Do You Need Customer Success? 7 questions to help make your decision.

Knowing where not to spend your time is as important as knowing where you should spend it.  Today’s buyers are more savvy, and demanding than they were just yesterday.  They are also more comfortable doing business with multiple providers versus selecting one preferred provider.  Left unattended, or worse ignored, buyers will seek to fulfill their needs as quickly and easily as possible.  The question for your business is simple:  do my customers know everything I can offer them?  If you’re like most businesses, the answer is simply “no”, our customers don’t know the depth of our capabilities, and this gap creates a significant risk to future revenue.

Customer Success focuses on three primary areas:  increasing customer retention rates, capturing a deeper share of wallet via cross-sell initiatives, and improving Net Promoter Scores.  Happy, more satisfied customers, tend to feel better about committing more of their spendable dollars with a business.  This translates into buying more products, additional services, or extending current terms of their services.  Effective Customer Success models can be measured by evaluating CLTV, or Customer Lifetime Value.  An increase in CLTV may be attributable to the effectiveness of your Customer Success program.

So how do you determine whether or not create and launch a Customer Success program?  Answer these 7 questions:

  1. What is the current retention rate on your existing customers over the past 12 months, and further 3 years?  If retention rates are low, or declining over a period of time, this is an indicator – although lagging – that a focus on Customer Success may be needed.
  2. What is your current Net Promoter Score and how often are you measuring it?  Low NPS scores can be an indicator of your customers willingness to move, or leave your company.  Dissatisfaction, lack of trust, unrealized value, are just a few sentiments that can be traced to low NPS scores.  Bottom line, the lower the score the more at risk your revenue is.
  3. What is the ratio of products per customer?  The retail banking industry has long tracked this ratio yet it hasn’t moved much.  The average bank has 2.3 products per customer.  Wells Fargo for years has been the king of this ratio touting an impressive 3.2 products per customer.  Of course this ratio must be evaluated against the total number of products you can offer to your customers.  The more products, the higher you want your ratio to be.
  4. What is your current account management strategy for engagement and interaction?  How often are you engaging your current customers?  What methods are you using to touch your customers?  Email, phone calls, visits, quarterly business reviews?  Does your customer have an assigned account manager?  Is that account manager’s compensation dependent upon a rise in NPS scores, and/or increase in customer revenue?
  5. How many referenceable customers do you have?  How many customers have agreed to be a reference for your company?  How many are willing to provide a testimonial either video or written?  How many of your customers are willing to engage in issuing a press release publicly demonstrating their chosen alliance with your company?
  6. How much of your current revenue is generated from existing customers versus new logo sales?  The more reliant a business is on existing customer revenue to make its number, the more exposure that business has to any volatility in customer attrition.  Furthermore, if your existing revenue is overweighted with a handful of customers, your revenue risk exposure is even greater.  It’s likely time to look at a Customer Success model.
  7. What is your 3 year history of renewal rates?  Have they increased, decreased, or remained the same?  If renewal rates are flat, or decreasing you likely have a need for Customer Success.

If your company is experiences decreasing retention rates, low NPS scores, and fading revenue from its existing book of customers, it may be time to focus on developing and implementing a Customer Success model.  Remember, your cost of acquisition is already sunk, yet your customer lifetime value can still be influenced.  Focusing on building meaningful relationships with your customers translates into increased revenue, improved brand value, and drives new logo sales by providing a stable of referenceable customers who become brand ambassadors.

If you would like to further explore whether a customer success model is right for your business contact me at josephgderosa@gmail.com.

Selling with Silence

I enjoy a good conversation as much as the next guy or gal.  A highly engaging and thoughtful conversation where both sides are equally sharing their ideas, and feelings is something to value.  Likewise, I also enjoy the comfort of being with people I care about and not feeling like I have to say a word.  I’m comfortable with silence.

Being comfortable with silence is a skill.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, like any skill, silence needs to be practiced in order to be effective.  It requires trust, honesty, and perhaps most importantly confidence.

Sales people by nature are talkers.  In fact, sales people often have a reputation of being slick talkers.  Talk fast enough that you over-power, or blow past the buyer’s objections, tough questions, or key concerns.  However, a fast talking sales person is actually communicating the wrong message.  Buyers get turned off by fast talkers.  They become suspicious.  They become guarded in their responses, and many times they tune out, and walk away.

Great sales professionals understand the power of silence.  The power that comes with feeling confident in your message, your answers, your position, your knowledge.  Knowing when to be silent, versus when to speak, is a critical skill all sales people should develop, assuming they want to improve their win rates.

The buyer asks a question, the sales person responds, and then silence.  You’re almost begging the buyer to challenge you.  Your silence is a display of your confidence and conviction.  It also shows the buyer a level of patience and empathy by giving them time to absorb your response and determine their next step.  You’re putting the control in the buyer’s hands.  And while some may argue that the sales person should maintain control, I’d argue that by granting the buyer some control, the sales person is actually increasing his/her control of the sales and buying process.

Silence can be the ultimate neutralizer.  High stakes negotiators recognize the strategic benefit of using silence.  Yet keep in mind, that using silence as a tactic requires a great deal of preparation.  You need to understand your company, your product, your position, and your buyer.  Drop the ball on any one of those and the value of silence is diminished.

Next time you engage in a sales conversation, force yourself to be silent.  Can you do it?  Can you sell with silence?

 

Why Your Role as Sales Leader Isn’t to Motivate

MOTIVATION word cloud, business concept

Many people think “cheerleader” when they envision an effective sales leader.  Someone who gets the team fired up, screams and shouts, and sets everyone on a rah-rah march into the field to meet prospects.

The sales leader is expected to be a high-powered extrovert, charismatic, outspoken, aggressive, and perhaps even a bit shocking.  We have all worked for sales leaders that possess these characteristics and shall I dare say, some other, more wild ones to say the least.

Early in my career I worked for such a sales leader.  He’d stand on a chair or a table during sales meetings screaming at the top of his lungs, face beet red.  The hair on the back of your neck would stand on end.  You were pumped.  There was nothing you couldn’t do.  But when he finished his super-charged motivational speech, the result felt more like a tirade than an inspiration.  There’s an enormous distance between rallying a group with fear versus inspiration.

So what is the sales leaders responsibility as it relates to motivating a sales team?

Are you ready for the answer?  None.  You have no responsibility to motivate your team.  Each sales person on your team is responsible for motivating him, or herself.  So what is your job as the sales leader?  Provide vision and inspiration.

People want to follow a leader who demonstrates the confidence that he knows where he’s going, how he’s going to get there, and why getting there is so important and beneficial.  I’ve built a number of sales teams over the years.  I have worked hard to be an inspiration – doing this provides your team members with the “why” should they do what you’re asking them to do.  Inspiration transcends motivation.  You can motivate for an hour or a day but motivation is time constrained.  It lasts only as long as the instigator – you – are on duty.  But to inspire, creates a fire, that burns deep into desire.  The greater the fire you build the more insatiable the desire is to achieve the goals you’ve set – whether you’re around or not.

Your job is to find out what drives your team.  Is it money?  Is it recognition?  Is it invention or innovation?  Is it client engagement scores?  Once you know what drives each person on the team you will be able to create your inspiration roadmap.  That roadmap will provide a clear picture to:

  1. Where are we going?
  2. Why are we going there?
  3. What’s in it for us?
  4. What will we feel once we’ve arrived there?

Most organizations fail due to a lack of clarity around the vision. You’ve got to assemble a team that WANTS to a be a part of your vision.  Trying to convince someone they will be happy going to Buffalo in the winter probably won’t sell.  You can expend all your energy convincing or you can set out to find those who are interested or intrigued with going to Buffalo.  It’s the Good to Great philosophy of getting the right people on the bus and the right butts in the right seat.

Lead by example.  Walk the talk.  Model the behaviors.  Do these things and you’ll increase your ability to inspire your followers to achieve remarkable results.

Get Specific -4 Ways to Make Your Business Conversations More Effective

Business People Meeting Growth Success Target Economic Concept

 

Your eyes are glazed over.  You’re trying to be discreet but you can’t help looking at your watch.  Is it over yet?  As meeting standards go this one is pretty brutal. It’s dull, boring, lacking insights, not informative, it’s basically a disastrous waste of your time.  Have you ever encountered one of these meetings?  Here’s a daring question – have you ever been the one driving one of these meetings?  If your answer is “no way, I’d never run such a terrible meeting”, I’d say you should probably spend a bit of time on self-reflection.  We all have coordinated and run meetings like this.  We’ve all wasted someones time at one point or another.

Here are 4 Ways to Make Your Business Conversations More Effective:

  1. Prepare – Do some homework on the individual you’re meeting with and the company.  It’s not enough to just throw out facts about the company or industry.  With the advent of social selling you’ve got to know your buyer – the human behind the decision.
  2. Ask good questions – Dump the “what keeps you up at night” question. So boring.  So predictable.  Kind of shallow.  A rookie question.  Have a hypothesis of what you believe keeps them up and night and throw it on the table.  Of course that requires having completed Step 1 above.
  3. Know what’s going on in the world – Don’t take a political stance, but know what’s happening in the world, the markets, etc.  Election year impacts, the Brexit issue, the Middle East conflicts, the Puerto Rican debt default. People enjoy spending time with people who have a bit of depth.  You don’t need to be Alan Greenspan, Warren Buffet, or Seth Godin, but you do need to have ideas and opinions beyond your company’s.
  4. Manage your time – Arrive early.  If you’re on time you’re late.  I get tired of hearing how bad traffic was.  Sales people today, especially in bigger cities think they can use traffic in Seattle, LA, NY, Boston, Atlanta, etc., as an excuse and people will just understand.  If you want to be like every other sales person walking in the office than great.  You will be – just like every other.  You want to be different?  Give yourself extra time.

One final extra tip.  Please show up with some energy.  No, you don’t have to drink 17 Red Bulls before you walk in the door.  Likewise you don’t want to be Eeyore either. Find the balance between excitement and control.  Do all of these together and you’ll run an awesome meeting.

 

 

A word or two on sales coverage models

 

 

Isolated Earth -  Elements of this Image Furnished by NASA

In a recent conversation with a CEO of a large service organization I was asked which sales model I believed was most effective in generating improved sales results.  A popular question these days.  Everyone who is responsible for generating revenue has asked this question at least once.  The answer however, lies with your buyer.

In a vacuum there is no one single, silver bullet to drive sales results.  The most popular sales coverage models include:

  1. Generalists – sell everything
  2. Specialists – sell usually one, perhaps two products
  3. Verticals – sell to specific industries; professional services, restaurants, manufacturing, etc
  4. Revenue – sell by revenue size of client; SMB, mid-market, enterprise
  5. Employee size – sell by number of employees; payroll companies often use this coverage model
  6. Account-based – assigned specific accounts/companies to sell or cross-sell

In addition to this mix of options, a head of sales must consider whether a field sales organization or inside sales team is most effective.  Again, the decision here should be informed by the company’s buyer’s journey.  Many products and services once believed could only be sold via an in-person interaction are now sold over the phone.  Taking this a step further, we also know – thanks to Amazon, Apple, Tesla, Intuit, and others – that self-fulfillment is not just possible, but preferred by many consumers.  The ability to do-it-yourself is highly appealing.

Gaining an understanding of how your buyer makes decisions is the first step to determining which model is best for your business.  Listen to your buyers and then align a sales process that helps lead the buyer through his or her journey.  That’s the answer to which model works best.

To Sell or Not to Sell?

USP concept
Hand with marker is drawing USP concept on the transparent white board.

Selling isn’t about winning or losing.  It’s not about money, trips, plaques, or prizes.  Selling is not an easy job, nor should it be a job to kill time until the “real thing” appears.   It’s not a set of activities, calls, presentations, or ratios.

Selling is about helping others.  Helping others solve problems and improving lives in the process.  Simply put, to sell is to make something, or someone better.  If what you’re offering for sale doesn’t provide some improvement over the status quo you have no sale.  The key is to understand your buyer well enough to know exactly how your product or service will improve their life or business.

People know when they’re being sold.  They also know when they feel they’ve been helped.  Seek first to understand before being understood is a good way to approach helping others.  Set out to help others and the sales will follow.

Reverse Prospecting: Your Buyer’s Looking For You

 

Reverse

Understanding your buyer’s journey is the first step to delivering explosive growth results.  The age of the buyer has arrived and the seller no longer is in control.  Buyers today are prospecting more than sales people.  How?  By scouring the internet and leveraging social channels to learn and make decisions.  In fact, if you’re the seller, you’ve become the passenger on this purchasing trip.  So make yourself comfortable, stay observant, and most of all have fun on the trip.

Your buyers know more about what they need than ever before.  There was a time (and it goes further and further back each day) when the buyer had to rely on a sales person to identify his problem and present a solution…the seller’s solution.  Not any more.  Have a runny nose and sore lower back?  A quick trip to the website WebMD can provide you with information on what may be going on with you.  You need to put in a new garbage disposal?  There are hundreds of how-to videos on YouTube that provide step-by-step instructions that take a job that previously required a plumber and turned it into a DIY project.

We have all become addicted to information.  In fact, more than 80% of 18 – 44 year olds say the first thing they do in the morning, immediately after opening their eyes, is to check their phones.  Information.  We want lots of it, all the time.

Buyers have this access to information and are using it more and more.  They Google, Facebook, YouTube, Tweet, and ask their LinkedIn groups for information, recommendations, and ideas.  If you’re a seller without a social selling strategy you’re already trailing the pack.  And if you think your product or service is too complex to promote via social channels think again.  General Electric has hundreds of videos on YouTube on MRI equipment, jet turbines, and lighting.  Toll Brothers, a national builder of custom homes, provides a website that allows someone to design and build their dream home and see it!  Buyers are not just using the internet to shop for shoes, sweaters, or books.

Having a social presence isn’t enough. You can’t set up a Facebook or LinkedIn page and check off the box and say its done.  You have to be active…engaged.  You have to create content, share content, weigh in on content others have shared.  This is where your buyers are looking for you.  Your paradigm must shift.  Buyers are now conducting a form of reverse prospecting.  They’re looking for you…you just don’t know it.  So if you’re a seller, and you’re not visible in the areas your buyers are looking for you, you simply won’t be found.

So get started.  Take it slow.  Don’t try to boil the ocean in a day.  A retweet here, a LinkedIn post there, a blog here, are all activities to get you on the road to being found by your buyer.