Archive for the ‘Sales’ Category

Ready, Set, Grow! This Week: The Carrot in Front of Your Nose

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Ready Set Grow
From time to time during a conversation about a possible project, especially with potential client companies of a certain size and complexity, we hear this: “Mr. Quelle, do you take into account at all in your fee that we can award additional projects if you and your colleagues do a good job?” Translated, that means: “Best if you don’t charge anything at all. That way, we’ll get something and you won’t. Oh, and by the way, we might be able to do more deals like this in the future.”

Usually, I don’t say anything and draw up a fair offer that pointedly ignores the implicit demand for low fees. The carrot of potential follow-on projects isn’t even a consideration until the first project pays off for all concerned.

Don’t let your clients dangle a carrot in front of your nose. You can’t hope for possible future business; such little hypothetical games don’t pay your bills. Also, make that unmistakably clear to your sales department. Cave in once, and the price never gets back to where it ought to be. Furthermore, have you ever once pushed a full grocery cart to the supermarket cashier and said something like this? “Just charge me half. I’ll be sure to come back more often.”

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved. © Sprinter: mezzotint_fotolia – Fotolia.com

Ready, Set, Grow! This Week: When You Have to Set Priorities, Do It in Sales

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Ready Set Grow
All of us have to set priorities. The “setting” accomplishes little by itself if subsequent actions don’t align with the priorities. In a company, with its mesh of relationships, with its often murky decision-making environment, it is important to be crystal clear in orienting these priorities toward expanding the business. Which begins in sales.

I have all too often experienced sales initiatives that didn’t happen, were implemented half-heartedly or even torpedoed because other priorities suddenly took center stage. But the best business-process optimization is of little use if it lacks direction, which must be identified by the market.

So, restructuring, reorganizing of processes, internal simplification: Yes, everything in due course (we also supervise numerous such projects), but please, don’t first concentrate on fine adjustments at the expense of focusing on the market. When a business-process reorganization takes place, then the Pareto Principle applies. Better to direct your efforts toward sales and its interfaces within the organization. Other processes will then soon clarify themselves. Is that less than perfect? To be sure, but as Einstein once said, “Better to be right in principle than to be perfect in detail.”

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved. © Sprinter: mezzotint_fotolia – Fotolia.com

Ready, Set, Grow! This Week: Don’t Forget the First Sale While Thinking About the Fourth

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Ready Set Grow

In sales, there is a principle that basically gets it right: “First, think about the fourth sale.” I first heard this from my coach, and the saying made it apparent to me that salespeople are always racing off to do the quick deal—only to be surprised when they lose out to a competitor at the next sales opportunity because they have neglected to build a relationship with the customer. Relationships are what sales is all about. They take time, and sometimes it’s not worth your while, metaphorically speaking, to think about the fourth sale to a customer to avoid losing perspective and becoming a victim of the quick opportunity.

But, some salespeople overdo it and think only about the “fourth” sale without completing the first one—even though the customer would be happy to close the deal, and it would be profitable.

So do both. Consider your connections to your customers. Think about that “fourth” sale, but in doing so, don’t forget the first.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved. © Sprinter: mezzotint_fotolia – Fotolia.com

Car-Purchasing Experience, the Sequel—This Time: Jeep

Friday, June 27th, 2014

In my search for a new car, a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is also on the agenda. OK, so I contact the dealer.
A friendly lady at the switchboard: “Autohaus . . . good afternoon.”

  • Me: “Good afternoon. Who should I talk to for a quote on a Grand Cherokee SRT?
  • She: “You want to buy a car?”
  • Me: “Perhaps. I’d like a quote.”
  • She: “The salesman is busy right now. Please call back a little later.”
  • Me: “No, I’m not going to do that. Please give me the email address, so I can send a configuration and then wait for a quote.”
  • She: “I’m not allowed to share the email address.”
  • Me: “Say again?”
  • She: “I’m not allowed to share the email address.”
  • Me: “Then give me the dealership email address.”
  • She: “But you could just as well call back.”
  • Me: “No, I’m not going to do that.”
  • She: “Or go to our website.”
  • Me: “No, I’m not going to do that, either. What would I do there? You want to sell cars, right?”
  • She: “I’m sorry.”

I ended the conversation.

This was either a misunderstanding, or the store is abysmally managed. And by the way, I doubt that this is an isolated incident. The management will never learn that their dealership just now lost the opportunity for a lucrative deal. I’m not going to tell them about it; to do so would be of no value to me. And the switchboard lady will certainly not have understood. She didn’t even take my name—that’s a dead end.

How many deals slip past you because your team doesn’t deal appropriately with customers.

 
© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Don’t Take On Every Customer—and Also Not Every Project

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Dear sales professionals: There are bad customers, too. You know that. Customers who pay late or not at all. Customers who squeeze you to the bitter end over the last penny, but who aren’t prepared to acknowledge performance. Customers who, after a first-rate performance or delivery of a topnotch product, nevertheless try to find something to grouse about so they won’t have to cough up part of the final payment. Customers who believe that you are dependent upon them—and then play from this position. Dear sales professionals: You know this perfectly well.

Then why are such customers taken on? Why do you permit your company to develop business relationships with such undesirable customers? But, you protest, I can’t tell that right away. Although I am of the theory that there are already many signs at the beginning of a so-called partnership that signal a bad customer, you will concede that the following question arises: When you at last realize that you have a bad customer, why don’t you fire him? In my experience, that rarely happens, if ever.

In my experience, bad deals are too often made knowing that they will indeed be bad deals, and that too often, bad customer-relationships are continued in full knowledge that the relationship will not improve. But a sales department that is strong on growth—and that begins with the sales-department leadership, with the head of sales—finds ways to recognize bad customers and not take them on in the first place. If this mistake is made again, a sales department strong on growth finds the ways and means to quickly free itself from such toxic relationships.

What are your criteria for taking on a customer? How do you make sure that these criteria will also serve you well in bad times?

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

What if . . . You’ve Missed the Fact that Your Customers See You as Dispensable?

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Some of our clients notice too late that, instead of having made themselves indispensable to their customers over the years, they have done just the opposite. This very often happens in the supply business. Under the assumption that you have developed a relationship of mutual trust with your customer’s decision-maker over the years, and that fas far as you are aware, the amount, quality, and price have been satisfactory for all concerned, you go into autopilot mode. An order comes in, you make an offer, you get the contract, and you deliver the goods.

But what happens if new competitors appear on the scene? What if your customer, through the convenience of globalization, gains access to markets that a few years ago seemed impossible to enter profitably. What if the decision-makers, with whom you had such a good relationship, are replaced by others? What if a committee—such as a product-line committee or a purchasing department, for example—becomes part of the process because of compliance or for some other reason?

We have often come across existing business relationships that have been destabilized by such circumstances and for other reasons. Often, the causes are right before your eyes: You stopped cultivating customer relations, or you would have anticipated these eventualities with your customers. You stopped innovating and did only what was required. You didn’t build an international network that would have allowed you to offer high quality—which is still in demand—under more advantageous conditions.

The bad news: Many lucrative customer relationships have been lost over the years. The good news: Recognized (just) in time, some of them can be salvaged. Or you can forge new, lucrative relationships. The key to all of this is a structured growth-initiative in sales. The more so, when sales isn’t exactly enamored of the idea.

 

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Growth: When Sales “Has to Do” Something, then Something is Wrong

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Thoughts typically heard in the sales department:

  • “I still have to see this customer today.”
  • “I still have to do this evaluation.”
  • “I have to telephone the customer.”
  • “We have to sell more this year.”

They are, all of them, misguided.

No one “has to do” anything. To say “have to” means that you really don’t want to. It says that you’re doing something, that you think—or know—someone else expects of you, of yourself. “Has to” is passive. “Has to” means that you don’t have your heart and soul in it, that you aren’t committed. “Has to” is dutifulness.

Many people are stuck in “has to” mode. This is disastrous, especially in sales. Because there are other ways:

  • “I’m going to drive over to see this customer today because I would like to do something for him.”
  • “I’ll do that evaluation right this minute.”
  • “I’ll telephone that customer now, so that he’ll know what we have to offer him.”
  • “This year we will create even greater utility and, because of that, automatically increase sales.”

In our growth projects focused on increasing sales performance, we we are on the lookout for such nuances. If a salesperson is in “has to” mode, then perhaps—as we often see—the entire sales team is stuck there, and either the sales approach is wrong or, more probably, the sales manager is ineffective. Either is fixable.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

“Experience” Land Rover: The Impact of Sales on the Impression of a Brand

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

I am (or was) interested in a new Range Rover. On our quest, my wife and I experienced the following as we, accompanied by our dog, casually dressed in dog-friendly clothes, and me unshaven stopped by two Land Rover dealers that happened to be on one of our routes.

Dealer 1: A prestigious dealership that had the word “premium” worked into its name. There were a few vehicles outside, but no Range Rover. Only a couple of RR Sports and an Evoque. I went into the huge showroom. Empty. Not a single automobile. There was, however, a sales office. Inside was a salesman, who looked up reluctantly as I introduced myself I told him that I wanted to buy a Range Rover and that I was amazed to discover an empty showroom.

  • Salesman (looking me up and down): “Yes, the vehicles are all “over there.” There’s a sale going on.
  • Me: “All of them ‘over there’??”
  • Salesman: “Just so. What are you interested in? An Evoque?”
  • Me: “A classic Range Rover.”
  • Salesman: “A Sport?”
  • Me: “A classic Range Rover!”
  • Salesman (looking me over again, in disbelief): “Our demonstrator is out. I don’t have that model here. Delivery takes nine months.”
  • Me: “Thanks.”

End of conversation.

The next dealer:

  • Me: “Good afternoon, I’m Guido Quelle and I’m interested in a Range Rover.”
  • Salesman: “Hello, my name is . . . and that is most convenient because I sell Range Rovers.
  • Me: “What a coincidence.”

We both laugh. We leave the showroom and head for the lot. The salesman greets my wife with a handshake.

The conversation continues pleasantly. The salesman takes seriously my amazement at the delivery time, but there’s nothing he can do about it. Besides that, the new, extended version currently has delivery time of three years (!), about which he himself is not particularly ecstatic. He would be happy to arrange for a demonstrator, but he couldn’t change the delivery time.

We departed on good terms—a good conversation. Three guesses as to where I’ll shop for a Range Rover next time, when delivery times once again become reasonable.

Lessons:

  1. For a brand, the “front line” is decisive. The first salesman damaged the Landrover brand; the second one made up for it.
  2. Range Rover offers an example of what happens when being unprepared for success damages the brand, in this case because of unreasonable delivery times. In any case, I won’t be ordering an RR.
  3. Never let yourself be controlled by appearances—never. Moreover, instruct your sales department not to make judgments based on appearances. Even people in casual clothing can pay for a car, a watch, a piece of jewelry, or a house.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Benefit from Growth Opportunities in the Commodities Market. Example: Freenet

Friday, March 21st, 2014

How often have you heard it? That things can’t work; that the competitive environment is difficult because products are interchangeable; that others can do something better; or that others have already tried something – without success.

During the 10th International Brands Colloquium on September 12-13 at Seeon Abbey, Christoph Vilanek, CEO, freenet AG, made it clear that at the moment, especially companies that are offering commodities are well-advised to look for growth-potential in their markets. Freenet, for example, is on course to become a “digital-lifestyle” provider and is pursuing this course consistently. Vilanek said that it is necessary to maintain a very rational view on the own products and to keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with low-priced products as long as a lot of people buy them. Just as a sidenote, Vilanek also put to rest the question, he is often asked, of whether you need a new name if you become a “mobilcom-debitel,” which is the brand since the fusion between the two providers “mobilcom” and “debitel.” His stereotypic answer is “no,” since it’s not about a clever name. Haven’t Mercedes-Benz, Rolls-Royce, and Hennes & Mauritz also worked out all right in the end?

In addition, one’s perception of the facts is crucial. Forty-seven percent of Germans have a smart phone. A huge number. Vilanek’s view: Fifty-three percent of Germans DON’T have a smart phone. A huge potential.

In our role as consultants, we frequently scrutinize traditional business models as to their potential for growth. It’s not unusual for us to discover that over the years, an organization has learned behaviors that must be examined critically if it wants to grow further. But this assumes a certain “internal opposition,” because it means grappling with the fact that what has brought the organization to its present prosperity will probably not be what will guide it to future prosperity. A sea change in thinking that requires strong leadership.

On my own account: The 11th International Brands Colloquium will take place on September 18-19, 2014 at Seeon Abbey in Chiemgau, as always. Once again, business leaders, companies, and senior-brand managers will convene to speak in a familiar and confidential setting about brands, strategy, leadership, and growth. There is no documentation of the proceedings so that the speakers can talk about things not intended for wider publication. You can find out more about the International Brands Colloquium here.

 
© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Stop “selling”

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Corporate managers who complain that their products and services are under tremendous price pressure often create this problem for themselves, namely through a phalanx of rogue door-to-door sales reps in the sales department. Yes, you heard right: Even in industries where it is generally accepted that everyone operates under price pressure, it doesn’t have to be that way. Even in the sale of so-called commodities, price must not dominate as the distinguishing feature.

The sales department must indeed see to it that products and services “land” profitably in the marketplace of the company they represent. When sales reps only advise, then they are advisers, not sales reps. But nowhere is it written that sales reps should resort to pressure tactics, never mind that they must do so. In many instances, “selling” tends toward exactly this kind of high-pressure approach.

Instead of selling, a good “sales rep” facilitates purchases. That is a significant difference. A good sales rep creates value, utility. The more valuable the products and services that he (or she) is responsible for, the more value and utility a good sales rep will create for his customers in the process of selling. I’m not speaking, here of monetary benefits, and especially not rebates. I’m speaking of things that the customer holds dear. This could be a suggestion, a tip, a concept, a professional article, membership in a community (as with Nespresso, for example) – in other words, something that helps the customer to advance. All of this serves to cement the relationship. It serves to show that the sales rep is truly serious about the relationship and that it is not a matter of making a fast buck, either for the rep or the customer. The customer’s final “yes” becomes a natural part of the relationship, as does a sincere “no” or “not yet.”

You probably have the wrong priorities if you say at this point that your sales department doesn’t have time to invest in serious relationships, because it has to produce transactions. When you say that, naturally, selling should build relationships – just a little more quickly, please – you’re being unrealistic. Our work with our clients shows that time invested in decision makers always pays off in profitable growth. When you worry that your sales reps will take customers with them, should they happen to leave, you’re tilting at windmills.

Our experience shows that the repercussions feared from a sales employee’s changing firms are by-and-large exaggerated.

What does your sales force do? Exert pressure or facilitate purchases?

© 2013, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.