3-Second Rule for Customer Insights

3-Second Rule for Customer InsightI am going to take a guess here that if you are reading this post, your reason falls into one of two groups. The first group believes that no meaningful customer insights can come within 3-seconds, and you are reading to confirm your belief. The second group is hoping against all odds that insights truly can be gleaned that quickly.

The 3-Second Rule for Insights

When speaking with your current customers, ask them this simple question…

“What are you doing three seconds before using our product?”

The answers you receive may be quite different from what you expected. What I have found over the years is that this very question gives specific insights into the circumstances that customers find themselves in when preparing to use a product, service or solution. As I would continue to ask the question of a variety of different customers across a variety of industries, similar patterns began to emerge. Let me share a few examples.

Example 1: Computer Accessory Company

In working with one organization that made computer accessories, one of their products was a Presentation Remote. I conducted a number of in field interviews and focus groups, and one of the most common responses to the ’3-second’ question was that they were looking for their flash drive with the presentation and loading it onto the laptop, then ejecting the drive to replace with the dongle for the presentation remote.

The result not only led to a better understanding of how customers used their products, but it also resulted in a whole new product that turned the presentation remote dongle into a flash drive as well. The perceived value was huge, and subsequently led to further points of separation in the marketplace.

Example 2: Curriculum Resources

Once again, applying the same process with another organization that creates Sunday School curriculum, I was leading a workshop at a national event and asked the ’3-second’ question to a room full of teachers and leaders. A pattern emerged in that one of the most common activities they do right before using Sunday School curriculum is to scramble to the supply closet to gather all the supplies necessary for the lesson.

This is a distraction from what they are supposed to be focused on…and with distractions, comes opportunity. Once again, I was able to gain valuable insight into the circumstances customers find themselves in when using the company’s products. These customer insights are what led to the creation of a Curriculum that includes everything they need “in the box.” The marketing reinforced this message and drove the point home by saying that, “The only you need to prepare is your heart.”

Summary

When you understand the nuances of the circumstances in which your customers are dealing day in and day out, you will find that you have increased your credibility when speaking with prospects.

For the aspiring Challenger Sale rep, if you are going to have any chance at getting prospects to think in new ways about their status quo (i.e., Reframe), establishing credibility (i.e., Warmer) is critical. Without credibility, even the most brilliant Reframe will be dismissed as quickly as your introduction was.

Give it a try, and keep sharing your results with me, whether in comments below or via email.

What have you got to lose? You can’t learn any less!

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessAbout the Author: Jeff Michaels is a 20-year Sales & Marketing Executive that works with executives, leaders, and teams to create repeatable success in their business. Articles posted here typically emphasize one or more of the three requirements leading to Repeatable Success — Intentionality, Predictability and Repeatability.

Challenger Tip: The Problem with “Good Fit”

Good fit, bad fashionRon, a colleague of mine, is often counseling his sales team away from using the expression ‘good fit’ when working with prospects. His point merits repeating.

Ron’s counsel usually starts with, “Just because something ‘fits’ well, doesn’t mean it looks good or is something you should wear.”

One look at the picture to the left brings that point home, doesn’t it?

We as a society have become very accustomed to using the expression “good fit,” whether we are talking with prospects, or considering candidates for a position.

The Problem with “Good Fit”

Addressing this simply from a sales perspective, when we talk with customers or prospects in the same manner, by default, we are opening up the possibilities…and subsequently the defining criteria, to include any product or solution that also ‘fits.’ Why would we do that to ourselves? Why broaden the selection of possible suppliers to any and all that might ‘fit?’

For those that know me, you know I am a fan of CEB and their Challenger principles. One particular aspect that they continue to drive home is the necessity of delivering Commercial Insight.

In short, they speak of the progression of what is communicated. On one end is General Information, or noise that gets tuned out, and on the other end is Commercial Insight.

By definition, Commercial Insight not only disrupts [or Reframes] the prospects view of their business by juxtaposing the cost of current behavior against the potential of an alternate action, but simultaneously leads the prospect exclusively back to the supplier.

A New Way

Reps believe they have done well to truly uncover pain and save their solution to the end of the discussion. Indeed, they are doing better than many of their peers according to the statistics, but this can all fall apart if they fail to uncover the problems they are uniquely able to solve, and exclusively able to do better than any other supplier.

The link to my post on “Where are you leading?” will aid in the steps you can take to resolve this. But let’s all agree to avoid aiming for “fit.”

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Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessAbout the Author: Jeff Michaels is a 20-year Sales & Marketing Executive that works with executives, leaders, and teams to create repeatable success in their business. Articles posted here typically emphasize one or more of the three requirements leading to Repeatable Success — Intentionality, Predictability and Repeatability.

5 Misconceptions of the Challenger Sale

Misconceptions, Myths, True or FalseI interact and participate in a variety of Sales & Marketing forums and events, and inevitably, when the topic of the Challenger Sale comes up, I hear one of five [often misinformed] points of view on the Challenger Sale.

While I am a huge fan of the research and principles of the Challenger Sale, I never take issue with those that disagree with the research and behaviors when they are based upon facts, not misinformation, and understanding, not ignorance. In short, disagreement is fine provided you truly understand what you disagree with and why.

Five Common Misconceptions of Challenger Sale:

Following are the five most common beliefs I hear from those who support and those who reject the Challenger Sale’s research, behaviors, and/or principles.

  1. Challengers don’t build relationships. The premise of this belief is that CEB’s research showed this to be the least effective selling profile, therefore Challengers don’t do it. To dispel this belief, I will simply quote Neil Rackham’s comment from the Foreword of the book, as he has got it right—”Personally, I believe that a customer relationship is the result and not the cause of successful selling. It is a reward that the salesperson earns by creating customer value.”
  2. Challenger is too aggressive/too pushy. This one is really common, and when discussing in-depth with anyone holding this belief, inevitably I find that they merely skimmed through the book, or heard someone else’s opinion which became their own. CEB admittedly calls out that they have “heard every manner of pushback here you can imagine.” The belief is that the Challenger engages in confrontations while proverbially getting in their face. The truth is that Challengers are quite elegantly challenging their beliefs of remaining in their current circumstances, but aren’t challenging people. They aim at the behavior, not the person.
  3. Challenger is just another sales system. The belief is that this is a different selling system, leading people to believe that whatever their current system is, they must abandon if they want to become a Challenger organization. The truth is best explained by sharing Brent Adamson’s comments on the topic. “The Challenger Sale isn’t so much a ‘selling system,’  as it is a way to think differently about how to approach customer interactions.” He goes on to talk about how it is much more of a commercial strategy. Bottom line is that CEB’s research did not reveal Challengers all using the same sales training and system. They concentrated on the behaviors, not the system.
  4. Challenger claims to be new, and it’s not. I am still perplexed by this one as I hear it so often in Sales circles and on LinkedIn forums. I must have missed the sentence in the book that said these were all new behaviors. The reality is that the behaviors existed, but had not been organized and reported in the manner that CEB had done through its research. What was new with the unveiling of their research, was their findings and nomenclature (e.g., “The Challenger).
  5. Challenger is for Sales. Finally, this last one is misunderstood by both, dissenters and supporters of the Challenger Sale. It’s understandable given the title of the book and Rackham’s endorsement on the cover. Any conversation with authors, Matt and Brent, will quickly dispel the belief that this is meant for Sales alone. For those that read the book, and closely follow CEB’s conversations on the topic, you will already know this as they talk at length about building organizational competencies and alignment to these behaviors with messaging, marketing, etc.
Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessAbout the Author: Jeff Michaels is a 25-year Sales & Marketing Executive that works with executives, leaders, and teams to create repeatable success in their business. Articles posted typically emphasize one or more of the three requirements leading to Repeatable Success — Intentionality, Predictability and Repeatability.

6 Causes for Marketing Misses

Marketing missed target marketing

Are you finding that hitting your target market is increasingly more difficult? Especially in the age where so many aspects of marketing are changing and evolving such as content management strategies, SEO and social media.

Marketing is playing an increasingly critical role in organizations these days for a variety of reasons, one of which, as Sirius Decisions describes is that “67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.”

This puts even more pressure for marketers to be well-branded and ever-present in the places where prospects are looking, then the top choice when they click thru.

Now sales is even being encouraged, appropriately so, to engage in more top of funnel (ToFu) activities in the form of micro-marketing due to this very same phenomena with the buyer’s digital journey.

As if navigating these new times wasn’t difficult enough, CMOs must be also able to demonstrate tangible, positive returns on their marketing efforts. That alone is enough to send some CMOs over the edge.

While these challenges are certainly real and legitimate, there are some more basic areas of marketing that are falling short, perhaps due to the reasons aforementioned. It’s understandable for marketers with tight budgets to cut some corners while navigating new areas like Social Media…but it is certainly not acceptable. The consequences can be quite substantial.

Therefore, let’s look at six filters that marketing tends to overlook or ignore in its marketing efforts when pressures on their time and budget mount:

6 Overlooked Causes of Marketing Misses

Regardless of your marketing vehicle, whether direct mail, email, web or other, grab a recent campaign piece and evaluate according to the following six filters or litmus tests:

  1. Clarity Test. Your marketing piece should be clearly targeted at a specific segment or customer as time pressed marketers can fall into the trap of generalizing who the marketing is aimed at versus narrowing the focus (e.g., IT versus System Administrators). Test: Can any person readily identify the intended audience of your marketing?
  2. Resonance Test. Your marketing piece will resonate more with customers when it identifies their pain points and quantifies the risk of not solving the problem or pain points. Test: Will the customer know after reading your marketing piece, the risk or cost of their inaction?
  3. Differentiation Test. The marketing piece should tap into the customer’s felt pain points by focusing on benefits or outcomes, not product features, and lead uniquely to your own solution. Test: If your logo were removed from the marketing, would the solution still point distinctly to your organization?
  4. Insight Test. Engaging marketing should grab the reader’s attention with an insight about their industry, category or business. Test: Does the marketing piece provide an insight and if so, is the insight one which could only be obtained by your experience working with many other customers like the target of your marketing?
  5. Teaching Test. Whether email, direct mail or other, the best marketing exposes or teaches the customer something about their business that they didn’t understand or had underestimated before, thus leading them to your solution. Test: Can you clearly identify the teaching point in your marketing piece? More importantly, can your customer?
  6. Advocate Test. Finally, one overlooked area of marketing is that in an era where more buying is done by committee or consensus, the marketing piece should easily enable the advocate to share internally. Test: Does your marketing evoke a desire to share with internal influencers and decision makers without explanation?

Failing in any one of these areas will have some level of impact to your marketing effectiveness. Failing across two or more of these areas will guarantee suboptimal returns.

Time and budget constraints are real for most marketers. What many fail to realize is that the shortcuts taken to get marketing out more quickly without applying these filters and tests to the piece first, has a compounding effect on marketer’s time and budgets. The ineffectiveness of any campaign requires more to be done to make up for what the last campaign failed to produce.

Conversely, putting these six filters to every one of your marketing campaigns will take major steps towards your marketing effectiveness. Greater effectiveness leads to less pressure on time and marketing spend.

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Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessAbout the Author: Jeff Michaels is a 20-year Sales & Marketing Executive that works with executives, leaders, and teams to create repeatable success in their business. Articles posted here typically emphasize one or more of the three requirements leading to Repeatable Success — Intentionality, Predictability and Repeatability.

Challenger Sale: Change Your Trajectory

Challenger Sale Choreography

Sales growth begins at the root and is unseen

Have you ever experienced planting your lawn by seed rather than laying sod?

If so, you are likely familiar with the concern you feel after seeing no growth nor signs of life after the first week. This leads to subsequent doubts, which come to you in the form of questions such as, “Is this working?” or “Did I do it right?”

Without visible signs of growth, you are left with doubt…that is, unless you know what to expect!

We have become more of a ‘sod culture’ in which one minute we have dirt, the next, green grass. We love the simplicity of processes like ‘First, lay sod with green-side up, then water daily until lawn is established.’ Easy!

No Root, No Fruit!
For the experienced lawn professional, whether laying sod or seeding, they understand that the most important step is in the preparation of the soil. Once seeds have been appropriately planted, the lawn pro is not distracted nor deterred by lack of initial growth above the soil. That is not expected at this stage.

The professional recognizes the most critical growth is that which is unseen…below the surface. Therefore, they are committed to the right process and follow a certain choreography, which allows the roots to be established and eventually leads to a beautiful, lush lawn.

For growth to happen above the soil, it must first happen below the soil

When it comes to sales professionals, there often times is a lack of commitment to follow the choreography, which intentionally penetrates the surface to establish roots, resulting in break-through growth. The Challenger Sale choreography aims squarely at doing this, getting well beneath the surface from the Reframe straight down through Emotional Impact.

Not so for the Relationship Seller as their interpretation of the Challenger choreography treats the Warmer as bonding and rapport, which leads to their Solution as the rapport builds. For these reps, their natural tendency will be to keep conversations at or above the surface as if to maintain a conversational stasis or equilibrium.

The problem?
If they never get to the root, there will most certainly be no fruit yielded from the conversation. Instead, count on a long, fruitless, sales cycle and a rep that mistakenly believes that, “It’s just a matter of time before they are ready to buy. After all, our conversation went very well.”

Conversation Choreography

“I have the solution to your problem! By the way, what is your problem?”
Another common [but highly ineffective] approach reps use to maintain this pleasant equilibrium is to introduce the product or solution immediately into the conversation. Prospects are often quick to get to product as well, especially when the reason for your call to them stemmed from a lead.

A couple of years ago, I was brought in to improve a team’s ineffectiveness with conversions. I did a time study to evaluate how soon  into the call they brought up their own solution. 83% of their calls introduced their solution within a minute or less of the prospect answering the phone. 14% of the calls had solutions introduced within 2 minutes of answer. The remaining 3% were generally customer service calls.

While the problem above may seem severe, it is not unique to this team. In fact, a cursory review of some of today’s most popular sales forums reinforces how often this does happen.

Therefore, to help sales and marketing teams better understand the problem, I created the visual above based upon CEB’s framework for The Challenger Sale Choreography. This visually illustrates the foolishness of expecting the growth seen at the Solution stage, despite skipping over the Reframe through Emotional Impact where the seeds are just beginning their growth.  By overshooting this and going straight to solution, the rep has significantly lowered [if not eliminated] their chance of conversion apart from luck.

In Summary…

For the Sales Leaders or Reps that are already familiar with The Challenger Sale, this is a reminder to stay committed and disciplined to the well-defined choreography that CEB’s research turned up.

For those unfamiliar with the specifics of The Challenger Sale, but have merely heard about the research, I highly recommend you buy the book to better understand how to create intentional, predictable and repeatable results.”

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Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessAbout the Author: Jeff Michaels is a 20-year Sales & Marketing Executive that works with executives, leaders, and teams to create repeatable success in their business. Articles posted here typically emphasize one or more of the three requirements leading to Repeatable Success — Intentionality, Predictability and Repeatability.

Challenging Sale vs. Challenger Sale

After speaking with a number of people across a variety of industries regarding their interest and curiosity in the Challenger Sale, I continue to find one common misperception about the disposition of a Challenger. Too often, their picture of what a Challenger approach looks like in marketing and selling gets depicted like the picture you see below. In other words, they picture a ‘lean forward’ posture, that uses an aggressive and controlling approach. In their minds, this is substantiated by the tagline, “‘The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation.”

Challenger Sale Misapplied

With some effort and due diligence, one would quickly agree that this is NOT what CEB was intending nor depicting in the research.

I cringe at the thought of how that kind of posture in messaging, whether in sales or in marketing, would play out with potential customers. In fact,  I recently saw one company’s marketing attempt to ‘challenge’ the prospect’s status quo, which implied that using the competitor’s products may actually “hurt” the end users, not “help” them. Further exploration of this marketing piece revealed that the ‘hurting’ vs. ‘helping’ question asked in the subject line, was not only never answered, but not addressed at all in the body of the email.

Providing unique insights that truly teach prospects into thinking in ways they had never thought before is difficult, and requires much time and attention to do so responsibly. Failing to give the appropriate organizational time, focus and effort to develop a true commercial insight, before launching into what is perceived as a ‘Challenger ‘ message, is not only irresponsible, but likely offensive.

After personally grappling with CEB’s research for a year now, I remain compelled by the evidence of their findings. That said, I also quickly recognize that the ‘how to’ of changing an organization’s and rep’s behaviors is far more difficult than the ‘why to’ that CEB’s book spoke about. It is worth the pursuit, however, and CEB has been instrumental in helping walk through the process of the Challenger implementation.

I am curious, particularly from those familiar with the Challenger Sale behaviors…what picture would you describe of the Challenger to someone inquiring of what a Challenger Sales Rep or Challenger Marketing message looked like? Please leave your comments below.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: If you would like to see more posts like this, make sure Tweet, Like, +1 and/or Share with others as this is always appreciated!
 

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessAbout the Author: Jeff Michaels is a 20-year Sales & Marketing Executive that works with executives, leaders, and teams to create repeatable success in their business. Articles posted here typically emphasize one or more of the three requirements leading to Repeatable Success — Intentionality, Predictability and Repeatability.

Challenger Marketing Increases Sales 91%

Challenger Marketing Success StoryThere has been a lot of talk about Challenger selling, with repeated points made that The Challenger Sale has equally as much to do with Marketing as it does with Sales.

Following is an example from Group Publishing after using the Challenger approach in its marketing messaging on a direct mail piece.

Challenging the Status Quo

In interviewing the marketing team, they shared that the aim was to disrupt the status quo for women’s ministry directors doing retreats the same old way that they have done for years. To be more specific the status quo for directors was to hire an inspirational keynote speaker for the weekend in order to help enable more women to connect with one another and carry on in weekly women’s bible studies and groups. The problem was that women would come away from the retreats inspired, but still not connected to a larger body of women in their church.

Group Publishing recognized that while their customer’s (Women’s Ministry Directors) chief aim was to create connections between multi-generational women, the churches current method of doing a ‘speaker-based’ retreat actually created the problem, instead of solving the problem of women connecting.

Why? Consider the room setup when you go to hear a keynote speaker. Which way are the chairs facing? They are all facing forward, of course…towards the speaker, not towards each other. Therefore, at best, one could hope to relate to what the speaker was talking about, but no real connections were formed with one another.

Women’s Ministry Directors continued to see lack of connections between the attendees and subsequently felt that they needed to hire a more expensive, ‘inspirational speaker’ next year in order to get women to connect with one another. But that wasn’t their problem. The true problem is they are using the wrong format to make that happen.

Group’s solution was to provide a retreat kit that not only saved the expense of a costly speaker, but more importantly was designed to create intentional interactions between women by focusing on the dialogue between women, not on the speaker. Group understood that even a perfect product would not do anything unless they started ‘unteaching’ what women had learned and thought for years about how retreats should be done.

Group Reframes the Problem

Following is one of the initial marketing pieces designed to get women thinking differently about the retreats they have been doing for years.

Challenger Marketing Example

Challenger Marketing Example

The Results

Not only did the marketing team see a 94% improvement in response rates, but the Group Sales Consultants were inundated with immediate responses and repeated references to the marketing pieces themselves. This led to a 91% sales increase over prior year.

One of the sales consultants commented…

“Thanks to the marketing team, they have provoked customer’s thinking about what is wrong with the way women have been doing retreats. This allows sales to get deeper in conversations with customers more quickly to teach them a different way of thinking about the problem they are trying to solve.”

In fact, Women’s Ministry Directors were even calling Group Publishing to get more copies of the direct mail piece to use as invitations after they purchased the Group Retreat Kit.

The campaign was followed up by matching the website to the style and messaging of the direct mail piece. Is it a perfect Challenger marketing piece? Probably not, but it challenged the status quo in a way that women in ministry could relate to, so I would call that a success.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: If you would like to see more posts like this, make sure Tweet, Like, +1 and/or Share with others as this is always appreciated!
 

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessAbout the Author: Jeff Michaels is a 20-year Sales & Marketing Executive that works with executives, leaders, and teams to create repeatable success in their business. Articles posted here typically emphasize one or more of the three requirements leading to Repeatable Success — Intentionality, Predictability and Repeatability.