Adding Value is Not An Option…

…adding value is the ONLY option.

It’s intuitive to most that sales people we need to add value on every sales call and in every interaction with a customer or prospect.  We’ve got to be:

  • Solving
  • Educating
  • Providing
  • Helping
  • Guiding

Or any other combination of acts of service to our customers and prospects.

What wasn’t at first intuitive to me was observing the success (or lack thereof) of the numerous window suppliers that worked with locations across the country when I lead the national window program for a large LBM dealer.

Time and time again, our sales managers and reps who aligned with one supplier over another did so because that rep “showed up” consistently.  One could at first perceive this as the reps who “made the rounds” on a “route” were commanding the time and attention of our sales people.  That merely by walking through the door (with or without donuts), a manufacturer would win us over.

But upon further examination of course it wasn’t THAT the rep was stopping by consistently; it was WHAT the rep did when she was in our location.  The best reps would walk in and get to work:

  • Solving (a problem)
  • Educating (us on a product or best practice)
  • Providing (a project lead or competitive insight)
  • Helping (with take-offs, quote help, or an answer)
  • Guiding (us to become better at what we do)

And for leadership, there’s a sixth item to add to the list: Learning. When we visit with customers or prospects (but particularly current customers), we need to ask the questions that let us understand where we’re performing and where we’re not—and what it will take to close that gap.

So before showing up at your customer’s location without a plan to add some value, just know there’s a competitor that’s likely kicking your ass by being intentional about showing up and adding value on each and every call.

What is Your Company’s “Falcon Heavy”

Did you see it?  Did you watch Elon Musk’s team launch the Falcon Heavy rocket into space?  The most powerful rocket ever conceived, designed and engineered, built, and successfully launched?  The implications and possibilities of this step, of this achievement are as Jack Welch said, “boundaryless.”

What “Kick Ass Projects” Mean to Employees

What what struck me with equal awe (although the launch was hard to beat) were the hand prints of the employees of Space X that were on every part of this success.  All of the rockets and tests leading up to this, Falcon Heavy’s promotional video released prior to the launch, and the room at Mission Control full of raving employees screaming and shouting at each step of the test.  If you don’t believe me, watch the first 30 seconds of the video to hear the employees in the room go crazy.

What are your business’ “next steps” that have your employees acting like this?  I know we’re not talking about launching rockets into space, but what are the advances, the innovations, the next ways to win for your company that your employees are working on?

What projects are on your plan?  What teams will you form and which of your brightest and most enthusiastic employees will lead? What will give them purpose for coming to work, to giving you their brains as well as their hands?

The projects can be as modest as squeezing out another 5% in efficiency in a process or as bold as introducing a totally new service or product that takes share from your competitor.  They can be back office projects or front line initiatives.  They can be internal or external.

Change and continuous improvement is mandatory to remain relevant, positioned right, and profitable.

And positioned correctly, this change and continuous improvement can be just what you need to harness the best from people, to attract the best talent, and to retain that talent with rewarding and satisfying work.  The drudgery of doing the same work year in and year out is fatiguing not to mention risky unless you are at the top 5% of those doing it.

Consider the series of developments, wins, and breakthroughs from the following companies:

  • DuPont’s product introductions of cellophane, nylon, Tyvek and many more innovations.  The teams there must be continuously working on “what’s next?”
  • Amazon’s Prime Delivery service, Echo Alexa, Amazon Web Services, and Whole Foods now offering premiere grocery home delivery.
  • Builder’s First Source’s manufacturing of windows to self-supply and compete and BMC’s READY-FRAME precision-cut framing for home builders.
  • Starbucks’ coffee, then tea and frozen drinks, Starbuck’s Rewards card, and beer & wine (even though the latter ended up not working–they tried something bold and new).

So you don’t need to launch a red Tesla Roadster to Mars.  But keep the new projects and improvements coming.  Naturally for your board, but just as importantly to keep your employees engaged, satisfied, and always striving for more.



Data-Driven Decisions

Featured Article




Making: 10 Simple Steps

For Any Business

I believe data should be at the heart of strategic decision making in businesses, whether they are huge multinationals or small family-run operations. Data can provide insights that help you answer your key business questions (such as ‘How can I improve customer satisfaction?’). Data leads to insights; business owners and managers can turn those insights into decisions and actions that improve the business. This is the power of data.

In this post I look at the process for applying data to your decision making – broken down into a simple ten-step process. Don’t be tempted to skip steps or jump ahead to juicier parts – the strategic steps are as important (if not more) than the data itself.

  1. Start with strategy

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the possibilities that a big data world provides, and it’s easy to get lost in the noise and hype surrounding data. Starting with strategy helps you ignore the hype and cut to what is going to make a difference for your business. Instead of starting with what data you could or should access, start by working out what your business is looking to achieve.

  1. Hone in on the business area

You now need to identify which business areas are most important to achieving your overall strategy. If you could only work on improving one or two areas, which would you choose? For most businesses, the customer, finance and operations areas are key ones to look at.

  1. Identify your unanswered business questions

Now that you’ve identified your strategic objectives, the next step is to work out which questions you need to answer in order to achieve those goals. By working out exactly what you need to know, you can focus on the data that you really need. Your data requirements, cost and stress levels are massively reduced when you move from ‘collect everything just in case’ to ‘collect and measure x and y to answer question z’.

  1. Find the data to answer your questions

The next step is to identify what data you need to access or acquire in order to answer these questions. It’s really important to understand that no type of data is inherently better or more valuable than any other type. Focus on identifying the ideal data for you: the data that could help you answer your most pressing questions and deliver on your strategic objectives. Make a note of which data sets you could use to answer those questions. You can then choose the best data options to pursue based on how easy the data is to collect, how quick and how cost effective it is.

  1. Identify what data you already have

Once you’ve identified the data you need, it makes sense to see if you’re already sitting on some of that information, even if it isn’t immediately obvious. Internal data accounts for everything your business currently has or could access. If the data doesn’t already exist, then find ways of collecting it either by putting data collection systems in place or by acquiring or accessing external data.

  1. Work out if the costs and effort are justified

Once you know the costs, you can work out if the tangible benefits outweigh those costs. In this respect, you should treat data like any other key business investment. You need to make a clear case for the investment that outlines the long-term value of data to the business strategy. Although the cost of data is falling all the time, it can still add up if you get carried away. This is why it’s crucial to focus only on the data that you really need. If you believe the costs outweigh the benefits, then you may need to look at alternative data sources.

  1. Collect the data

Much of this step comes down to setting up the processes and people who will gather and manage your data. You may be buying access to an analysis-ready data set, in which case there’s no need to collect data as such. But, in reality, many data projects require some amount of data collection.

  1. Analyze the data

You need to analyze the data in order to extract meaningful and useful business insights. After all, there’s no point coming this far if you don’t then learn something new from the data. The most common types of analytics are text analytics, speech analytics and video/image analytics. The past few years have seen an explosion in the number of platforms available for big data analysis. Some platforms require nothing more than a working knowledge of Excel, meaning most employees can dip their toes into big data analysis. However, in many cases, data requires a more experienced analytical hand.

  1. Present and distribute the insights

Unless the results are presented to the right people at the right time in a meaningful way then the size of the data sets or the sophistication of the analytics tools won’t really matter. You need to make sure the insights gained from your data are used to inform decision making and, ultimately, improve performance. These days there are more interesting ways to present data and exciting tools to help you do it.

  1. Incorporate the learning into the business

Finally, you need to apply the insights from the data to your decision making, making the decisions that will transform your business for the better … and then acting on those decisions. For me, this is the most rewarding part of the data journey: turning data into action.

Bernard Marr is a best-selling author & keynote speaker on business, technology and big data. His new book is Data Strategy. To read his future posts simply join his network here.

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