Is it OK if You Lose Customers Because of the Evolution of Your Product?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 11, 2016 @ 10:01 AM

product-evolution.jpg

Did you ever look for something you haven't used in quite a while, only to be dismayed when you couldn't find it?  Where could it be?  Did you lose it?  Did the cleaners throw it away?  Was it stolen?  Did you tuck it away somewhere, but can't remember where?

Did you ever lose a long-time customer?  Did it happen overnight or was it a long time in coming?  Did you try to save them?  Were they savable?

One of the inevitable facts of selling is that the Law of Sales is much like the Law of Gravity.  "What goes up must come down" loosely translates to "Who you sell will eventually go away."  The only question is whether that will be days, weeks, months, years or decades from now.  

In 1990, Objective Management Group (OMG) began selling what would eventually become an elite, world-class suite of sales force evaluation and sales candidate assessment tools.  We helped companies through third-party resellers who would eventually be called partners.  We started with 6 charter partners, all of whom remained active until last week when 1 of them made the decision not to continue with us after 25 years.

Partners come and go.  For the last 15 years, the number of sales consultancies we have partnered with has averaged around 150 partners worldwide.  So why would a long-time, loyal partner or customer go away?

In this case, it's evolution.

Companies evolve. Products evolve. Customers evolve.

However, when companies, products and customers do not evolve together, there is an opportunity for a competitor to swoop in and fill a void.  And here is the million dollar question:  Is that OK?

Maybe.

There is a fine line between leading and listening.  Of course, you want to listen to your customers and provide them with win-win solutions.  At the same time, you can't stop evolving because a customer does not want to join you on that journey.

For example, suppose a printing equipment manufacturer had made the complete transition from mechanical printing to digital printing and one large customer wanted to continue printing with mechanical equipment. While the manufacturer saw the coming trends, technology, promised efficiencies and new opportunities, the customer was married to his mechanical equipment and didn't want to make the investment in new digital equipment.  Does the manufacturer listen to the large customer and slow its own evolution, or do they allow that one large customer to leave, while continuing to lead the way to the future?  And if the manufacturer did listen and slow down, how long would it be before the customer went bankrupt and the manufacturer no longer had the lead over their competitors?

OMG is committed to continuing to create, innovate and provide amazing, insightful, powerful, timely, accurate and predictive evaluations and assessments for sales forces and leadership teams.  This isn't some sort of marketing slogan either.  This is what we have been doing every day, all day, since 1990.  Selling has changed dramatically in the past 7 years and our evaluations and assessments have had to evolve as well.  For example, some of the many things that we have added or enhanced include:

  • Social Selling proficiency
  • CRM proficiency
  • Inside Sales
  • Lead Gen
  • Appointment Setting
  • Intrinsic Motivation and How Intrinsics are Motivated
  • The Buyer Journey
  • Enhanced Sales Process
  • Ideal Roles
  • Ramp up Time
  • Longevity
  • Sales Posturing
  • Sales Messaging
  • Sales Leadership Effectiveness
  • Sales Management Effectiveness
  • Pipeline Analysis
  • Modification of our 21 Sales Core Competencies
  • Perfect Fit Analysis
  • Much, much more.

It's disappointing when a partner isn't willing to take the next step into the future.  At the same time, when partners stay and applaud our work, it validates that we are doing the right things, going down the right path and leading the way. The many consultants who email, wanting to partner with us because of what we are doing, further validates our actions.

Will you attract more customers than you will lose or will you lose more customers than you will attract?  Will you suffer in the short-term, but prosper over the long haul or will you achieve a short-term gain at the expense of long-term results?

Think about all of the customers who moved to Apple because Apple knew what people would want to have.  And think of all of the people who left Microsoft and Windows until they innovated and introduced the Surface Tablet and Windows 10.

Innovate, evolve, push, lead and perfect your life's work.  It won't be right for everyone at every moment, but that's just the validation you need that you are doing it right.  Customers may leave when they aren't happy with your service or your perceived value and that needs to be addressed.  But when they leave because they can't or don't want to keep up, it means that you are doing the right things.  

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, Apple, CRM Application, Windows, innovation, microsoft

Top 4 Questions, 2 Words of Advice about Sales CRM

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 @ 07:02 AM

demoA company's executive team can have a positive or negative influence on the performance of the sales team.  Each member of your executive team can impact sales in some small, or not so small way.  Today, I want to talk about Chief Technology Officers, VP's and Directors of IT.  At first glance, you might not think that IT has much of an impact on sales and you would be correct.  However, they do have a significant role.

Let's take a stutter step and use Application Engineers as an example.  When AE's are introduced into the sales process, many of them want to take over.  After all, they are the experts, right?  A best case scenario for using an AE is for them to speak when asked to speak, address only those questions asked, make sure that the customer sees that the fit and function will exceed expectations, and return to silence.  It's not so much that we need to teach AE's how to sell, as much as we want to teach them what their role is in the sales process and how to stay out of the way, until their expertise is required.   

Back to the Senior IT leaders.  When companies are considering and selecting CRM applications, the choice needs to be made by the people who will be reviewing the data on the dashboard, reviewing the reports and holding salespeople accountable for using the application.  Consider the following:

  • The application is hosted in the cloud - not on the client's server or the employee's desktop.
  • The information in the CRM is typically not sensitive company information.
  • In most companies, the CRM application can stand on its own and does not tie into other systems.
  • CRM applications are prolific and, if choosing carefully, out of the box capability is good.  IT does not need to design and program a proprietary system.
  • Most issues with CRM revolve around customization and user friendliness - not compatibility - and again, when you choose the right CRM, neither of those should be issues.

So why is IT getting in the way when it comes to CRM?  The following are some of the explanations I have heard:

  • "My CTO doesn't like this application."
  • "IT doesn't have time to support a move to a new CRM right now."
  • "The IT Director is concerned about security."
  • "IT believes this will require too much support on their end."

In most cases, IT shouldn't even be involved in the selection of today's CRM applications because they are hosted in the cloud and require no local IT support.  In this case, the way that IT should support Sales is by staying out of the way, like an application engineer in the sales process.  Let Sales choose the application.  Why would anyone care which application IT likes?  They're not going to use it, review it, coach from it, hold anyone accountable to it, train anyone to use it or customize it.  They might not have to do anything except maintain a list of users and passwords.

They should go back to running the IT department.  Keep the servers running.  Keep the users happy.  Keep the software updated.  Make sure there is enough storage space.  Prevent viruses from disrupting work flow.  Help users with usability issues.  But please don't try to select CRM for us, OK?

Better yet, let an outside sales expert, who knows your company and has familiarity with all of the CRM applications on the market, recommend an application for you.  When you look at CRM's, you can watch their demos, live and recorded.  "Look at everything it does - wow!"  But the demos do a great job of hiding customization requirements, functionality issues and usability challenges.

The 4 biggest questions should be:

  1. How much money will you have to spend to get it to do what you need it to do?
  2. How difficult will it be to get your salespeople to embrace it and live inside it?
  3. What will it take to get your sales process, timelines, milestones and labels integrated?
  4. How long will it take to get the dashboard to report what you want reported?

In most cases, the people who know the answers to these questions and can be truthful about them, are the sales experts from outside your company.  Not your IT people, and certainly not the developers of the CRM applications.  And it's not your job to become an expert on all of these applications - that would take up dozens of hours of your valuable coaching time.

Get IT out of the way - it's not their problem or responsibility.

Get a sales expert in there - we'll know what to recommend.

And for crying out loud - stop attempting to protect the investment you made in a CRM application that was a mistake!  It cost a fortune, has features you aren't using, is so complicated that you can't get your salespeople to use it, and costs another fortune every time you want to tweak it.  Cut your losses and just move to an application that will work out of the box!  

Chris Mott wrote about the role of the CFO in driving sales and Dennis Connelly wrote about the HR Director's challenge in supporting sales.

This is from Verne Harnish - The Growth Guy: Free 19th Feb 2pm Webinar -- Dave Kurlan, author of Baseline Selling, is founder of the #1 sales assessment tool in the world. We're hosting his 48 minute "Baseline Selling" online seminar for free Feb 19 at 2pm (2pm YOUR time wherever you are in the world). Note, the first few minutes are quite basic, as are the first steps in any sale process. However, as the sales process moves toward closing, the logic of Kurlan's 4 steps become increasingly important. Every time I watch his seminar it reminds me of some key selling point that is worth listening to the entire program - I picked up one idea that helped me land a significant contract last week (I play it in the background while I crank through email). This is the start of a bi-weekly complimentary executive education series we're offering insights readers through 2014. Let this free growth series drip irrigate ideas into your brain. Here is the link, then

  1. Sign up at the event registration page (name, last name, email, and phone).

  2. You will receive an email with a customized link

  3. On the day of the event click or copy/paste the link from step #2 and that's it.

NOTE: it will air for free from 2pm - 2:48pm 19th Feb whatever time zone you're in. Otherwise, there is a small charge if you want to watch it any other time. 

Register for Leading the Ideal Sales Force Part 2, on March 12 at 11 AM ET.  (Here is a link to the recording of Leading the Ideal Sales Force Part 1 in case you were unable to attend. 

 

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, verne harnish, CRM selection, CRM Application, Sales integration

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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