Getting products and services to the market faster
Time to market for new products is an increasingly important factor for all organisations. Here is how one of our clients has taken this on board and supported their customer with more Responsive Selling.
Their customers make laser eye surgery equipment. Once a potential improvement has been identified everyone in the supply chain is under pressure to deliver new designs as soon as possible. They cannot wait months for their suppliers to submit proposals for a new design.
Until recently the Engineers working for our client were rewarded on productivity alone so they had little time to work on new product designs. But in response to innovation demands from their customers, management have started to factor in speed and quality of response into their performance reviews. As a result the engineers are now focussed on delivering the right quality responses as quickly as possible.
What Responsiveness means – Speed and Quality
Lets be clear that Responsiveness is not a new and different way of doing business, it’s always been part of a good Sales Process. But it is an aspect of Sales Professionalism that is becoming increasingly important.
Quick and Responsive are not the same thing
Quick is important, of course it is. But being Responsive is a different thing. You need to get back to people quickly with the information they need. This way your customer may well be looking at your high quality response before he or she sees anything from the competition and forming views before they even see what your competitor has to say. So being Responsive gives your customer a positive impression about what working with you is going to look like.
Why buyers like Responsiveness
Buyers are trying to identify the best possible solution and then recommend it internally. They have to align all internal stakeholder needs, make sure the procurement process doesn’t cause delays and get buy in from all the stakeholders once the best solution has been identified. They need your help to do this.
You can see the opportunity here for you. If you give buyers the right information quickly, you save them time and help them provide better service to their internal customers. Better still, if you give them the information they need before your competitors - you are further down the road towards a sale than them. And your customer can use the information to present the right solution internally.
What you should do now to be more Responsive
Before we talk about the detail lets take a moment to think about why Sales people may not be Responsive. It’s very rare they choose not to be. So why is it? Most will tell you they don’t have time – and that’s because they are being asked to fill in forms and do admin rather than selling. If you don’t give Sales people the time and space to be Responsive they can’t be. It is the responsibility of management to make sure Sales people have that time.
These are 4 areas you can work on to become more Responsive and positively influence your customer’s experience.
Your Sales Process
Internal Responsiveness Level Targets
The Sales Process
Some of you may be thinking that a Sales Process is about doing things in an inflexible way with lots of admin that slows you down even more, while Responsive means being lean and agile. But a good Sales Process is an agile one. Here are some suggestions to help you be more Responsive:
The first thing to do is throw away your company credentials presentation; customers have seen your web site already. Instead you create an Appointment One-Pager. This shows the research you have done on the customers’ industry and business, the challenges you believe they face and how your solution would address those challenges, substantiated with a relevant case study. It’s all about them not you. And it’s not over when you go out of the door. Good follow up makes all the difference. Send an email within 24 hours, summing up your understanding of their goals, solution requirements and decision criteria along with the agreed next steps. You might even suggest a follow up call to validate your understanding. That’s being responsive.
Here you are producing a Proposal and a Management Summary using all the information you have gathered. You should define your value proposition first, and then ensure that everyone’s contribution supports it. You demonstrate Responsiveness by ensuring the proposal meets the requirements of all the stakeholders. The objective is that the customer feels well understood and that the proposal was really written for them. Summarise it all with a Deal One-Pager to support customer-internal communication.
Here are a few pointers about being Responsive in a negotiation. Start with the idea that it’s not about winning or losing; it’s about finding a solution to suit both parties. Have a Plan with a Target, Starting Point and Bottom Line for each issue. Make sure your Team is carefully briefed and everyone knows his or her role. And have your winning cards ready – Trading Variables which add value to the customer but have little cost to you. And ensure you have a decision maker from your side in the room so you can close the deal there and then if things are going well.
The idea of Responsiveness is to deliver customer-specific information with the minimum delay. But Responsiveness is not so much about being reactive as proactive. You need to be prepared. And that takes time.
This is where industry-specific Sales Playbooks can help. It involves developing good examples of all the tools of a pitch; Approach email, Appointment One Pager, Needs Assessment, Management Summary, Case Studies and Deal One Pager. Then add in a question (and answer) bank and you have everything you need to answer almost any question you are likely to get. All you have to do is tailor it to each customer.
Internal Responsiveness Level Targets
Set yourself and your organisation targets for response times and monitor compliance. It may well be that responding to clients disrupts peoples plans and schedules but with no customers nobody is going to have any kind of schedule. It’s the responsibility of Management to make sure Sales people have the time to be Responsive. It requires the right mind-set in all the people and functions involved in the Sales Process – not just Sales.
The only way you can really find out if your customers think you are a Responsive organisation is to ask them. This applies to pitches you have lost as well as wins. You can call them up and talk to them or you could try using a survey, but to become more Responsive you need answers to these types of questions:
How well in your opinion did we understand your needs?
How relevant was the information we provided?
What did you find positive and negative about our proposal?
How well did we address the requirements of individual stakeholders?
How do you rate our communication skills and responsiveness?
How well did we support your internal communication?
With which words would you describe our sales approach?
Questions to ask yourself
So we know that differentiation through “How you Sell” is key and your customers need to be more Responsive to their customers. Ask yourself these questions and if you are not 100% satisfied with the answers you may need to think much harder about becoming more Responsive.
Do you have a Sales Process that focuses on Responsiveness?
Do you have Responsiveness Level Targets and monitor them?
Do you know whether your customers think you are responsive?