Are You Hindered by Formerly Effective Sales Policies?

Raise the bar to reach your goal | Kahle Wisdom

By Dave Kahle

I call it FIP.  Fine in the Past.  It refers to all the sales and marketing efforts, ideas, policies, principles, techniques, and strategies that worked well in the past, but are no longer effective.  The past is everything that’s pre-2012.

I still recall a poignant moment with an attendee at one of my seminars.  During the break he came up to me and said this:

“I’ve been in business for seventeen years.  And we’ve done well.  But now, it seems like everything is changing, and I don’t know what to do.”

He went on to explain that he had built his formerly thriving tool and die business on certain core principles:  Quality workmanship, competitive prices, and good service.  Those principles, adhered to with discipline and conviction, had brought him word-of-mouth business consistently over the years.  But they were no longer working, and his business was floundering.  The pain and confusion were written all over his face as he contemplated the prospect of seeing his business wither away.

Those principles are some of the most common examples of FIP: Business principles and policies that were sufficient on which to build a business, but today are not.  At one time, you could distinguish your business from others on the basis of these and other FIP principles.  Now, however, the bar has risen.  Because there is so much churn in our marketplace and the competition is so fierce, the kinds of service and quality that were sufficient to distinguish yourself from your competition are no longer sufficient.  Your customers expect previously outstanding levels of service and quality from every supplier.  What was sufficient a few years ago is still necessary today, but no longer sufficient.

That reliance on quality service and word-of-mouth marketing is a FIP principle.  When viewed from the perspective of effective sales and marketing approaches, these principles are passive.  They rely on your customer’s coming to you, recognizing the superiority of your product or service, and then talking about you to others.  Your job is to create an attractive operation that will pull customers to you and then keep them coming back.

When everyone else operated in similar fashion, that was FIP.  But when more and more competitors appear, and they make the same claims as you do, your reliance on passive marketing methods relegates you to second choice.

Probably one of the greatest marketing myths of all time is encapsulated in the expression, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Once you build a better mousetrap, you then have to publicize it, price it correctly, and develop a sales system to take it to market in an effective and efficient way.  And if you don’t do that, your mousetrap will linger in the limbo of obscurity.

I’ve seen literally hundreds of businesses of all sizes who never reached their potential because of an inability to do sales well.  They were perfectly capable of rendering outstanding service at competitive prices but struggled to survive.  These FIP principles were so deeply ingrained in their mindsets that they never learned to do sales as well as they could, and their businesses never reached the level of prosperity and success that they could have reached.  The economic landscape is littered with the remains of businesses who were excellent in providing their product or service, but mediocre in selling it.

Here are some other FIP principles, followed by the more effective modern approach.

FIP # 1:  Creating sales by relying totally on outside sales people.

It was OK to hire a number of sales people, give them some basic training, and then charge them with “Go forth and sell a lot.”  Sales territories were geographically based and each sales person was a clone of the other.  Accountability was a nasty word that no one repeated.

MEMA:  (More Effective Modern Approach)

Customers are first profiled to collect relevant marketing information.  Then, they are analyzed and segmented, not only by their potential, but by the dynamics of the most effective sales approaches.  The arsenal of sales methodologies now includes a variety of weapons:  Web site marketing, e-commerce, trade show marketing, out-bound telemarketing, and data-base marketing to name a few.  The appropriate sales methodology is selected based on the potential and dynamics of the customer.  Customer contacts are tracked on a CRM system.  The sales person becomes one of many methods of acquiring and nurturing customers.

FIP # 2:  Sales management by pay plan.

In other words, pay them straight commission and everything will take care of itself.

MEMA:

The sales commission plan, while incredibly important, is not the only, nor the primary method of sales management.  Those who supervise sales people, whether they be branch managers, principles or sales managers, understand that the processes and methods they use to focus, motivate and hold sales people accountable are a necessary and strategically important part of how effectively sales is done.  MEMA companies have a formal process of hiring a sales person, training and developing that sales person, helping that person focus his/her energies effectively, and holding them accountable for the wise investment of their selling time. (See our Kahle Way® Sales Management System)

FIP # 3: Reliance on “on-the-job” training.

Everyone can learn how to be an effective sales person.  Just put them out there in a sales territory, and sooner or later they will figure out how to do the job well.

MEMA:

Sales is a profession and, like every profession, requires both a minimum standard of knowledge and behavior in order to be allowed to practice, as well as commitment to continuous improvement in order to prosper.

Would you send your children to a teacher who had never passed the minimum standards?  Would you fly on an airplane with a pilot who had never been certified?  Would you go to a counselor who had never been trained in the basics of the job?  Would you use an accountant who had never studied accounting?

Sales is an equally demanding profession.  MEMA companies understand this, and develop a curriculum and a set of minimum standards for every sales person.  Once the sales person has met the minimum expectations for knowledge and behavior, he/she is expected to continually develop and improve for the rest of their career.

FIP # 4:  Hiring by “feel.”

When it comes time to hire a new sales person, find someone who has some experience in the industry and about whom you “feel” good.

MEMA:

Create a specific hiring process with a profile of the most effective sales person as a model to which to compare all sales candidates.  Use several interviews, formal assessment documents, reference checks and a well-designed pre-hire aptitude assessment to come to a well-informed decision about whom to hire.  MEMA companies understand that hiring by “feel” is often a rationalization for a lack of effort, and that the decision about whom to hire can be the single most important decision most sales managers will make.

The list of FIP positions can go on for quite a while.  These are the most common.  If they apply to you, it is time to rethink your position and move your sales and marketing efforts into the 21stCentury.

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“Fine in the Past: Are You Hindered by Formerly Effective Sales & Marketing Policies? (SM-27)” originally published on davekahle.com.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and eleven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Good Book on Business.

Salesforce – Customers Say Too Hard, Too Expensive

Salesforce customers.. That moment when you realize you paid a premium for a product that's too hard to use.

Salesforce.com is recognized as the leading provider of CRM software. Despite the fact that there are other very good products designed for vertical industry segments and ones targeted specifically at small, mid-size or large enterprise organizations, Salesforce has magnificently built this aura about themselves that if you need a CRM solution they are the only game in town.  Great marketing and you have to give credit where credit is due, but things have been changing in the CRM sector.  There are now many more competitors and this competition has put pressure on how much customers are willing to pay for what many now feel has become a commodity market.  In addition, customers have been weighing in on their experience with Salesforce and it’s seems that the shine has come off the Salesforce apple.  Customers indicate that the product is cumbersome to work with and simply too hard to use.  They also feel that they are paying a premium for a product in which they only use a fraction of the functionality.  Many are now looking for an alternative.

The good news is that today there are several vendors that have entered the market with robust offerings that are attractively priced and easier to use than Salesforce.com.  One of these products is Commence CRM from Commence Corporation.  Commence is no stranger to the software industry.  For the past two decades the company has been a providing application development tools too small and mid-size companies whose business requirements simply could not be met by traditional one size fits all CRM solutions.  Commence utilized its tools to build Commence CRM, which like Salesforce enables growing businesses to manage accounts and contacts, sales, marketing, customer service and projects; but unlike Salesforce.com, Commence CRM is easy to use and about half the overall cost.  The product is now considered a top-rated solution for small to mid-size businesses.

Commence CRM is uniquely positioned between basic out-of-the-box, one size fits all solutions and more complex costly solutions like Salesforce.com.  The company’s reputation for providing world class customer service is noted by recent testimonials from new customers.

If you are looking to replace Salesforce.com or need a comprehensive easy to use flexible solution for managing sales, marketing, customer service and projects take a look at Commence CRM. You will be glad you did.  See our Salesforce comparison http://www.commence.com/salesforce-review/

Best CRM Alternatives to Salesforce 2018

Don't be fooled by cheap imitations.

CRM solutions come in three sizes. There are several products designed for large enterprises, a few for mid-size companies and a myriad of basic low-cost or freemium offerings for small businesses.  Despite the marketing rhetoric from Salesforce.com that they are the best solution for all sectors, the reality is they simply are not.  It’s a great product chock full of a features and functions that, while suitable for large organizations, are simply overkill for most small to mid-size businesses. Many small to mid-size firms that have selected Salesforce have found it to be cumbersome, hard to use and simply too costly for the functionality they require.   This seems to be a fair assessment. It does not mean that Salesforce is a bad product, but perhaps not the best one for every size business.

Salesforce is known as the number one provider in the space and as such, everyone wants to take a shot at them.  I would like to defend Salesforce in perhaps an unusual way.  You see it seems like each month there is a new article written about the best alternatives to Salesforce.com, but most of them hold little merit. Here’s why. The latest one I reviewed was titled Best Cheap Alternatives to Salesforce.com. This article listed a dozen or more products, some free and others that offer a basic low-cost out of the box solution for managing contacts, a sales forecast and a bit more. These are not cheap CRM alternatives to Salesforce.com, they are simply cheap CRM solutions. Not one of these offers a fraction of the functionality that Salesforce.com does.  After reading this article you get the feeling that you can get the features of Salesforce.com at a fraction of the cost – but you can’t, and anyone with a brain knows this. So, what’s the point of this article?  To me it illustrates how much the author does not know about Salesforce.com or CRM for that matter.

There are a few solution providers that offer a robust set of features that are similar to Salesforce and at a lower cost, but strangely enough not one of these was listed in this particular article. I am not referring to unknown start-ups here. How about Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Commence CRM or Sugar CRM?  These are companies that compete with Salesforce.com every day, offer a comprehensive suite of functionality, are lower cost and have been providing services to mid-size companies for a decade or more.  These are the best less expensive alternatives to Salesforce.com.  To learn more about any of the above firms visit their specific web sites.

5 Unique Approaches to Cementing Customer Trust

5 Ways to Earn the Trust and Loyalty of your Customers
Depending on who you ask, acquiring a new customer can cost between five and seven times the resources of simply cultivating ongoing relationships with existing customers. Bain & Company is the most prominent purveyor of the statistic, but the lesson is clear – cementing customer trust is essential to growing a business.

The modern customer has more choice than ever. With more than 5 exabytes of data hitting the Internet every two days, the noise is overwhelming for a distracted customer. Keep their attention focused squarely on your offerings with the following approaches.

Start with Empathy

It is always easier to learn the nuances of a sales funnel when you put yourself in the shoes of your customer. If you can really feel the pain of those you serve, it will come across in everything from your sales scripts to your daily customer service interactions. You may also be able to predict the needs of your customers before a problem becomes apparent, something that will definitely win you points with legacy customers.

Become a Truth Teller

No matter your industry, customers will appreciate a company that tells the unvarnished truth. A savvy marketer can even elicit some humor from this technique. One strategy that works well is to advertise in a way that turns an exaggerated industry motif on its head. Calling out the overbearing nature of industry standard advertisements instantly sets you apart from your competition. You gain trust because you are pointing a finger at confusing or misleading advice while attaching your brand to the high road.

Customers Do the Best PR

We have entered an age of ubiquitous advertising that has oversold almost everyone. The average customer can see right through an actor or a script. The result is an instant distaste for any interaction that seems fake. Savvy companies are fighting back with PR teams that cannot be interpreted as fake by customers – because they are customers.

Your best customers can easily become your best advocates, and they cost a lot less than hiring a professional PR team. For a few free giveaways, you can target the thought leaders on your social media pages, deputizing them to give away coupons for your next sale or tout the advantages of a product that has been showcased to them exclusively before its release.

Own Your Damage Control

When something bad happens, take it on the chin. There is nothing worse than a company that will not take responsibility for the inevitable mistakes that will occur in its lifetime. Anytime you try to cover a mistake with inauthentic apologies or diversions, you risk losing the most loyal of your customers. Keep in mind that these people likely understand your sales process just as well as you. After all, they are the ones on the receiving end of it.

If a batch of products goes bad or you simply missed the mark, own up to the mistake immediately. Your long-standing customers will likely understand and stay with you as long as you tell the truth and make strides to honestly fix it. The fair-weather friends that you may have earned during a single sales cycle might leave, but they should have never been your priority in the first place.

Continuous Improvement

The successful modern company always has an eye to continuous improvement. If you are still working within the traditional iterative product cycle, consider allowing your customers in on the production process. With their feedback coming at you 10,000 miles per hour, you will be able to consistently improve your products. Your operations and administration will necessarily have to speed up in order to keep up with suggestions.

You can learn of the improvements that your customers want through social media for free. You no longer have to spend thousands of dollars on third-party focus groups and surveys – all of the information that you need to constantly improve is given to you on a daily basis. Refusing to use it is almost a sin, and ignoring it is a surefire way to lose the trust of your customers.

The successful companies of the future will engender trust with their customers today. Although every company’s strategy will be unique, you can certainly follow the tips above to properly order your steps in the right direction. Loyalty is everything – make it a priority to earn the trust of your customers. They are seeking your validation and approval every day through social media, in their responses to your email blasts, and in their opt-in subscription numbers. Give them what they are looking for and solidify your company’s place in the market as well.

About the author:

Reuben Yonatan is the founder and CEO of GetVoIP, a trusted VoIP resource that helps companies understand and choose a business communication solution for their specific needs. With a 10-year track record in building, growing and strategically shaping operational functionality in all his ventures, Reuben assists SMBs align business strategy with culture and improve overall corporate infrastructure.

CommenceCRM Addressing the Needs of Small/Midsize Businesses

In our interview with Larry Caretsky, CEO of Commence Corporation, he discusses how his company has continued to enjoy success in this highly competitive market.  Commence has differentiated themselves by coupling their top-rated CRM software with professional sales, marketing and customer service expertise that assists customers in implementing best practices for improved business performance.

Click below to listen to the podcast on CRM Radio
Commence CRM radio podcast