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Posts tagged ‘Sales Management’

Using a SWOT Analysis to Improve Sales and Customer Service Performance

swot-analysis

As I train all my Pinnacle Performance clients, effectively improving an organizations sales and customer service effort should begin with an honest evaluation of the organizations current performance to establish a baseline from which improvements can be addressed.

One of the best ways to to gain a clear understanding of how your organization is currently performing is to conduct a SWOT analysis.

As a strategic-planning management tool, a SWOT analysis evaluates the 4 areas represented by the letters of the name:

S = Strengths
W = Weaknesses
O = Opportunities
T = Threats

Who Should Participate?

Many businesses will only have the senior executives participate in a SWOT analysis process. While that can be worthwhile for an operational analysis, a SWOT that focuses on sales and customer service should absolutely involve all employees that regularly interface with customers. These staff members have first-hand knowledge of the company’s strengths and weaknesses and can provide valuable insight as to what is happening at the critical point-of-sale on a day-to-day basis.

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The SWOT analysis process is straight-forward – objectively consider each of those four key areas. In addition, think about what the customer’s perspective might be in each of those areas, and consider how what you do aligns with that outlook.

Strengths:

What sales/customer service strengths exist in your business now?

To help determine this, focus on the perspective of what customers and the market (competitors, the industry) consider as your organizations primary sales/customer service strengths.

In addition, you should determine what competitive differentiators exist? These are areas that your organization is unique (faster, better, more cost-effective) than the competing business’s your potential customers may also shop.

Top strengths typically include:

  • People/Staff
  • Reputation (Longevity in Market)
  • Customer service
  • Product Availability
  • Speedy Service
  • Knowledge of products and services
  • Trustworthy

Customer Perspective:

I am the greatest strength in your organization for without me there is no business to be had.  If you take really good care of me I will help your business thrive and grow. If you don’t, I’ll be more than willing to take my business to one of your competitors that will.  

Weaknesses:

What sales/customer service weaknesses exist in your business now?

It’s critical to be honest in assessing this area. Again, focus should be from the viewpoint of what customers and the market consider as your organizations primary customer service short-comings. These are your competitive disadvantages.

Top weaknesses typically include:

  • Some employees (weak performers)
  • Employee turnover
  • Communication and Phone Skills
  • ‘Winging It’ – lack of professional systems and processes
  • Communication between service and sales teams
  • Too quick to discount to save sale
  • Inconsistency

Customer Perspective:

I can be the greatest weakness in your organization. I prefer to do business with a strong organization and your weaknesses are damaging my confidence.  It only takes one weak performance for me to consider alternatives for my future needs. If I’m merely satisfied by your service, I’ll swiftly depart as soon as I find someone who exceeds them.

Opportunities:

What sales/customer service opportunities exist in your business now?

Opportunities are potential future strengths. What opportunities does your company have to use its strengths to increase sales and market share? How does your strategy address capturing these opportunities?

Top opportunities typically include:

  • Recruiting/Attracting quality employees (replacing weak performers)
  • Training; Improving Sales/Customer Service Skills
  • Exceeding customer expectations
  • Improving corporate culture
  • Institutionalizing processes to create consistency

Customer Perspective:

I can be the greatest opportunity in your organization. I cost far less to keep than it does for you to secure a new customer. But you must truly value me and consistently demonstrate your value to me through your actions. If you’re effective, your opportunity extends beyond just me and I’ll be sure to tell my friends and family how well I’ve been treated. If you fail, I will become one of your competitors opportunities.

Threats:

What sales/customer service threats exist?

Threats are potential future weaknesses. What threats imposed by competitors and/or the market does your organization face? What are the consequences if your customer service effort does not effectively combat these threats?

Top threats typically include:

  • Increased competition (online, national chains, etc.)
  • Poor Customer Service (Wait times, etc.)
  • Losing good employees
  • Losing customers
  • Social Media
  • Complacency

Customer Perspective:

I can be the greatest threat in your organization. I have plenty of alternatives for your products and services. If I feel undervalued, I will leave for somewhere I feel valued. If you’re trying to sell me with your best interest in mind, I’ll take my business to someone who helps me buy with my best interest in mind. If you cannot resolve a concern/problem to my satisfaction not only will you lose my business but I will tell my friends and family not to do business with you.

Action Plan

There’s a popular quote,  a goal without a plan is just a wish. This view certainly applies here and there’s no sense in conducting a SWOT analysis unless you plan to take deliberate action with your findings. Many SWOT analysis end up being nothing more than a bunch of ‘findings’ as the partaking business fails at this last critical step of creating a clear action plan.

The ‘Big Picture’ objectives:

  • Strengths need to be effectively maintained, built upon and maximized.
  • Weaknesses need to be effectively remedied or eliminated.
  • Opportunities need to be effectively prioritized and optimized.
  • Threats need to be effectively countered or minimized.

As a strategic meeting facilitator, I recommend these steps to successfully develop your action plan:

1) Review each area of your SWOT matrix and prioritize your findings into two lists: one that is short-term with issues you plan to address within the next 6 months and one that is longer term of 6 months and beyond.

2) Set the specific actions you will take to achieve the objectives. This will take some brain-storming and strategic thinking and should be the longest part of your planning process. Remember the ‘action’ part of the action plan matters most so don’t rush this step!

3) Attach a time-frame to each of the objectives with ‘benchmark’ dates to check on your progress along the way. Shorter, ’round-table’ meetings should be planned in accordance with these dates.

4) Assign an employee or employees to be in charge of each action area. This is another major reasons SWOT analysis fail; everyone has good intentions but no one ‘owns’ anything so ultimately little gets accomplished.

Follow these steps, and keep the customers perspective in mind at all times,  and you will have a successful action plan to increase your sales and customer service efforts!

Make a Great Day!

Steve 🙂

Steve Ferrante is the CEO & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC., providing Pinnacle Performance Sales, Customer Service and Winning Team Culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven businesses throughout North America. For more information on Steve and Pinnacle Performance services visit Sale Away LLC. Steve can be reached @ steve@saleawayllc.com

Sell Value or Pay The Price

Selling Value Guy

Businesses lose substantial dollars in revenues and profits each year because their sales and service people do not effectively sell the value of their product and service offerings.

Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Inches make the champion.”

The same applies to the selling profession; it’s a game of inches. Every business day your salespeople have opportunities to win new business. How effective or ineffective they are in their customer interactions determines their success or failure – and ultimately the return (or lack thereof) on your sales staff investment.

The fact is your salespeople are always on the verge of either making or losing their next sale. What if they could execute better and win a sale that they would have lost? How about if they did that on a consistent basis? Now multiply that by the number of salespeople you employ. That’s your value opportunity!

Defense! Any coach worth his whistle will tell you that a strong defense is the best solution against a good offense. The reality of many organizations is that their customer’s have a better system (defense) than they do of selling them on their value (offense).

Ask yourself: Ever had a prospective customer request a discount, postpone an order, or worse, cancel purchasing from you? Well, then it’s a good bet they don’t understand your offering’s true value.

Wait a minute you say, no one wins them all. You’re right, but those who effectively sell value win more often, accelerate their sales cycle, and make customers feel better about their purchases in the process.

True Value Areas

Value is in the eye of the beholder. In the case of selling anything, it’s the customer’s perceived value that matters, is essential and vital – not the sellers.

Customers don’t want all your stuff! They only want what they perceive and believe will help them. This is especially important to understand in product or service sales where potential customers can quickly be turned off by technical features and functions they don’t understand or perceive to be unnecessary and of little or no advantage.

All too often sales staffs employ a one-size-fits-all, throw it against the wall and see what sticks presentation. I’ve witnessed countless phone and face-to-face encounters that were cut short because the sales person says some version of “just let me show you” and moves too quickly into the product demonstration without first really understanding the customers’ needs and true value areas.

To effectively sell value, sales people need to engage the customer in a proper discovery process first to uncover what is important to them and why. It is only with this understanding that the sales person can effectively communicate value and tailor a presentation to fit the needs of the customer. By implementing this consultative approach, the buyer-seller relationship is strengthened by properly positioning the sales person as a consultant/advisor.

In addition, sales people need to know what their competitive differentiators are, the areas that their product/service business is better/faster/more cost effective than the competitive offerings the customer may compare them to.

When these Selling Value areas are proper incorporated, sales people have much better control of the sales process, become more efficient, improve customer experiences, and ultimately produce better results for themselves and the businesses they represent.

Sell Value or Pay The Price

Steve Ferrante is the Grand PooBah & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC., providing Pinnacle Performance Sales, Customer Service and Winning Team Culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven businesses throughout North America. For detailed information visit saleawayllc.com. Steve can be reached directly at 866-721-6086 ext. 701 or via email at steve@saleawayllc.com

Click-On for a printable pdf of this article > Sell Value or Pay The Price

The Truth About “Born Salesman”

Born Salesman

No doubt you’ve heard someone referred to as “a born salesman” but is this old adage true?

Having spent 25+ years in the sales industry in every role from rep to manager to trainer of reps and managers, and having observed a countless number and wide variety of salespeople over that time, I am uniquely qualified to answer that question with a tried and true “yes and no”.

How many born doctor, born attorney or born scientists do you know? Likely not many. With many years of teaching and training to achieve those occupation designations it would surely be improper referring to those (or any other honorable profession) that way.

Put in an athletic perspective, you are not “born” to be a great basketball player, a great golfer, a great tennis player, etc. It is true, however, that many great athletes are indeed born with good genes and innate physical characteristics that, when properly developed and applied, result in great achievement.

So while many “born salesman” have natural attributes like “outgoing, articulate, optimistic, assertive, nurturing” that lend themselves well to success in the sales profession, top ‘Pinnacle Performers’ combine this with a set of skills learned over time, and reinforced through continuous practice and disciplined application.

For companies that are hiring new salespeople, that means ideally you would want to start with an individual that has that strong foundation of natural attributes and then build a top performer through a consistent skills development program.

As I cover in my Strong Selling In A Weak Economy presentations, this is especially important in a down or ultra-competitive market. Why? Because many of those alleged “born salesman” (and saleswoman) fail under those circumstances. Often these folks have those natural ‘gift of gab’ attributes to talk the talk but come up short in the training and development required to walk the walk and perform in those tougher selling environments.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” That applies to success in sales and any other profession. Top performers don’t rely on fate/destiny, they decide and commit to being a student of their profession and work to master their craft over time.

The fact is, top performing sales people are not born. However, they can be made by combining natural talents with proper training and development.

The Only Person

Make a Great Day!

Steve 🙂

Steve Ferrante is the CEO & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC., providing Pinnacle Performance Sales, Customer Service and Winning Team Culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven businesses throughout North America. For more information on Steve and Pinnacle Performance services for your team visit Sale Away

Monday Morning Motivation: Success Track

Back in our school days (or school daze for some) there were specific academic achievements that needed to be accomplished to graduate from one grade to the next, from grade school to high-school, high-school to college and so forth. The track was all laid out and it was clear (to the non-dazed folks at least) what needed to be accomplished to move forward and succeed.

At some point, we entered the working world and all that changed. We had multiple tracks to choose from and the path to success became considerably more fuzzy.

Some people chose a less than desirable track. These folks can be found complaining about their job most days. Other folks were headed in the right direction but then, for various reasons, got side-tracked.  Both folks will find that if they continue heading in the wrong direction they’ll ultimately end up in the wrong place.

What you do today shapes your tomorrows. Where you end up then depends on what track you’re on now.

This principle applies to not only your long-term goals but also your short-term objectives. In sales, what you achieve in a given month will determine if you’re on track to meet your goal for the quarter. A successful quarter will put you on the right track for a successful year.

And, of course, a successful Monday will put you on track for a successful week!

Success Track

Make a Great Day!

Steve 🙂

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