I spent the early part of this week going back to school
myself: At the CustomerCentric Selling® partners retreat.  Lots of pearls of wisdom and enlightenment.  This is Part I.Backtoschool


First off was an impressive keynote address from Greg
Alexander, CEO of Sales Benchmark
  After mentioning
that his research shows that sales force effectiveness is the #1 objective of
today’s CEOs, he discussed four main points that I’ll break out for you below.

1)  Product and Price are no longer a sustainable
competitive advantage
.  Everything
cool and useful gets copied within 18 months or so these days.  In the global economy, there seems to
always be someone pricing their comparable stuff even cheaper than seems
possible.  See Michael Porter, Thomas Friedman, etc.   

2)  The key question executives need to answer then
is “What is your strategy for maintaining or achieving a dominant
position in your market?” Since it’s can’t be product or price, what’s left is
The Customer Experience
Where does Customer Experience start?  MARKETING AND SALES.  

That experience starts with empowering your sales team to make your
customers’ buying experience world class – that is, make it easy and enjoyable.


Idea_lightbulb_cartoon2 At this point, my mind
wandered a little:  (c’mon, I’m a
sales guy, like my attention can be held in a vice without hypnosis).  I started thinking about a recent success
story I heard from a customer of mine.  Seems they were locked into a hyper competitive opportunity
against their archrival for a large contract from a F500 company – we’ll call
them F500 for short. After awarding the business to my client, F500 actually
told them, “You won because of salesmanship.  When we asked your competition about differentiators they
talked themselves up and then bashed you. 
You, though, described yourself in terms we could understand and then
talked up your strengths without even mentioning your competition.  We felt you must really care about
doing things the right way.”  THAT is caring about the customer experience. 

Tbis success is gratifying to me.  With
this competitive situation, they were demonstrating the CustomerCentric Selling
core concept – which I taught them –  of “Make yourself equal
THEN make yourself different… Otherwise you’re just different.
  And you make yourself different by
building a vision of usage and value around what makes you special.


(Back to Alexander’s Keynote)

3)  Alexander then asked, “Why Now?”  Well, because within a few years half
of the sales talent is going out the door.  It seems the US census tracks this sort of thing and reports
that there are 20 million sales people give or take a few in the United
States.  Half of them are nearing
retirement age.  Someone needs to talk to these people!!!

Alexander is NOT suggesting a focus on the Willy Loman's out there that sold only on relationships. He's referring to the sales leaders who are planning to retire without so much as an exit interview, let alone a thorough interview about what made them successful.

For many
companies, all that knowledge is going to go out the door without anyone writing down the tools or methods the "non-Lomans" (my term) have deployed over the
years.  Yet, writing down the tools, methods,
processes a successful sales person uses is the first step in implementing a sales methodology
.  And having a sales methodology is the first step in focusing on the Customer's Experience, especially for B2B companies.

Stunningly, Alexander reports that many companies do not have a sales methodology even though his company’s research shows that it is a statistical fact that you will do better if you have one installed.  Alexander points to Seth Godin and Zipf’s law – that is, in a winner take all society, the difference between #1 and #2 is huge, perhaps 10%.  #3 is much further behind than that – for further evidence of the importance of focusing on Customer Experience and documenting why your salespeople are successful. 

Folks, you're successful sales people are retiring, you haven't figured out how to clone them by recording the secrets to your success, yet you need to focus on Customer Experience. So,….

4)  Where to start? Well, you had better
benchmark.  Sales Benchmark Index
has data on 11,000 companies.  Only
7.3% qualify as world class.  That
is, they are in the top 25% across 11 categories of metrics.  Where do you stand? Do you have a sales process?  Is Marketing involved?  Do Sales and Marketing work together to insure a positive customer experience?

Thanks Greg for a thoughtful and entertaining keynote.

More from my "Back to School" days later….