Posted: May 02, 2012
Seven great ways to improve your bottom line
Stop selling and start engagingBy Steve Sorensen
A recent IBM study surveyed 1,800 CEOs worldwide and found that 80 percent said “getting closer to the customer” is their top priority. The survey is an overview of what we think is painfully obvious. Nonetheless, I am often dismayed to find organizations still “selling to” as opposed to “getting closer to their customers."
The survey is a testament, as it confirms programs that we’ve been delivering for many years. We call this proven methodology "customer engagement" programs. These programs help organizations implement customer lifetime value/customer retention programs to enhance a customer-centric culture. It’s a method to improve top line revenue growth coupled with bottom line savings.
My engagement teams and customer strategies are always in flux, but the fundamentals of customer engagement never change. It's about relationships – period. Let others “sell;” I urge you to create an engagement culture. Here are seven practical tips to improve revenues.
1. Find the proper strategy as it pertains to indirect or direct distributions channels or a combination of both. Outsourcing your sales team, customer engagement specialists can be a highly effective and produce immediate results/profits. Dealers, distributors and resellers have a built-in customer base and area of expertise within your product category; hence the immediate value. In turn, outside sales channels must be led just like internal teams. There’s no panacea, but it's terrific to have options on improving cash flow.
2. Get out of the selling business and stop buying sales training programs. We see companies that “are sold” sales training. Don’t drive your customers to your competitors. Get serious; get strategic around customer engagement programs. There are two direct benefits. One, sustainable, predictable profitability from intelligent, top line revenue growth; and two, sustainable savings due to reduced customer churn and potentially negating employee turnover. Top line “salespeople” absolutely are customer engagement specialists; they want to align with organizations that get “getting closer to the customer”/customer engagement.
3. Customer Acquisition Cost. If you have a commodity product, by all means, sales train away. It’s low margin, high turnover – churn and burn. Customer acquisition costs are off the chart due to customer defections. If that’s your business, churn and burn sales training is your answer. And admittedly, there are plenty of sales training companies that serve this need. If you’re in it to stay and thrive, customer engagement strategies and retained customers will provide profits now and into the future. This strategy works in any economy.
4. Burden costs. When organizational leadership looks at burden costs, they must intelligently justify how they acquire customers. Organizations must properly indentify, acquire and retain those clients or customers who most closely align with your products value proposition. Thoughtfully aligning organizational resources to identify those key customer attributes based upon our proven success matrix completes the profit loop. If the customer identification method is well planned and implemented, the profits from retained customers is profound, burden costs reduced.
5. Assessed and continuously developed. The best way to ensure finding terrific customer engagement specialists: get highly selective. Let your competitors hire salespeople. For those in it for the long haul, how you hire and develop your people, teams and culture will make all the difference. Recruiters are after your best and brightest, not your “C” and “D” players. Assess your hires, before you hire them, and after you hire them, learn from those assessments how to best lead them. If you are not in the daily business of developing your workers, then expect to lose them. There are plenty of organizations on a mission to hire, develop and retain the best and brightest. Those organizations fully understand that they are only as good as their workforce and create the culture required to keep them. Happy workers create happy customers – customers who will stay with you longer, spend more, and refer you to others.
6. Customer win-back programs. When an organization implements a customer engagement program, they will very rarely have a customer leave. Customer engagement programs have a built in win-back strategy. What’s not acceptable is to have a customer leave and not know why, where they’re going and what the financial impact is. Customer engagement programs are proactive to negate customer churn – as well as proactive to save customers who are on the fence.
7. Measured results. These are always critical to defining and redefining our customer engagement activity. Organizations must strategically define who they want for customers and then measure organizational effectiveness in achieving that goal. Getting closer to the customer is a nice idea; a fully implemented customer engagement program comes complete with tools for measuring success against the strategy. Without a customer identification matrix, it’s just hopes and dreams, which is not a good strategy.
Success leaves clues. A customer engagement program takes an organization from the dream of “getting closer to the customer” and delivers the tools to make it sustainably profitable. It provides a positive culture that attracts and keeps the best and brightest and overall a high performing organization that‘s built to last.
Thankfully and thoughtfully, more organizations are realizing that customer engagement provides the keys to the kingdom, to go beyond survive and live in thrive mode.
Steve Sorensen has spent more than 30 years helping companies achieve a competitive advantage by improving their sales strategy. Steve's experience includes Vice-President of a Fortune 500 company, Manager of Corporate Accounts for a Fortune 500 company and Western States/Western Canada Regional Sales Manager. As president of Enlighten-360, LLC, Steve uses his wealth of experience to help companies achieve increased revenue and velocity of growth through improved sales strategies. He can be reached at 720.343.0033 or steve@Enlighten360.com.