Friday, September 23, 2011

Who Runs Your Sales Organization?

You may work for a sales company who has an identity crisis. 

We all usally agree that sales is the heart of any organization that has external customers.  However, in practice, we often find these companies are actually run by the operations folks.  Why is that?

Usually, the excuse is that Sales "would give away the farm" if left unchecked or that the only way to protect the company assets is to have logical, left-brained decisions being made.

The problem is that Sales is usually about "Yes" and Operations is usually about "No".  Its much easier to say no to bringing in more inventory or to extend that credit line than to do the work to get to yes.  Why would they do more work?  In the short term, people in operations get paid the same whether they say yes or no -- and no is much easier.

A company interested in having long term success and loyal customers should be saying "Yes" more.  "Yes"
opens you open to new opportunities, helps you fail at more things (so you get to success quicker), and creates a better story.

Your sales organization needs more folks stepping out on that ledge and saying yes to customers -- you can program a robot to say no to protect assets and minimize risk. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Surprising Customer Service...The Gift That Exponentially Keeps On Giving

Recently, a co-worker of mine told me a story about her surprising experience returning a top to Kohl's.  After one washing, she found the garment coming apart.  Five weeks after purchase, with no receipt, she brought the item into the store, expecting very little. Instead, she walked out of the store with $27 in cash for the return.

The employee at Kohl's explained that they value making customers happy because they usually come back to shop, and tell others about it -- and that's exactly what happened.

There appears to be a conscious choice at Kohl's: to create a happy customer experience and reject the idea that most customers are "trying to take advantage of us."  There was no obligation for that employee to give $27 back to that customer.  Just the fact that she didn't have a receipt would have stopped most retailers in their tracks.

The rub is that $27 decision has kept a customer happy and buying more (she purchased other items that day), and now has created a compelling story that is now marketing their message for free.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Your Corporate Culture: Is it in service of these two things?

We all know of the constant conflict between sales and operations. Sales feels that by dealing with the moment of truth with customers, that their needs should be prioritized. Operations feels they need to protect the assets of the company, acting as a balance to sales when they over-promise customers. Both groups have valid reasons for their behavior and their rules.

Unless your organization is set up with someone who specifically arbitrates these two attitudes, you will constantly find yourself and your company in this vicious cycle.

I argue that their should be two questions for both sides that drive the corporate culture, behavior, a sales approach:
1) Is our culture fostering a positive or negative story among our customers?
2) Is our culture making us better or worse than our competition?

Think of these questions the next time you use your corporate rules to explain why a customer's order has not arrived on time, why you don't have inventory available for a strategic project, why your prices are higher (or lower), or why your company doesn't have a clear sales channel.

There may be valid reasons based on your internal processes, but how does the outside world view these? More importantly, what are your customers telling others about your company when they perceive these processes have failed them?