Dunvegan Blog Archives

Simulation in the B2B Sales Process

Simulation in the B2B Sales Process

By Anne Miner

President, The Dunvegan Group

 

In the B2B world where complex solutions are pervasive, sales teams are challenged to identify the customer’s “pain point”, position their product or service as the optimum solution and persuade the customer to make a purchase.

A product demonstration is a critical component of the sales presentation offering customers the opportunity to test the product’s performance before deciding.

In a world of disruption and exponential change, there is risk that tomorrow, or at least before the product has been delivered and installed, there will be something better available.

Companies often guarantee upgrades and product enhancements to mitigate the risk of rapid obsolescence and ensure that the customer always benefits from innovation.

But, when it comes to services, particularly consulting services, the sales person may present flow diagrams, testimonials, and case studies but how often do they simulate the process and let the customers experience the outcomes they can expect?

It seems to me that simulating the experience is more likely to create trust and confidence in B2B customers/clients. Having experienced the process/solution, leaders will be better able to evaluate the anticipated outcomes and articulate the rationale for engaging the chosen consultant.

At The Dunvegan Group, we have incorporated simulations into our sales process; the first step is a no charge simulation using generic data. This leads to a small fee contract simulation using real data gathered from the client’s own customers and employees.

Simulations allow our clients to mitigate their risk by investing a small amount, to experience our process first-hand, before committing to a larger program.

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Grow your B2B bottom line without adding new customers?

Is it possible to grow your bottom line without adding new customers?

Yes, in theory, it is possible for your B2B business to grow both revenues and bottom line profits without adding more customers. How? By retaining the customers you already have and growing revenues from those customers!

First, let's look at retaining existing customers. No one keeps 100% of customers. Some go out of business. Some move outside your catchment area (at least if you are not online). Some will switch to a relative who has started a business just like yours. Some change their business model and no longer need you.

Let's imagine that a reasonable turnover is 5% to cover the situations I just mentioned. That leaves you with a maximum potential of 95% customer retention. Of course, we know that keeping the customers is not sufficient - you must keep and grow the revenues from the customers you already serve.

When you keep 95% of your customers and grow the revenues from those customers by 10%, your top line revenues will increase by 4.5% without adding one new customer. And, we expect the impact on the bottom line will be even greater as the cost of servicing an existing customer is sure to be less than the cost of capturing and a new customer.

When customer retention results in both top and bottom line improvements, new sales will accelerate performance even further!

If you have ever questioned the value of investing in customer retention, I hope you see the potential impact now.

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Leadership is like Improv: You never know what might show up!

At a Leadership Retreat, I recently facilitated, participants engaged in an Improv Session to hone their skills for dealing with the unexpected.

This was an opportunity for participants to engage in a new experience in a safe and non-judgmental environment. The first unexpected thing for them to deal with was Improv itself! All were called upon to muster their courage to try something new and learn new skills.

While uncomfortable at the outset, the participants quickly adapted and accepted the challenge; they allowed themselves to step out of their comfort zones and have fun. They can apply their new skills in business and in life.

Here are four of the lessons learned:

  1. Be open to new experiences
  2. Be present to receive information
  3. Be aware of the three V’s
  4. Be a team player

When leaders are open to new experiences and new ideas, they encourage others to bring their ideas forward. Often it is easier and more expedient to say “No” than to take a risk.

New and better ideas create opportunities for innovation and continuous improvement in your organization. The next big idea may reside in the mind of one of your team members – make sure you are not shutting it down!”. Try saying, “Yes, and …” – what comes after is how you will make it happen, or the conditions under which it can happen, or who will need to be involved to make it happen.

When leaders are present, the moment, they are centered and able to focus on the issue or opportunity at hand. Resist the urge to think about “what ifs”, “worst cases” or “failure points” as you listen and absorb the information provided. Participate in building on the ideas presented to engage your team more fully. As you will see, your team knows when you are not present, or not supportive, even when you are not saying anything.

Leaders who are open, present, aware, and able to play the appropriate role on the team bring out the best in everyone, no matter what shows up!

Leaders who are aware of the three V’s of communication are better able to communicate the intended messages. The first V is for Verbal; this refers to the words that you use. Words, while important, comprise just 7% of the communicated message. The second V is for Vocal; this refers to your tone of voice. Your tone of voice is responsible for 38% of the message you are sending. The third V is Visual; your face and body language. The look on your face and the way you stand communicate 55% of the message! Be aware that even when you are not speaking, you are sending a clear message; be sure it is the one you intend.

Great leaders are team players; they know when to take charge and when to let others take the lead. When confronted with a new experience or new ideas, leaders who step back and let others provide insights and make decisions to demonstrate that they are “on the team”.

Leaders who are open, present, aware, and able to play the appropriate role on the team bring out the best in everyone, no matter what shows up!

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7 Ways to Differentiate Your Business

We are honored to be featured in TMW's Blog - posted Feb 15 2018.

How can you make your company stand out from the crowd?

This is a question that many business leaders have asked themselves for years.

Consider employing “Business Essentials,” a name for seven service aspects that are fundamental to building strong relationships in the transportation services industry whatever business you are in--including trucking or other transportation management entities.

Business Essential #1: Do what you say you will do

Keeping your promises is a fundamental element in building trust; trust is the foundation of all great relationships.

Service failures are a fact of business life; at some moment a customer will be let down. Whether it is a product defect, a late delivery, or a phone call that is not returned in a timely manner, you will want to make a graceful recovery. Often when we make a graceful recovery, we build a stronger relationship than if we had not had a problem in the first place!

Whether you promise to replace the product, refund the delivery charge, or return calls more promptly, it is essential that you follow through and do what you said you would do. 

 

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Is Your Voice of the Customer Program Being "Gamed"?

How often have you heard, “When you get the survey, be sure to give me a 10.”? Or, “If there is anything that would prevent you from giving me a 10, please tell me and I will fix it.”? When employees endeavor to boost their satisfaction or NPS® ratings by pressuring the customer, you will not get an accurate read on the strength of the bond between your company and your customers.

This is the risk you face when deploying Voice of the Customer programs that utilize 0-10 rating scales and single question measures. We have seen it happen in companies with the best of intentions and more frequently in companies that attach some portion of compensation to ratings or scores based on customer feedback.

To counteract the risk of inaccurate measures, The Dunvegan Group has adopted two practices:

  • Use of semantic scales (e.g., words) rather than numeric scales (e.g., 0-10), and
  • Use of a composite measure (e.g., multiple factors) to evaluate the likelihood of customer retention/defection.

Through rigorous research, across multiple B2B categories, The Dunvegan Group has identified three critical factors indicative of customer retention/defection, and a method to avoid the potential for internal personnel to game the system.

Service Excellence: Customers expect to experience a high level of service excellence when dealing with B2B Enterprise companies.

At the highest level, customers intend to continue to do business with your company AND they are willing to recommend your company when asked.

Providing your customers with service excellence in doing business with your company, and an experience worthy of recommending your company when asked, is first factor in retaining customers; however, it may not be sufficient to keep your customers coming back.

Pain Tolerance: Change occurs when the pain of the situation is greater than the pain of making a change.

Your customers will tolerate a degree of poor service as long as the pain of making a change exceeds the pain of putting up with the situation.

This is the second factor in retaining customers and the first hurdle for customers who are receiving less than excellent service. It gives your company an opportunity to remedy the situation and rescue the business before the customer defects.

Competitive Choices: Change occurs when there is something more appealing than the current situation.

This is the third factor in customer retention and the second hurdle for customers who are receiving less than excellent service. When customers perceive that there are no better options, despite experiencing poor service and a high degree of pain, they will not switch.

When your customers perceive that your competitors offer goods and service that are at least as good/better than what you deliver, customers may switch despite experiencing a high level of service excellence.

By measuring these three factors, using a non-gameable method, The Dunvegan Group’s programs identify the strength of the bond between your company and your customers. You will see which individual customer contacts are strongly bound to your company, which ones are at risk of defection and everything in between.

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How to radically improve problem-solving in your organization!

In the January 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR)[1], Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg demonstrates the power of “reframing” problems to identify optimum solutions quickly, consistently, and effectively.

He begins with an example that illustrates the importance of framing the problem.

When tenants complained that the elevators were too slow, meaning they had to wait for the elevator longer than they could tolerate, the obvious solution was to replace the elevators ~ a costly solution that would exacerbate the problem during installation.

When the problem was reframed as, 'the tenants are bored while waiting for the elevator', a more cost effective and timely solution presented itself; give the tenants something to occupy their attention or entertain them during the wait.

Have you noticed that most elevator lobbies and elevators themselves have mirrored walls? It turns out that people are happy to look at themselves (their reflection) while waiting and this opportunity effectively reduces the perception of a long and boring wait for the elevator.

So, how do we go about “reframing” problems to ensure that we explore all potential solutions?

Wedell-Wedellsborg recommends methodically applying the following steps:

  1. Establish legitimacy for the idea: Demonstrate the power of reframing to your team. The elevator example is a clear and simple example, or you can present them with a copy of the HBR article.
  2. Bring outsiders into the discussion: Whether from other areas of your business or external consultants, an “outsider’s” fresh perspective can be very helpful. These people will help to illuminate the options but cannot be expected to develop the solution.
  3. Have the individual team members define the problem in writing: This is to be done before you commence the reframing exercise so you can see the range and variety of definitions and ensure that the team is prepared to take responsibility.
  4. Ask “what’s missing?from the problem definition: Be sure that you have considered the full scope of the problem.
  5. Consider multiple problem categories: Ask “what type of problem is this?” A production problem? An attitude problem? A perception problem? An incentive problem? Can the problem fit into multiple categories? This may present several alternative solutions.
  6. Analyze positive exceptions: Identify positive outcomes achieved in previous problem-solving efforts. Consider what was different or unique about those situations and how you may apply the learning to the current situation.
  7. Question the objectives: Identify competing objectives or objectives that are out of alignment; reframe the problem to encompass all the objectives.

Having reframed the problem in one or more ways, it is time to gather evidence to support the reframed definition. Test your hypothesis using recognized research approaches: observation, surveys, prototypes.

Continue to refine the problem definition and the solution until you are satisfied.

To learn more about how you can apply reframing techniques to problem-solving in your organization, please contact Anne Miner, President of The Dunvegan Group toll free at 1.888.281.3074 or anne.miner@dunvegangroup.com


 

[1] “Are you solving the right problems?” Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, HBR January- February 2017 page 76-83

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Meaningful Customer Feedback for Meaningful Action

At the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association's (TMSA) recent Leadership Conference, participants representing such well known companies as Fedex, Saddle Creek Logistics, Supply Chain Brain, ODW Logistics and the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) gathered over lunch to discuss their company's use of customer feedback for meaningful action. The conversation was facilitated by Anne Miner, President of The Dunvegan Group who encouraged all participants to share their experiences and best practices.

Receiving customer feedback did not appear to be a problem; the challenge lies in capturing the information from a wide array of channels and organizing it in a useful way. Some participants were compiling information from their inbound call centers, sales teams, accounts receivable, social media posts as well as incoming email and web inquiries. In some cases, text analytics were being used to identify themes within the feedback.

Some participants were reaching out to customers to capture feedback in an organized format which is much easier to tabulate and analyze; the information can be  stored in the company CRM so it is accessible to everyone who might "touch" the customer.

In either case, the biggest challenge arises in implementation of meaningful action based on the customer feedback. When customers are dissatisfied, the immediate reaction involves identification and resolution of the individual customer's problem/complaint. And, often the process stops there.

The time to ask for customer referrals and testimonials is when the customer is delighted; following up and actually requesting these referrals requires a process and practice, as well as tracking to ensure that it is being done and done in a timely and effective manner. All too often people get caught up in solving problems and neglect to capitalize on the opportunities for business development.

Another challenge is utilizing the content of the customer feedback to reveal topics/content of interest to the customer, opportunities for adding value to your products and services to better meet the customers' needs, opportunities to show customers how to extract full value from the products and services already available.

Customer feedback can provide a wealth of content for your content marketing efforts and help you build strong customer relationships in the process!

All participants received a complimentary copy of Miner's ebook "Measuring Up! A Guide to Success with Customer Feedback" available on Amazon.

To learn how your company can extract maximum value from customer feedback, please contact Anne Miner at anne.miner@dunvegangroup.com or toll free at 888-281-3074.

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Will 2016 be the Year of Customer?

Any time someone learns that my specialty is customer satisfaction and retention, they immediately rhyme off a list of companies that need my service, along with a litany of grievances about how those companies have treated them.

Despite the attention that customer service, satisfaction and retention has received over the past 30 plus years, it appears that customer care hasn't really improved. As someone who has devoted her career to helping companies create strong bonds with their customers, I am discouraged by the fact that so many companies are failing to meet their customers' expectations.

Companies recognize that positive customer experiences are of utmost importance. Customer feedback provides solid insight to what the customer is experiencing and how to make that experience positive. Virtually every company has some form of customer feedback system so, it cannot be that customers have no opportunities to be heard. And, with so many feedback systems in place, it cannot be that companies lack awareness of customer issues.

Why are we not making more progress in this area? Where is the point of failure?

I have observed that companies focusing on "scores" or "ratings" (e.g., NPS or CustomerSat), rather than on the insights customer feedback provides, are less successful at retaining their customers. Customers become cynical about spending time on customer satisfaction surveys when they see no improvement in the service they receive. This creates another issue as customers cease to provide feedback, and as the responding population shrinks, the measures become less and less representative of all customers.

I have observed that companies systematically measuring customer perceptions of service excellence, focusing on what the company is both willing and able to change, engaging their customers in identifying solutions and taking swift action to resolve customer issues, are better able to deliver positive customer experiences, meet customer expectations and create competitor-resistant relationships.

Where does your company focus its attention? Is this the year that you will decide to change your perspective on customer feedback? Will you listen to the customers who take time to provide feedback and focus on improving the customer experience rather than on "scores"? Will you implement processes to address customer concerns immediately and completely?

Need help? I am happy to invest 30 minutes on an Introductory call with you to explore how we can be of service. Click here to schedule a time to talk.

Wishing you and your customers a successful and positive experience in the year ahead!

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Competitor Resistant Relationships

In any business, you have two key assets: your customers and your employees.  Without either one, you will not have a business. Buildings, vehicles, inventory, cash, even good will … none of these assets make a business.

As the business owner, you will spend a great deal of time, energy and money finding customers and finding employees to serve those customers.  It is your responsibility to protect those assets by securing the relationships with hard won customers and the employees who serve them.

Why is this so critical?

  • It is much less costly to keep a great customer or a productive employee than it is to replace them.
  • When the time comes to sell your business/transition to new leadership, the company will have a much greater value if you can demonstrate that the customer and employee relationships are secure.
  • You will have a happier and more productive workplace when customers and employees enjoy working together.

How does your company address this challenge?

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We live in a "do-it-yourself" world!

Yes, we live in a "do-it-yourself" world; a world in which we have instant access to such a vast array of information, there is almost no question that cannot be answered with the help of Google and a few keystrokes. As a result, we think we can do anything ourselves and the truth is, yes we can.

The question is should we?

When speaking about customer satisfaction measurement, voice of the customer or lost business assessment, company owners often tell me they can "do it themselves" or "do that internally". My answer is, "Yes, you absolutely can. You can learn the process, study best practices, acquire the appropriate software, train your own people to be programmers, interviewers, coders and analysts.

Before you make that decision, the first question you need to ask yourself is this ... is conducting your own customer satisfaction measurement or voice of the customer program the highest and best use of your organization's time, energy and talent?

The second question is ... will this investment in internal resources contribute to your bottom line?

When the answer to either of these questions is "no", then you are better to outsource this work to someone who has chosen to master this subject area, someone who has invested in learning both theoretically and practically how best to perform this work; pay them to get the work done better and faster than you can do it yourself.

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