Beyond the Sales Process: 12 Proven Strategies for a Customer-Driven World

Beyond the Sales Process: 12 Proven Strategies for a Customer-Driven World

by Dave Stein, Steve Andersen


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Beyond the Sales Process: 12 Proven Strategies for a Customer-Driven World by Dave Stein, Steve Andersen

One of 2017's "15 Great Business Books You Should Definitely Read This Year" --Jeff Haden, Inc. The average executive spends less than 5 percent of their time engaged in the buying of products and services. This means that in this post-recession business environment, sales professionals who focus solely on the moment of the sale have made a fatal miscalculation. Featuring instructional case studies from companies including Hilton Worldwide, Merck, and Siemens, this evidence-based book provides readers with a proven methodology for driving success before, during, and after every sale. Embracing the entire customer life cycle, Beyond the Sales Process reveals 12 essential strategies, including: Research your customer * Build a vision with them for their own success * Understand your customers' drivers, objectives, and challenges * Effectively position and differentiate * Create and realize value together * Leverage your results to forge lasting-and mutually beneficial-relationships Reinforced by research from Aberdeen Group, SAMA, ITSMA, and other experts, this book will help you to grow with your customers-and take your sales performance to a whole new level.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814437155
Publisher: AMACOM
Publication date: 04/04/2016
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 1,217,208
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

DAVE STEIN is a sales consultant and strategist whose expertise has been featured in Fast Company, BusinessWeek, Inc., The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and Forbes. He is an advisor to Sales and Marketing Management magazine.

STEVE ANDERSEN is President and Founder of Performance Methods, Inc., a sales and account management best-practices consulting firm, whose clients include many of the world's top companies.

Read an Excerpt

Beyond the Sales Process

12 Proven Strategies for a Customer-Driven World

By Steve Andersen, Dave Stein


Copyright © 2016 Steve Andersen and Dave Stein
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8144-3716-2



Research the Organization: Becoming a Student of Your Customer

WITH YOUR CUSTOMER in mind, it's time to plunge into Engage/Win/ Grow. You may be surprised to learn that it begins in a sparsely populated area known as the pre-opportunity phase, before a potential sale has even started to take shape. In this phase, you're not responding or reacting to a formal request for information about a product or service to fulfill a specific need, because no one is buying at the moment. You're simply doing some homework, and the subject area is your customer, or a prospective customer, if you haven't done business together before.

Pre-opportunity is when many salespeople and account managers don't pay attention to their customers. That's a mistake, because it's one of the few times when customers aren't feeling pressured to buy. Their wall of resistance is down, which means you're in an ideal environment to engage with them on a range of topics that they care about, without the urgency of a deadline or the limitations imposed by specific requirements. Before you think about having that conversation, however, you must first become a student of your customer by extending and expanding what you may already know about their business and the forces affecting their world. You accomplish this through research.

Like a surfer paddling out past the breakers, you're looking to catch a wave. And even if you can't see that wave — an opportunity — on the horizon, there's almost certainly one coming. If you don't prepare in advance, you'll miss it just like everyone else who isn't paying attention. Becoming a student of your customer and their industry equips you with the knowledge you need to get ahead of the curve and, as you do so, leave your competitors behind.

At this moment, an undefined opportunity may seem too distant to concern yourself with, but at the speed business operates today, you won't have much time to collect information and develop knowledge once an opportunity arrives. If you've researched and done your homework, you'll be in a stronger position to compete. Becoming a student of your customer makes all the sense in the world if you want to engage, win, and grow with them. But be advised: if it were easy, every salesperson would do it, and they don't. Why? Because it isn't free, and, in fact, it's rather expensive. To become a student of your customer, you'll have to make a substantial investment of what you probably consider to be a most precious asset: your time.

Coauthor Steve Andersen once heard an account manager make a comment that seems counterintuitive: "I do my best selling when my customer isn't buying." Steve asked her to explain. "When they're buying, everything is different," she responded. "The walls are up. There's pressure, there's stress, and the people in my customer's organization behave differently. When the customer isn't buying, I can take steps to distinguish myself and my organization, and they're much more open with me."

The best time to become a student of your customer is before the sale, when the next opportunity is just a flicker out on the horizon, if visible at all. This will require an investment of your time — but the return can be huge. The payoff for doing your research, completing your homework, and studying your customer, their business, and their industry is no less than your future success, as you catch sight of that wave in the distance and begin to set yourself up to engage more effectively with your customer.

What You Need to Know About Your Customer

If you were that surfer looking to catch the perfect wave, you would want to do some research before stepping into the ocean. You'd check the weather, tides, wave conditions, and water temperature. You'd test your equipment, and make sure you're stocked up on wax. Only after you'd collected all the relevant information would you throw your board on your car's roof rack and head to the beach.

Likewise, as a student of your customer, you have information to gather before you're ready to engage with them. This requires you to focus your efforts on asking good questions, and refraining from early temptations to position what you are able to do for their organization. Your customer is not ready to hear it yet, because they aren't buying anything at the moment.

As Figure 1-1 illustrates, you'll need a variety of information to begin to build a solid foundation upon which to engage your customer.

As you review the twelve categories we discuss here, keep in mind that some may seem critically important and others less so. Your goal is to avoid finding out later that you didn't research something that you should have.

Your Customer's Organization. How is your customer structured to do business? We've witnessed too many salespeople and account managers spending far too much time drafting highly detailed organization charts, trying to identify who's responsible for what in their customer's organization, and not gaining much value from the exercise. Yes, you do need to know about your customer's organizational hierarchy, but be prepared for it to change. Rather than tinkering endlessly with the latest organization chart software, it might be more helpful to focus on how your customer is structured to do business (subsidiaries and business units), where they do business, and the type of global organization (regions, countries, etc.) they have in place.

Your Customer's News and Developments. What's happening in your customer's world? What internal or external events could trigger a new initiative on which you might make a positive impact? In the Internet age, there's no excuse for lagging behind in knowing what's happening with and around your customer's business. Just a few years ago, you could walk into a meeting and be blindsided by unexpected news, but those days are gone and they're not coming back. Even at the last minute before a meeting, you can do a quick Internet search to make sure you're up-to-date on any news, developments, and recent events regarding your customer's business. You should never enter a customer meeting without checking last-minute news and developments.

Your Customer's Culture. What is it like to do business with your customer? Learning what you can about your customer's organizational values, attitudes, standards, behaviors, and beliefs can empower your efforts to build value-focused relationships with the organization's team members. This will become vitally important when they start to think about buying. Are team members open about information? Do they collaborate with suppliers? Are they innovative?

If you forge ahead without understanding your customer's culture, you risk doing or saying something insensitive, and possibly communicating, albeit inadvertently, that you're not in philosophical alignment with them. It's fair to say that this can damage your credibility and prevent you from ever getting out of the "starting blocks" with that organization.

Fortunately, social media and other technologies can streamline your ability to learn about your customer's culture, as well as a variety of other aspects of who they are and how they operate.

Your Customer's Industry. How is your customer viewed within its industry? Most industries have leaders and laggards, top performers and underachievers, and it's important to understand how your customer is regarded by its peers, competitors, customers, and suppliers.

This book features nine case studies of industry leaders from across the globe with indisputable reputations for excellence in such industries as financial services, pharmaceuticals, hospitality, insurance, manufacturing, and staffing. In what industry or industries does your customer participate? How is your customer perceived by those familiar with how they operate? You can also learn a great deal about an organization by following what industry analysts say (or don't say) about them.

Your Customer's Drivers, Objectives, and Challenges. What market factors and pressures could compel your customer to take action? External drivers are the pressures outside of your customer's control that they must respond to, or that are causing them to change. Business objectives are your customer's planned responses to those external drivers, or how they intend to react to the forces outside their control. Internal challenges are the problems and obstacles keeping your customer from attaining their business objectives, or the blocking factors and hurdles that are standing between them and success. We'll take a closer look at all three terms a bit later, but for now, you're simply beginning to familiarize yourself with what's happening in your customer's world. Your research should help you start to identify your customer's drivers, objectives, and challenges.

Your Customer's Value Propositions. What does your customer do to create value for their customers, and to co-create value with their customers? What types of solutions does your customer bring to market and how do they bring their solutions to market for their own customers? If your customer has a culture of value co-creation with their customers, they will be more likely to co-create and collaborate with you. Sometimes finding those answers can be as simple as a website review; in other instances, you'll have to dig through securities or industry analyst reports, financial statements, LinkedIn group discussions, and other readily available sources.

How does your customer position the advantages they offer? You can learn much about an organization by understanding how they position themselves within their markets, and the types of advantages they believe set them apart from their competitors.

Does your customer publish success stories? If your customer has had a success where you have had a success, this common ground can triangulate into an interesting and powerful conversation.

Your Customer's Customers. Who are your customer's most significant customers? If a small percentage of the organizations that do business with your customer constitute a high percentage of their revenue, it's wise to know who those customers are, particularly the largest ones. Then, when you're communicating with your customer, you're not just hypothesizing about where they do business, you actually know.

Your Customer's Partners. Who does your customer partner with to create mutual market value? Many organizations have a network of companies that they consider to be business partners, and in some cases they even go to market together. By understanding who your customer partners with and why, you can gain insight into their business, and perhaps even gauge their willingness to grow a relationship with you that is more partner-oriented than vendor-oriented. And, if one of their most strategic partners happens to be one of your customers, it can also make for interesting conversation, as well as provide you with a potential source of information about your customer.

Your Customer's Competitors. Who does your customer compete with? Does the competition vary from market to market? If your own organization is in a relationship with your customer's biggest competitor, you want to be aware of it so you can finesse your approach, if necessary. Just as importantly, if your customer's competitor is not doing business with you, then which of your competitors are their suppliers? Sometimes customers will like the idea that you have experience with others in their market. On the other hand, they might be more open to discussing sensitive areas of their business if you are not doing business with their competitors.

Your Customer's Buying and Decision Processes. How does your customer typically make purchases? Do they make decisions by committee, and are they known to issue requests for information (RFIs), followed by requests for proposals (RFPs) or invitations to tender (ITTs), followed by bidder's conferences? It's to your benefit to be aware of this in advance, as you prepare to engage with your customer before the next sale. Is their procurement localized, distributed, or controlled globally through a centralized sourcing function? Regarding contract terms and conditions, is your customer interested in an agreement that both parties can be successful with, or are they known to enter negotiations with 120-day payment terms, ownership of anything a supplier even waves in their direction, and insistence on the most favorable pricing that you have ever provided to a customer?

If you and the customer are already in a relationship, then your experience can provide you with insight about how they do business. But when you're working with a new customer, you may not fully understand their expectations in the areas of contract terms and conditions until you're sitting at the table with their negotiators.

Your Customer's People. Who are the key people within your customer's organization? Who sits on the board, who's in the C-suite, and who are the decision makers? Who's on the management team and how do they interact politically? Where are they geographically located and where were they previously employed? Business is so complex today that senior leaders commonly consult "down" or outside of their organizations, talking with specialists who know more about the details. Who are the "go-to" thought leaders and influencers within your customer's organization? What consultants and trusted partners from outside the organization have a current relationship and a history with your customer?

Your Customer's History. What sort of history does your customer have with you, your organization, and your competitors? Your customer relationship management (CRM) solution is a good place to start an exploration of your own company's history with your customer, but it won't provide you with the complete picture. What's most important is to understand your customer's history with your organization (including your predecessors and current team members), and to have a sense of their past experiences (if any) with your major competitors. A particularly bad customer experience can put you in a deep hole before an opportunity surfaces, while a significant success or creation of past proven value can have the opposite effect and provide you with early momentum.

How B2B Buyers Consume Information, a 2014 study conducted by ITSMA, a member community that helps B2B marketing organizations advance their knowledge, skills, and impact, asked buyers to rank by importance sixteen characteristics of solution providers. Tied at the top of the list were "knowledge and understanding of my unique business issues" and "knowledge and understanding of my industry." Customers clearly appreciate when a supplier has invested time and effort getting to know their world — one more good reason to become a student of your customer.

Where You Can Acquire and Capture Customer Knowledge

We've unpacked the various types of customer information you need to seek out through your research, but knowing where to turn to find it can be a challenge. And in this age of TMI (too much information), you're likely to be as overwhelmed by too much information coming at you too fast from unreliable sources as you once were by having to read every newspaper and industry publication you could find in a desperate search for information, and spending far too many hours at the library doing so. The following list of sources, while not comprehensive, will put you on track for discovering what you need to know.


Excerpted from Beyond the Sales Process by Steve Andersen, Dave Stein. Copyright © 2016 Steve Andersen and Dave Stein. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: Why Read Beyond the Sales Process? xvii

Before, During, and After the Sale xviii

How This Book Is Organized xx

What Matters Most to Customers xxi

Section 1 Engage: Driving Success Before the Sale 1

Strategy 1 Research the Organization: Becoming a Student of Your Customer 3

What You Need to Know About Your Customer 5

Where You Can Acquire and Capture Customer Knowledge 10

How You Can Leverage Customer Knowledge 15

Testing the Effectiveness of Your Research 15

Strategy 2 Explore the Possibilities: Giving Your Customer a Reason to Engage 17

Initiating the Customer Dialogue 18

The Essence of Exploration: Curiosity and the Inquiring Mind 20

What Does Your Customer Care Most About? 22

Are You Willing to Make the Required Investments? 26

Taking Inventory of Your Assets 28

Testing the Effectiveness of Your Exploration 29

Strategy 3 Vision the Success: Visualizing Future Potential Value with Your Customer 31

A Vision of Customer Success and of Future Potential Value 31

How Today's Customers Define Supplier Value 35

Understanding Your Customer's Expectations of You 37

Developing a Collaborative Vision of Customer Success 44

Testing the Effectiveness of Your Visioning 46

Strategy 4 Elevate the Conversation: Defining and Pursuing Customer Value Targets 48

A Word of Caution About Your Customer Conversations 50

Focusing on the Customer Value Target 51

Elevating the Conversation 53

Defining Your Customer Value Targets 63

Evolving from Before to During the Sale 65

Testing the Effectiveness of Your Elevation 65

Case Studies

Zurich Insurance Group 68

Merck/MSD 73

BNY Mellon 79

Section II Win: Driving Success During the Sale 85

Strategy 5 Discover the Drivers: Understanding What's at Stake for Your Customers 87

What Is Discovery? 88

The "Value" of the Value-Focused Question 89

The Quest for Actionable Awareness 91

The Focus of Your Discovery Efforts 93

Testing the Effectiveness of Your Discovery 103

Strategy 6 Align the Teams: Developing Customer Sponsors and Supporters 105

Many Are Connected; Few Are Truly Aligned 105

The Dimensions of Alignment 107

Alignment Is As Valuable to Your Customer As It Is to You 114

Testing the Effectiveness of Your Alignment 120

Strategy 7 Position the Fit: Competing for Customer Mindshare 122

Positioning Is All About the Fit 123

To Position or Be Positioned? That Is the Question 124

Start with Your Customer, Not with Your Product 125

What Is Being Positioned? 131

Planning to Win: The Intersection of Alignment and Positioning 134

Testing the Effectiveness of Your Positioning 137

Strategy 8 Differentiate the Value: Creating a Customer Preference 139

Making Your Plan to Win a Reality 140

Developing the Ideal Environment for Value Differentiation 142

Activities for Effective Differentiation 150

Proving Your Value: Building Customer-Specific Value Messages 153

Testing the Effectiveness of Your Value Differentiation 157

Case Studies

Adecco 159

Honeywell 165

Panasonic 170

Section III Grow: Driving Success After the Sale 175

Strategy 9 Realize the Value: Meeting and Exceeding Customer Expectations 177

What Happens After the Sale? 179

Delivering on Promises and Expectations 180

Yesterdays Future Potential Value Is Tomorrow's Past Proven Value 183

Value Realization, Consolidation, and Articulation 188

Testing Your Effectiveness: Realize the Value 190

Strategy 10 Validate the Impact: Measuring Success with Your Customer 192

Measuring Success with Performance Impact Zones 193

Benchmarking Performance from the Customer's Perspective 197

Testing Your Effectiveness: Validate the Impact 204

Strategy 11 Adapt the Approach: Applying Lessons Learned with Your Customer 206

Understanding How Your Customer Defines Success After the Sale 209

Adapting Your Approach to Meet Your Customer's Changing Needs 211

Embracing Change and Making Needed Adjustments 212

Validating the Impact on Your Business to Ensure Both Parties Are Successful 214

Benchmarking Performance from the Seller's Perspective 216

Adapting Your Approach and Planning to Grow 220

Testing Your Effectiveness: Adapt the Approach 221

Strategy 12 Expand the Relationship: Leveraging Your Past Proven Value 223

You and Your Momentum: In Motion and Growing Stronger 224

Building Your Plan to Grow with Your Customer 227

Ending with the Beginning in Mind 232

Will Your Engage/Win/Grow Circle Be Unbroken? 234

Testing Your Effectiveness: Expand the Relationship 235

Case Studies

Siemens AG 237

Hilton Worldwide 242

Securian Financial Group-Group Insurance 248

Afterword 253

Index 255

About the Authors 265

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