If you want to convert more sales, stop quoting…

Written by Jason Langford Brown, Lucid

For businesses seeking to increase sales conversion in a business-to-business environment it often surprises them when we say, “quote less”.

Businesses crave the opportunity to quote as often as possible in the hope some of them will covert. Sales teams justify their very existence on the amount of quotes they send out and sales leaders apply pressure and manage them on this measure.

From our experience of working with hundreds of small businesses across the United Kingdom the number one reason we see for low conversion rates is that businesses quote much too soon in the sales process and as a consequence lose the sale. Let me explain…..

??????????????????????????????The typical scenario starts with a sales manager or leader from an organisation engaging a prospect in a discussion to do business with them. The first meeting provides the opportunity for the sales manager to understand the prospects needs and look for a way they can solve their problems. The sales manager then asks for the opportunity to quote so that he or she can negotiate and close a deal.

The above example is a logical process but the problem is that in today’s complex business world it is typically not enough to convert the opportunity. Why? Customers want MUCH more from the sales process and a business’ conversion rate will rise dramatically if it is provided to them. So what more can a business provide during the sales process?

Firstly, a business needs to be more selective about the prospects they engage. Spending time in the sales process with the wrong client profile for your business is a waste of time for all parties and leads at best to a bad type of customer and more likely will never to convert to a sale at all.

The second aspect is understanding that just matching a prospects problems to the businesses solution is not a deep enough conversation. Most prospects already have an idea about what they might need to do. They have access to information and the internet in this modern business world so are looking for a business to provide new insights and challenge to their thinking. Ultimately a prospect wants a business to customise a great value adding solution to address their specific challenges.

Finally a prospect wants a business to assist them in engaging all their internal stakeholders as even if they are the leader/owner, decision making is becoming more and more collaborative as organisations become more risk adverse.

So imagine if businesses engaged the right client profile, understood their world, added valuable insight and challenged their thinking, collaboratively developed solutions that added demonstrable value, engaged all the stakeholders in the process and then quoted? What do you think it will do for conversion rates? From our experience implementing these adjustments has seen businesses achieving more than 80% conversion rates where previously they achieved less than 10% and yes, they are quoting less often but when they do it counts.

From Rants to Raves – Social Media and Employment

Written by Suzanne Whitmarsh and Andrew Thoseby, 1st Executive

There is a lot of talk around about employment.  In Australia, unemployment remained steady in April at 5.8%, the US saw a sharp fall in benefits applications and unemployment fell to 6.3% and in the UK, the number of unemployed fell to 2.2m from a post GFC high of 2.7m with a rate of 6.8%.

Troubled Western economies are recovering and even in Australia, where recession was avoided, the economic baton appears to have passed from mining construction to civil and residential construction with private and government infrastructure spending on the rise.

social-media-management1There is no doubt that social media has played a major role during tough times – sometimes outing bad business or management practices and often just facilitating stream of consciousness venting The tide is turning though. The recruitment industry, whether in-house or agency has had a multi-speed approach to engaging with social media. There have been HR drives to ensure employees understand that their rants about an employer could result in disciplinary processes, some recruiters have over done the application and many remain bewildered by it. In our view, it is just another tool.

The internet is just one “big data” list of potential employees. Social media platforms are the windows through which they can be viewed. If the strategic and creative thinking is right – social sourcing can pay dividends.

Two simple examples for us have been with a regional transport company (think really big blokey trucks) and Tigerair who opened a new flight base in Brisbane and needed 50 cabin crew – fast.

There are common elements – YouTube, Facebook, Twitter etc. Each application was different. YouTube played a big part for the transport company. The problem they had was securing longer term, family oriented drivers who struggled to convince their partners to leave the city for the country. While it certainly augmented numbers, the ability to send a link to a lifestyle video for the area and to deliver the family values of the business on film was a winner – we found wives following up on their husbands’ applications.

For Tigerair, the challenge was delivering 200+ candidates to fixed assessment centre dates as part of time line to takeoff. We knew this age group would go viral, and we only advertised for 3 days. The ability to link all social media platforms to a (database) application form was critical – we needed the interest, but we needed technology to handle the volume that came from sharing. We filled all 3 assessment centres and hit new employee target within a very tight time frame. Our reference site for this was https://www.facebook.com/hardrockcafefirenze which is leading European volume recruitment case study. Our page at https://www.facebook.com/1stExecutive/app_230343010345368 gives a preview of how this will look when rolled out to a multi-branch network.

There are a few simple questions that need to be considered before rolling headlong into social media:

  1. What is the real business problem? Our first example was about solving a communications challenge and our second was about driving volume for a job that many young people would covet.
  2. What is the best vehicle to solve the problem? Video tells the best story, but often Twitter and Facebook content will be shared faster (of course all of these can be combined).
  3. Can we cope with the response? In simple terms, if we are using social technology, we need a “back office” that can cope – quantitatively or qualitatively as appropriate.
  4. Is this a one off or do we need social to be part of our strategy ongoing? This will lead to ether investing in creating apps or to using what is already there.

In summary, the hype about social media and recruiting has created everything from raving fans to gibbering wrecks. It needs to be looked at as just another tool and what it can do needs to be considered as a value add on a case by case basis. However it is used, employers will always want to meet (even if by Skype) their potential employees.

3 Key Ideas for Success for Business Leaders in 2014

1. Have your challenged your Vision, Mission and Purpose lately?
Image For too many businesses their vision, mission and purpose are more ‘marketing’ pieces created for placement on their website or in a company brochure. Rarely are these statements of a nature that can drive the business, its people and its decision making forward. Why not review your own website and vision / mission statements over the next month. Are they easy to understand? Will they help transform your business? Will they help in decisions on strategies?

2. Are you transforming your star team members into head coaches?
In most businesses there are always high performers which traditionally means they progress through the ranks of the organization and eventually start leading the business and teams. However it cannot be assumed that just because you have a star performer that they will be great at leading or managing teams. A great leader works with star performers to ensure they have the skills to transition to being more the ‘head coach’ guiding and mentoring fellow team members in the skills required for high performance.

3. It’s all about change!
Pick up any management / business literature and you will typically read in the first 4-5 pages about the need for leaders to be visionary, innovate, adapt their products, adapt their business models, transform their teams or improve their bottom lines. The difficultly is focusing on all of those areas at the same time. However stand back from each of these specific issues and they all have a common theme which is……they are all about change. So how will you improve your ability to implement change successfully, regardless of the topic?

 

Leading With a Challenge

By Matt Heemstra – Cain Ellsworth & Co

“People are tired of simple things.  They want to be challenged.” – Umberto Eco

I recently finished reading an interesting book called The Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson.  I’m not big on reading book reviews disguised as blogs, so I’m not going to spend 1000 words talking about the book.  I’ll just strongly suggest it to business leaders everywhere.  You can read more about it here.

The short version is this:  the predominant view of sales success in recent history is that the most successful salespeople are “relationship builders”.  I think most of us understand what that means – the kind of people who are good at making friends, that people like being around, that make you feel comfortable, etc.  The authors suggest (based on fairly exhaustive research) that while those people are good at making friends, they aren’t so good at making sales.  Their theory is that the truly successful salespeople are those who make customers uncomfortable, who ask questions that customers can’t answer, who challenge customers.  Those are the salespeople who demonstrate value.

The most interesting part of that theory to me is how that idea relates to leading an organization, beyond just the sales function.  How do you lead your people?  Are you challenging how they think?  Are you making them uncomfortable?

ChangeI’m not suggesting you don’t encourage your people, or develop relationships with them, or that you should try to make them dread going to work.  What I’m suggesting is that the status quo is not acceptable.  Your organization has to change to thrive – or even survive – over and over again.  In order to make that change, people have to be uncomfortable with their current situation.  They have to question what they’re doing & how they’re doing it.  And that mindset, that constant pushing against the way things are – that has to start with the leaders.

If the leader is OK with the way things are today, all the employees will feel the same way.  People will get complacent.  Your organization will develop the belief that the way things are now is as good as they can possibly be.  Change will be viewed as something to be avoided.  And in the world we live in, that’s a death sentence for any business.

How are you leading?  Are you challenging your people?  Are you pushing them outside their comfort zone?  Are you preparing them for a great future – or no future at all?

Where’s The Money Gone?

By Andrew Downard – AD Supply Chain Group

Money2A seemingly simple question for a business leader to ask and one that most would think it would be easy to answer.  Unfortunately in many organisations it is not that easy to get a handle on where the money is going.  If we take an average business in the manufacturing sector then perhaps 25% of the money goes out the door on the cost of people, 15% might be taken up on overheads and 10% gets kept as profit.  So what about the remaining 50% of money that goes out the door?  This is money being paid to third parties for raw materials, goods and services.  Should be easy to get a handle on, right?  In most cases the answer is it’s not so easy at all!

But we have an ERP or Purchasing system you might say!  Again in most organisations Procurement only controls about 30% of the third party spend.  The purchasing files will only get you part of the answer.  The next straw that is usually grabbed is to say that the ‘accounts payable records’ will give the whole picture.  These will certainly get you more than the 30% procurement controlled spend but again still not the full 50%.  What about expense claims, petty cash or corporate credit cards?  All these are avenues by which money leaves the business to third parties.

Is this lack of clarity something to be concerned about you ask, our people are all ethical and operating in the best interests of the company!  The key question is whether all the spend is being optimised, are you getting the best deal for all the dollars you are spending?  Often the buying of the same goods and services is spread over several suppliers or products that are very similar are purchased separately again diluting the companies purchasing power.

So what to do about it!  A process called “Spend Mapping” can help bring some clarity to where the company’s money is going and whether there are opportunities to aggregate spend to get a better deal. A Spend Mapping project will go through the following stages:

Spend Analysis Step Step Detail
1. Identify
  • Search   all sources of information on where the organisation’s money is going:
  • Purchasing   Data – Payables Data – Purchasing Cards
  • Petty   Cash Vouchers – Expense Claims – Etc
2. Gather
  • Create   a single ‘database’ of information in common format (Take care as each source will come in a   different format)
3. Cleanse
  • Correct   errors, remove duplications, standardise descriptions and Units of Measure
4. Group
  • E.g.   Purchases from IBM, IBM Corp and Cognos are in fact the same company
5. Categorise
  • Find   a method to Categorise such as UNSPSC (www.unspsc.org)   , eCl@ss (www.eclass.de) or custom   developed. Avoid too broad groups such as ‘Travel’ or ‘Office Supplies’
6. Analyse
  • Basic   question; “Are you getting the best deal?”, is all spend under contract, are   only approved suppliers used, is there ‘rogue’ spend, are there Benchmarks?
7. Repeat
  • Continuous   improvement

Once you have developed this information you are ready for the next stage – Developing sourcing strategies for each of the categories you have identified.  And of course tightening internal controls if not all the dollars are going where you would want them to!

Andrew Downard is a Supply Chain consultant and Mindshop facilitator who specialises in helping clients realise the opportunities that are available in their Supply Chain, Logistics and Procurement activities.

3 Key Ideas for Success for Business Leaders in 2014

1. If 20% of your revenue in 5 years time had to come from a product or service that didn’t currently exist, what would that be? This was a great question posed recently by experienced Mindshop facilitator, Russell Cummings to drive increased energy and innovation into organizations. A great way to trigger new thinking as part of your strategic planning activities for 2014.

ExpressDelivery2. Growth = Capability and Capacity. Many organizations focus ONLY on sales / marketing when seeking to grow their organization which is a logical path to take. However two aspects overlooked which can block a successful sales / marketing campaign is a lack of capacity to deliver on the new work that has been won or the capability to deliver a quality outcome that will hold customers over the long-term. So when going for growth in your organization ensure you first check whether you have the capacity and capability to achieve our growth targets. There is no point putting more business through an incapable system.

3. What would Apple do? While the cliché of Apple and Google examples of business best practice can sometimes wear thin on many leaders this question posed recently by innovation consultant Dr Amantha Imber got a lot of people thinking. Reflecting on your own products / services if you put yourselves in the shoes of a leading design team at ‘Apple’ who would they change about your product or service? A great way to challenge your team to think outside the box.

The dark side of leadership development – Overcoming our resistance to change

By Nicholas Oddy – Nicholas Oddy Consulting

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. Carl Gustav Jung

In the leadership development work that I facilitate with both individuals and organizations I am most often focused on the positive side of development. The aspects of development that might characterize the ‘positive’ include defining aspirations and goals, building new capability, understanding and managing complexity, and taking small actionable steps to achieve individual or group objectives.

While positive development can yield tangible results and help organizations to foster more effective leaders it has become apparent to me that this approach is only partial. A more complete developmental picture also requires a focus on the negative side. More appropriate language might describe the work as helping people to overcome their personal barriers to change. As the earlier quotation by Jung suggests, full development only occurs when we are able to release that which has a hold on us and limits our potential to grow.

BrokenwallOne of the most powerful tools that I have been introduced to in order to overcome personal barriers to change is Robert Kegan’s ‘Immunity to Change’ process. Keegan is the Professor of Adult Development at Harvard University and based upon his research exploring people’s capacity to change he developed a process he calls ‘the immunity map’. As well as encountering inspiring stories of personal resilience and rejuvenation that illustrated a willingness and capacity to change he was exposed to numerous examples of the inability many of us have to change.

An example of our sometimes-chronic inability to change is his research into individuals who have a compelling (even life and death) reason to change but still fail to do so. Kegan looked at people with major health concerns who were told by their doctors confronting truths such as ‘if you don’t make dramatic changes to your lifestyle in the next twelve months you will most likely die.’ To his astonishment only one in seven patients who were delivered such an ultimatum were able to make the significant lifestyle changes required. So what limits our capacity to change?

It is Kegan’s contention that what often creates our immunity to change is a core belief that we have about ourselves that most often resides in our unconscious (or subconscious if that is your preference). He calls these limiting beliefs our ‘Big Assumptions’. While we may not all have big assumptions that stop us overcoming something like a major health crisis; to a greater or lesser extent we are all challenged by big assumptions that stop us from developing as completely as we might.

Although we are typically unaware of our big assumptions they can and do influence our beliefs and behaviours in profound ways. An example of a big assumption that lies in the unconscious of individual is: ‘I’m not worthy of success, I’m a fraud and one day people are going to discover this’. It’s amazing how many CEO’s and highly successful business people have an assumption like this eroding their confidence and self-belief. Keegan’s work suggests that the big assumption is often incorrect, inaccurate, or no longer relevant however they become so engrained and powerful that they can author our behaviours and sense of well-being. Other examples of big assumptions that I have heard are listed below:

• I need to be unique and different in order to be loved
• It’s not safe to be honest and authentic in the world
• If I’m not successful people will abandon me
• I need to take control in order to be safe and happy
• It’s not OK for me to speak up and voice my opinion

The immunity map that Keegan developed seeks to provide people a pathway to uncover their personal big assumption/s. By bringing our big assumptions into awareness we can work to overcome them and increase our ability to change and to grow as human beings. The process to identify our big assumptions can take anywhere between two hours and two days but typically follows the (highly-abbreviated) four-step process outlined below:

1. Identify a personal (or leadership) commitment that is highly important and has been challenging to realize.
2. Document the barriers to this commitment. What are you doing or not doing that is stopping you from achieving your goal?
3. Recognise why these barriers have been getting in the way and confront the truth about what is really worrying you.
4. Identify what you are subconsciously committed to based upon your worries and fear and define what you believe your ‘big assumption’ to be.

The process should ideally be facilitated by psychologists or practitioners familiar with Keegan’s work however the book referenced at the bottom of this article can provide powerful insights for people looking to undertake this type of work.

The big assumptions that people uncover are often primal in nature (the unconscious tends to work this way) and many have developed during the formative stages of our lives. The important thing to recognize is that they are just stories that we have been (unconsciously) telling ourselves and they can be overcome using the tests and processes Keegan illustrates.

The ‘immunity to change’ model may not be suitable to everyone and most healthy adults can live full and meaningful lives without having to confront the shadows that lie within the recesses of their minds. For those of us willing to take the journey however the immunity map can help us to overcome some of the self-limiting beliefs that stop us from becoming who we truly want to be. It is hard enough fighting the battles of the outside world, it is harder still when the toughest enemy is our very self.

Nick recently joined Mindshop and specializes in leadership development and innovation work. He delivers two corporate postgraduate leadership subjects for Swinburne University and works as a member of the Banjar team with Mike Boyle.