3 Big Learnings from the Digital Growth Conference 2016

DigitalGrowthConference

This week I attended the Digital Growth Conference in San Francisco put on by SalesforLife.  It was a remarkable event packed with great content, inspiring and thought provoking speakers and some of the industries most respected thought leaders in the digital and social selling world. The attendees listened, asked questions, pondered, and talked with one another about how to effectively interact with today’s digital buyers, all while grappling with the ever-present challenge of how to transform our sales people into social sellers.

Here are my 3 Big Learnings from the conference:

  1. Today’s buyer is far more disruptive to the buying process than technology. Social selling evangelist Jill Rowley said during her keynote, “The buyer has changed more in the last 10 years than in the previous 100.” The disconnect between our buying habits and preferences as consumers, has not followed us into our businesses. Buyers are hyper-connected, plugged in, educated, informed, and knowledgeable. They are no longer waiting to be sold, but instead, they are controlling the sales conversation and process. This evolution begs a change to traditional sales processes. Your sales people today must be brand ambassadors both for your company’s brand, as well as, their own personal brand. Jill drove this point home by saying, “Your online digital footprint is how trust will be built before you meet your customer, your personal brand is so important.” The modern sales person sees this, embraces this, acts on it, and is constantly working to develop his or her personal brand. The question we should all be asking is, what about those sales reps who are not making the transformation to the modern sales representative? What to do?
  2. Since the buyer is now in control of the sales process, the job of the sales rep is no longer to sell, but to facilitate the buyers journey. Viewing a sale in this different light may be quite stirring…perhaps even provocative to many. However, the digital buyer is here.  There’s no going back. Sales people need to be socially engaged where the buyers are learning. It’s no longer enough to simply know where the buyer is.  The sales person now has to be interacting with that buyer before the sale in the places the buyer is learning and with those who are helping to educate and inform them. Tiffani Bova, Global Growth Strategist for Salesforce said, “How much of the journey they (the buyer) have gone through is irrelevant. It’s where they went in between that’s important.  Who are their advisors, where did they go to get info?”.  The sales rep is no longer leading with the sale, but leading the buyer to the sale. The question we should all be asking is what are we doing to aid in this transformation from a focus on the selling process to a deep understanding and alignment to the buyers journey?
  3. While the buyer has changed dramatically over the past 10 years, business has been much slower to change. Sure, it may feel to many that things at work are changing at light speed, but our sales process is still the same. Fill the pipeline, manage the pipeline, close the pipeline.  We may have changed the words we use, going from prospects, to pipeline, to funnel, but it’s still the same message, and same management. A true transformation to a buyers journey-centric focus requires great preparation, training, knowledge and assets that provide Sales with the tools they need to align with this “new buyer.” According to Sales Enablement guru Jim Ninivaggi, Chief Strategy Officer at Strategy to Revenue,” The #1 reason sales people fail to make a sale is due to their inability to effectively communicate the value proposition.” This reason, and its #1 ranking, hasn’t changed in 5 years. Why? The reason can be connected back to the disconnect between what we expect from our buying as a consumer, versus what we expect as a business person. This has to change.  To make this transformation we need to begin with hiring the right talent, providing that talent with the most effective on-boarding and training, and build a process that acknowledges the buyers journey by focusing on “education, solution, and selection.” It’s all about enabling your sales team to maximize all of their buyer interactions, because what got us here, won’t get us there. The question we should all be asking is what are we doing to better enable our sales teams?

As I reflected on my Conference take-aways on my flight from San Francisco to Philadelphia, I found myself thinking about the pace of change in our consumer lives and Moore’s Law – the speed of technology will double every two years. We all use technology to improve our lives, educate ourselves, inform one another, and buy things. The age of the customer has arrived.  They’re looking for an advisor. They want answers. And while today’s buyers conduct much of the buying process on their own, results of an Accenture survey presented at the Conference showed 65% of buyers still want a combination of digital and human interaction when buying.  This requires being there (where the buyers are), and being prepared (talent, training, knowledge, assets). Business needs to recognize and acknowledge these changes have happened.  We all need to begin to let our behaviors and expectations as consumers follow us into our jobs. Those willing, capable, and brave enough to make this transformation will be the companies that become the high-water-mark the rest will be chasing in the future.

 

 

 

Where are your buyers? How finding their hang-outs increases sales.

boss-hiding-facebook

Ah, prospecting.  The art of finding your next customer. The part of selling that makes even the most seasoned and successful sales people cringe.  Why is that?  What is it about prospecting that causes people to start twitching, flinching, gasping for breath?  It’s not talking to strangers that cause concern, nor is it hearing “no I’m not interested.” What really creates prospecting frustration is not knowing where your customers are hiding.

Networking is one of the keys to success in sales.  The more people you talk to, the more likely you are to sell something.  But networking for the sake of networking can be quite demanding and draining, physically, emotionally, and financially.  Time is your most valuable resource.  Time is more precious than the Hope Diamond or the Seven Seas (Steven Spielberg’s yacht). You have a finite amount of time.  You can never have more time, but you can always waste time creating a shortage.  Spending this precious resource wisely is your best chance to succeed in selling.

Imagine if you knew exactly where your prospective customers hang out.  You know where they will be, when they will be there, and for how long. Knowing their hang-outs is critical to maximizing your sales results.  After all, you can’t sell something to someone you don’t know how to find.  If your prospect is a restaurant owner, her hang-out may be at a state restaurant association trade show. If it’s a CIO, his hang-out may be CIO.com. No matter who your prospect is, he or she has some typical, and predictable spots they go to learn, question, and advance their decision making process.  Knowing where these hang-outs are reduces the number of networking events you need to attend.  If you knew that all your prospects were gathering at a specific venue every Wednesday evening from 6 pm – 7 pm, wouldn’t you be there?  Of course you would.

How can you find out where your buyers hang out?  Ask them!  What publications do you read on a regular basis? What types of events do you attend and why? Who are your trusted advisors? How do you research potential solutions for a business need? Sure, this is buyer persona work and it takes time. Sure, your Marketing department should be leading this work.  But if they’re not? Do it yourself. What you’ll discover will help you serve more buyers, more quickly.

These questions will help provide the answers and the insights into where your prospects are spending their time during their decision making process.  Once you know that, you can focus your energy on being visible at these hang-outs whether that means in person, or through content posted on a specific social channel.  There’s great power in knowing where your prospects go to learn and decided. When you know that you’re more than half way to the sale!

If this is something you’re interested in learning more about let me know.

Are You a Helper, or a Server? An Important Question for Your Brand.

 

ChickfilA

Have you ever thought about what your company does?  I mean really does?  What is it you do? Why do you exist? What’s your purpose?  Are you a helper or a server?  Is there a difference?  Does it matter?  I’d suggest it does matter…greatly. Are you still wondering why the picture of the chicken sandwich?  Keep reading.

Pay attention the next time you’re in a buying situation.  You walk in a store, a restaurant, or car dealership, and in just about every possible example you’ll hear these four words – “can I help you?”  To help, as opposed to serving, boils down to a mindset.  We are taught as children to “help one another” in school, or to “help out” around the house.  As we get older the concept of helping others is seared into our brains as the right thing to do. Consequently in business, we bring those same thoughts with us, setting out to help someone or some business. But let me propose a different viewpoint; one that supports the benefits of serving others rather than helping.  An unexpected encounter at a quick-service restaurant brought this concept to my attention.

While on a recent road trip, my wife and I decided to stop for something quick to eat. We didn’t want to spend time in a full service restaurant.  We wanted something fast, and as close to healthy as possible given our travel schedule.  We pulled into a drive-thru and placed our order. From behind the audio box came a voice that was filled with energy (genuine) and asked, “How may I serve you today?”  What did she say? How could I be sitting in a drive-thru of a fast food restaurant and be this impressed?  This didn’t make sense.  We placed our order, pulled up to the window where we were greeted by a crisply dressed, smiling cashier who completed our transaction, and said, “thank you for your business and I look forward to serving you again.”  WOW!  That restaurant was Chick-fil-A. 

This experience got me thinking.  Who says “how may I serve you?”  Everyone says they want to help, but do they really?  “How may I help you” is regular, predictable, watered down. And how often have you heard those words knowing full well the person asking couldn’t care less about really helping you? But the question “how may I serve you?”, is a purple cow.  Something so simple, yet so remarkably different relative to today’s buying norms that you notice, and notice in a big way.

I wondered if this was a fluke or if there was something more to this one experience.  I conducted a bit of research and visited 3 other Chick-fil-As in different areas.  Shockingly, all provided the exact same experience as the first location. How can a company whose brand is represented by independent operators deliver such a consistent experience?  I just had to ask…

This remarkable service is the result of many things, but two things in particular: training and modeling.  Training content, material, philosophy, and methods are provided by corporate for consistency.  Modeling is provided by the independent operators.  The owners walk the same talk as all store employees.  One such owner that I had the privilege of meeting, walked around the store refilling customers drinks and asking if there was anything else she could do to serve the customers.  Remarkable.

When being served, you may feel special, perhaps honored.  When serving others you might feel fulfilled, satisfied, humbled.  As a result of this experience I have challenged myself and others in my network to give thought to shifting their paradigm from one of helping to one of serving.  I personally, have found this subtle shift in thinking to be empowering.  It fosters a bond between the one being served and the one doing the serving.  Try it and see what a positive change it can make to your customers’ experience.  Are you brave enough to serve or will you stay in your comfort zone and help?  You decide.

 

Reasons To Believe: A Key Part of Your Brand Promise

RTB

Buyers make purchasing decisions based on a number of factors.  Sellers must understand these factors in order to create reasons-to-believe (RTB) in their brand.  RTB statements are short, concise, to-the-point statements that serve as a sound bite to the buyer.  Trident gum’s “4 out of 5 dentists” is a simple example of an effective RTB. The use of reasons-to-believe can apply to any person, product, service, or business.  Whether your are building your personal brand or your company’s, it’s your job to develop an RTB that resonates with your buyer.

How do you know what’s important to your buyer?  Do you understand the process your buyer goes through on their journey to the cash register? By mapping your buyer’s journey, you will uncover these critical insights, that are necessary in creating your brand messaging which should include some RTBs. Current pain level, budget, ability to solve the problem,  reputation of the seller, and the buyers emotional state are all key inputs into the buying decision.

The most effective RTBs are those created to align with a specific point on the buyers journey.  As the buyer travels thought the 4 emotional phases of buying including, awareness, familiarity, confidence, and conviction, she will require different messaging to continue her buying journey.  RTBs are most impactful when used in the confidence phase of buying.  During the first two emotional phases, Marketing is working to establish conscious and subconscious brand recognition.  Once awareness and familiarity are developed, a strategically positioned RTB can help establish confidence.  Some examples of RTBs include:

  1. Ford F 150 – highest EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of any full-size gasoline powered pick-up on the market
  2. Chevy Colorado – MotorTrend’s 2016 Truck of the Year
  3. QuickBooks – 4 million business run on QuickBooks
  4. Perdue – No-Antibiotics-Ever, and an all-vegetarian diet
  5. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital– families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food

While some of these RTBs sound like nothing more than a simple statement, they in fact have been strategically developed to connect to a buying emotion.  All were created to instill confidence and provide an emotional satisfier…a feel-good reaction.  These companies are just a handful that have taken the time to study and understand what’s important to their buyer’s.  They understand that we live in an information society where cutting through the noise is paramount to capturing the buyers attention.  These direct, relevant soundbites provide buyers with an added reason-to-believe in a brand.  Do you know what your brand’s RTBs are?

 

Becoming a Brand Master: Lessons Learned From Taylor Swift & Jony Ive

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift gets branding. In fact, I’d put her up against most of today’s “branding experts” as being a true master brand manager.  Swift is an artist but also a great businesswoman.  She has a clear vision of what the Taylor Swift brand delivers.

Jonathan (Jony) Ive, the world renowned industrial designer at Apple who is largely credited with the iPod’s sleek design and UI is also a master brander.  He has a deep understanding of what buyers need, and want, and focuses his efforts, and those of his team, to deliver products that meet those needs.

JonyIve

While Swift and Ive may have taken different paths to be becoming brand experts, both share some common characteristics that all marketers can learn from if they desire to become master branders.

  1.  Establish clear goals for your brand.  Is your goal to appeal to the mass market or to a niche? No brand can be everything to every one.  Taylor Swift may be a great musician and artist but there’s still those who prefer heavy metal to her country-pop. Ive’s iPhone may have an awesome design but there are millions of buyers who prefer the Android operating system over iOS. Pick your lane and nail it.
  2. Focused intensity.  Once you’ve identified your goals and they are in clear sight, go after them with focused intensity.  Having focus is wonderful, but having intensity with focus will drive you to reach your goal quicker.
  3. Always be kind, even when acting otherwise would be completely acceptable.  Every brand is susceptible to negative comments.  Can anyone say Kanye? Buyers are always watching your behavior. Be honest, be transparent, and take the high road. It doesn’t mean rolling over or not defending untruths, but do it with a smile.
  4. Be a perfectionist.  Branding is an art, and we all know art is not perfect, otherwise it wouldn’t be art. But being a perfectionist relative to executing your branding strategy is something that sets brand masters apart from those that tinker in branding.
  5. Stay above the fray, operate with a touch of paranoia.  Looking over your shoulder isn’t always a bad thing.  Two things I learned growing up that that help with this concept are; nothing good happens after dark, and what would your grandparents think?  Your brand is your own and you can do with it as you please.  Just make sure you’ve thought through the implications of acting or speaking a certain way and then accept the outcomes. If someone in your company does something that has a negative impact on the brand it’s up to you, the brand master, to take action and deliver consequences.

These may appear to be small things.  Maybe even trivial things.  And while much of what we experience in life would suggest we NOT sweat the small stuff, when it comes to our brand, nothing is too small an item to not sweat.

 

Winning the Sale Requires Marketing

winning

To win a sale requires a number of factors all aligning properly at the right moment.  The buyer’s need, a good story, the right product, and of course, an easy fulfillment (sales) process.

I’ve led marketing and sales teams for more than 20 years.  Neither could win without the other, yet each feel confident they reign supreme when it comes to closing the business.  However, there is an increasing body of work that suggests the role of the sales person, relative to closing the business, is decreasing.  Buyers are self-educating themselves all the way through fulfilling their own purchase.  Think Amazon.  You sign in, check out the product your interested in, perhaps read some reviews, and into your cart it goes straight through to check out.  If you’re Amazon Prime, 3 days later it’s in your hands and ready for use.  As the buyers journey continues to change, it’s up to the sales leader to adjust and learn new strategies that will increase their effectiveness; adding the right ingredients, at the right time, to achieve the desired outcome – a sale.

Nothing gets sold without a product, price, place or promotion.  I’ll add process in there as well as the 5th “P” of Marketing.  Combining these 5 P’s into a single offer that results in a sale is where the true beauty, art, and science all come together with marketing and sales.

Marketing is the lead function in any organization that is charged with providing an end-to-end view of the buying process.  Beginning with product development and ending with the sale, Marketing’s role is one focused entirely on creating a remarkable experience for the buyer on his journey to the cash register.  Much like a cardiologist confers with an anesthesiologist prior to surgery, a sales person should consult with Marketing.  No matter how great a heart surgeon is, she would never go into the operating room without the help of a strong and competent anesthesiologist.  If she did it would be disastrous.  If a sales person meets with a prospect without understanding the marketing behind the product the outcome can be quite disappointing.  And while I’m certain egos exist in the OR, I’m equally aware of the egos that exist within Marketing and Sales.

So here’s my challenge to Sales leaders interested in improving their team’s results…

Partner with Marketing to truly understand the offer.  I’m sure some heads are shaking right now and perhaps worse tempers are flaring.  Sales leaders by nature are confident with Texas-sized egos.  But the great sales leaders know it’s all about being a continuous learner.  Without learning you can’t be strategic, and without strong strategy skills

you’ll never improve your results.  You’ll simply go about doing things as you’ve always done, getting what you’ve always got.

Instead, I’d suggest sales leaders meet with their marketing peers.  Ask them questions surrounding the 5 P’s.

  1. What are the 3 most important features of this product and why?
  2. How did we arrive at those features?
  3. Tell me what went into our pricing for this product?
  4. What’s the impact to our brand if we discount the product?
  5. Are there any unintended needs that our product addresses? (think Post-It notes)
  6. Where in the process would my help and involvement, from a sales standpoint, yield the greatest end result?
  7. Where in the buying process do you feel there is room for improvement and can I help?

Questions like these will accomplish several things including: establishing trust between these two functions, educating each other by expanding insights and perspectives, fostering collaboration, and most importantly, if done right, this interaction will keep the conversation, efforts, and resources focused on the customer.

So to all the sales leaders out there, open your minds, focus on the customer, and be excited about the possibility of learning something new and connect with Marketing today.

Dunkin…One Hot Brand

Dunkin

Some time when I was around 5 or 6 years old my grandmother let me try my first sip of coffee.  She brewed it in a small tin percolator on the stove and I remember how the aroma of the coffee filled the house.  She put a touch of cream in a small cup, slid it across the table, and wa-la…a coffee enthusiast was born!

Dunkin has been my go-to brand for as long as I can remember.  It’s where I go to think, sometimes to work, sometimes to write, and other times to hang out.  It’s a special place I go to with my dad when we’re together, to chat and spend time with one another.  Dunkin has become a comfortable part of my life.  How did they do it?

The Marketing team at Dunkin works overtime to stay connected with their customer.  From determining new menu items, to the appropriate temperature at which they serve their coffee, Dunkin stays close to their customers thoughts.

By delivering on their brand promise every day, Dunkin has created a trusted brand that represents consistency, dependability, and commitment.  “YOUR COFFEE JUST RIGHT, EVERY TIME.” That’s a commitment.

The Dunkin I frequent in Jamison, PA is staffed by an incredibly friendly team of service professionals.  While some would argue that qwik-serve establishments are far from employing service professionals I’d argue against that position every day of the week when it comes to Dunkin.  Traveling more than 100,000 domestic miles every year since 1997, I can confidently say I’ve been in hundreds of Dunkin locations across the country.  My coffee, and the experience by which it was delivered, keeps me coming back.

Typical elements that are included in measuring a customers experience with a brand seem to have been mastered by Dunkin.  Clean stores, hot coffee, comfortable gathering spaces, WiFi, quick and friendly service, a killer app that rewards you for your business, well lit stores at any hour of the day, and great presentation of their baked goods are all things that have helped create a dominant Dunkin brand.

When you look at your brand, do you know what your customers judge you on?  What are the elements surrounding their experience with your company that you need to pay attention to?  Do you know?  If not, it is probably time you engage in some deep buyer journey work to better understand what your buyer goes through in order to arrive at their buying decision.  Rest assured Dunkin has.

Operating nearly half the number of stores as Starbucks, its largest competitor, Dunkin still controls 24% of the coffee market compared to Starbucks 36%. Dunkin reports selling nearly 2 billion cups of coffee each year.  Starbucks has elected to not disclose their number.

Dunkin’s growth will no doubt continue providing they keep their eye on their brand promise.  Assuming they do, I can guarantee them I’ll be returning every day for my medium hot coffee with cream.  Keep on runnin Dunkin!

DunkinJoe