Four Fundamentals for Retaining Your Best Customers

By Alice Heiman

At any given company, roughly 20 percent of customers are the source of 80 percent of the company’s profits.

That means losing even one account from the 20 percent can really hurt.  

And what if you want to recruit new customers to make up for the ones you’ve lost? Bringing on new customers actually costs companies five times more than simply retaining existing customers.

Yet, despite the importance of customer retention, “less than a third of business executives consider it a priority.” (Statistics courtesy of Annex Cloud.)

Examining Customer Loyalty

We all know customer retention is important. We also know most companies are not doing a great job of it. Losing customers out the back door faster than you can bring new ones in the front doesn’t do anyone any good.

We need to retain our customers and, to do that today, it’s more than just satisfaction. We need to do the work to earn their loyalty.

Whose Job Is Customer Loyalty and Retention?

Today, most organizations have separated the jobs – having salespeople look for new business while account managers work with existing accounts to grow them. Some companies also have customer support people assist customers. More recently, companies have started to have customer success departments. With all these people concerned about the customers, we should be able to retain them.

With this in mind, here are my four fundamentals for keeping your best customers.

  1. Wow them at onboarding.
  • Assign someone to onboard new customers.
  • Make sure all the people involved in making the decision are thanked properly.
  • Send them an email introducing everyone at your company they need to know and give them the contact information. Maybe even send a video of your team welcoming them.
  • Oversee the implementation or delivery and be proactive – stay in touch through the process.
  • Assist with user adoption and company-wide rollout – and do whatever is needed to make the customer successful.
  • Keep in touch with all the key players and develop relationships with new players.
  • Be proactive in sharing information that will be helpful.
  • Get others in your company involved and building relationships.
  1. Love them and don’t leave them.  
  • Continue to build relationships with key players.
  • Introduce the others in your organization and help them develop relationships.
  • Add value to your contacts. They are happy to hear from you.
  • Follow them on social media and interact. I love it when people share my posts – and you do too. So will they!
  • Facilitate introductions to position senior executives from your company with theirs.
  • Go on-site with members of your team to meet with their team.
  • Send them a surprise every once in a while – like a great book or a tasty treat. Just don’t do it between Thanksgiving and New Year because it will get buried.
  1. Get repeat business and up-sell.
  • Listen for their needs and find out how you can fill them.
  • Plan ahead with them by asking about future needs and what they anticipate.
  • Share videos with product tips and shortcuts.
  • Share information about new products that will be coming out.
  • Watch for trigger events on social media that will inform a conversation you can have with them.
  • Ask them for testimonials. It reminds them how much they love your solution.
  1. Turn them into a referral source.
  • Earn the right to ask for referrals. Make sure you do the work to earn a proper introduction. (Remember to develop relationships before you sell. Social media is a great help in finding commonalities.)
  • Thank them for the referrals at the time they are given.
  • Let them know the result of the referral. Did you win business? Either way, let them know and thank them again.
  • Continue to ask for referrals at a reasonable pace and give them a referral if possible. You can use LinkedIn to identify who they know that you would like to meet.

A version of this post, “Customers for Life: The Art of Keeping Your Best Clients,” appeared originally on Alice Heiman’s blog.

Alice Heiman is founder and CSO at Alice Heiman, LLC. Alice works with business owners to get consistent and sustainable sales growth – and has been helping companies increase sales for over 20 years. She regularly emcees the Sales 3.0 Conference and is a certified Peak Performance Mindset trainer.

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Why Augmented Intelligence Is a Salesperson’s Best Friend

By Swati Sinha

Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM, once said: “Some people call this ‘artificial intelligence,’ but the reality is this technology will enhance us. So, instead of artificial intelligence, I think we’ll augment our intelligence.”

The era of augmented intelligence (AI) has been a gift for sales teams. And, if you’re not currently leveraging the vast amounts of data generated every minute from multiple sources and platforms for enhanced customer engagement, you are losing to your competitors: Gartner has predicted that global business value derived from AI will reach $3.9 trillion in 2022. And a study published in MIT Sloan Management Review reveals that 76 percent of early adopters are targeting higher sales growth with machine learning.

Augmented Intelligence Makes Sales Smarter

Early adopters are using AI to complement – not replace – their sales teams. There are many fantastic benefits of running a sales organization enhanced by augmented intelligence, including the following.

Benefit #1: More time selling. A recent article by McKinsey Global Institute states that 45 percent of time spent on sales-related activities can be cut down using AI. So, sales reps can spend more time selling and closing instead of completing routine, time-consuming jobs.

Benefit #2: Creating synergies. A major point of contention between sales and marketing is seamless continuation in customer engagement and lack of lead conversion. With the help of AI, marketing and sales won’t miss on strong leads and opportunities.

Benefit #3: Customer loyalty. By having better customer intelligence, sales reps can build long-lasting relationships with customers.

Benefit #4: Lower costs. By automating routine tasks and intelligent forecasting, organizations can optimize resource allocation, lower costs, and shorten the sales cycle.

Transform Your Sales Organization

Your sales organization directly impacts revenue and profit, and machine learning will help transform a sales organization from being reactive to proactive – and from intuitive to prescriptive. It can guide the sales journey from identification to customer retention.

Four Key Areas Where AI Can Be a Big Boost

How does this work? Let’s look at the four key areas where AI can make a significant impact for sales teams.

Area #1: Prospecting and Sales Leads

First, massive digital and social data on customers provides collective insights that can be used to identify prospects and strong leads. AI can also provide insights for upcoming customer meetings – and schedule them, too. Following up with cold leads can be discouraging and a waste of time for a sales rep, and this process can be customized and automated with AI.

Area #2: Customer Cultivation and Acquisition

Marketing has already seen the success of personalized messaging versus generic. Similarly, conversations between sales reps and prospects will improve if focused on areas that are most likely to be relevant to them.

Most sales conversations take place via email or phone. Natural Language Processing (NLP) can guide sales rep conversations based on customer information and honest signals. Over time, machine learning can assess, via feedback loops, what is working and what is not and can accordingly guide the rep further. Machines can also generate training plans based on the activities of other star sales reps. 

Timely deal offers are key to the success of any deal, and an AI-guided sales rep will have all the information needed to close sales. Based on past sales data, custom pricing can be recommended to help win deals. Machine learning can provide guidance regarding discounts and commissions by analyzing the success of previous discounts that worked. All this information can then be used to generate proposals and contracts (with confidence rating) and systems can initially ask sales rep to review the proposal/contract – which can improve and be automated over time, based on feedback.

Machine learning can also recognize the signals of what a converted lead or opportunity looks like and flag it for the sales to focus on them and not spend time spent on deals that would likely never convert.

Area #3: Customer Retention

Depending on the industry, the cost of acquiring a customer can be 5-25 percent higher than retaining them – and increasing competition will further increase the cost. Identifying signals from customers before they churn – and taking proactive steps to retain them – will increase the lifetime value of customers.

Area #4: Sales Operations

Machine learning can help sales operations improve in the following ways.

  • Sales training – Machine learning can guide managers with sales coaching, a key to building strong teams. At the same time, AI can generate a personalized training plan by analyzing all the actions taken by sales reps (such as written and phone communication follow-ups) and compare them with the processes followed by star performers. It can then provide guidance on corrective measures.
  • Sales reporting – Sales managers can view team performance (such as deals missed or quota met) in real time and take prescriptive actions to keep reps on track.
  • Sales forecasting – AI can forecast revenue at a macro level for sales managers by providing insights into sales trends, segmented by sales organizations, sales reps, etc. This can help optimize resource allocation to build healthy pipeline, analyze team performance, and be cost-effective.

Conclusion: Why Sales and AI Are Best Friends

AI can’t replace the value of human interaction when it comes to building relationships with customers, but it can make them smarter and more productive through guided selling and automating the operational job, allowing sales reps to focus on their primary job: delivering value to customers and building loyalty that leads to organic revenue growth.

Swati Sinha is a senior director of global solution marketing at SAP for Sales Cloud. A seasoned enterprise software professional with varied experience in product marketing, product management, and engineering, she has worked with organizations both large and small. She is a technologist at heart and empathetic by nature, which gives her the ability to understand customer needs and tell a story about how technology can solve their business problem. She has an MBA and a master’s degree in computer applications. In her free time she likes to connect with her community and support charities.   

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How to Stage an Effective Sales Discovery Call

By Chris Orlob

To move any deal through the sales process, you first need to have an effective sales discovery call, during which you uncover your prospect’s pain points. 

Uncovering pain points right off the bat allows you to immediately set up you and your potential customer for success. So, how do you get started? The data team at Gong.io recently analyzed 519,291 sales conversations to discover what makes for a great discovery call, and how top reps determine whether or not the buyer on the other end is a good fit. These sales calls were recorded, transcribed from speech to text, and analyzed with AI. Check out the following tips, backed by this proprietary data.

Tip #1: Start with pre-strategizing and role-playing.

Think about your favorite sports team. Without practicing, they will have no means of improving or preparing in the right way. The best teams in the world have coaches, and they practice and train every day.  Why should sales be any different?

Before your sales discovery call, work with your own coach (aka your manager) and run through all the questions you aim to ask. You can then practice responses you are likely to give based on assumed objections.

Next, discuss the outcomes you desire for the call, and what information you hope to gain from the conversation. This is just like doing your stretches in the warm-up to the main event, which is the equivalent to getting on the phone.

Tip #2: Know how many problems to address.

As we mentioned above, the problems you address are the core of your sales discovery call. You’ll want to dive deeply into 3-4 customer problems, then wrap up with next steps.

Why zero in on 3-4 problems? Looking at more than that makes all the problems seem less urgent. You also risk spreading your prospect’s focus too thin. As you can see from our research, discussing 3-4 problems has the highest likelihood of moving the deal to the next step:

Tip #3: Ask the right number of questions during the sales process.

When you’re unpacking those problems with the prospect, ask around 11-14 questions total. If you ask more questions than that, you’ll see a diminishing rate of return. Ask fewer than that, however, and you won’t go deep enough to uncover useful information.

The types of questions you ask matter. Start with problem-related questions. Those look at the prospect’s business issues, challenges, goals, and areas of concern. They’re strongly tied to your chances of closing a deal.

Tip #4: Don’t just ask questions – talk about problems, too.

Remember: You don’t want to bombard your prospect with endless questions. You should aim to create a natural ebb and flow with the right number of targeted questions.

Top performers intersperse their questions naturally throughout the conversation. Meanwhile, their average-performing peers load questions at the beginning of the conversation.

Frontloading questions makes you sound like you’re going through a checklist. And it feels like an interrogation rather than a natural conversation. Be sure to listen and ask genuine and relevant questions while creating a two-way conversation – not an interrogation.

Tip #5: Know your prospect’s personal goals.

Once you have the background information on your prospect, the next part of the discovery call is learning about your buyer’s goals. Identify which personas are part of the buying committee, and know the ins and outs of their individual goals.

For instance, if you’re selling to marketing leaders, most are concerned about MQLs – not items directly tied to revenue metrics. In this case, you can influence that decision maker in the buying process by showcasing how your solution relates to them (e.g. helps them generate high-quality leads).

During this part of the discovery, you should also be on the lookout for short-term versus long-term goals. Are they trying to reach their goals this quarter, or this year? From there, you can ensure your solution fits their needs in a timely manner.

Chris Orlob is senior director of product marketing at Gong.io., the number one conversation intelligence platform for B2B sales teams. Gong helps you convert more of your pipeline into revenue by shining the light on your sales conversations. It records, transcribes, and analyzes every sales call so you can drive sales effectiveness, figure out what’s working and what’s not, and ramp new hires faster. Join Gong at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Las Vegas on October 25-26.

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How to Build Your Sales Operations Strategy

By Carolyn Betts Fleming

With the right sales operations strategy in place, sales teams can perform their jobs at the highest level, work efficiently, close more deals, and generate as much revenue as possible. This involves leveraging the right data and insights, streamlining and prioritizing leads effectively, and, of course, utilizing the appropriate technology to keep things running smoothly.

But that’s just a broad overview. In reality, developing a sales operations strategy isn’t always this straightforward. In fact, it can be downright challenging. Often the best approach to such an initiative is to learn from others who have “been there, done that.”

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Below are five tips that should help you get your ducks in a row.

#1: Identify your main objective.

At the end of the day, the most critical role of sales operations is ensuring sales reps have the resources, tools, and processes they need to be productive. Accordingly, all tasks performed by sales operations should support and feed into this objective – whether directly or indirectly. Refocusing on what’s most important may mean re-evaluating time-consuming tasks or saying no from time to time – whatever it takes to make sure sales operations’ main priority is consistently being met.

#2: Align sales and marketing.

Misalignment between sales and marketing is certainly nothing new, but effective communication and collaboration between the two is essential to your company’s success. That’s why the first step in creating a sales operations strategy is to get these two teams on the same page. Technology can help make this easier. For instance, contract lifecycle management platforms can cut down on negotiation time, thereby improving efficiency.

#3: Facilitate easy access to content.

One of the sales team’s most precious resources is time. That’s why a significant component of your sales operations strategy should be identifying and implementing time-saving processes, workflows, and tools. One key focus should be content. Finding relevant content to share with prospects is a time-consuming but critical task. Sales operations can make a huge impact by organizing and maintaining a comprehensive, centralized database of content that makes it fast and easy for sales reps to get the information they need when they need it.

#4: Enable efficient qualification of leads.

The next essential component of a sales operations strategy is developing an effective lead qualification process. Poorly qualified leads are a huge waste of time and energy for sales reps and can directly impact the company’s bottom line. It’s up to sales operations to foster a process that evaluates and prioritizes leads based on certain criteria. When only top-quality leads make it through the pipeline to sales reps, they’ll be able to close more deals faster and generate more revenue as a result.

#5: Implement and maintain CRM and other systems.

Last, but certainly not least, a sales operations strategy should involve the implementation and maintenance of CRM and whatever other systems, tools, and technologies help optimize the sales team’s efforts. This involves making sure all data entered into these systems is accurate. It may also involve evaluating and adopting time-saving tools such as automation.

At the end of the day, the sales team will look to operations to help them perform at their very best. Developing and implementing a sales operations strategy that includes the above key components will help sales reps optimize their time, maximize efficiency, and consistently crush their revenue goals.

Carolyn Betts Fleming is founder and CEO of Betts Recruiting, a leading recruitment firm for revenue-generating, marketing, and people operations roles.

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How to Find Your Customers and Own Your Market

By Jim Cathcart

Today, you plan to make sales – but to whom? Who are your targeted prospects? Where are your most likely buyers? Which among them will be your best customers? And, by the way, where will you start?

For almost every product or service there are buyers who hope to find them. Your buyers are out there – and many of them are hoping you, or someone like you, will show up with the solution to their needs or wants.

How to Define Your Market

A market is a group of people with enough in common that you can establish a reputation among them.

When seeking your ideal buyers, there are three ways to look: from the outside, from the inside, and from your own point of view.

The outside view is looking for markets that share enough common characteristics that you can easily communicate with them. There are

  • Industry markets: automotive, financial services, real estate, construction, publishing, etc.

  • Professions: medicine, dentistry, chiropractic, accounting, law, architecture, education, and so forth.

  • Social markets and hobbies: country club members, golfers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, runners, bird watchers, do-it-yourselfers, yoga enthusiasts, and more.

  • Language or cultural markets: Speakers of English (especially in non-English countries), Mandarin, Vietnamese, German, French, etc.

  • Fans: sports, celebrities, and music genres. There are also Star Trek fans (Trekkies), comic book collectors, Notre Dame fans, Lakers fans, Tom Cruise fans, James Bond fans, Dead Heads, heavy metal fans, Beatles fans, fans of reggae, blues, folk music, and more.

  • There are collectors of almost everything you can imagine: wooden dolls, Superman memorabilia, Coca-Cola signs, toy soldiers, marionettes, frog figurines, ivory carvings, books, watches, and…need I go on?

  • Geographic markets: New Yorkers, Chicagoans, people from the South, Californians, Central Americans, Australians, and Europeans. This is also true of neighborhoods: townies, country folks, people within four miles of your dealerships, or who live in “the Heights” or “the Meadows,” homeowners in an HOA or gated community.

From the inside view (seeing through the buyer’s eyes) there are people who want luxury, economy, quantities, quality, durability, flexibility, and more. If you sell inexpensive watches, you can probably skip the luxury watch collectors as prospects; then again, an interest in watches might lead to some new sales with a creative approach. Look for what the buyers are seeking and group them by their interests and desires. Then find ways to reach out to them.

From your own point of view, you could look at what you are trying to achieve. Are you seeking to sell out of old inventory, build a reputation for a new product, permeate a market and reach all the buyers in one category, generate revenue for a new venture, improve your margins with new sales methods, build your book of clients for the future, or what?

The steps in getting new business involve

  1. Finding a market you want to serve
  2. Surrounding the market with messages from you
  3. Penetrating that market so you get at least one customer within it
  4. Permeating the market with as many sales as you can so you “own” it for the next phase of your marketing

Let’s say you’ve chosen automotive rebuilders and collectors as your market. Those are people who love finding old and rare vehicles, restoring or customizing them, and driving them. They go to car shows and tune into TV and radio shows and channels that cater to car enthusiasts. They go to races, parades, museums, and parts and accessories stores. They attend rallies and join Facebook groups that cater to their craft. To “surround” this market, you would probably do some of the following (note: this applies to other markets as well):

  • Attend their events
  • Exhibit at their expos
  • Advertise in their magazines and podcasts
  • Sponsor people in their field
  • Learn their insider language
  • Show how you are “one of them”
  • Offer them something that relates to their field and leads them back to you
  • Participate in their events (volunteer, host, or serve as the emcee; interview their leaders; appear as a guest on their podcasts; or become one of them in whatever ways make sense)

By doing these things you will surely find your first customers there and will have a foothold in that market. Treat the first customers as honored clients and serve them the best you can. Then get referrals and use them as examples of what you can do for others. Before long you’ll “own” that market due to the large number of customers there and your growing good reputation among them.

Now apply this same thinking to whatever market you have chosen. Happy selling!

Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE, is one of the most award-winning professional speakers in the world and the original author and champion of Relationship Selling™. He helps organizations and individuals find their best customers and grow their business in ways that are a natural fit for their talents and value offers. Contact Jim at info@cathcart.com

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How to Increase Your Chances of Sales Success

By Jamie Crosbie

It’s always there, isn’t it?

That little monologue in your head plays all day, every day.

Like an eternal recording, it plays and plays as you run through your day – commenting on this, musing on that. For many, though, an awful lot of those thoughts tend to be slanted toward self-criticism, worry, or fear.

Like a hungry grub munching down at the root of your mind, those negative thoughts tend to erode your happiness, increase your stress, and maybe even cost you the sale.

In a way, that is good news. After all, if your self-talk and mood can sink a sale, a happier mindset can improve your sales digits. Or, as motivational coach Billy Cox once said, “You can’t win physically if you’re losing mentally.”

Inspirational quotes aside, science seems to bear out the fact that happiness and a positive mental attitude and self-talk really do increase your chances of sales success. Studies have shown that self-talk can literally improve or hamper your performance. In one study, tennis players using motivational self-talk dramatically improved their performance, while the control group who did not use self-talk did not. This same type of study has been done with cyclists, competitive swimmers, and other professional athletes.

If You Think You Can, You Can

A recent Stanford study went even deeper, using an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance) machine to track how attitude and outlook affect elementary age students’ abilities to solve problems. They discovered, among other things, that, when a student was feeling good and had a positive outlook, they performed better.

Moreover, children who felt more positive showed significantly more activity in the area of the brain linked to learning and memory than those who were less positive. This might not seem surprising, but it does give credence to the fact that your mindset and outlook may be just as important as IQ.

Your Body and Brain Respond to Self-Talk

What happens in your head happens in your body. If your thoughts run to the negative, your body will become more stressed. Any inner dialogue you have with yourself inevitably affects not only how you feel, but how you act. From body language to facial expressions, how you feel impacts how you perform.

Happiness Sells

This goes hand in hand with a study published in Statistics in Medicine, which demonstrated that happiness (for want of a better word) is contagious. Happy salespeople create more pleasant encounters (which increases sales success) than those who are not happy. Harvard professor and author of the study, Nicholas Christakis, explained: “Everyday interactions we have with other people are definitely contagious, in terms of happiness.”

How to Use Self-Talk to Improve Your Sales Numbers

Like rabbits running on familiar ground, your thoughts like to haunt familiar, well-trodden mental paths. Habitual thinking can easily slip into negative patterns if you let it. Negative self-talk can range from anger and frustration to telling yourself that you are not good enough. When, for example, you tell yourself over and over that you are a failure, you become more likely to create that reality.  

Your inner critic can leave you feeling depressed and stressed – and even make you physically sick (negative self-talk has been linked to a lowered immune system).

To stop its rampage, call it on the carpet. When you hear your inner Negative Nelly sounding off, start talking back. Simply confronting it can immediately improve your mindset and help you achieve sales success. Try shifting your perspective and even speak out loud to yourself, if necessary. Maybe you can’t stop your thought train, but you can shift it to another track. In doing so, you not only become happier, but you might find yourself selling more than ever.

Jamie Crosbie is an accomplished senior executive with a proven record of sales leadership success. Contact Jamie today and find out how to take your business to the next level. Call 214/720-9922 or jcrosbie@proactivate.net

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Why Are There So Many Articles about Selling?

By Jim Cathcart

Like you, I subscribe to a number of magazines and resources that specialize in sales, marketing, and business success strategies. What astounds me about them is how there is an endless flow of articles on selling. You’d think the first 100 or so would pretty much cover the ground and the rest would be redundant.

Selling Is Not Always the Same

But that assumes that all selling is fundamentally the same. Not true. Yes, all selling involves connecting with people in a way that causes them to buy from you but, after that, there are endless variables. Online sales to consumers is vastly different from boardroom sales to executive teams. Selling through proposals and tenders is not even similar to direct multilevel sales. Retail store sales and in-home contractor sales are very different. Selling at expos requires a mindset different from selling people on having cosmetic surgery. Need I go on?

This diversity of selling situations, products and services, rules, laws, customs, and restrictions means you can never fully understand all aspects of this wonderful craft. But that doesn’t mean you should stop trying.

What’s Consistent in the Profession of Selling?

You may be selling cars through online ordering systems but you can still learn techniques or ideas from hoteliers in Las Vegas who are selling room upgrades and vacation packages. The guy who sold you the white-water rafting trip could probably teach you something that would help you sell parts to airplane manufacturers. It’s all human interaction, problem finding, needs analysis, solution finding, collaboration, decision making, negotiation, and confirming commitments.

A mind that is always learning is more capable than one that is simply well informed. I once marveled at how many firms were offering sales training and how different some of their processes were from mine. Then it occurred to me that “Selling” is the “family name” of all of them. Among Cathcarts, I’m Jim. My cousins are Bruce and Judy. My father is Earl. But we are all Cathcarts. Among sales techniques, mine is “Relationship Selling™,” Tony Alessandra’s is “Platinum Rule® Selling,” Don Hutson’s is “Selling Value™,” but they are all Selling – first and foremost. What separates them is the style or areas of emphasis.

I’ve been teaching sales for 40 years now and have authored 18 books, but I still read every page of Selling Power magazine each month and I scour the other publications, Websites, podcasts, and blogs for insights and inspiration. I go to conventions and collaborate with my competitors (who are also my colleagues). We share our books with each other and often recommend each other to our own clients. I hope you do the same.

The more you help others succeed, the greater the pool of buyers there will be for all of you. Keep the flow of different points of view flowing freely into your mind. Each idea will find the appropriate “file” of understanding that fits it – and your sales capacity will increase endlessly.

Jim Cathcart is a long-time contributor to Selling Power and one of the world’s leading professional speakers. He is the original author of Relationship Selling plus 17 other books. Cathcart.com helps organizations increase sales engagement and self-motivation. Contact Jim at info@cathcart.com.

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How to Identify and Remove Hidden Mental Roadblocks with Peak Performance Mindset Training

By Jamie Crosbie

They’re sneaky, aren’t they?

I’m talking about the hidden mental roadblocks that sabotage your best intentions.

The thing is, we may think we are really committed to reaching our goals – unaware that we face self-limiting thoughts that keep us from moving forward.

Potholes, Thought Landmines, and Other Mental Roadblocks

Self-sabotage is sometimes hard to spot. Wearing the camouflage of reasonable doubts, self-limiting beliefs are like convoluted mental gymnastics – turning themselves inside out with a strange logic all their own. There is a big difference between seeing clear obstacles (and taking reasonable precautions against them) and discovering hidden limiting beliefs that may keep you grounded because you are secretly afraid of flying.

Your Brain Holds a Lot of Clutter

Experts estimate that most people have between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts every day. That means you have a powerful conversation going on inside your head every day. Unfortunately, for most people, 80 percent or more of those thoughts can be categorized as negative in nature.

That’s So Rude!

If you listen to your inner dialogue, you are likely to hear conversations you would never tell someone you love. The litany goes something like this:

“This won’t work.”

“I’m fat.”

“I can’t do it.”

“I am not as good as…”  

“I am a failure.”

It’s like running through a mental living room full of toys and clutter, trying to reach a ringing phone three rooms away. You can easily trip and miss an opportunity. And the thoughts we think every day become the beliefs we live out.

Take Back Your (Mental) Power

To boot out negative self-talk, limiting beliefs, and other mental roadblocks, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Know what those roadblocks are. One way to do this is to think back to a previous situation in which you felt overwhelmed, felt you were less than you should be, or believed you would fail. The object is to identify the hidden belief/thought that made you feel the not-so-hot emotions. For example, your boss may have asked you to handle a challenging project or client. While you may have seemed outwardly confident, you secretly may have felt completely out of your depth.

  2. Think back to how those feelings not only made you feel, but how they made you react. Were you able to overcome them by pushing forward? If so, what did you do or tell yourself to move past them? Did you grit your teeth and tell yourself you just had to push through it? Or did your thoughts leave you paralyzed and unable to move forward?

  3. Look at the results. If you managed to pull up from your mental nosedive and save the day, that should tell you something. If you failed, that should tell you something too. Next, figure out if the thoughts you were thinking and the emotions they triggered were based on real-world evidence. (And, even if you did fall on your face, what did you learn from it?) Were the initial thoughts really a genuine reflection of your abilities? By questioning your thoughts, you can create new beliefs more in line with reality. By identifying real shortcomings and removing what is false, you will start to improve your performance.

Rinse and repeat as needed.

Jamie Crosbie is a successful senior executive with over 20 years of talent acquisition and sales leadership experience. If you would like to learn more about strategic, high-impact recruiting, please follow the ProActivate blog or contact us at 214/720-9922. ProActivate is a global partner helping forward-thinking companies fill sales vacancies with top-tier sales performers.

Posted in Mindset, Sales Leadership | Leave a comment

That’s What Friends Do: Thoughts on Customer Loyalty

By Jim Cathcart

There seems to be a prevailing mindset regarding customer loyalty: supposedly, it is something to seek. Sounds logical, but I disagree with that point of view. 

We can never control whether customers are loyal to us – or for how long they will be loyal. But we can control how loyal we are to them! 

If the entire business community were to reverse its polarity on this issue, I think we’d see a revolution in customer relations. 

How Do You Really Treat Customer?

Imagine, for a moment, how you’d feel if every business you dealt with suddenly became committed to finding ways to be loyal to you. As your provider, if they were to constantly seek new and better ways to show you how much they valued your business, don’t you think you’d be more likely to do business with them again? 

Many years ago, in Tulsa, OK, my local McDonald’s manager, Marilyn – whose nickname was “Grandma” – took the time to remember my name and my most frequent order, an Egg McMuffin® and coffee. When I came into the restaurant on about my fourth visit, she said, “Good morning, Mr. Cathcart! Will you be having your usual order?” I was stunned on both counts: the use of my name and the recollection of my orders. This went on for weeks and I abandoned other breakfast places in favor of the pleasant experience of seeing “Grandma” yet again. She made me feel welcomed and valued. 

One day, there were two empty buses in the parking lot. I almost opted for a different restaurant, but, upon recalling how “Grandma” made me feel, I fought the crowd anyway. When I entered the restaurant and found the shortest queue, I heard her call out my name! She said, “Mr. Cathcart, your breakfast is ready.” I went to the front of the line, where she did, indeed, have my egg sandwich and coffee. She winked at me and said, “It’s on the house!” 

How to Really Make an Impression on Customers

A free breakfast for me while 100 others waited in line? Wow! But she didn’t short-change any of them. They got their orders efficiently. But the 15 seconds she spent setting aside an order for me sure made an impression. Years later, when I reflected on my time there, it occurred to me that I had become a loyal customer to her for the entire six years I was in Tulsa. Six years of customer business from spending one free breakfast and less than a minute of time and effort! I’d say that is a great ROI, wouldn’t you? 

What are some ways you could offer more to customers without incurring any notable expense or time loss? There are probably dozens of ways you and your team could enhance your customers’ experience when dealing with you or using your products. Take some time really soon to identify how you might “Up-Serve” your customers on a more regular basis. It may be by adding a personal note or comment, making just one extra direct phone call, including a tip or tool in the next package you send out, or just being a better, more caring listener. There are people in your current customer base who would eagerly give you all their business and their continuing loyalty…if they were sure you were already committed to being loyal to them. 

Give customer loyalty today! Your customers are (and should be) your business friends. 

Jim Cathcart is a long-time contributor to Selling Power and one of the world’s leading professional speakers. He is the original author of Relationship Selling plus 17 other books. Cathcart.com helps organizations increase sales engagement and self-motivation. Contact him at info@cathcart.com.

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Transform Your Digital Era Sales with an Intelligent Lead-to-Cash Solution

By Swati Sinha

Does your company suffer from siloed teams? Disconnected applications? Information scattered across business processes? All these problems can obstruct your ability to respond to ever-changing customer and market needs.

Today’s buyers are sophisticated and in control, and they want a combination of products and services customized to meet their individual needs, available on their preferred channel, and on perceived price point.

Lead-to-cash: Transform Your Buyers’ Journey

To deliver an exceptional customer experience in this new landscape, all customer-focused business units – from marketing to sales to fulfillment to billing – must join forces. To achieve this, you need a solution that fully integrates internal and external data and processes, and that becomes the one source of truth across the organization.

Lead-to-cash is arguably the most important customer-centric process in an organization – starting with the customer’s intention to buy and ending with revenue recognition. Utilizing artificial intelligence and in-depth integration of data, you can make your processes inherently intelligent, thus guiding sales to be proactive, rather than reactive, to changing customer needs.     

AI and Integration Can Transform Sales Leads

With an integrated solution, marketing can effectively hand off lead information to sales. Research by the Aberdeen Group suggests that companies optimizing the sales and marketing relationship see 32 percent faster growth in revenue, 90 percent higher growth in brand awareness, and a huge increase in average deal size, sales acceptance of marketing-generated leads, attainment of team quota, and percent of sales-forecasted pipeline generated by marketing.

Opportunity Knocks: Is This What Your Customer Wants? 

Deals and opportunities are the foundation of your sales cycle. To pursue an opportunity, salespeople spend extensive time searching for customer information. Unfortunately, this information is typically spread throughout a disparate system – so they instead end up going with their “gut feel” or personal network to pursue it. This can result in fragmented conversations and even loss of deal.

With the help of artificial intelligence and real-time access to holistic internal and external customer information, sales professionals can engage effectively – focusing their time on the best deals and taking recommended actions to convert prospects to customers.

This intelligent approach eliminates clutter from the pipeline and increases forecast accuracy.

Proposal: Trusted Advisor

A report by Forrester suggests that 79 percent of B2B buyers say it’s critical for them to interact with a sales rep who can be a trusted advisor – which means not only meeting expressed needs, but having the ability to foresee and support future customer goals. For this, sales reps need to listen and surface customer pain, identify needs, and proactively recommend an ideal solution.

Products are constantly changing to match customer expectation of customization and options – generating thousands of SKUs. As catalogs grow, sales reps are placed in a difficult spot: They have to be trusted advisors with in-depth knowledge about their products; however, with the complexity of products, they don’t have a grasp on the entire product line and possible customizations.

Lacking intelligent solutions, the rep sells based on limited knowledge – which may or may not be the best choice for the customer, or the most profitable for the organization. Guided selling simplifies this process by recommending products based on various attributes such as the type of sale, past customer behavior of similar customers, etc.   

Intelligent Pricing Generates Revenue

Correct pricing is critical in determining the revenue of an organization. Pricing influences the behavior of not only the customer, but the sales rep.

Sales reps want to price a solution that is lucrative to customers, and might end up applying discounts that cut into the overall margin – especially in complex, bundled sales. Intelligent pricing helps sales reps price the solution that is competitive, and optimizes their commission without impacting the profitability of the deal.

It allows them to build in rules to prevent discounts that dip below a certain level of margin, contingent on the products included in the deal. It also helps in identifying up/cross sell of add-ons, options, and special promotions to increase deal size.

Putting It together: Effective Quotes Are Crucial to Sales

Effective quoting requires both speed and accuracy, and is an integral part of the sales cycle. While an accurate quote can help close a deal fast, a delayed and error-filled quote can frustrate the customer – and may even cause the loss of the deal.

Automated and streamlined approval processes help protect margin throughout any negotiations, introducing quality control. Triggers can be set for an approval of special quotes, such as exceeding discount or gross margin thresholds, or non-standard terms.

Since sales reps have real-time visibility into margins, delays in non-standard discounts and negotiations are minimized. Quotes with no special terms are automatically approved to speed up quote delivery.

Deliver on Your Promises

After the contract is signed, the fulfillment center ensures that the right products – including add-on items, etc. – are delivered to the customer on time.

An integrated and streamlined process provides the visibility needed to stay attuned should any “change in order” arise – thus avoiding any surprises upon deal closure. Sales solutions should also be able to move order details from the quote to the contract to ERP, and, on the other hand, have the ability to add details to the CRM to enable fast and intelligent renewals.

Integrated Billing Solutions: Flexible and Insightful

Monetization strategies continue to evolve as companies look for new ways to sell their products. Billing solutions should be flexible enough to customize subscription models for various levels of services, allowing for upgrades or one-time charges.

Integrated billing solutions should be able to consolidate even complicated B2B products and service packages into a single bill, and personalize it before sending to the customer. With integrated billing solutions, sales has visibility into purchase and transaction history, and can create personalized offers for existing customer bases – thereby increasing revenue by lowering the cost of customer acquisition.

So, with an integrated and intelligent lead-to-cash solution, organizations can accelerate sales velocity and time to revenue, have margin-protecting guardrails and price optimization, increase cross and upsell opportunities, avoid revenue leakage at various points, and help an organization transform its customer buying journey.

Swati is a senior director of global solution marketing at SAP for Sales Cloud. A seasoned enterprise software professional with varied experience in product marketing, product management, and engineering, she has worked with organizations both large and small. She is a technologist at heart and empathetic by nature, which gives her the ability to understand customer needs and tell a story about how technology can solve their business problem. She has an MBA and a master’s degree in computer applications. In her free time she likes to connect with her community and support charities.    

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