Is Messaging Confusion Hurting Sales?

Are you playing the telephone game with your customers?Is your management team in sync with customer perceptions? I know you think they are.

But one CEO bragged to us that his organization would do anything to deliver their product to customers on time – regardless of cost. Everyone around the table was committed to make it happen.

When I asked their customers the about this bold promise made by management, none of them had ever heard it. Worse, their perception was that this company was late in all of their deliveries.

Don’t let messaging confusion hurt sales

Don’t let messaging confusion hurt salesThe vision was not getting communicated clearly. Every sales person had a different take on what was coming from senior leadership.

That confusion was hurting sales.

It was like they were playing the telephone game. Senior management would tell the sales team what was going on in one off meetings.

Messaging was different. Understanding was different. Customers weren’t talked to at all.

Identifying customer perceptions is critical. That’s your baseline and lets you know how to begin to move the communication needle. What customers believe about you is a key indication of how much they will want to buy from you.

It’s critical that the bold promises and firm commitments born in the board room get translated from vision to implementation.

Use a discovery process to identify perceptions

telephone_game_tin_cans_stringYou need to end up with these four critical elements at the end of this process:

  1.        Market position
  2.        Target message
  3.        Competitive benchmark
  4.        Accountability – allows you to gauge improvements over time

You need to discover:

  • Current market situation
  • What needs to be accomplished

Set out to determine:

  • Who buys your products
  • How are you thought of
  • What’s important to make the sale
  • What are our objectives

Using Outside In Thinking

Using Outside In ThinkingTo accomplish these goals you probably need a third party to help you uncover in separate discovery sessions:

  • Management’s perceptions − what they told you
  • Sales discovery session (by phone and in-person) to establish position of your products plus key company characteristics − what your sales team told you

Psst…there’s a secret ingredient in this process.  It’s the missing link − what your customers told you (Outside In Thinking).

This type of Discovery measures your position in the marketplace and identifies the market’s hot buttons. It results in maximum marketing effectiveness and better utilization of brand and marketing communication dollars.
Using Outside In THinkingMost importantly:

  • Discovery session gives you an opportunity or window to look into your company and see how you think and work
  • And Discovery gives you a window in to how your customer think about who they want to work with. It gives you an education on how them make their decisions and the key criteria underlying the decision to buy.

It doesn’t get much better than this. But you have to take the message back to the senior leadership team and convince them of the disconnect.

They won’t believe you. And will probably blame you. But if you succeed, everyone wins. 

Good selling.

Active Search Results (ASR) is an independent Internet Search Engine using a proprietary page ranking technology with Millions of popular Web sites indexed.

Are You Stuck In a Rut?

Doing the same thing over and over again

Since many good things (and some not so good) traditionally come in threes, we thought we’d follow the lead set in our last two blog posts where we spoke of service and value and talk about a third old fashion thing. 

Let’s talk about tradition, which can be a blessing or a curse.

Traditions stand for continuity and stability

Socially and in business, some traditions are extremely positive.  They stand for continuity and stability, the often needed and comfortable status quo.

Blessing, Curse Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Blue Sky and Clouds.But sometimes, they’re negatives that translate into, “That’s how we’ve always done it and, right or wrong, that’s how we’ll go on doing it.”

For example, I’ll bet your company has always been based on quality, service, and value.  And that it’s a tradition you’re proud of.  On the other hand, your mind must always be open to new ideas as well as new needs and demands from the markets you serve.

As America emerges from the Great Recession that has hurt so many builders and remodelers, burdensome traditions will fall like trees in a logging camp.

It’s time to challenge the status quo

Meanwhile, until that much discussed but painfully slow emergence occurs, some tradition-bashing may well be called for.  For you, that should involve asking yourselves and your customers how you can do an even better job than you think you’re doing right now.

That's the way we've always done it

How about your traditions?  When was the last time you reminded your customers that part of your job is to help them sell their customers?  Are your sales teams making full use of all the sales, marketing and training tools you have invested in?  Or are they relying on the same old tricks that worked in the past?  It’s the basis for the often quoted saying “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

If your answer to any of these questions—or others you come up with yourself – is, “We don’t work that way,” or “We never have in the past,” or “We never had to before,” or something more colorful, it may be time to join in a quick sing-along of TRADITION, then immediately switch to a chorus of an oldie called THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE.

The best tradition is being profitable

Time For ChangeA very wise old business philosopher once said, in business, the best tradition is being profitable.  With that in mind, it may be the perfect time to sort out the positive traditions, get rid of those that hinder more than they help, and start creating some new ones.

8 Pointed Questions to Reignite Sales Growth

crossroads 1Congratulations – you’re the new CEO of a business that is in the red and heading the wrong direction.

Every turnaround situation is unique and is a high risk and reward scenario with the jobs of many on the line.  And every turnaround has a common theme that the status quo was pushing the business in the wrong direction – the need to change was obvious.  Another common theme?  That the current situation is someone else’s fault; another department, the past leader, the dog who ate your homework…

The reality is it doesn’t matter.  Your task is to fix the business.  To do this you need to drop the politics and focus on the future.  You need people who you can trust, who have opinions, and can engage in constructive debates.

The best way to start the debate is with pointed questions

HonestAssign these eight questions to leaders in the business and then bring the group back together for a couple of days of offsite meetings.  The hard part is getting past the finger-pointing.  A new leader has everybody jockeying for position and transparency is hard to come by.

One solution that worded behind expectation was when we brought a key customer into the strategy session.  While it was risky, it was the catalyst that brought honesty out.  We happened to pick the absolute right person, who for three days dropped his own identity and joined the team.

You need to be intensely honest in this assessment

business-devolopmentThese are the eight questions we answered over three days and led to the reversal of a share loss.  Could your business answer these today?

  1. How do our products compare?
  2. How does our price compare?
  3. How does our cost compare?
  4. How does our service compare?
  5. How does our marketing compare?
  6. How effective is our sales force?
  7. How does our sales penetration vary by region?
  8. Where should we rate in two & five years vs. competition?

The goal is to come out of the session with a clear picture of who you are, what you want to be, and where you are going to focus first.

Here is a scorecard  that we used to illustrate our intentions.Graph

This is another post written with my colleague Doug Thompson, General Manager Rockwood Manufacturing at ASSA ABLOY.