discounting process and behavior, from subjective/”squeaky wheel” management to objective, value-focused and tracked/analyzed

Like the other articles in this series, I describe telltale indicators of whether you’ve moved beyond average to Good, Great, or Elite, describing characteristic behaviors at each level.

I’m also grafting in some of the research basis for these three performance levels, using a highly respected research house.  Of the 12 organizational behaviors of world-class sales organizations identified by CSO Insights in their 2019 Sales Best Practices Study, (SBPS) five of them belong in this domain.

I’ll plug them in below with the note “CSOi 2019 SBPS”, then their description of the behavior they surveyed for.

Good Enablement Culture

Going from average enablement to good encompasses several capability upgrades.

First, and perhaps the most important aspect of up-leveling from average to good:  Spend time turning front line sales leaders into coaches, rather than just being super salesmen or deal saviors.  Deal savior-ism doesn’t scale, or build bench strength, and good companies know it. Coaching is the difference between “train and coast” and achieving behavior change. (CSOi 2019 SBPS:  Our sales managers effectively coach salespeople to higher levels of performance).

I’ve mentioned it elsewhere, but it bears repeating here.  In good companies, the enablement function becomes aligned with both sales and marketing, with a jointly-developed planning and execution cycle.

Additionally, to avoid the cost of bad hires, organizations focus on more effective hiring to get the right people in the right roles (CSOi 2019 SBPS:  Our talent strategy ensures we have the people capability to achieve our business goals).

As I described in part 3 on sales capability, at the good level, discounting is often still at an immature level.  Discounts are awarded based on subjective criteria such as salesperson nervousness.  Discounting is typically not even tracked, but there is a clear anecdotal pattern indicating that price exceptions are poorly controlled.  Enablement at the “good” level often considers discounting out-of scope.

Great Enablement Culture

Great enablement cultures understand the folly of “train and coast”. Learning starts to be viewed as an integral aspect of corporate life.

Coaching capability is put in place to ensure behavior change. Great companies realize that coaching isn’t a project, but an ongoing cadence…building into something that anchors a personal growth culture  (CSOi 2019 SBPS:  Our culture supports the continuous development of customer-facing professionals)

(CSOi 2019 SBPS:  We continually assess why top performers are successful)

I’ve mentioned it elsewhere, but it bears repeating here.  In good companies, the enablement function becomes aligned with both sales and marketing, ideally with a jointly-developed long-range plan for developing organizational capabilities. They share a vision for a continuous growth culture, emphasizing predictive selling behaviors.  After a while in this mode, the organization develops tolerance for, and may appreciate for continuous change.

Great companies manage and coach to predictive behaviors, not trailing results indicators, and develop analytics that track the big hitters. (CSOi 2019 SBPS:  We have a clear strategy for leveraging data (operational, customer) as an asset for sales

With adoption of sales methodology that aligns to personas & customer journey, forecasts can become more rigorous.  This happens when forecast probability is based on opportunity fit and customer engagement in the buying process, not just qualification and progress through a selling process (the norm at good companies).

Discounting/price exceptions mature a little at great companies.  There is an orderly process, often strictly followed, but there is often still no – or at least woefully inadequate tracking of “discount spend”. It’s typical that senior executives suspect, but can’t measure the problem because there are no metrics.

Elite Value Enablement Culture

Elite enablement cultures drive radical improvement in results by placing customer value at the hub of their strategies.

Elite enablement cultures close a bunch of loops.

  • They not only track sales performance analytics, but track coaching effectiveness.
  • Training and coaching everyone who touches the customer to uncover a wider set of value gaps, which feeds team selling, marketing efforts, and produces insightful product development ideas.
  • They track customer perceived value by outcome, to inform product training, content marketing, opportunity scoring.

Tracking customer value by opportunity informs a robust, objective discounting/price exception discipline – or value-based pricing for custom and semi-custom offers. Opportunity value also informs highly accurate forecasting, as the difference between value and price is a measure – in dollars –of customer preference.

Where Are You in Your Journey?  And How Far Would You Like to Go?

Enablement capability is one of three domains in your journey to an elite value focus.  It goes hand-in-hand with the other two: Company-wide alignment around value, and Value-focused sales capability…the topics of the prior two articles. I will go into much greater depth in my upcoming book, Radical Value, coming out in March (but I’m offering advance copies to reviewers).

Comment below, like, and/or share. As always, reach out if you have more in-depth questions, or read the accompanying articles…then call me. We can talk about where you are in your journey and where you’d like to go next.

To your success!

 

Categories
Leadership Marketing Personal Development Sales

Your Value Focused Journey: What is Your Sales Reputation?

 

Now that you’ve closed out another quarter — possibly another year – it’s a good time to reflect. Now is a good time to ponder some big themes that will affect your, and your business results in this new year. It might be a good time to do a little self-assessment on your sales reputation.  If you’re in sales, this might mean your personal reputation.  If you lead a sales team or a company, it’s a good time to think about how customers think of your team and your company

The turning of a new decade reminds us that the world is changing (I know, if you’re a purist, that happens in a year, but some things are too important to put off that long). Customers are changing; their business is changing around them, and the way they buy is changing.  Invest a little time right now considering those changes, and what demands that change puts on you.

This past year, I watched a few reputations change.  Some for the better, some not.  The thing is, the ones that improved did so because people understood the stakes, and what was required to make positive changes.

As you consider your sales reputation, here are a few questions as food for thought.

The Mediocrity Merry-go-round:  Are You Riding it…Or Creating Your Own Journey?

Research has uncovered a self-defeating feedback loop that I call the mediocrity merry-go-round. It’s summarized below. Sellers don’t differentiate themselves and are therefore excluded by prospects as information resources.  Customers, therefore, self-diagnose to a greater degree, and multiple salespeople from different competitors respond to customer-prepared requirements.  This results in “multiple vendor presentations of the same solution”…and voila:  customers are proven right that salespeople aren’t worth consulting for more than price and delivery.

If you have a sales reputation as one of those “meet, but don’t exceed expectations” sellers, you are stuck on the merry-go-round.  The longer you ride it (and/or the more of your salespeople are riding it), the harder it is to hop off.  Worse, you can’t differentiate.  The more stuck you are on the merry-go-round, the more likely it is that you or your sales team discounts their way out of trouble rather than using your company’s differentiation.

Are You Responding to Customer RFPs or Shaping Them?

This question relates to being on the mediocrity merry-go-round but is directed at a specific marker: RFPs. If you have RFPs as a regular part of your business, you should be tracking pre-RFP engagement.  Major categories might look like:

  • An RFP that we didn’t know about before receipt.
  • An RFP that we knew about, but didn’t know what it contained
  • An RFP where we knew the contents before issuance but weren’t able to shape.
  • An RFP where we had substantial input in shaping before release.

Obviously, there are many other dimensions to consider in how actively you pursue an RFP (how much discovery is allowed prior to response, for instance), but the dimension of how effectively your sales team was able to get in front of an RFP isn’t just a predictor of success, but it’s an indicator of your reputation: whether you are trusted enough to be a resource to the customer as they define their own requirements.

Those selling opportunities in which you’ve been trusted to help shape requirements are those where your reputation is what it should be.  What percentage of your funnel does that last category represent?

Do You Have “Great Relationships”, or Are You a Valued Consultant?

We often hear the importance of relationships, but too few understand that “strong relationship” can mean liking: personal affinity, or trusting: credibility.  One is far more important than the other; your sales reputation relies more on credibility.  A seller with a reputation for insightful diagnosis of a customer’s situation and who builds personalized recommendations is going to be more successful than a seller who remembers a customer’s birthday. Some customers respond more strongly to the latter than others, but all customers appreciate the former more highly.

The research behind The Challenger Sale is just one data point that highlights the difference between the “personal affinity” side of the customer relationship and the “credibility” side. That research found that relationship-reliant personality types are not necessarily high producers, and (in a finding that combined the Challenger personality type with a credibility-building step that wasn’t covered) that forcing perspective moves the sales needle.  In a real-world finding that the Challenger research missed, half of the “Challenger” personality types are low performers who challenge without having built credibility. Successfully implementing Challenger means making sure that challenger type and challenging behavior is bolstered by a credible reputation. Business acumen, customer orientation, and empathy need to accompany the challenger type, otherwise, challengers are annoying know-it-alls who harm your reputation.

Are You a Discount-happy Order-Taker or a Profitable Producer?

Believe it or not, there are actually sales organizations filled with sales professionals who take pride in the margins of their won contracts. Unfortunately, many companies build reputations for discounting their way out bad selling situations.  Literally.  I mean situations caused by bad selling, not bad situations that mysteriously pop up during a sale.

Worse, if your company has developed a reputation as discount-dependent, you’ll find yourself not on a merry-go-round, but on a downward spiral. Customers are easily trained to expect, then demand discounting.  It’s much more difficult to train them that you have regained pricing discipline.

Worse still, companies who discount communicate, in the most convincing way possible, that their offer isn’t worth full price.  Price declares value.  I’ve seen companies whose offer regularly has ROIs in the hundreds of percent discounting to “win deals”.  I’ve got news:  with ROIs like that, the problem isn’t the “I”: the price. It’s whether an individual customer believes they’ll achieve the promised return…and discounting only adds to the doubt.

Perhaps worst of all: What does discounting do to your internal reputation?  If sales is the only department in the whole company which doesn’t seem to care about profitability, why should a sales leader expect a seat at the executive table?

Reputation Management: Analog Edition

Internet “reputation management” is a thing, but your sales reputation isn’t something you can hire an SEO expert or a reviews manager to fix.  You build a sales reputation one sales interaction at a time. Purposely, proactively, and consistently.  You’re building a reputation during each customer touchpoint.  Is it the one you want?

What is your sales reputation?  Want to talk about it? Want to do something about it? Contact me.

To your success!

P.S. If you want to read the rest of the series check out:

Part 2 – Organizational Alignment

Part 3 – Sell…and Price…at Elite Level

Part 4 – Enablement and Elite Customer Focus

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