What Happens When The Suits Meet The Customers?  3 Outrageous Stories.

Suits

As a self-proclaimed buyers journey geek, I love watching and observing buyers during their buying process. In fact, there’s only one thing I enjoy more than watching the buyer, and that’s watching “the suits”. The suits are the folks that work for corporate. They arrive either on their magic carpets or white horses. Decked out in flowing robes, the suits have arrived to pass the ultimate judgement on how things are going with the business. They travel in packs, Starbucks in hand, and armed with Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility. The moment they walk through the door all activity seems to go into suspended animation. Time slows…painfully slow.

Just what does an experience with a suit look like? Below are 3 recent examples where I have observed the suits in their “unnatural habitat”. I ask you think about these examples and whether you, or your company operates in a similar manner. Next week I’ll provide alternative strategies that demonstrate how you can turn the time the suits spend at the business into revenue.

  1. Large national discount retailer, selling name brands for less. I accompanied my wife to the store as she had some “things” she wanted to look at. That’s code for it’s going to be a while. I sat at the front of the store watching customers go in and out. It was busy. The cashier line was never shorter than 10 – 12 customers deep. The suits had arrived, dressed to the nines, Starbucks in hand, trying to be inconspicuous but looking as out-of-place as a surfer would in Syracuse in January. They huddled around one another, not separating more than a couple of feet from one another. After all, you never know when one of these customers may get a little nutty. In 30 minutes, I watched as not a single suit said hello or smiled to engage a customer. I think they actually thought they had Harry Potter’s invisible cloak on. As my wife finished shopping we got into line to cash out. The tension at the register was real…fear. Our cashier asked her manager if she thought they would be getting a “5 star rating”. The manager looked like she was about to throw up and said “I don’t think so.” Mission accomplished for the suits. They successfully avoided customers and proceeded to collapse employee morale…all in about an hour’s time. Perfect!
  2. Large grocery store chain operating under a number of different brands in the northeast. Call me crazy but I’ve always enjoyed grocery shopping. It was Sunday morning two weeks ago and I went to “our store” to do our weekly shopping. The store was a madhouse. Lines at every check-out lane and cashiers who looked ready to drop even though it was only 9 am in the morning and the day just started. Huddled together at the front of the store the suits had their arms folded, whispering to one another with one hand covering their mouth…as if they were calling plays into the huddle for the Philadelphia Eagles. More than half the registers were closed. It took 30 minutes to check out. The suits never moved. Never spoke to an employee let alone a customer. Mission accomplished. They now know what was wrong. Not enough cashiers on Sunday morning at 9 am…except this past Sunday nothing had changed…another 30 minute wait to cash out.
  3. Regional tire and auto service business. I took my wife’s Chevy Tahoe in for a standard oil change and tire rotation. Got there a few minutes before 8 am (opening). Spoke to Sam at the counter who told me they’d have me in and out in no time. That is actually why we’ve been going there for the last several years. They know us and treat us great. But not today. I asked for Mike and Bill only to be told that “they left in the last month”. Hmm. And so it began. The technician pulled my vehicle in at 8:10 am, put it on the lift, and then got some coffee. At 8:30 nothing had been done to the truck. He was having a donut. At 8:45 am I asked Sam for an update and he told me the tech would get to it soon. The Service Manager was hanging out in the garage area where there were 3 other techs… my Tahoe being the only vehicle in the garage. After several failed attempts to get his attention I blew past the warning sign on the door that says “For Insurance Purposes Customers Cannot Enter The Garage Without Being Accompanied By An Employee.” I called the Service Manager and he came over. When I asked him what was going on with my truck he looked as if I had asked him to calculate the hypotenuse of a triangle. He went over to the tech who was now on his 3rd donut…no lie…and said something that caused them both to turn and look at me simultaneously. Awkward. At 10:05 am I pulled out of the parking lot for something that should have taken less than 30 minutes. Mission accomplished. Avoid the customer, duck and cover, and talk about them in the most obvious way.

You just can’t make things like this up.

 

 

 

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There’s No Such Thing As Too Big For Social Selling

too-big-by-half

Many management teams are struggling to align around the significance and impact social selling has on complex products or services. Most agree that some products like consumables, and other “quick purchases”, benefit from a social media strategy.  But what’s the difference between social media and social selling? While differences are many, think of social media as the channel of communication and social selling as the user of that channel.  Social sellers, otherwise referred to as today’s modern sales people, leverage multiple forms of social media to achieve their goals.  Social sellers are communicators, sharers, educators, networkers and connectors. The size nor the complexity of what they’re selling matters… they are socially connected.

If your company provides a highly complex and/or expensive solution and you’re still wondering about the value social selling can have on your sales efforts consider these points:

  1. 92% of all B2B purchases begin online
  2. 300 billion emails are sent each day
  3. 40 – 70% of the purchase decision is made before the buyer meets with a sales person
  4. Less than 40% of sales teams reach their quotas
  5. Average sales force turnover hovers at 50% each year
  6. Google alone reports more than 1 trillion searches each year
  7. The global average of time spent on Facebook each day is 20 minutes, in the United States it’s 40 minutes per day
  8. 500 million tweets each day
  9. 4 billion videos viewed daily, totally 6 billion hours of time watching videos daily
  10. More than 50 marketing automation platforms on the market designed to “push and pull” content into the public domain

It’s hard to imagine any product or service being immune to the impact of hundreds of social tactics available to buyers. If a buyer isn’t looking at your company you can rest assured that he or she is looking at you, your sales people, your management, and even other customers using your service.  The fact is, you’re open for business 24/7/365 thanks to the internet and the tools that have been introduced to buyers over the past few years.  The company’s brand, your brand, and that of your employees is on display for all to see, evaluate, judge, avoid, or select… the controls rests with your buyer.  Are you ready? Social has arrived. There’s no turning back. It’s up to you as to how you want to be seen, when you want to be seen, and where you want to be seen.  One things for sure… if you’re not visible… by definition… you’re invisible… and it’s quite difficult to sell something when the buyer can’t find you.

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.

 

 

 

The Millennial’s New American Dream

millennials

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of hearing a key-note speech by Tony Kuczinski, President and CEO of Munich Reinsurance America, at the 2014 MidYear Target Markets conference in Baltimore. His topic addressed how trends in the market will affect everything from how someone buys insurance to how that specific risk is evaluated.

Tony spoke of the major changes in the past 10 years. From social media, to the impact Millennials have on our economy, things around us are most definitely changing. And it’s not whether we believe those changes are good or bad, but it’s what we do to adapt to those changes that will determine our future success and relevancy in the marketplace.

During the week there were many points made about Millennials that impact all sellers of goods and services, whether B2B or B2C. Here are few to consider:
1. Millennials make up 36% of the workforce but represent only 7% of those employed by Fortune 500 companies.
2. Millennials are highly networked individuals focused on working for a company that is a cultural fit while providing meaningful work.  Perhaps a reason why this group tends to lean toward working for smaller companies rather than corporate behemoths.
3. 1.75 billion smart phone users worldwide. 60% will use their phone monthly to surf, research, and shop.  Millennials have created an insatiable appetite for better, faster, more accessible technology and mobile apps.
4. Given the rapid rise and adoption of technology, the Millennial generation requires instant feedback and ongoing communication at work, much like they receive in their personal lives with Facebook, Twitter, and texting.

The final and perhaps most intriguing change is the shift that’s taking place in where Millennials are establishing their homes…their roots. This demographic is a group that is used to, and requires, sharing. Sharing of everything. Pictures, experiences, ideas, emotions. All are shared via the electronic airways in some fashion or another. This need for “sharing” followed by the need for feedback and validation of what’s been shared has influenced the nature of where Millennials are most comfortable living.

The shift is not only apparent but is also a game changer. The traditional American Dream of a house in the suburbs is changing. Millennials are migrating back into, rather than away from, urban areas. City living is at the core of this demographic. The need for connectivity is growing, not just electronic connectivity but personal connectivity and interaction…the need to be a part of something greater.

This shift is something that cannot be ignored. The attitudes and needs of the next generation will be met regardless of your personal beliefs and opinions. It will be those who listen, observe, and respond who will flourish. The rest who dismiss or ignore will become irrelevant.

What will you do?

A Social Media Experience Gone Bad

disappointment

My job requires a great deal of domestic travel.  I’m typically on the road 75% of the time covering the entire country.  Living in Philadelphia there’s one airline that dominates this market.  I’ve traveled this airline since 1995 and have flown their top-tier status for years.  With more than a million miles under my belt I’d consider myself a pretty savvy traveler.  I’d also consider myself to be a loyal customer to any company that provides me with the right value equation – what I get for what I spend.  So what does all this have to do with social media?  Here’s the story.

Recently I was scheduled to fly out of Philly to Denver.  Shortly after midnight, the day of travel, I received an email alerting me that my flight had been canceled.  I called the airline and after I got the customer service agent out of bed he proceeded to tell me that the flight had been indeed been canceled but that he would help me out by getting me on the next available flight to Denver.  Imagine my surprise when he informed me that the next available flight was scheduled for the exact same time as the original departure.  Hmm.  In his ever groggy voice the representative informed me that he could not assign me a seat as this flight was “under airport control”.  Sounds reassuring.

Got to the airport only to be told that the only seat available on this new flight…which remember was scheduled for the exact same time as my original flight…was a center seat.  Needing to get to Denver I had no choice.  So, last row, center seat, sold out flight.  I proceeded to tweet this airways regarding my situation.  Moments later I received a response to my tweet that said “We’re sorry for the cancellation. Check in with a gate agent for a seat assignment.”  Wow, now that was helpful.  So I proceed to reply suggesting they offer me something as a consolation…a free drink, WiFi, something.  Response? “We’re unable to offer free WiFi or drinks we’re sorry for your disappointment.”

Needless to say this airways attempt at using social media to delight and wow a customer fell WAY short.  Their responses were cold, impersonal, and above all else…useless.

Fast forward a week later.  Same exact situation happens only this time in route to Dallas.  So I tweet again.  This time the response I receive is “We’re sorry we aren’t able to help you here however our agents are happy to assist.”  This airways just doesn’t get it.  What they’ve done is made a bad situation even worse.  No one has owned the problem, no one owned fixing it.  It’s an incredible game of shift the blame and move the shells around.  Simply awful.

So what could this airways have done differently to make this a better experience for the traveler using social media:

  1. Have a policy already in place that provides guidance to whoever is monitoring social channels as to what goodwill offers can be made to satisfy the customer
  2. Make the reply personal.  “I’m so sorry Mr. DeRosa.  That’s terrible.  Here’s what we can do to help…”
  3. Follow up.  Two weeks have now passed and I’ve heard nothing from anyone at airways.  They have my contact number, my frequent flier number, my home and cell phones, and nothing.  Clearly they believe they don’t need to be the Nordstrom’s of the skies.  In fact I’ve gotten better service at a Dollar Store than at airways.

So keep in mind that if your company is using social media to engage its customers it requires a true commitment.  It’s not something to dabble in.  Canned replies, form letters, and traditional customer communication does not work with social media.  Spend the time to understand this before getting involved.  If your company doesn’t have the time, resources, or patience to learn and understand social media then do all you can to ensure they never launch it lest it will lead to an airways like experience.

How Your Sales Team Really Feels About Social Media

socialmedia

Sales people are some of the brightest, most adaptive, and persistent personalities on the planet.  They thrive on ego and strive to be recognized from the highest levels of their organizations.  The best sales people focus on establishing strong relationships and broad networks of contacts.  But what most sales people dislike more than anything else is change, and social media represents one of the most sweeping changes to sales people since the invention of the fax machine.

To get your sales team on board and using social media to improve their results requires you to have a thorough understanding of what’s preventing them from getting involved to begin with.  Here are 3 things your sales team believes about social media but isn’t telling you.

  1. Social media isn’t up to me, it’s the company’s responsibility.   Reps believe that social media is an extension of advertising and thus is the sole responsibility of the company.  Communication, narratives, or messaging whether via social or traditional media outlets are the responsibility of the corporate marketing team.
  2. I don’t have time.  Reps see things as either-ors.  If I must do Thing A, than Thing B must be sidelined.  Something must come off the plate before something new is added.  Given most sales people feel they already work to their fullest capability and capacity, few see a way to add more to their daily routine.
  3. I’m afraid.  Ever hear the story of the sales rep over-promising what their product or service can do?  What about the rep who exaggerates, manipulates or misleads a prospect?  Reps fear putting things in writing which provides them little to no wiggle room if they need to dial-back a previously issued statement or comment.  Putting something on LinkedIn or Twitter creates a feeling of unease and discomfort for a sales rep.

How to overcome these 3 false-beliefs?

  1. Here’s just one reason social media is a joint endeavor between a company and its sales people:  branding.  There are 2 parts to every sale – the company’s brand reputation and the sales person’s brand reputation.  A buyer will not buy if they don’t believe in the company’s brand.  If its product is perceived to be irrelevant, or low quality the buyer will know and look for an alternative.  Likewise if the sales person’s reputation is in question no matter how good the company’s product is the sale will not be made…at least by that sales person.  Social media is a great way for sales people to build and expand their personal brand reputation and thought leadership.
  2. Social media can help a sales person become more productive by improving their efficiency.  Utilizing free apps like Zite, Hootsuite, USAToday, and Google Alerts can help keep a sales pro up-to-date and add value to their sales conversations with prospects and current customers.
  3. Show them.  As their leader you must be able and willing to demonstrate your involvement with social media.  How do you embrace social media?  How does it play into your day?  Is it a passing thing, or do you participate daily with social media?  How do you use it?  Can you provide examples?  Being able to walk the talk is critical to implementing any new initiative or change.  The sales team must see you doing it before they even consider it for themselves.

Try these approaches and let me know how it works.

 

5 Ways To Make Your Meetings More Effective

Improve

Another meeting?  Most days start with meetings and end with meetings.  We spend our days running from one to another, whether in person or via the infamous conference call.  Some companies can’t operate without having a meeting to discuss even the smallest of decisions or topics, while others work hard to minimize the number of meetings they schedule. It’s not that meetings are bad, it’s just that most of them are an ineffective use of time. Little is accomplished during these meetings other than wasting the time spent being in the meeting itself, as well as the time spent preparing for that meeting.

So how can you increase your level of meeting effectiveness?

Here are 5 things you should do before scheduling a meeting:

1. Create and include a clear meeting objective. Provide a brief summary of the purpose of the meeting. Be sure to state whether this meeting is meant to inform, solicit feedback, or make a decision.
2. Invite the right people. The key word here is “right”. Don’t get caught up inviting the entire company to make sure you’ve CYA’d yourself. Have the right people there. The type of meeting you have set will determine who you should invite.
3. Be clear on your time. If you need an hour then schedule an hour. If you believe that your topic may go over an hour then plan accordingly. People hate to attend meetings that consistently run over. You don’t want to create the perception that you’re a poor planner.
4. Provide materials in advance. Many people feel that meetings should be somewhat of a surprise. I can’t stand that approach. Time is valuable for everyone. Why wait until the meeting to drop a 20 page deck on people. Give them time to read through it and absorb it. Having the ability to formulate questions, thoughts, and opinions prior to the meeting is key to running an effective meeting.
5. Schedule critical meetings during the day before 4 pm. The fact is that human nature is such that most people find getting invited to a meeting that starts at 4 pm to be annoying. Hey I know you have to be in the office until 6 pm anyway but still in all, people look to the end of their day to wrap up items that were opened during the day. Many 4 pm meetings become nothing more than place holders to reschedule another meeting when people are prepared, ready, and engaged.

Try taking these 5 actions before scheduling your next meeting and see how much smoother your meeting runs.