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Are Your Salespeople the Issue or is it Something Else?

By Patrick McClure – Excerpt from the book, Cracking the Business Code

[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]I[/dropcaps] once knew of a company that seemed obsessed with coming up with “Next Year’s Plan.” Every year, the key sales and marketing managers were called in and told that they had to put together “The Plan” for next year, and that it was critical this be completely done and ready to announce to the troops Bizpeople with large paper rollby the end of December. The revenue targets needed to be in place, the organization should be finalized, accounts and territories completed, the bonus plan approved, and everything must be ready to “rock n’ roll” so they could get off to a fast start in the coming year.

Something was missing, I thought. What about the year we’re just completing? Shouldn’t we take a long hard look at what we got right, and where we fell short? Shouldn’t we take a pause, look deeply into our performance, and critically evaluate our performance before we dash willy-nilly into planning for the future?

Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed and this company, a leading technology firm, decided to perform a thorough analysis and because of what they learned, were able to chart a much more accurate path into next year’s sales success. What about your company?

The Seven Step Sales Diagnosis Plan & Sales Performance Assessment

Here’s an easy-to-use template to follow in conducting an analysis of how you performed last year. You can focus this analysis on sales and/or marketing, or you can use it to analyze other departments or the entire company. If completed thoroughly, it will provide valuable insights, which can be used when building your next year’s sales plan or adapting your current one.  Later in this article, you will be able to take a sales performance assessment.

1. Sales Objectives for Year ______ and How Many Were Achieved

These are the “big picture” goals and objectives that you established at the beginning of the year, and they were targeted to be accomplished during this year. Some examples might be:

•  “To Grow Revenue in the Southwest Region by 25%”
•  “To expand our sales team by adding two new Sales Executives”
•  “To open a new office in New York”
•  Go through the list and check off which were achieved and you’re done!

2. Sales Quota/Targets for Year ______ vs. Actual Performancebizman shoot arrow at targets

This is where you examine your actual sales numbers and compare them to your targets. There are dozens of programs to conduct sales analysis, and you should have ready access to these figures. At a minimum, you should evaluate the following:

•  Total Sales Revenue Achieved as a % of what was assigned
•  Total sales by rep/region versus what was assigned
•  Comparison of these sales results to the past five years’ results
•  Amount of Revenue from new accounts versus total revenue (Growth)
•  Key Sales Ratios:

    1. # of inquiries that convert to qualified opportunities (% qualified)
    2. # of qualified opportunities that closed (the closing ratio as a %)
    3. Average order amount
    4. Average time to close an order
    5. How many opportunities are in the pipeline?

Of course, you can spend a lot of additional time digging deeper into these numbers, but the above will give the management team a good snapshot of sales performance and results.

3. Highlights for the Year

This is a review of the highlights of the previous year or planning period with particular attention paid to any strategic achievements. Included here would be key achievements and a brief explanation of why they occurred, i.e., number of new accounts, new business vs. sales to existing customers, improvements in recurring revenue, changes in client size, wins vs. competition, market share, etc.

4. Lowlights for the Year

The next part reviews the lowlights of the previous year. Included here are the key shortcomings and a brief explanation of why they occurred. While this section can be “painful” to review, it has the benefit of helping focus on areas offering potential for improvement and frequently points to areas that, once improved, offer significant payback.

5. SWOT Analysis

The next section is a SWOT Analysis. It details strengths, weaknesses, risk assessment (threats), and opportunities for the coming year. Given the highlights, lowlights, and challenges you are facing, where are the best opportunities for you to focus on in the coming year.

An example of a SWOT analysis for a small manufacturing company:

Strengths

Weaknesses

• Custom manufacturing excellence • Lack of marketing & advertising
• Management team experience • No sales management
• Experts in industry • Management conflicts and churn (lack of stability)
• Products built to last forever • Weak sales volume
• Engineering excellence • Minimal lead generation
• Loyal staff • Lack of CRM, accountability
• Strong customer base • Weak manufacturing economy

Opportunities

Threats

• Rebranding • Lack of funds to travel
• Capturing new markets • Brand not visible in marketplace
• Increased marketing and social networking to     drive leads • Competition
• Develop outsourced services • Morale problems due to low production and revenue
• Increase service revenues, support contracts, upgrades, spares • Uncertain economic conditions
• Excess capacity to utilize • Not a full service solution set
• Not keeping pace with technology

6. Top 3 Problem Areas to Fix

Given the above analyses, it should become evident where the problem areas might be. In the sales arena, you would look for where the biggest LOSS of customers/prospects occur, or where the sales team is most challenged. For example, you might find that your salespeople are excellent at presenting their product/services, but they may be weak at finding and developing new business. Or, the challenge for your team is weakness in handling common objections, resulting in failure to close sales. There are a myriad of potential problems; you are looking for the “top 3” that, if fixed, will result in huge improvements in performance.

7. Top Three Opportunities for Growth

On the plus side, you should also uncover some “silver bullets” that will allow you to rapidly grow your business and capture market share. One of my clients learned that they were not bizwoman watering bldgssending copies of invoices from inside sales to their outside sales reps, thus creating confusion among their customers and losing potential upside business. They were sitting on $2 million in potential business locked away in file cabinets at headquarters, and they didn’t even know it!

Take advantage of this time, right now, to highlight your top three biggest growth opportunities.  Later on, you’ll develop sales strategies and campaigns to take advantage of these high-potential areas.

Sales Performance Assessment

Over the past 25 years, I’ve compiled an extensive list of sales “Best Practices” which are implemented by the highest-performing sales organizations in the country. From this list, I’ve developed a sales performance assessment, which will help you determine how your company compares with the best of the best.

To take the sales performance assessment, please click below:

Start button  

Upon completion, we will send your score and a brief interpretation. If you would like to discuss the results further, please let us know and we will set up some debrief time.

 

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014

Patrick McClure, Sr. Sales & Customer Service Training Consultant of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and author who enjoys working with individuals and corporations to help them achieve maximum performance. He has dedicated his practice to helping others become more successful. To learn more, email patrick@lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

The Value of Customer Service: It Can Make You or Break You

By Patrick McClure

Thank Your Customers

What impact can one person have on the revenue performance of a large supermarket? Is it possible that one person can create a company-wide impact, sending shock waves of good cheer and driving ever-increasing repeat business? How can one person make such a difference?man holding rainbow

In one Midwestern supermarket chain, this is exactly what happened.

The following story was relayed to me by Barbara Glanz, a world-renowned professional speaker who delivers programs about how to create Legendary Customer service.

It was two days after she delivered one of her programs to a large supermarket chain when she received a telephone call from a 19-year old youngster – Johnny – who had Down syndrome. He bagged groceries at the supermarket. He told Barbara that he really enjoyed her program and had some ideas to make a difference in his company and wanted to know if she would approve. He wanted to create personal messages, handwritten, with inspirational ideas and thoughts and then wanted to drop these ideas into the grocery bags of his customers. Each of his customers would receive a message from Johnny. Barbara told him she thought this was a great idea, and with his manager’s approval that is what he did.

Two weeks later, Barbara received a call from the store manager. He reported that he now had a problem….there were long lines of people waiting at the cash register that Johnny was working. When he tried to move the customers into another less crowded line, they insisted on staying where they were. They wanted Johnny to bag their groceries, and to get his message.

Johnny’s actions inspired others in the store. The flower merchant began handing out spare flowers to young children and older ladies. The butcher wrapped his meat in special packages; the produce manager went out of his way to treat customers with special care. The entire store caught fire with a storm of amazing care and attention to their customers. Bottom line, the store traffic and revenues saw a huge boost, going on to become the most profitable store in the entire chain.

Delivering excellent customer service is not only personally gratifying, but it is immensely profitable. Thanking your customers, showing your appreciation in many small ways, is just good business. How many of you are working in firms, or for your own company, that need to adopt a similar strategy? How many Johnnys work at YOUR firm?

Statistics Show

Statistics show that it is far more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing customer. One of my clients, a medical device company, has estimated that their fully burdened cost of acquiring a qualified LEAD for their product is over $1000. When you add to this the sales and market costs as well as all other expenses involved, the total hands over earthcosts can be quite large. It’s time consuming, expensive, and very costly to acquire new customers. Once they have become customers, your company should be doing everything possible to retain them, by delivering excellent customer service.

Conversely, an upset customer is 5-10 times more likely to broadcast their dissatisfaction to the world. All of the good work you do can be negated by one thoughtless comment, one angry word, and one negative comment. In today’s social media world – everything connected to the internet – a negative customer service experience is easily shared with thousands of people and can actually go “viral” when it is broadcast to thousands.

The most successful companies have developed programs to deliver excellent customer service, and are doing everything possible to protect their market share. After all, there are dozens of competitors that would love to take your customers away, and all they need is the opportunity. Don’t give them the chance! Keep your customers happy!

In Focused or Customer Focused

Another key to successful customer relations is infusing your company to the core with the principals of quality customer service. Every member of your team—executive, manager, employee – has the responsibility to deliver first-rate service to your customers. 

There is a huge difference between a company that is inwardly-focused and a company that is customer focused. Here are some distinctions:

[ws_table id=”10″]

See if you can spot where YOUR company fits. If you’re spending all your time thinking about internal issues, you’re headed for disaster. Remember, your customers are paying your salary and if you’re not working sincerely to earn their trust and support, they can always take their business elsewhere.men putting road together

One more point: when we use the word “customer” we are talking about your outside customers as well as your inside customers. If you are a manager, you are working daily with employees and all of the customer service skills you have developed apply equally to your employees. In many ways, if you are a manager your most important “customer” is a direct report.

Active Listening

We’ve all heard one of the core maxims in providing excellent customer service: “The customer is always right. “ This is used during training and by management to convey the important concept that when a customer is upset or concerned, it never works to argue with them or discount what they are saying. What it REALLY means is that the customer’s perception of what occurred is correct for them, regardless of what you think. Their experience, and how they feel about it, is the most important factor to be dealt with, and it must be listened to and understood.

If the customer is angry, their impression of what just occurred has lead them to respond with anger, regardless of your impression. This is not the time to react, but it is a time to put yourself into their place and actively listen to what their viewpoint is. You will never be able to deliver excellent service if you REACT to the customer or immediately conclude they are stupid, ignorant or unrealistic.

Whenever you react and make a snap decision about someone else, this decision will color how you view that person. It’s like your mind is a huge magnifying glass and it will automatically seek out the character traits that you’ve decided must be there! If you perceive that the customer in front of you is messy and disorganized, then you will automatically assume their entire life must be the same way. If you feel insulted by what the other person has said, then you will project this feeling on them and the situation will worsen.

The alternative is Active Listening, a much needed skill in the business world. This requires the following steps:

  1. Shut up, stop talking.
  2. Focus your attention on the other person, calmly and professionally.
  3. Listen to their verbal communication, as well as their emotions and attitudes. Train yourself to become very perceptive with the non-verbal messages that we all project.
  4. Ask questions to clarify as needed. Listen to their answers.
  5. Paraphrase, clarify or summarize what they said to make absolutely certain you received what they said and what they meant. You will be amazed at discovering how often you didn’t fully grasp what was said.

Remember, active listening is not about you. It’s all about the other person, so get out of yourself and put your focus and attention on them. Good communication and active listening man listening to groundskills are the core component of delivering excellent customer service.

The founder of one of the most successful (and largest) companies in the world had this to say:
“Our Goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.” – Sam Walton, Wal-Mart

Final Thoughts

According to Dana Borowka, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC (www.lighthouseconsulting.com) and author of Cracking the Personality Code hiring the right people is key to future growth. If you would like additional information on raising the hiring bar, please click here to see an article on this subject.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2017

Patrick McClure, Sr. Sales & Customer Service Training Consultant of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and author who enjoys working with individuals and corporations to help them achieve maximum performance. He has dedicated his practice to helping others become more successful. To learn more, email patrick@lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Do you have a Sales Plan?

By Patrick McClure

[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]I[/dropcaps]t’s common in the winter time to hear company executives complain about the holiday season. I can just hear them now:

“OMG, we only have two weeks in December, and the rest of the month is a waste of time. No one will be at their desks, and we won’t be able to sell anything!”

“Everyone has visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads, and all they’re thinking about is what presents to buy for their loved ones. How in the world can we get them to focus on MC900439256[1]business?”

“I wish Thanksgiving and Christmas never existed! Arggghhhhh!”

Granted, for most companies December is a short month. Except for retailers, December is severely impacted by the holiday season and by vacations. However, December is an ideal time to put the finishing touches on your sales plan for the new year, so take advantage of this month to create a stellar plan for success in the new year.

Creating Your Sales Plan

The first step in creating your sales plan for the new year is to review your performance in the past year. For some tips on how to do this, you can read the 7 Step Sales Diagnosis Plan from our blog. If you’ve completed that review, you’ll have a solid grasp of the following essential elements:

  1. Sales Objectives and your performance results for the last year
  2. Highlights & Lowlights for the year
  3. SWOT Analysis updated
  4. Top 3 Problem areas to Fix
  5. Top 3 Opportunities for Growth

If your review of the last year is complete, you’re already ahead of the game. Now your attention can shift to goals and objectives for the new year, and how to make them a reality. Here’s a recommended process to get this done:

1. Write down your Objectives for the new year.

Casey Stengel said it best when he told his teams:

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

bizpeople flyingWithout a defined specific and written objective, you are flying blind. You can’t hit a target if it is not defined, so get your targets written down.

Your key sales objectives will support the overall business plan for the new year, and will define the “big picture” objectives for your team. Some examples might be:

“To grow our market share from 10% to 20%”
“To increase total revenue by 30% by the end of the new year.”
“To launch our new system into the marketplace and to generate $1 MM in revenue”
“To reduce selling expenses by ________________”

2. Strategic Positioning

Given the defined sales objectives for the next year, you will now consider the best positioning your company needs to give yourself the best possibility of success. Think about questions like these:

♦  Identifying where the best market opportunity resides (which of the market segments offer the most potential given your differentiators).
♦  Which sales method to use?
♦  How should your sales organization be structured for maximum effectiveness?
♦  Who are your top competitors and how can they be eclipsed, neutralized or controlled?
♦  Who are the key partners and alliances?

3. Territory/Market Analysis

Given your objectives and your strategic positioning, deepen the analysis to define or refine your intended selling geographies or industries. This analysis would reveal:bizpeople on chessbd

♦  Size of territory, Industry specialization, key locations
♦  Installed Base Customers & Location
♦  # of Prospects, their industry, and their location

4. Unique Value Proposition

This will be a quick review for most companies because it will simply validate the selling propositions that have been effectively used in the past year. However, if results from the last year were dismal, now is the time to really re-examine your unique selling propositions. You need to absolutely define with clarity and precision the following:

♦  Features, Benefits, and Value of your products/services.
♦  What exactly is unique about your company and what you deliver to the marketplace?
♦  Why should people do business with you, versus everyone else?
♦  What’s so special about our company?

5. Sales Forecast

This will be a detailed analysis, generally broken into quarters or monthly, of the following:

♦  Total Sales Revenue
♦  Total # of New Accounts
♦  Total Revenue for New Accounts
♦  Revenue for existing accounts
♦  Profitability
♦  Any other targets?

bizpeople in huddleYour CRM system or Sales Forecast system will be loaded on a month-to-month basis with these factors. Depending on your industry, and any seasonality, you can simply target equally month-to-month or vary the targets based upon time of year.

It’s always a good idea to get the salespeople to actively contribute to this forecast, and to make sure they are absolutely in agreement with the targets. They must be committed to achieving these targets and there must be a realistic expectation that the targets can be achieved and exceeded.

6. Detailed Sales Pipeline Analysis

This is the most important element of your Sales Plan for the new year. This is the detail on exactly how you intend to achieve your goals. Take the sales objectives, analyze your pipeline and ratios, and come up with specific sales activities that are needed to accomplish your annual selling goals. These may include (but are not limited to) the following:

♦  What is your Lead Tracking System (Excel, Paper-based, automated SFA?)
♦  Total Named Prospects to Develop
♦  Total # of Opportunities in your Territory
♦  Total # of Qualified Opportunities in your assigned Industry
♦  # of Referrals from Installed Base Customers
♦  # or Leads required to feed the Sales Pipeline
♦  Where are the leads coming from? (Lead Sources report)
♦  Estimated # of Prospecting Phone Calls by rep by month
♦  Estimated # of F2F Calls needed by rep by month
♦  # of Sales Presentations needed by rep and by month

Your pipeline analysis should include Lead Sources. You should know precisely the origination point for every sale you’ve made in the past year. This will be critical information in planning where you would most productively spend your time in the remainder of the year.

When this analysis is complete, you will now know exactly the selling activities that are needed in order to achieve your targets. For instance, if your sales reps typically enjoy a 20 % close ratio for every sales presentation delivered, they will need to deliver 5 presentations to achieve one sale. All the standard selling ratios should be captured in an Excel spreadsheet and handed out to the reps. You will almost always discover that the sales team is NOT doing enough prospecting for new business!

7. Sales Process

This is a fast review of your normal sales process, fine tuning for the coming year. If it was successful in the previous year, don’t change much! If it was NOT successful, you will need man looking at mapsto change it! Along the way, you need to identify “Best Practice” sales methodologies and identify weaknesses in the process (where are sales lost?)

In addition, you might want to review your initial business development process, particularly how opportunities are qualified to begin with.

♦  Where are sales being lost? At what point in your sales process do you fail?
♦  What’s the plan to eliminate the losses?
♦  How can the process be made more efficient and effective?

8. Key Success Factors (KSFs)

This is the most important sections of the sales plan for the manager and executive because it lists the top three KSFs that, if achieved, will guarantee achievement of the plan. One of my managers used to refer to these as the “critical few” which makes allowance for the absolute importance of them.

The KSFs are developed after considering all the foregoing sections for the sales plan. Based on an analysis of the preceding sections, ask the following:

♦  What must we do to ensure success?
♦  What does top management need to do to support us?
♦  What does our company need to help us with?

9. Resource Needs

Now that your plan is complete, it’s time to spell out the resources you need to achieve success. This may include people, support, materials, logistics, management, coaching, training and so on. If you are missing a key skill or resource, this is where you would list it.

Since you’ve developed a careful and concise analysis, you will be prepared to review with management and to request critical resources and support from other departments, such as Marketing, Human Resources, IT and Customer Support. Everyone in the company should be “in the loop” with your sales plan and they should fully support it. After all, everyone sells!

10. Sales Performance Assessment

Over the past 25 years, I’ve compiled an extensive list of sales “Best Practices” which are implemented by the highest-performing sales organizations in the country. From this list, I’ve developed a sales performance assessment, which will help you determine how your company compares with the best of the best.

To take the sales performance assessment, please click below:

Start button

Upon completion, we will send your score and a brief interpretation. If you would like to discuss the results further, please let us know and we will set up some debrief time.

 

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014

Patrick McClure, Sr. Sales & Customer Service Training Consultant of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and author who enjoys working with individuals and corporations to help them achieve maximum performance. He has dedicated his practice to helping others become more successful. To learn more, email patrick@lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Are You Being Commoditized?

By Patrick McClure

[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]T[/dropcaps]he number one issue I hear about from associates, clients, and partners is a very real and growing fear of becoming commoditized.

Here is an all-too-familiar scenario:

After numerous meetings with your client, detailed fact finding, many internal team planning sessions, and a heck of a lot of hard work writing and submitting your proposal, you have been given the distressing news that the business was awarded to another vendor. You thought you had the best solution and a good price, excellent relationships and a good team in place. So why did you lose?

pull ropeDuring your follow up investigation, you find out your prospect went out on the internet, researched all your competitors and “shopped” your proposal seeking a lower price. At the last minute, another company who knew nothing about your customer and their business needs submitted a lowball bid and snatched the deal away. In short, you were lumped into the mix and got commoditized.

Is there anything you could have done to change the outcome? What steps could you take to avoid being treated as “just another vendor”? Is there any way to separate your company from the pack? Read on…

The Commoditization Conundrum

In his recently published book “Entering the Shift Age”, futurist David Houle writes about the epic transformations that are changing our lives as we proceed into the 21st century, shifting from the Information Age into the “Shift Age.” In this age (circa 2010-2050), change is the norm, the individual has the power, and traditional methods of decision making and authority are disappearing just like dinosaurs.

digital worldOne of the biggest changes (no surprise here!!) is universal access to massive amounts of information instantly available on any device, located anywhere and at any time globally. Even ancient “Baby Boomers” such as myself have learned how to quickly navigate the internet to find information about practically anything. Quick access to business data via Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and hundreds of other information portals guarantee that we never go into a business meeting unprepared. It is staggering how much information exists and is being created in this “Big Data” environment. And the future generations – the Millennials and the Digital Natives – demonstrate amazing familiarity and expertise as they effortlessly cruise through Cyberspace.

Since anyone can access this vast amount of free data, it’s a snap to check out competitors and shop for information and bids online. There are dozens of apps available to help with reverse auctions, finding discounts or deals, and evaluating the best bargains. In short, the Internet has trained all of us to shop online and to research online to find the best deals. Why would we expect our prospects to be any different?

The problem, it seems, is how to differentiate yourself and your company from “everyone else.” Since everyone is online, and everyone is offering very similar products/services at basically the same price (or cheaper), what can we do to stand out? How can we avoid being made a commodity? Furthermore, if your entire sales effort can be negated with someone else’s cheaper price, why bother to hire and train a sales team? Why not just sell everything as cheaply as possible on the internet? Why not eliminate sales entirely and do everything over the web?

The Difference is You

Despite all of the self-serving attempts being made to commoditize everything, I maintain that business is personal. People still buy from people they trust and respect, and I hope and pray that will never change. There are millions of real estate agents, bankers, insurance agents, financial planners, dentists and doctors. So why do we stay with the same company year after year? It’s because someone inside that company at some point made a personal impact on our lives, and we made an emotional decision that we could trust that person, and therefore we could trust that company.

workers-cityIn the B2B world, most businesses pretend to make acquisitions based just on the facts. They put together complicated RFP’s, assemble selection teams to evaluate and score each and every buying criteria, and they pride themselves on making decisions completely devoid of “personalities.” Yet in almost every major decision, we find that it comes down to one person (CEO, President, key board member) deciding that they like and can trust another person. At the end of the day, we need to trust that that company will honor their commitment and will deliver what they promised.

One of my former clients was an international oil company. On the day before Christmas, there was a significant incident at one of their refineries, and my company received the emergency call. Our service department (personally assigned, on a first name basis, on-call 24×7) responded immediately, called in top level software engineers over the holiday, and fixed the problem within a few short hours. That prompt action saved our client almost $1 MM in what would have been lost revenue. What do you think happened when that service contract came up for renewal? Do you think our client would seriously entertain a lower cost bid?

The major difference between your company and the competition is YOU! Part of the unique value proposition (UVP) that you bring to the market is yourself. The biggest challenge we all face as sales professionals is how to differentiate ourselves and show our unique value. If we understand that we are a key part of the business solution, then we need to figure out how to tell our story better. If business is personal, what are we doing to make it MORE personal? How are we improving our relationships with our existing and future clients? What steps are we taking to connect with our clients in a meaningful way? How are we adding value to the relationship?

Your major defense against losing business, and your chief weapon at winning new clients, is your ability to establish trust and rapport. As we enter the Shift Age, and more and more prospects are learning about you online, it’s important to use online tools to help create this positive image and visibility. If you’re getting introduced “online”, then make the effort to present a professional image which builds trust and rapport. This will lay the proper groundwork for future personal interactions.

Remember, the initial impressions your prospect receives are critical, so make sure that your online impression is positive.

There are dozens of ways to improve how you connect with your prospects and customers, limited only to your imagination. Business people make decisions emotionally, and then justify them with the facts. Make sure you’re establishing trust and rapport — online and personally – and you’ll win a greater share of those deals!

Final Thoughts

According to Dana Borowka, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC (www.lighthouseconsulting.com) and author of Cracking the Personality Code, hiring the right people is keystariway to clouds to future growth. If you would like additional information on raising the hiring bar, please click here to see an article on this subject.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014

Patrick McClure is a Senior Sales & Customer Service Training Consultant of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, and is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and author who enjoys working with individuals and corporations to help them achieve maximum performance. He has dedicated his practice to helping others become more successful. To learn more, email patrick@lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA  90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, workshops, and executive & employee coaching.  To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.