Time: your most precious resource. Before you invest a few minutes reading this article, consider whether it may be relevant to your needs. Guard your time, my friends. Winners and non-winners have the same number of hours in each week. It isn’t the number of available hours that makes the difference, it’s how the hours are used. The information in this article is meant to help people who are:
1. Engaged in B2B sales/revenue generation
2. Planning on growth
3. Providing solutions within the imaging channel
If any or all the above resonate with you, read on. If not, move on. (a) (Spoiler alert: these bold letters throughout the article are leading you somewhere. Read on). One more: Are you willing to take action?
Glad you are still with me. Let’s get to it! By now the year is half over so you have a decent indication of where the numbers will be when Dec. 31 rolls around — numbers that fall into one of three performance categories. (b)
1. Goals met
2. Goals exceeded
3. Goals missed
Midyear, the picture is somewhat clear and becoming clearer each week. It is unlikely that there will be a dramatic shift in the universe or a gigantic market change outside of your control that will significantly change the year-end outcome. Regardless of the time left, however, there are things in the control of every revenue producer that do have a tremendous impact on the annual outcome. These fall into three categories. (c)
1. Attracting new customers
2. Retaining existing customers
3. Growing existing customers
Not exactly secret science, is it? The more you bring in, combined with the more you keep and the deeper you work with your existing base, the greater the year-end outcome. As the length of sales cycles varies widely, this article focuses only on the shortest-term impact opportunity: the existing customer base — first ensuring a solid foundation and then building on that foundation.
All of us want to feel that we matter, that other people care about us. It’s human nature — we want to be valued. I recall a sales call years ago where the buyer (major account customer at the time) asked the sales rep to pause during the rep’s presentation. “Young man, before you start pitching your new products, I have a question for you.” The rep nodded, and the buyer continued, “Did you or anyone at (company name) happen to notice that we ain’t bought squat in over four months?” (The grammar is theirs, not mine). They had gone from tens of thousands of dollars a month to zero in under 30 days and hadn’t placed an order in four months. Or, to be more accurate, they had indeed spent tens of thousands of dollars, but not from that rep’s company. The sales call went downhill as the rep pulled a file from his briefcase as if in disbelief. I think I saw a tear when he saw the zeros on the monthly sales report. No personal attention translates into, “You don’t care about me and therefore, not only do I not care about you, I will find someone who does care.” I would love to tell you that the rep came up with a miraculous recovery on this, but they did not. The brutal truth is that they were served better by someone else who was paying attention, staying connected and NEVER taking ANYTHING for granted. By the way, before you start thinking about all the things that could or should have happened before, during and after this call, just know that it was indeed a disaster and both the rep and I failed in meteoric proportions. In fairness to the rep, he was new to the company and lacked historical knowledge. There was no excuse for me.
Here’s another example: Sam (not his real name) was a buyer for a Fortune 100 company. He had been trained in the, “All I want is what I want, and I want it faster, cheaper and better today than yesterday” school of purchasing. He even had a sign on his desk that said, “Faster, Cheaper, Better,” just in case any visiting sales person wasn’t getting the point. Did Sam really make decisions solely based on “Faster, Cheaper, Better?” In the case of the call I witnessed, he absolutely did — but not in the way that most salespeople might think. After an entertaining discovery period, the sales rep uncovered Sam’s real need (and his motivation for making a change). Sam was buying cheap and he was getting his material fast, which to him equated better. However, he was having problems with inconsistent materials and deliveries, which created delays in production. To make matters worse, it took days for the supplier to provide input and updates, let alone to resolve and correct. The rep presented the case that he would personally handle those kinds of issues within 12 hours, no exceptions. He went on to provide his home phone number, mobile number and set up a unique phone number that was only for this buyer’s use! He won the business because he committed to performing faster (response time), cheaper (less down time and reputation cost) and delivering a better solution to real problems (far beyond what anyone else was offering). (d)
Two reps. Two events I witnessed that, by the way, took place over a decade apart. Several lessons. What actionable points can we glean from these examples? (e)
1. Pay personal attention to the customer. The customer is a person, not a company.
2. Be attentive to the specific needs of the customer. And again, remember, the customer is a person, not a company.
3. Correct problems quickly. Better yet, correct them without additional cost and prevent them from happening in the future.
4. Follow up. Follow up. Follow up.
5. Stay engaged. The buyer and you are on a journey together — a journey that takes the buyer toward their happy place. Stay engaged in the long-term journey. There is plenty of additional opportunity along the way.
6. Remain accessible after the sale. Not just accessible. Hyper-accessible.
These may sound simple. They are. They may sound easy. They are not. They take a servant mentality, a commitment to the customer and hard work. The good news is that they are within control of the rep, they are uncommon and they are the things that most competitors are not doing.
Time to take action. List five things you can do each week to bring more value to your customers than they are expecting. (f)
And by the way — the green letters I mentioned at the beginning lead you on a “secret” sales path embedded in the article. (g). Seth Godin might call it, “The Prize Inside.” The idea is to give the prospect (you, the reader, in this case) something extra — a bonus. Here is the Secret Sales Path:
(a) Defined “target market” by using a “relevant filter.”
(b) Narrowed the target market down to an ideal customer (willing to take action and further narrowed by degree of urgency). The greater the urgency, the greater the likelihood of buying and buying now.
(c) Presented possible solution strategies.
(d) Shared relevant stories.
(e) Presented an overview of tools to achieve desired outcomes.
(f) Created a call to action.
(g) Offered additional surprise value. #Bonus.
And if all of this amazing value isn’t enough, one last reminder — guard your time. Time is spent or invested. Make sure you know where your most precious resource, time, is going. Speaking of time, time to get back to generating! Dec. 31 is closer than it appears.
This article originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of The Imaging Channel.
is executive vice president of InkCycle Inc. He is an industry veteran with more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience. He is an active member of the imaging industry as an author, trainer and speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.