Sometimes I feel like we are completely missing the boat. To no fault of anyone, we focus on our own company, our brand, people, product, and service. It’s not wrong; it’s that we have the wrong perspective.
All of those are important but should be seen through the customer’s eyes. When we have their perspective in focus, we make their buying journey easier.
“What are you doing to make it easier to be your customer and harder to be your competitor?”
If you answer that from the inside looking out, you won’t ever get to the solutions that will make the most impact.
We need to look from the outside in. It’s not easy, and if we do it, we don’t do it often enough.
Here are some essentials to consider that will help you increase sales and lead you to better results.
The main point to keep in mind is that it is most often our mindset—our perspective—that needs to be changed to increase sales.
If we want to be the best, our CEOs’ job is to Understand, Align and Orchestrate so we can lead our team to do the same.
To increase sales, you must understand the sales process and your customers.
Sales is not only about sellers or numbers. This may be a mindset shift for you and your team because for years, when we said “sales,” we usually referred to the people who sell or the amount of money coming in.
Sales is about the way the customer wants to buy. And that may not be with a seller, as the Gartner research has told us. Further, many departments may impact the buyer experience—marketing, customer success, and support (whoever answers the chat).
Most of us understand our sales process but don’t understand how it overlays on the customer journey, and we don’t understand the gaps. So, take the time to do the work with your senior team to look at that.
Your go-to-market team will struggle without a clear understanding of your ideal customer. It won’t be easy to generate leads, move through the process, and close deals.
Sometimes we lose sight of who the ideal customer is, and sometimes it changes. Senior leaders need to keep their eye on this. When it seems hard to sell, re-examine.
It’s not enough to just know who your customers are; your team needs to know what is a day in their life like and what their journey will be to find your solution. If you understand their industry, how they are positioned in it, their company, goals, and challenges, you will be better able to know if there is a solid fit between their need and your solution and, if there is, get better positioned to earn the business.
My dad’s partner at Miller Heiman, Bob Miller, used to say, “Ms. Customer, I have a solution for a problem neither you nor I completely understand. Wanna buy it?” It seems silly, right? But we do it all the time. We try to sell our solution before we thoroughly understand and come to a consensus (align) with those making the purchase. How can we orchestrate the buying process under these circumstances? This is why so many deals get stalled or don’t close when we get to that point.
Spending time understanding leads to alignment.
Once you understand sales and your customer, you can start the hard work of aligning people, processes, and experience. Certainly, the leadership team and the key departments (marketing, sales, and customer success) need to be aligned. But more than that, everyone who touches the customer.
For example, if part of the customer journey is interfacing with accounting, they need to be aligned too. So, when was the last time your accounting department had a sit down with the salespeople to understand the impact they have on the customer?
If you are aligned internally, it makes it easy to align with the customer journey and ensure it’s a great experience. And a great experience is the best way to increase sales! To align transparently with the customer, your team can use a Mutual Action Plan – MAP.
Alignment means that the customer not only agrees to the next steps but agrees to take action and consents to the timeline.
You’ve seen it too many times, and it is the core of most forecasting errors. The salesperson is moving ahead, thinking everything is going well because, after all, “They like me, and I’m doing everything I promised.” The problem is the salesperson is committed, but the buyers are not. They have not come to a consensus that they should move forward. They are busy doing their jobs and looking at other solutions. The salesperson falsely thinks things are moving, but the deal is not moving forward without alignment. The salesperson failed to get commitment from the buyers to move forward, and you can’t get commitment without alignment.
Taking time to understand and align allows you to orchestrate properly. So often, we are so busy orchestrating things that don’t matter or don’t make an impact because we only have one perspective—ours. We haven’t done the work of understanding and aligning, which makes orchestrating so much easier.
For example, you want marketing to orchestrate a new campaign to increase lead flow, so they brainstorm and come up with a few ideas and then pick one. How do you know they picked the right one? How do you know the set they picked from was the right set unless they took the time to understand the problem trying to be solved thoroughly, and then aligned with everyone involved? If they do, their brainstorming will come up with the right set of things to choose from, and the one they choose will more likely produce results.
I love the story of the $90,000 marketing mistake one of my clients made years ago.
The salespeople had been asking for a year for collateral to hand to customers on a visit. Finally, the marketing department said they would put it together. About 6 weeks later, large, heavy boxes arrived addressed to each salesperson. I was there when they opened them. They were so excited; finally, their request was fulfilled! They quickly opened the boxes to find 100 spiral-bound books with crowded pages that gave the design and specs of each product. Imagine their disappointment. It was not at all what they needed. They shoved the boxes under their desks, where no one could see them. And there the books sat.
Marketing had spent $90,000 to produce those books without understanding what was needed and aligning with the sales team before making the materials. When the marketing team found out the salespeople weren’t using the books, it caused quite a rift. So, the salespeople took a few books with them each day and deposited them in the trash down the street until the boxes were empty. I don’t know if the marketing department ever found out. But what a waste of money that could have been prevented.
I’m not picking on marketing! My marketing friends know I love them, and most do a fabulous job. But this is a real example that makes the point well. In the end, the customer didn’t get what they needed.
I see smaller versions of this happening all the time. We disappoint our customers the same way when we don’t fully understand and align before orchestrating their purchase journey.
Internal or External
Using this Understand-Align-Orchestrate process works on strategic initiatives like new market positioning and tactical initiatives like exhibiting at a trade show.
When we orchestrate after understanding and aligning, we consider our internal and external customers.
All departments impacted are on board and don’t feel like everyone is spinning their wheels.
The experience improves for everyone, and you achieve the desired results—you increase sales AND delight your customers.
What will you do? Can you get your team to try the Understand-Align-Orchestrate process on their next initiative to increase sales (internally or externally)?