Look at the image of this car. Most companies look at their products, sales team and marketing programs as if they were a high-performance sports car. Their products are desirable to customers. Their sales and marketing are high performance. I always find that they have some type of problem, like a flat tire that make it difficult for their sales team to be winners.
Read on to find out what is your flat tire?
I am always hired by an individual and not a company. I may be hired by the CEO or another senior level executive. The person who hires me is frustrated with the lack of progress in growing the sales of their products. They are fed up and ready to find out what is holding them back and to take action.
As I spend time with their team and their customers, the reasons for their sales problems become readily apparent fairly quickly. I focus most of my efforts on understanding the customer’s view of the company and what needs to change in order to gain more of their business.
I look beyond marketing to see the company holistically from the view of their customer. I always have recommendations about how their marketing or sales approach can be more effective. Those recommendations are easy for the company to accept and implement.
The challenges come when I find the flat tire, that is not in the silos of sales or marketing. The majority of the time, a customer, like a builder, contractor or dealer will tell me, I like the company’s product and I like my sales rep. If they would only do this one thing differently, they would get more of my business. And when I ask them how much more, the numbers are usually 10 to 20% more business. No one has ever told me a number that was less than 10%.
Most of these changes do not require major investments. They require a recognition of the issue and a willingness to change that is usually more about a change of attitude than anything else. They require getting everyone on the same team. Would a race team allow a tire changer to do a bad job?
The reasons your customers don’t buy more of your products.
- Poor or “good enough” customer service.
- Unreliable order processing, shipping dates, incomplete orders and damages from shipping.
- Slow response to technical or installation questions.
- Takes too long to get pricing or pricing system that doesn’t make sense.
When I include these issues as part of my recommendations, the reaction is usually, “Oh, we know that, now what else can we change?” Salespeople will tell me, “Mark, we’ve been telling them about this problem for a long time, perhaps they will listen to you.”
The reasons these issues are so hard to change is that there is no sense of urgency or pressure on the department head of that area. They make a good living, they have figured how to do their job with a minimum amount of stress. They have a direct line to the CEO and know how to convince them that they are either doing a good job or that they are doing all that can be done.
They tell the CEO, “I am the customer service or technical or pricing or ordering or shipping expert. The sales people just like to complain. They don’t understand.”
To the department head, these changes represent risk and accountability, two things they like to avoid. They don’t view their job as helping to grow sales. It somehow is disconnected.
It’s like your company is a race car with one bad tire and the sale rep is the driver. No matter how much more power you put in the engine, improve the aerodynamics, if you don’t fix the bad tire, your sales rep will always be at a disadvantage.
Rather than spending more money on marketing or adding more salespeople, doesn’t it make sense to fix that bad tire first?
I can find out what is holding back your sales but it takes a willingness on the part of your leaders to create a sense of urgency with the right department head. These departments have never been viewed as an essential part of the companies sales success. That view needs to change.
Most of your competitors also have a flat tire. What would happen if you were the company with no flat tires?