Showing posts with label Customer Relationship Management. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Customer Relationship Management. Show all posts

Defining a productive and successful business relationship

If you say you are going to do something either as the client or the service provider/vendor make sure that you do it!  Most executives, buyers are skeptical that a sales professional will do what they say they will do, when and in the manner promised.  Be known for being either an organization or sales professional who is valued because they deliver on their promises, in the time frame and at the agreed price. 
It is often forgotten, on purpose, to outline what both parties expectations are.  Clear communications between whoever is making the promises with whoever is tasked with delivering on those expectations.  i.e.  Quantity, quality, dates, service, follow up.  With big companies, it is often drawn out as an implementation plan or shown as an SLA -- Service Level Agreement -- and updated frequently to show the HOW both parties will define successful delivery and/or completion.  
Often the company offering the product or service allows its representatives to blindly make promises without comprehending shortcomings i.e. inventory, personnel, scheduling, quality.  Don't allow anyone who represents you as either the seller or buyer to bait and switch.   On the flip side:  be apprehensive of clients who make promises on huge volumes that dictate discounts and reality is far below projections.    It shouldn't be left up to the seller to accept honoring lower prices on higher volumes without the expectation that the prices will reflect the correction required until the volumes are met, or agreement is made on how that will be handled/communicated/

The perfect business relationship is when both parties respect and honor their commitment.  Many think that is one-sided with the buyer in the power position.  However, a respectful business relationship ensures that the buyer pays promptly under the terms that is agreed upon.  The value of a buyer can be undermined by late payments or having to be hounded for payment which drains resources and distracts from the forward momentum initiated by agreeing to do business together.  Having said that, the seller has to ensure that its vendors are paid promptly to avoid a service freeze due to timely payments.

A better, stronger business relationship is when both parties understand their role, lay out the expectations, AND deliver on their commitments.  If the seller is a start up, an internal road map is drawn to visualize how they get from Point A - a sale to Point B - being paid.  All the nuances in between should never be explained to a customer because showing customers that you are an organization that takes its customers seriously and ensure that whoever is selling for them is set up for success.

​This article was originally posted as a response on Alignable to the question: 

What do you feel helps build strong business relationships with clients?

 Jeannette imparts wisdom and sales savviness on her blog optioneerJM where she has developed a reputation with her audience to share helpful answers for business.

Get all your ducks in a row: ONLINE SHOPPING

I'm not exactly a beginner online shopper, but I'm a buyer or customer offline.  Like any new restaurant you want to try, you are apprehensive about trying something new.  Online shopping is kind of like that.  One's age and comfort with computers and navigating online are far outweighed by safety, security, privacy or hacking being a real threat.

I set up Pay Pal to be on my blogs so that maybe a few souls who have read my blogs, extrapolated some value, may want to donate a few bucks or even $1 to compensate for the value of what you read.  Unfortunately, some place I've never heard of had taken $15 from me.  Not very convincing as a hesitant first step you reckon, eh?

Online buying is a patient affair isn't it?  Many companies hitch up their website and start selling way too soon.  Long before they're ready or have process or infrastructure in place.

Fortunately, unlike a store, you don't have to be concerned with whether the owner or manager has to come to the front to see you because the likelihood of you telling that person that you will never go there again, will tell all those willing to listen about the shoddy service.  A public relations nightmare.  So you may get a coupon for 10% off your next visit (to guarantee you will revisit ... or maybe not with only 10 percent off).

We're not buyers or shoppers really anymore.  We are consumers.  How apt that is, no longer customers.  Yet all the brands clamoring and competing online are trying to get that magic reaction hit, when keeping up with demand and managing growth becomes a very large accomplishment to achieve.

Remember, your earliest customers, or consumers or buyers or whatever it is you call them, they are your first critics.  Pay attention to them.  They are helping you get better.  [ find quote from Bill Gates on customers to insert here ]

Here's an annoying experience recently from somewhere I've shopped before.

* * * 
* * *

The security answer is the order number.  Should I re-order again?

I entered a 30% coupon code of "samsbirthday" or something like that which was a pop up when I logged on.  Unfortunately, when I entered it on my cart page, I received an error message that "the coupon had expired".  

I can be your customer service thermometer if you would like.  Sharing customer experience and how you are doing from my perspective or what went wrong.

That would be worth the same as any affiliate discount.   Whoever manages your social media Twitter account is sluggish.  That is usually a sign of someone who is hungover or too busy with their smart phone.  

Now is the time to get your act together.  Make your mistakes.  Iron the kinks out of the system.  Put customer service advocacy your most important goal.  Create a culture that because you genuinely like the people you work with, you don't want to let them down, you step up to do more of your share.  That resonates with the customers they serve.  Without customers, you have no business which equates to less for people to do, followed by less people required to do what is declining.    

Start a recognition program:  my most favorite was getting a plastic OSCAR statue where we started the first day of the week, Monday, at 9 am huddle with someone holding the KUDOS trophy, telling the group what spectacular or thoughtful thing one of its members did the week before.  How they helped the team achieve some pretty big goals, their part in it, but more of how they did more than what they had been asked.  Then the significant emblem of team work and respect is displayed where they work for that week.



super STARS!

Today is my Friday.  Yip-e-DO~DA!

I had started to reflect on promises I want to make, and to really internalize it and strive to make it happen.  I have started to put into practice the great qualities are to succeed in sales into my own life.  Huh?  Well, think about it:  if you can't keep a promise to yourself, how can you ever find meaning?

I mentally rehearsed my practice, most likely several times, then I put it into writing.  What blogging allows me to do is put ideas to practice.  The ones that bloom from instinct, creativity and intelligence with strong economic value.  

It went something like this .... I treasure most of my really great mentors and friends.  They will instinctively know who they are.  Some could be someone I mentored to help others.   This particular friend who was not only a mentor AND A friend, they were and are a CHEERLEADER.  Most of my strongest connections are those that treasure my values, because they know that is my biggest currency in life.  Profoundly amazing, very often humbling by either an example to live by or someone very strong and mild.  

LOL, I could sidetrack about personality identifications, another hobby of mine, added to social media, blogging, and student of demography.  

This very great friend/mentor/cheerleader kind of asked me or told me, see how wise they are because I couldn't tell which.  Why ... DO...nt.....YOU....Blog more about sales again?  So, that's been brewing at the back of mind and decided to put it into practice.  Write more about sales.  Then I wanted the re-entry to be remarkable and outstanding.  Something of which only the greatest of sales man or lady could relate to:  What are the things that can be identified in characteristics which you would probably use to identify the biggest of super star (actuals or traits) to pluck out of the very narrow talent pool.  

So the theory will soon show through.  If applied, and it works WONDERbar! If it doesn't?  Go back to the START over!  What are some of the unique characteristics of only the SUPER STARS?  The audience can decide if it believable or the participators can verify if it is foolproof.

Kind of where your own answers, or experiences, or success are going to collect into a group of the super super achievers.  Or, a humble super achiever (sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself) is just getting these amazing results that is taking her or him really high in achievement and he or she starts to wonder if it is a stroke of luck, they're being imposters, or they actually can relate!  That is the test of social media and the #bestofeverything ... can a common voice push up one common trend among all the networking sites?  That's part of THAT experiment.

So, today to a) write about sales, and b) talk about, or start with, what defines a super star?  Exceeding the results of which the top 25 percent of the population have barely entered.  Another sidebar and thought process tugging to the left .... can it be defined with association by the most gifted in so many offshoots like music, artistry, writing, designers, imagineers, 

So, I'm going to start with some of the things that I come up with that would make me think in sales terms that may make me different than the molded corporate suit, adaptable and creative.  LOL, jumping ahead just a tad bit.

Here we go:  what are the most unique qualities about me (as it may relate to business, management, marketing, sales or social media; with an ability to launch new initiatives).  Besides those I guess, here they are:

1) FREAKAZOID:  Maybe one of the freadazoid things about me, and what may have happened to allow me to achieve success in sales is because I actually like creating a "TO DO" list.   (Can you imagine how thriving I am because it is my Friday, and I am going to lux in extasy creating this LIST).

2) LAID BACK or DRAMA QUEEN? For as lax adaxial as I may seem, underneath the bubbly, energetic and often wise demeanor, to the point.  Yes, no, I'll get back to you within _____ hours or minutes and tried to never miss that.  I can go from leaning in attentive to stand at attention and create motivation!  

3)  ENERGETIC or STOID?  If you ask people who know me or have met me, they're first description will almost always be to describe me:  ENERGETIC.  Then they sense this scrutiny, taking it all in and sounding it all back:  must mean a STOID!  Especially, when crafting a proposal or crunching numbers.

4)  HONEST TO A FAULT.  Okay, I was just cheating because if you read 3) you have connecting some other really great attributes among ENERGETIC or STOID, crafting proposals or crunching numbers.    But really great SUPER STARS seem to be trusted automatically.  These folks greatest indignity is when trust is given and abused.  

5)  TRUST< TRUSTED<TRUSTING.  Amazing if you put those three qualities behind a character, you will uncover one of the most uncanny talented contributions.  How many people in your life can you can identify by those three things:  trust+trusted+trusting.  I would challenge to find those three ingredients combined multiply in being a SUPER STAR.

Well, folks.  That is a start within the world of sales.  I am moving on to new goals, slowly being discovered.  The potential within me, and by that karma will attract the most remarkable people.  That are either a) identified as one or b) want to be one.

You may likely stay tuned.  I would be very appreciative if you subscribe, even if you hardly ever visit.  I'm not asking you for money, while I share my secrets to the world.  To demonstrate the difference between online editorial or traditional printed media.

There are more qualities I will share.  I just ask if you visit more than once, subscribe.  I won't force you to comment (never works anyhow except with the inauthentic "I'll scratch yours if you scratch mine" membership).  

I discovered this article on Business Insider  after I had written this post three days ago, and found it worthy to include this.  What struck me is its reinforcement of what I was getting at:  you can be competent and intelligent, however, if people don't deem you trustworthy, they may negatively perceive you!

Oh, if you know of anyone who may want a leg up online advertising:  share the link to my blog and let them know that I have a few spots available, at wholesale, not third party rates.  I haven't assigned any numbers, as I originally said before New Year's, that I would accept bids.  

You see, I am tenacious.  Another extreme quality that I'll throw in.  Those that are can identify with and others want those qualities, will tell others, that there is a fairly unique concept of blogging and sharing images that could be an advertisement (which is really a .jpeg) that I can upload as an image after I'm paid with currency or crapola in kind.

The above image was extrapolated from a long ago Google search.  I do that sometimes:  look for one thing and another one snaps into view so you save later and use.  That is the case of this caricature:  I think it is to resemble Cameron Diaz.  It isn't as much as the physical resemblance as the exuberance of attitude that grabbed me.  My vibe, my charisma, it captured in that image.  Thanks to the artist. (unknown)

Hey guys and gals,

If you like my sales, marketing, social media and business side, you may like to read about my more personal side of life in Meanderings about ... being a fabulous fashionista fighting her fifties.  I just share some of the things I like on the sidebars, which sometimes I update as I go along, or when it strikes me.

Or, the expulsion of my hobby about demography The inBETWEENers where I ponder, research and exude theories and fact about characteristics of those born from 1960 to 1965, neither Baby Boomer nor Generation X.

 Appreciate it.  Thanks to all my Facebook and Twitter fans!  You really are the #bestofeverything ... remarkable, talented, intelligent: who look for the #bestofeverything ... always.

If you want me to give you a hand, pop me a note to to see what I can do.
Happy New Years!
Continued success in 2016,

Get your head in the cloud

When I started adopting social media into my lifestyle I started it out as a means to gain knowledge, expedite research.  Reconnecting with former colleagues and clients (Linked In) was a byproduct that was valuable.  Branching out on to Twitter was just "fast".  Fast for connecting, fast for gaining knowledge, fast for being in touch with what was going on in just about any topic of interest.

I have said that Facebook is a more intimate way of staying in touch with connections in a more personalized manner.  You get to know a person more simply because people tend to be more selective on who they befriend because they lean towards giving insight on their personal lives - family, special events.

The one thing that I have absorbed is that there is still a lot of resistance or under appreciation of social media to many brands and companies.  Treating it like giving in to a wave because all reports indicate that you should be there.  Unfortunately, it is a half hearted attempt or completely missing the mark based on who is guiding your presence.

Through understanding and study, one uncovers the major benefits of social media: to be informed, gain knowledge.  For a self-processed "knowledge junkie" I was an easy recruit.  I have become more objective in what I am drawn to:  social media, the world, business and technology.  Being informed makes my personal brand value go up.  Third party evaluators on my brand value like KLOUT or KRED reinforce what that value may be.  They may even go so far as to identify me as and "Expert" on topics like my home town: Calgary, what expertise I tend to share:  Sales, what knowledge I soak up:  Technology; what burns my passion:  art/photography.

I am not like a academic of anything.  I would say that if anything, I have pretty good instincts on what is leading our world.  At the time I joined the social media ring in 2010, I recognized how important it was.  Now, five years later, sometimes I get credit for developed insights. 

"The value of anything is determined by what others are prepared to pay for it."
~Jeannette Marshall

Today and in the recent few months, my focus has remained with those same interests, while expanded greatly to mobility:  smartphones, applications, services.  Many paid attention to Google's consistent communication on how important Mobile-friendly websites are and will be.  That may have resulted in some new self-proclaimed experts emerging to be the holy grail of mobility marketing or incorporating mobility into your brand and marketing plans.  However, it isn't much different from the adoption of social media:  some are all over it, others are in watch mode, some are opportunists.

The true visionaries are the founders of Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Apple -- famous people that don't need repeating but are respectfully heralded.  These innovators saw opportunity long before the curve was even twitching upwards.  I'm a student of trying to understand how these geniuses could make something that "became" the trend and not because of it.  Many of us dream of being so lucky.  The practicality of it is beyond most of us:  money, backers, supporters, technical know how, a business plan.  Now, they become books, movies and lessons at the greatest universities and MBA programs. 

Well, if it isn't obvious to you, it is certainly to me.  The next wave or curve has started the next big curve on the tail of cloud is mobility.  Unfortunately, for  manufacturers in general (Xerox, case in point), they don't always see or understand the magnitude their tool will impact consumers or business.  I hardly think that even the most innovative innovators from those mentioned could have imagined the impact they would have.  Some of the greatest become stories or examples in books.  Not quite being the great that they could have been.  Many inventors or even writers see how close to the thin edge they were and throw up their arms in exasperation: they could have been "somebody big". 

Certainly, there are the hold outs.  Those CEOs who fall off the bandwagon or dig their heels in and refuse to accept what is in front of them.  With mobility, they may even refuse to carry of smartphone or give in by having the very oldest technology of a flip phone "for emergencies".

The next greatest innovator is going to tie mobility in a way that everyone will want to use it or those that don't, will be the odd man out.  The tools are out there in the populace hands.  Some are early adopters and link the smartphones to their business.  For example, when I with "X-really-big-corporation"  (we're talking five years ago) each sales and service professional had a cell phone, typically a Blackberry.  No big deal, you say, so what?  Well, what was truly exceptional was their cellular infrastructure was tied into their  customized CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool, which was linked to their service.  Service being the crushing blow to their reputation and ability to sell, slowed customer satisfaction, declining sales.  By linking their cellular which was in the hands of any customer-facing soul in the organization, they were able to get up-to-the-second information.  Sales and service personnel would be texted when an order left the warehouse, with an estimated time of arrival (ETA) for which customer, identifying the main contact, allowing notification to increase in response time which communicated importance to customers, and overall improved customer satisfaction.

Service is all about responsiveness in my opinion.   Sales and marketers are the messengers of importance, operations are the delivery of executing importance, service is reinforcing it matters. Whether you are being asked a simple question by an administrator in a really big enterprise on behalf of an important decision maker, or a new entrepreneur launching his business .... your reaction time, how you react, and by whom can be an easily identifier as to which organizations organically believe that their customer is the life blood to their organization's existence.  

Getting critical information out to your front line people needs to be faster than an email these days.  Most agree that emails are clogged, considered a necessary evil in business, ignored a lot of times while those critical people are doing what they perceive their organization has dictated is important actions. 

However, anyone in business, regardless of size, appreciates there are times when they need to communicate catapult ahead of every other distraction in their team's sphere to react, now ... not when they get around to it.

What better way than mobility?  Everyone is carrying a smart phone or cell phone device of some sort -- especially the forward thinking personnel, techno-gurus, developers, marketers.   Consider how you can get reactive fast, either directly or cascade to teams.   

I am sorry if your organization hasn't even got on the social media adoption for business.  Now, I am suggesting that you should get in on the ground floor on mobility.  Speed means money.  If you are in business, driving revenue, satisfying customers, gaining new customers, retaining exceptional employees they are all part of your mandate for survival.  

Nobody likes to hear why a company fails, only what can be learned from it to avoid the same mistakes.  Yet, even the most forward thinking organizations may have a Twitter account but only have a person, not a team, sending out relevant messages, like after thoughts and maybe only once a day.  The same "smart marketers" may have a blog used to inform and educate their customers on how to use their service in order to improve their ratings ... but only how to find their social media platforms (@Twitter, Facebook Page, etc.) are listed.  Crazy as it sounds, they are assuming that the consumer or business are on standby waiting for that tweet to drive them to the website. 

 What about an executive who catches up his reading on the weekend, reviews reports and makes decisions after a round of golf on Saturday?   He sees an article that he believes is pertinent to his leadership team so what does he do?  He emails it to them.  Well that is great, however, a few many get caught with a cluttered email inbox and miss it.  That message may be significant, why not tweet it to those same leaders?  Why not have those 10 leaders, for example, sharing and connecting with an audience that is important regardless of follower numbers or self-proclaimed expertise? 

Two heads are better than one right?  Well, 10 or 500 are better than one.  I'm suggesting that a force be out there educating, informing and sharing knowledge to allow buying decisions.  You are not directing or telling them where to go or what to do, you are establishing your organizations as the preeminent authority. 

Why not have that same executive text a heads up to his leadership team?  That would be immediate and unlikely uncluttered.  Ask them to have your phone number (or do it yourselves) have a special ring tone like "Game of Thrones" (like my ringtone) to signify the troops they are needed for an emergency meeting or a frontal attack by a competitor or sliding stock prices? 

I have had numerous conversations with executives and business owners and I can hear it before it is a fact.  Opposition to texting cemented against because of safety, insurance costs, risks.  What is the risk of your business if you don't have a team with common sense that knows better than to text and drive?

Heck, you may have Twitter and a Facebook Page at the minimum.  Why not have a hangout on Google + instead of outlay of expenses for on online meetings?  Send a text out that there is a meeting scheduled.  Send a text with link to your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool stating that a customer has an issue, needs attention, what you delivered didn't work, service is needed or that big new shiney contract will be at risk to go to a competitor.

I am obviously not a visionary like the great ones, nor do I have the money to even develop a solution, nor the technical know how.  What I do have is a strong sense that there is a supreme opportunity out there for the next great innovator of our time that uses what is at their disposal.

Because of my interest and knowledge gathering on mobility and smart phones, I have boards on Pinterest that I use as a repository of information assembled from all platforms of information (media, blogs, authorities) called "MobileZoom" for all things related to smartphones, technology and mobility.  Yes, I have one dedicated to Apple, Apple-A-Day, SocialMediaMatters, and realized I'm behind on another one for "Cloud".  (I just created one called CLOUD-y Days).  Pinterest is the poor man's SharePoint site. 

How do you link your network with mobility/cell with social media with proprietary tools?  The solution is most likely -- The Cloud -- Cloud computing metaphor: For a user, the network elements representing the provider-rendered services are invisible, as if obscured by a cloud.  (Image and information Source:  Wikipedia)

What do you say?  I say NOW is a good time to have your head in the clouds.

Sales top performers

"A good hockey player plays where the puck is.  A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be."
~ Wayne Gretzky

I'm perplexed and pondering on the direction to stay the course with my blog.  When I started blogging, it was clear to me to share my knowledge accumulated from 20 plus years of successful sales results.  I thought perhaps others would be interested in what I did or how I thought I may have done things differently to gain the notoriety and claim to fame I did in sales.  I took a look at most of the infamous sales bloggers, trainers and professional online coaches out there in 2010.

I began my journey by just telling it like it is.  Of course, attempting to take  into account, most people think sales folk are braggarts, boosted egos and smooth talkers.  I didn't think, nor did my career seem to prove,  that in order to be successful in sales you had unique and different qualities of mass perception.

The qualities of success in sales, in my opinion, in my own path, seem to prove otherwise.  I uphold my stand .. those that are successful in sales put their customer first, their organization second, and themselves last.  Ironically, they end up being first, their customer second and organizations second and their personal lives last.  Ultimately, their results uphold them first with their company, first with their customers to the detriment of their personal lives.

"Every strike brings me closer to the other home run."
~Babe Ruth

So how does one manage such a split expectation?   How do you balance the needs of your company, take care of your customers' wants while being considered among the best?  Great question.

Most top performers do it instinctively.  Even more, have a passion for serving their customers.  The top tier take care of their customers while ultimately understanding the needs of their organization.  Unfortunately, those same people are bench marked as high achievers.  To the demise of their colleague relationships, personal life balance.

What drives them?  Another great question.  The desire to be the best?  Sorta,... to be sure.  To see their name at the top of the marquee,...probably.  To have their competitors know their name,... very likely.  To be the first name their customer(s) think of when they have a problem to be solved or a need to be solved ... definitely, not a maybe, so.

Many organizations, sales cultures, try to examine their best performers into predictive metrics for hiring.  Often resulting in not achieving the ultimate utopia in sales personality or performance.  Why is it so difficult?

I would say because there is disconnect between the organizational culture, the human resources hiring process, the sales management process and the evaluation metrics.  

Call it an instinct.  Think about it.  Companies outsource the hiring to a third party "Sales #1 Recruiting Organization" with impressive power points, convincing story, with impressive credentials of the person or those assigned to deliver the perfect candidates on a silver platter. 

 I think back to asking one of my greatest mentors and examples Jim T***, when he had moved on and I asked to get together with him in panic, gasping that I had just been assigned the responsibility of hiring and managing a sales team.  

Jim's advice?  Hire em, train em and send them out into a territory, then watch them like a hawk.  That is probably the operative most organizations use for their sales force.  Some with bigger pockets will have a third party do the hiring, a third party consultant establish the metrics and then an under trained sales manager manage by metrics.  Least of their qualities is how to motivate an achiever,   (Unless they examine the best professional coaches on how to extract the highest achievement from their players.  Egos, financial reward, notoriety, distractions aside.)

I imagine if I didn't have the mentoring I had, the patience allowed me, nor brutal metrics to compare me with, I would never have tested the waters, got into the groove and figured out instinctively what questions to ask, who to speak to, and how to establish customers' evaluation and continuation of business as the true metrics.

The best of the best understand all of the matters aforementioned.  They ultimately hold the desires of their personal lives foremost.  That may be shocking to many.  The best strive to meet goals in their personal lives that they understand sales can allow them to achieve.  Besides the risk of entrepreneurship, savvy sales professionals strive to put their family and goals first, knowing instinctively that exceeding their companies sales goals, how they fit into that picture, matches their personal goals.

The ultimate achievers get it that they will not meet any of those goals without having customer advocates.  The only way they can have advocates is by asking the right questions, solving the right problems, fixing the right issues to the exceptional satisfaction of their customers.

It is like playing dominoes.  One cannot fall into place with the others without everything being held in place and then continue on in succession and with consistency.  

So go ahead, hire those consultants.  Use those clever diagnostics to predict the outcome of a candidate.  Realistically, like sifting sand to leave only a minuet grains left, that is what your sales predictably leaves you with.  

There is no magically formula.  The best of the best exude metrics, diagnostics and examinations.  They are unique.  They know who they are.  Do you?

"Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort."
~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Focus on the good ... not the bad

This blog was originally written about Business, Sales, Leadership, Social Media  optioneerJM since May 2010.  As I was critiquing myself, I recognized that I strayed from its main purposes with reflections on matters that are unbusiness-related. 

 I have since branched out to Meanderings because there are many issues I want to write about that don't fall under business.  I hope you will visit, follow, share and help me there.  It is your support that inspires me to write.  If you have an idea or question you would like me to write about on optioneerJM or Meanderings, drop me a line and let me know

Do you have INTENTIONAL retention?

"There is only one boss.  The customer.  And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else." 
~Sam Walton (Walmart) 

What are you doing to keep your existing customers?  If you haven't examined your organizations behavior in this regard, it is time to wake up and stop being complacent.

I've sold for many organizations and been involved with keeping customers happy (key ingredient to ongoing relationship) with diverse structures in sales coverage, territories and managing relationships.  However, I have to say, very few had, if any, had a retention strategy.

Most organizations leave it up to their sales and marketing teams to be the keepers of customer perception.  Some even have pow wows with the big wigs to shake hands and hob nob to convey appreciation for the business.

Yet what happens if there is a savvy organization out you by savvy marketing message or a sharp sales pro who can infiltrate the fortress of your customer, shed doubt on the relationship, offer a better "deal", make you look bad?  Can you withstand it?  In the wide world of business, especially with economic turmoil, expenses are scrutinized relentlessly.  

I am going to hazard a guess, that most organizations are able to easily provide proof and documentation on the following:

  • go to market strategy
  • sales structure
  • customer profile
  • delivery
  • pricing 
  • marketing
  • web presence
Do you have a strategy to retain existing customers?

Far fewer can articulate their strategy to retain  existing customers.  If so, more than likely it falls on marketing and sales:
  • face to face appointments
  • reviews of service delivery commitments
  • warm and fuzzy outbound marketing programs
  • direct mail, email, and campaigns to keep in touch with the customer
  • events, promotions, webinars, technical support
It is great if you have all of those going on and those responsible are held accountable for:
  • increasing revenue
  • building client base
  • brand awareness
  • referral programs
But what about plain old retention?  How do you define your program?  Do you leave it up to your customer to ask for more help with:
  • frequency discounts
  • options to upgrade 
  • changing needs:  growth, technology, globalization
  • evolving regulations impacting them or their industry
I have to tell you honestly:  if your customer is going to go through all the trouble to ask you for your help, they may as well put it out there to see if anyone else can provide better options.  What does that spell for you: RISK.

The 80% / 20% Rule

It is a known fact that 80 percent of your sales comes from 20 percent of your customers. So why aren't you protecting that 80 percent?  Are you doing everything in your power to ensure that those 80 percent are serviced the hell out of?  I'd bet 90 percent would say yes.  I challenge you to define how?  Do you have a retention program?  Can you answer:

  • How you ensure that your customer is 110 percent completely happy?
  • How do you prevent your customer from going to market to price shop?
  • How do you measure customer satisfaction?
  • How are you proactively helping your customers?
What I am talking about here is "intentional retention".  You aren't leaving it up to any scapegoats in sales or marketing if you lose a customer or even a major account.  You have the support and a standalone program in place that outlines and defines how you keep those customers.  Savvy retailers, airlines and the like have loyalty and/or reward programs to assist with repeat customers.  However, in business, you don't have the luxury of having the numbers to have a sophisticated program that is intricate within your systems, web, marketing and sales systems.  Don't make any excuses:  you don't have time, you aren't that big.  That isn't any excuse.  Your survival depends on it!

                                                                                             ~Henry Ford

What I am recommending you do is assemble all the chiefs in your major areas (accounting, operations, sales, marketing, technical, production, labor), bring out the drawing board, split into groups of three or four and ask everyone to answer the following questions:
  • Identify who your best customers are:  create a profile
  • Who pays well? 
  • Who is not always asking for discounts? 
  • Who are you best able to provide service for?
  • What are the frequencies:  daily, weekly, monthly, annually?
  • Do you have measures to identify churn risk (will leave you for the competition)
  • What do you do if a customer is identified as a potential loss?
  • How do you communicate with your customer?
  • How would your customer identify in its importance to your organization?
  • Who is involved when a risk is identified?  What is done?  Is there a process?
Define a clear objective

Bring forward each team's contribution then extrapolate what everyone agrees upon.  Of course, there may be some who are inclined to defend their stance.  Regardless, the discussion that will evolve should be eye opening, the heated debates unsettling.  While it may take a few sessions, you must create a clear objective consistently held out front:

  1. The goal is to understand everyone's perspective (it's going to be a mish mash to start with) 
  1. What is your retention strategy?
  1. How are you going to provide a loyalty or retention program?
Let me tell you.  You can often capitalize on the big boys.  Granted, they have at their disposal lots of research, intelligence, structure, programs that you simply don't have because of your size.  What I'm proposing is you to decide how you can carve out that information into a niche that helps your company. 

Define your niche 

If so many big guns have loyalty or reward programs ask yourself what the purpose of it all is?  Then set out to define your own niche and create something that fits in with your size, capabilities and financial resources.  If you don't think this is important then I should have asked at the start:  what will it cost your organization to lose a customer ... if you don't have an intentional retention strategy?

 "The well-satisfied customer will bring the repeat sale that counts." 
~James Cash Penney (JC Penney) 


 "Let's take care and protect our customers -- or someone else will." 

Customer cycles or sales funnels?

"The top salesperson in the organization probably missed more sales than 90% of the sales people on the team, but they also made more calls than the others made."
                                                                                    ~Zig Ziglar

The difference between a customer journey and a sales funnel - is your perception of either.  Inexperienced sales rookies are coached to label what phase their customer is at in their buying cycle by their management and/or organization.  The most definitive one you tend to see is divided into thirds .... commonly referred to as "the sales funnel".

The top third and widest with the most numbers is "Suspects".   Otherwise referenced as leads.  You are at the beginning, likely haven't met with a decision maker, or even understand why or how they buy.  They  have been identified as a potential customer by:

  1. Cold calls
  2. Lead generation
  3. Referrals

The second tier is "Prospects" or called opportunities.   Are a mid-volume of numbers.  Prospects have moved from being a "Suspect" to a "Prospect" because they have been qualified.  The sales professional has identified them as a potential customer from a number of avenues: 

  1. Web contact inquiry contact 
  2. Inbound telephone call asking questions 
  3. Internal leads:  referrals, heads up or personal recommendations
  4. That first meeting, cold call
  5. They've been identified as having a need that your company can fill
  6. Follow up from cold call, or investigative meeting
  7. Someone has read or shared information that shows where growth may be
  8. Knowledge of key players are:  decision maker, influencer, user, authority, payment
  9. They have the ability to pay for your service or product
  10. Who you are speaking to has  the authority to make a decision to move forward or will simply be making a recommendation or gathering prices
  11. What internal endorsement is required to proceed with providing a solution, quote or proposal or be established as a vendor, provider or partner
  12. A decision will or can be made based on the need you can fill

The final third tier is "Customers".   These are the fewest numbers.  They have traveled through the funnel to arrive at a transaction, contract or agreement to buy.  They have satisfied your organizations criteria to do business or you have met their's:

  1. Set up an account: met credit requirements:  credit check, references
  2. Have the ability to pay:  financial resources, how or when and authorized by someone
  3. You have identified that your prospect wants or is willing to pay for your service or product
  4. You understand their buying frequency:  one time, annual, intermittent, monthly, daily, etc.
  5. You understand how they work and how to work them within your own system or processes ... sometimes customized
  6. You know their structure and where they may buy from:  global, national, or local 
  7. They have issued a purchase order (PO#), requisition or cheque to buy
  8. You have broken them down by value to your organization:  major account, corporate, enterprise, business, entrepreneur, consumer
  9. You have systems or structure to match their buying:  an account executive, major account representative, territory manager, sales representative, customer service
  10. You have adapted your structure to mirror your customer's behavior:  single point of contact on major accounts or enterprise sales, business to business local or global points of contact, order forms, web order systems, incoming telephone orders, fax'd orders (forms), catalogue, directories

The most successful sales professionals or sales oriented organizations match their behavior or identity system to that of the potential customer.  They understand where their customer is in the buying cycle:

  1. Research
  2. Information gathering
  3. Price shopping
  4. Vendor qualification
  5. Who can provide the desired product or service to match what they think they want
  6. Criteria outlined on how they will decide to act (make a purchase)
  7. Established approved list of vendors or providers authorized to be purchased from
  8. Budget accounted for
  9. Approval process (by transaction or by location or by authority)
  10. Payment structure
  11. Review structure 
  12. Service structure
  13. Support to maintain orders
  14. Ability to meet needs
  15. Reputation to meet requirements or identify unknown needs and proactively fix gaps
  16. Established trust

How you identify where you are at is important to create a language among your team as to where you are at in a sale:  are you on a fishing expedition or are you assembling your team of resources to put all heads together to put together a win-win proposal?

"If eighty percent of your sales come from twenty percent of all your items, just carry those twenty percent."
                                                         ~Henry A. Kissinger

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems have these areas identified and can populate into graphs or graphic funnels to help those:

  1. Forecasting potential revenue, profit margins, marketing efforts
  2. Budget resources:  people, equipment, processes, tools, systems, 
  3. Have all the systems and resources in place or easily activated responses
  4. Policies and procedures in place for escalations or when things go wrong or extra assistance required for customer are in place
  5. People resources match customer orders:  equated to response time, hours of operation, scheduling

It is the footprint of your sales efforts success:  as both an organization and the customer facing personnel status in the customer's buying cycle.  I recommend that you break it down into bite size chunks so that they can be addressed.  If you are writing a business plan, a key component is answering:  "where and how will you get or retain customers?".  This should be long before you are looking for investors or financing to launch or continue operations.  I liked this diagram via Google by Andrea Callahan:

Ironically, most start ups and entrepreneurs gear up on marketing, outbound campaigns, telemarketing, sales coverage long before they have answered any of the above.  It can easily foreshadow failure over success.  Yes, you need to walk before you run.  However, assembling and identifying who are suspects, prospects and customers and where they are in the funnel, and the numbers associated with those numbers, clearly outlines the road map to monitor and manage growth.

It takes patience, practice and precision to be able to do this automatically.  The more adaptive or fluid you are in meeting demands are going to allow you to pinpoint the when, who and how to focus on your grow and ability to flourish.  If you recognize how you will move and keep pace with your customers at their speed, not your own, will signal a mature organization with a clear understanding on who is their customer and how great the relationship can be.

"Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says: 'Make me feel important.' Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life."
~Mary Kay Ash