Why is it so difficult to find out who your real customers are? Why are our customer facing staff not sure who we should sell to or what they should sell?
The reason is often a lack of detailed product knowledge, low questioning skills and most importantly low listening skills. In dealing with potential customers (they have not purchased anything yet) we need to understand why they are looking for a new product or service solution by following 3 simple planning steps as shown in the graphic above.
Step 1: Plan ‘listening time’ with your customer. Listen to your customers story and ask lots of questions. Often customers are not sure of what solution they require, they only know they have a problem or need that must be met. Guide your customers through the discovery process by asking open questions, listening to their answers before asking the next question. Only once you have uncovered the real need or hassle should you start to think about potential solutions and what products or services would be best suited.
Step 2: Plan a solution linking your products or services to that solution. Often customer facing staff ‘drown’ their customer with a selection of products or services that could meet their needs. This leaves the customer selecting a ‘commodity’ product or service that fits in their budget rather than focusing on the best value solution. By focusing on the desired result or outcome attention is given to ‘what is best’ and customer value.
Step 3: Identify, plan and present the ‘best value’ offer. Once you understand your customers needs and drivers you can then plan and present a solution. Focus on building a ‘basket’ of products or services best suited to meet your customers needs and make sure that it delivers a value that exceeds their investment. Remember ‘value’ and ‘investment’ are not only measured in money but include time, effort and hassle.
By being truly customer centric you will exceed your customers expectations and create a loyal customer.
Picture by Fastcompany.com
Steve Jobs and Richard Branson talk about joining the dots when they talk about innovation. The ‘What is Innovation” video is such a great explanation of seeing and connecting the dots relating to innovation from “Simply Explain”.
I often debate innovation with clients. What is it? How do you do it? How can we get better at it? and How can we make money from it?
Innovation is not about focusing on designing new systems, services or products. Firstly it is about looking at your dots and seeing how you can join them in such a way as to be able to create a unique service or product offering. Secondly it is about looking at your current or potential customers and joining their dots in such a way as to be able to create a unique service or product offering for them or their business.
BUT mostly it is about looking at your dots and those of your customer and joining them in such a way as to add unexpected value to your customer. If you get it right they will willingly pay you for that added value. Just look at how the teams at Apple and Virgin connected their dots resulting in innovations that their customers willingly paid them for.
The best definition I have found is that Innovation is ‘creating new value or capturing value in a new way’. It should be simple, practical and saleable delivering a positive effective change.
Earlier this year I discussed how to create innovations you can sell by thinking backwards. http://afrilean.com/think-backwards-to-create-innovations-you-can-sell/
I hope this helps you connect your dots.
Earlier this year I had the privilege to facilitate and present at a Strategic Sales conference. The theme of the conference was ‘we all have ability – the difference is how you use it’. Fascinating discussions arose around individual skills and strengths (their super powers) and how to use them in the business as a whole rather than limit them to a specific branch. As in system thinking the true power of a business is recognised when people start working together towards a common goal. (The group/system is more powerful that the sum of the parts) In the process the team communicated across multiple levels and the fresh ideas and innovations put forward were used in developing a strategy execution plan. The result has been a 15% increase in GP over 6 months.
The 7 steps to maximising your super powers are:
- Know yourself. Understand what your strengths are and just as importantly what your weaknesses are.
- Talk to others in your team and find out what their strengths and weaknesses are. You might need to go first to make the communication more transparent.
- Identify your business goals. What do you want to have done by the end of the year to achieve your strategy. Companies often call these CSF’s or critical success factors.
- As a team look at your strengths (in the team) and plan on how to best use these to achieve your business goals.
- Identify what weaknesses you have in the team and how you can reduce or eliminate them using the team strengths.
- Draw up a plan of action showing actions, responsible people and time lines.
- Measure progress monthly. Often plans need to be fine tuned because of changes in the company, market, customer or competitor.