3 foundations for B2B revenue generation.

3 foundations for B2B revenue generation.

Creating a process that delivers consistent and profitable revenue involves a whole range of functional collaboration from the agreement of the strategic objectives to the relationship building that occurs after the early honeymoon of the first sales.

It takes time, effort and commitment from a lot of people, and importantly a process that is sustainable.

The usual metaphor of a ‘Sales Funnel’ is well understood, but flawed in many respects, principally because the behaviour of existing and potential customers is rarely as predictable and linear as a funnel assumes.

However, the sales process can be broken into a series of steps that reasonably represents the sort of activities required to assemble leads and develop them into long term customers.

Prospecting.

To my mind, prospecting has three elements.

  • Building a wider network of relationships within existing customers, focussed on the servicing of existing business, with the objective of increasing the share of wallet
  • Identifying and making contact with those to whom the value proposition has the potential to resonate in the existing market segments
  • Go exploring, seeing where the capabilities you have may be applicable in ways that are not as obvious. I find the 70/25/5 rule applies as much to sales prospecting as it does to the more complicated and holistic challenges of a business turnaround. 70% of a sales prospecting time should be spent finding ways to increase the share of wallet of existing customers, and perhaps chasing those generated who have lapsed, 25% devoted to identifying and engaging with new customers who fit the usual profile of a prospect, and 5% being ‘out there’ exploring.

All three elements recognise the role played by the tools of digital marketing. People are expensive, so it is managements  task to leverage the cost to the maximum extent. Much of the role of the traditional sales rep has been overtaken by digital tools, but it still takes a person to ‘close’ and build a relationship. Such people are not order takers, they are amongst the most important people in your business.

Metrics present challenges, the adage that what you measure gets done is largely true. Therefore prospecting needs to be tasked and measured in meaningful ways that direct the effort made in alignment with the strategy. There is a whole list of elements that are present in a prospecting toolkit, such as: time bound revenue objectives and qualified sales opportunities, conversion rates of leads generated, outbound calls and contacts, Identification and relationship building with new contacts in existing customers, same for prospective customers, understanding  and profiling of a prospects business,

 

Conversion.

Long term revenue generation  requires a mix of repeat business, new business from existing customers, and business from new customers. The mix will be different in each case, and some level of management of these needs to be reflected in the way the metrics are set up. For example, a start-up leveraging new technology will have targets very different from an existing business that operates in a mature industry. Nevertheless, the process of conversion needs to be managed so that there is a steady and predictable as far as possible flow of business. Predictability of  the business coming in is a key to managing a business with as little ‘internal friction’ as possible. When there is predictability, most of the revenue is generated in a semi-automatic way, but when there is little  predictability, everything is a crisis, and crises consume inordinate amounts of management time and attention, leaving the important but not urgent stuff undone.

The sorts off metrics used can be broken into a number of classes:

  • Revenue generated
  • Leads generated and conversion rates necessary to generate the revenue
  • Data base management. This applies to the data on the markets in which you operate, the number and type of prospects in a market, as well as the more common CRM type data that accumulates detail on calls, responses, status of enquiries and what next type information.
  • Quantification of the funnel, how many leads are just ideas, to the hot prospect stage. As noted earlier, customers rarely behave in a linear fashion, but the metaphor often helps to ensure that the right resources are allocated at the right times.

 

Relationship.

Measuring the state of a relationship is never easy, the measures are usually subjective, and only truly evident over time. Like good parenting, we all know it benefits the kids, but the outcomes are really only evident over time.

  • Share of wallet my  personal favorite B2B ,measure  the most useful and often overlooked measure of the effectiveness of a relationship and of the sales personnel involved. How much of the spending of a customer that you could supply, do you actually supply? How much of their available ‘wallet’ comes to you? You can delude yourself in the manner in which you define the wallet, but defining the wallet in accordance to the things you can reasonably supply Vs would  like to supply, is sensible, and leads to the building of capabilities that will get you into other areas of a customers wallet.

How they see you. Are you the supplier of a commodity product, one that relies on price to make the sale, or at the other end of the scale, are you a trusted partner who collaborates for mutual success, and the sales you make are simply an outcomes of receiving an order from a purchasing system. For 30 years, I have used a sliding scale between these two points to measure the state of relationships. You easily create such a scale for yourself, but it does require some objectivity, just asking your sales reps for their assessment on a once off basis usually delivers nonsense.

 

The value of an engaged employee.

The value of an engaged employee.

We all talk about the necessity of ‘engaging employees,’ but rarely truly achieve it, or see it in others. However, when  we do see it, we just know in our guts that we are looking at the way we would always like it to be.

Yesterday I spent 90 minutes in a suburban McDonalds store killing time between appointments, reading the daily rag, drinking an excruciating coffee, and fiddling with the language in a client report. All this time I watched a young bloke in the store make everyone he came into contact with feel special, even great.

He was just a casual employee, whose job it is to clean the tables and mop the floor. He did this, but he also did much, much, more. He opened the door as people were coming towards it, he high-fived the little kids, he helped a lady fold a stroller after extracting her baby, he joked and pranced, and he did all this with a huge smile on his face.

Every single person he interacted with smiled back, and had a word, he threw some light on everyone’s day.

As the store manager delivered a meal to the person at the table next door, I observed to him that this young bloke was worth much more than they were paying him, to which the manager responded, ‘We give him as many shifts as he wants, and we love having him here’

Despite the excruciating coffee, and other sometimes annoying human traits on display from time to time at Maccas, I know I will be back at this one, and hoping to see this young bloke loving his work, and making the day of others again.

 

 

 

How big is the Strategic deficit of Australian FMCG retailers?

How big is the Strategic deficit of Australian FMCG retailers?

Strategic deficit is the amount of time, capability, commitment, and energy necessary to bridge the gap from where you may be right now, compared to the most advanced of your current and potential competitors.

A few weeks ago, if asked the question of Australian retailers, particularly the FMCG retail gorillas,  Woolworths and Coles, I would have said several years and more resources than they seem to be prepared to allocate, but more importantly, there is a complete shift in mindset that is required.

Now, if asked the same question, with the news last week of the $US13.8 billion purchase of Whole foods by Amazon, I would suggest the strategic deficit has just doubled, perhaps tripled overnight. Not only has the deficit blown out, but  the rate at which it is accumulating is accelerating given the huge $16 billion investment Amazon made in ‘Technology and Content’ in 2016, the horse has not just bolted, it is over the hill. Not all of that $16 billion will be directly impacting their ability to deliver groceries, but a fair chunk of it will be applicable, and the rest will be learning in other areas that they will be able to leverage over time.

Back in August 2013 when Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million cash, many were asking “What does he know about the newspaper business’?

The Post had been one of the icons of journalistic excellence, one of the true ‘newspapers’, but had crashed into successive losses in the face of digital disruption.

Bezos bought the Post, not for Amazon, but from his own funds, it is a personal investment, and therefore perhaps better even that Amazon itself as a signpost of his commitment and what may come elsewhere.

In this National Public Radio report on progress at the Post, there are some useful signposts that may be applicable to Amazons recent purchase of Whole Foods. However, it can be summarised into a few words:

Technology that makes the customer the absolute focus of every single decision and action is the essential foundation for success.

Now, many of the same people are asking ‘What does Amazon know about the fresh produce retail business?  My response is ‘Wait for the implementation of  Amazons brand of technology directed at the produce consumer, and we will find out”.  I would be pretty sure that Amazon has a range of pretty good ideas to be tested at Whole Foods, that will see the hurdles of home delivery of fresh and frozen food overcome.

I am sure Coles and Woollies will be watching, but so was the newspaper business watching technology eat its lunch for a decade before they had any idea of how to address the challenge, and even now, seem incapable of doing anything about it.

 

5 habits of really successful B2B sales people.

5 habits of really successful B2B sales people.

Last week, I was unfortunately the target of an unwanted sales pitch from someone who would not take ‘Not today’ or ‘No thank you’ or  ‘I am not interested’ or ‘Piss off I am busy’  as an adequate response to his ministrations.

Clearly he had been to a sales training course that had at its core,  the ‘ignore any feedback you might get, plough on regardless using this template‘ school of selling. This morning I stumbled across this video on YouTube, that nailed exactly the situation, except I was not in an office.

Sales is the key function in any business, without sales, there is no business.  Why is it then that sales people are often towards the bottom of the organisational totem, why do we allow anyone but our most trusted, intelligent, persuasive, sales trained, and effective employees anywhere near our source of revenue… customers.

Really effective sales people, those who bring in business that sticks, should be well rewarded, after all, they can easily go to your competition.

What sets the great sales people apart? How can you pick them?

Seems to me there are several characteristics that make super salespeople, based on years of watching them.

They speak to you as they would to their best friend.  The bloke in the video above not only worked to a script which did not fit the situation, he was absolutely full of faux enthusiasm, a sure sign of snake oil to come. If you want to engage someone, it pays to be respectful,  to seek their permission to speak, and deliver a message, and do it with humility that implies that you are doing them a favour, as you would your best friend, just because you can.

They build trust. Trust is a vastly overused word in sales training, everyone advises to build it, then sets about destroying any possibility by being assertive and overpromising. Trust is built on performance, not promises, so demonstrate that you deliver. Humans build trust in others by actually seeing evidence that they do what they say they will do, or by having those we already trust assure us of their veracity. This is why testimonials work on websites but they must be videoed, the person specifically identified, and they must be similar to you to be trusted. You would not trust the sales manager of ABC used cars to tell you the truth about their exemplary customer service, but you might trust someone who looks and sounds like you saying that they had great service from ABC used cars.  Your prospects must feel like they are buying from you, not that you are selling to them. The hard sell is out, it can work in some transactional and low value situations, but almost always leaves a bad taste that removes the possibility of a repeat.

Only subtle Anchoring is used. Anchoring is perhaps the most used sales tactic there is, you see it every day, and it screams ‘ hard sell’. Again, it can and often does work, it generates immediacy and urgency, which is why we have legislation that invokes a ‘cooling off’ period in some circumstances. Anchoring is when you see something promoted with words similar to ‘Normally this will cost $300 but if you buy in the next 10 minutes, we will give you this once only offer of this magnificent thingo for only $39.95‘. It does sound like a bargain, only because of the contrast between the so called ‘normal’ price and the deal not because $39.95 is itself a great deal. Anchoring does not have to be about price, although it most often is. Anchoring is about contrast, good vs bad, them vs us, up Vs down, any contrast will do.

They give reasons. When you give a prospect a reason ‘why’ that is credible to them, they will feel somewhat compelled to agree with you. This is the discipline of communicating the benefits rather than the features, and the more personal the benefit the better. A reason delivered with the word ‘because’ is always more powerful. ‘I want you to have this gizmo because it will double your productivity‘ rather than ‘This gizmo will double your productivity’. People are not silly, they know you are selling something, but if they believe that the reason you are selling to them is that you are looking out for them, that it is for their benefit rather than yours that you are having this conversation, they will tend to trust you, just that little bit more. It also puts the onus of making the decision onto them, so they will have a far greater commitment to the decision, than if they feel you pushed them into it.

They sell to the heart, not the head. We all know this, but so often we sell to the head because it seems  easier, and certainly requires less work. It is clear that nobody buys an expensive sports car because it will cover the standing 1/4 in under 5 seconds, they buy it because it tells everyone else that they can. Understanding the emotional triggers that apply in any selling situation rather than relying on the rational ones, which are always more  obvious,  will make you far more effective.

Call me when I can help you be more effective.

Header image courtesy www.gapingvoid.com. I use Hugh McLeod’s insights quite a bit

9 steps to making cold calling work for you

9 steps to making cold calling work for you

I find cold calling really difficult, while recognising the potential effectiveness when the inertia is overcome.

For me,  it takes time and emotional energy far greater than the return I have ever got from cold calling, except when I have run  out of options, then it seems to work. When the instinctive fear of failure is overcome by the necessity to take a step, when the fear of failure, or rejection is beaten by the fear of not being able to feed the kids or pay the bill on the fridge, the fear of rejection by a stranger seems trivial.

What does it really matter if you are rejected by a complete stranger anyway?

A friend of mine treats cold calling as a game, she does it for a living, and is very good at it.

Recently I sat down with her to try and extract from her routine a scalable cold calling template, and realised two things:

  1. The fear of failure was crippling
  2. Cold calling is pretty much the same as sending a cold email , which I am OK at.

Her advice was to get over the fear, and she referred me to this terrific TED talk, and to treat cold calling with just the same set of disciplines I used for cold emailing.

I have a process for developing email success that I use as a coaching outline for those I work with, and it almost always gets great results when applied sensibly. However, adding Jia jiang’s Ted talk will add greatly to the effectiveness of the following pretty standard management process to increase your effectiveness.

Segment your list.  The better you know the prospect who answers the phone, the more likely you will have a successful call. The more defined your call list, with unique messaging and value propositions developed for each segment, the better. This is as different from the completely random call you get as you are sitting down to dinner in the evening, from someone in a call centre flogging home insulation, insurance or a holiday, as it can be.

Headline. The first sentence in a phone call, or headline in an email carry the same responsibility: to pique the interest of the receiver. Fail in the first glance of a headline, or 5 seconds of a call, and it is a long hard road back. There are plenty of headline generating tools around, but the best lesson in my experience is to go to the local newsagent, and just think about the headlines on the cover of the magazines you see. They are aimed to grab attention, and direct the reader to the following sub  head, which leads into the magazine article.

Them not you. Make the message about them, and the things that interest them, not about you, as generally they will not be interested, and you will have lost them. You need to  be able to spell out exactly how you can help them.

Be a peer. Speak and write like a peer, not a supplicant sales person. There are few worse sales turn-offs than a “needy” caller. Much better to be a busy peer, making a little time in a crazy schedule because you have discovered something that you think will be of value to them.

Credibility. Be credible by providing social proof, or better yet, a referral from someone the receiver knows and respects.

Personalise. Ensure everything is personalised, anything less than a highly personalised call will almost always fail. It is necessary for you to have done the research, to know a fair bit about the receiver, the problems they face in their role, and the value of a solution you may be able to provide. Making a call to the switch of a target company and asking to be transferred to the “person responsible for XXX” is a waste of everybody’s time.

Respect. Time is our most valuable resource, so respect the receivers time by keeping it short, but to the point, ending with some sort of call to action by you or them. However, the CTA needs to be consistent with the context of the conversation. Early stages may lead to a further conversation, or the inclusion of someone else, but rarely to a sale on first contact. Generally the objective is to get some sort of positive response, a step towards a sale, but not a sale, yet.

Differentiate yourself. If you are just the same as everybody else, why should the person you are trying to engage bother with you? While the call has to be about them, and not you, it is also about articulating the way that you can help  them in ways others cannot. The necessity here is that you have done some homework, at least enough to have a shot at articulating the solution you may have to a problem they face, or opportunity they may be unaware of. Differentiation early in the conversation offers a reason why they should continue to give you their time, and builds the status you have in the conversation, you are not just another cold caller.

Follow up. And follow up again, and again, politely and with respect. Generally sales people give up at about 3, whereas all the research indicates that 5-7 follow  ups are the point at which the ability to convert increases significantly. It reflects the old advice about advertising frequency, at about the time you are getting sick of the ad, if it is worth anything, the target audience is just building awareness of your proposition.

 

So, what is stopping you, pick up the bloody phone!

 

Photo courtesy Nancy Rose via Flikr.

 

Can you shrink your way to prosperity?

Can you shrink your way to prosperity?

There is the old story of the successful large business becoming an unsuccessful smaller one. Usually it is accompanied by stories of missed opportunities, poor strategies and a focus on cost cutting.

The poster boy for this transformation in my personal experience is Goodman Fielder, for whom I have worked on two occasions. First as a youthful marketing person in the glory days, when Meadow Lea was changing the spreads market by congratulating its consumers for their choice of margarine, and later as a General Management contractor tarting up one of their smaller business units for sale, as it shrunk its way to near oblivion.

To be successful in any commercial arena means that you have created value for someone else. It is a simple truism of business that only be creating value do you attract customers, the support of your value chains, and as a result, revenue.

Businesses do have the tendency to attract overheads, the way a boat attracts barnacles. They attach themselves to the structures and they slow you down, reduce manoeuvrability, and can eventually sink you. You cannot be prosperous while carting around the commercial equivalent of a barnacle covered hull. Cleaning off the commercial barnacles may result in some size reduction initially, but it also increases the potential to add value, agility, and sensitivity to the needs of your markets, so growth is the outcome when the cleaning is done well.

Growth is part of our DNA, it is a mind-set necessary for success.

Who would want to work for, or deal with a company that was overtly focused on squeezing out the maximum dollars from a transaction and relationship? You know the motivation is about their interests, so It would be easy to believe the service, quality, and longevity would be compromised by such a focus.

By contrast, who would not want to engage with a company growing quickly, innovating, and delivering value to customers, and offering opportunity to its employees.

Cost cutting is one thing, using your resources wisely to create value is another, and they are profoundly different.

Photo credit Wes Iverson https://www.flickr.com/photos/62425933@N04/7398646344/