Noah's Tuesday Tidbits

The Best of July 2017

The Most Important Question You're Not Asking Nearly Enough

 What will we be able to do after X that we can’t do now?

Replace X with your next big investment.

Replace X with your desire for more sales training.

Or replace X with that shiny, bright, and new app or piece of software the marketing folks are telling you that you need.

I’m going to keep harping on a major theme of my Tuesday Tidbits because it’s incredibly important to keep harping on.

Just last week I received another call from the VP of Sales of a large company to ask me to come do “a sales training.” Why they call it “a training” is beyond me, but when I asked the VP what the objectives or desired outcomes were, and how the company would be better off, he couldn't give me an answer. So I told him I couldn't quote him a fee for “a training.”

He was charged by his boss, the CEO, to get the sales team performing more effectively–and of course to get revenues up. But he wasn’t able to tell me what he hoped they would be able to do better after a single day together beyond, “sell more.”

Surely, if I spent a day with them they would be able to sell more and drive

revenue growth, but here’s why this is a sticking point for me.

Do they really need just a day of training? Do they need a month?

Do they need more process? Do they need new sales tools?

Is the problem even really in the sales department?

By asking and answering this question of what happens after something takes place, you are demonstrating that you understand what you need to do, and what is needed to be successful in your company, and industry. Without that understanding, you are pretty much doomed. Unfortunately, many people just give up that kind of critical thinking. It’s just another example of the abdication of responsibility.

Now you might be saying, “Noah, isn’t it your job to demonstrate the value to the prospective client?” And yes, it almost always is. But in this case, no. When the CEO of the company says, “Get Noah Fleming in here” there’s value in me forcing them to think how they’ll be better off once I do show up. There’s value in showing them they might not need sales training, but what they need is a new commission structure or a new VP of Sales, or the removal of the “this too shall pass” attitude.

Sometimes they say something like, “We only want to rally the troops.” And that’s fine, except that blanket motivational talks rarely do much to change behaviors, or fix the lack of process, or improve proactive sales and revenue generating efforts from your team.

I can help my clients recognize the value they don’t even know they’ll get from training or process improvement, but there’s value in forcing them to do the critical thinking before they spend their money. If they’re just too lazy to do that, then I’m not sure it’s a good fit. More importantly, I’m not confident they’ll hold up their end when we’re working together.

My clients will tell you, that this is one of the most practical and unique features of working with me. It’s why I’m willing to spend my own money and get on a plane to see them BEFORE we even have an agreement on the scope of the work. Let’s figure out the objectives first, then define the ROI, and then–and only then–define the best way to deliver it. That’s where the real value is created. Last year I invested well over $50,000 in travel expenses to visit prospective clients in

Tennessee, Alberta, Florida, California, Texas and beyond, before any of them gave me a dime.

So let me share these wise words of wisdom today.

If the head of sales in your business says that the answer to increasing profits and revenue is to just “train the idiots,” then you’ve all grossly failed in your responsibilities to your company. And your VP has failed too. There’s this notion that as soon as a company has "more information" or other vaguely defined goals, that they will somehow magically be more productive or profitable.

Call me first before just deciding your seasoned sales team needs another round of training and let’s talk about the outcomes first. We’re better off starting with the simple question, “If we do this, or if we invest in this, what happens next? More importantly, what will you be able to do differently at the end, that you can’t do now?”

Your Weekly Challenge: Consider an investment you're thinking about making in your business and ask yourself if you’ve considered how the organization will be better off and what the desired business outcomes are, or is it just something you want to do because you think it might help?

P.S. Thanks to everyone who chimed in on my request last week. The Tuesday Tidbits are now available in Audio Format from iTunes. You can subscribe here, and this one should be available by mid-day Tuesday. Even if you prefer the email format, this is a great way to listen, re-listen, and have an archive of your favorites (and it gives me an opportunity to go off-script as well!) Subscribe HERE and share with your friends/colleagues.

Success Isn’t Sexy – But Here’s What Is

Before we get down to it, I have three small things to share with

As mentioned last week, the Tuesday Tidbit is now available in audio format every week. You can subscribe to the Tidbits HERE. Today’s recording will be available later today. If you subscribe, it will automatically show up on your phone every week. Just another great way to enjoy the tidbits. Many of you also requested a PDF digest of the tidbits. We’ll be doing that monthly. The first edition is available HERE.

I’ve also launched a new podcast with Shawn Veltman, a colleague on a number of projects and my co-author for our upcoming book, Dealing with Difficult Customers (which you can pre-order for under $10 bucks.) Shawn and I have launched The Evergreen Show where we provide, proven, pragmatic and actionable business growth insights in 15 minutes or less. Quite often we’re taking a tidbit topic and having a deeper, more meaningful discussion about it. Complete with new challenges to drive your growth. You can subscribe to that HERE.

On to today’s Tidbit.

Back in 2015, I spoke at both SXSW in Austin, Texas and Hubspot’s Inbound Conference in Boston. Both of these events are the epitome of sexy in the world of sales and marketing conferences. There was so much glitz and glamor around the elusive hunt for the new customer that at both events I prefaced my talk that I would be the Canadian guy talking about boring topics like customer retention, and how to nurture and develop more profitable relationships with existing customers.

The kicker, I told them, was that if they could forget about their excitement about cool new technique X for the length of my talk, it would drive more revenue straight into their pockets than all the rest of the techniques combined.

What I said at Inbound is that success is rarely sexy. Here’s what I mean by that. I’ve been thinking about a few client projects as of late where we’ve started to see great results, quickly. In a few examples, we’ve gone from a 0-60MPH in very short time frames. Now I said it’s rarely sexy, but these types of results are incredibly sexy. But because of all of the excitement and hoopla surrounding new results, insights, or opportunities, there’s often a desire for more! Everyone’s excited, and they want to feed the beast. They start to get new ideas and want to

move at breakneck speeds to add more complexity–whether it’s new features, new processes, and procedures, or new tools, etc.

The problem with adding too much too fast is we lose focus on what got us all hot and sweaty in the first place. To me, the answer is simple. Do one thing. That’s it. Get the one thing right and ONLY add the next when people are doing the one thing without beating them over the head. It’s often the case that we have to change a culture, or shift the inertia, or replace bad behaviors with good ones. Whatever the case may be, if we do too much too fast, we’re likely to lose steam on everything. As always, I like to provide examples of how this might play out across different industries, or areas of the business.

In sales for example, if your team isn’t using a CRM or some system to track their activity so that you have visibility into how they’re interacting with clients, then put something into place immediately. Make it clear that this is non-optional. Here’s the hard part - once everybody is using it consistently, wait. Wait at least a month to get a baseline of data before you make any new decisions or engage in any new sales initiatives.

In retail, for example, if you haven’t started capturing contact information for every client, then ensure that all of your staff is trained how to do this and that they do it. After you have a month’s worth of data, start comparing the contact capture rates for everybody in the company, and have some hard conversations with anybody who is significantly underperforming.

As it relates to service, consider the importance of role-play training in ensuring your people are ready for anything. If you haven’t added role-plays of the most

common scenarios to your weekly training activities (or if you don’t have weekly training activities yet), then start!

Once you’ve started, just follow through with this one thing. See how well it does.

We’re conditioned to want more, and we want it now. But there’s great value in taking your time. A good rule of thumb is that you can introduce something new when the majority of people in your organization have adopted the change and continue to do it even when you’re not watching.

Final note–You’re going to have great ideas that you want to do immediately.

We’re not saying to stifle these or forget about them. Keep that excitement, keep that enthusiasm, and keep those ideas! Write them down, revisit them weekly or monthly, and determine what the right next move is when you’re ready to move.

Your Challenge For This Week: Send me an email and let me know the ONE THING you’re focused on getting right before adding more. Then, a month from now, send me another email and let me know how you’ve done in implementing it!

I called this email ‘Success isn’t sexy.’ The longer version of that would be ‘Doing what it takes to succeed, day in and day out isn’t sexy. But the results sure are!'



P.S. You can subscribe to the audio version of the tidbits HERE. You can subscribe to our new podcast, The Evergreen Show HERE. The podcasts make it easy to share with a wider audience.

Don't Tell Me Your People Are Your Most Valuable Asset

I’m writing this from a plane flying high at 36,000 feet on my way to visit a client this morning. One of the ways we helped this client tremendously was by moving tens of millions in sales revenue out of the little black books of two dozen sales reps and into a living, breathing, customer database, for the first time in its long history.

Sounds simple, right?

Yesterday, I asked the company’s CEO if I could talk about this publicly and his response made me chuckle, “You’ve been talking about it for years, Noah. I just finally realized I better do something about it. I’m practically your poster child.”

Our relationship started on a previous visit months ago. The then-prospective client asked me to visit their facility to discuss how I might be able to help them increase revenues.

He proudly showed me around and told me about the history of the business. He had good reason to be proud–it’s a very impressive business, and he obviously managed it well, especially from the operations side. We were talking because he was concerned about the performance of his sales team–every year they’d been telling him that the modern competitive environment was getting tougher, that it was harder for them to stay competitive, and he wasn’t sure how much stock to put into that prognosis.

To start, I asked him a straightforward question (you may notice this is a favorite tactic of mine).

The question was this: What’s the most valuable asset you have in this business

right now? I don’t mean this in a hippy dippy way, but as an actual, concrete question. If you had to go out of business tomorrow, what would a smart buyer pay the most for?

When the question is put like this, a lot of the froo froo answers go out the window. “Our people are our most valuable asset” is drivel from HR that is, of course, the wrong answer to this question. Your people will scatter to the wind on the day the doors close, and while they’re still open–nobody is irreplaceable.

Is it your inventory? You’ve got millions of dollars of products that won’t do you any good after the doors shut tomorrow. This is a better answer, but it’s still dead wrong.

What about your patents? Trade secrets? Capital assets? Brand equity? For most companies out there, the answer is no, no, no, and “are you serious? NO!

With very few exceptions, there is no asset more valuable than your customer list, and specifically their purchase history & contact info.

As the great Peter Drucker said, “Without a customer, there is no business.”

You all know that one of my core beliefs and teachings is that your customer is the single most valuable resource that must be developed, nurtured, and cultivated. I’m not saying your people aren’t important, of course not. But we often spend more time nurturing, training and developing the talent than we cultivating the customers that make having people possible.

Here’s the thing–you can’t do that if you don’t know who your customers are, or how to get in touch with them. And if you don’t know what they’ve purchased from you, or what you’ve talked to them specifically about regarding their needs, then it’s going to be hard to say anything when you do get in touch other than “please buy from us!”

It always shocks me when a company doing north of $50M in revenue doesn’t have the right systems in place to market to their customers, or to know what they purchased recently, or the last time they were spoken to, and how to get in touch. This is aside from the fact that disgruntled sales folks can effectively hold the keys to tens of millions in revenue.

When this information is a corporate asset, you can figure out what people like to buy from you. You can understand what individuals buy from you. You can figure out what you can then market to those individuals (we’ve all heard of the “market of 1”, and that’s precisely where we all need to get!)

You can figure out other product/services you can offer or partner to offer to your customers. (Remember the Evergreen Forest from a few weeks back?)

You can be alerted when their purchase frequency drops (to reach out to keep them before it’s too late).

Without it, you’re stuck with hoping that people keep walking into your company to throw their cash at you.

For the WalMarts and McDonalds and Tesla's of the world, that approach works great. But when you’ve got competition, when you’re not far and away the market leader in your space, and when you don’t have a billion dollar advertising budget to keep the new clients coming, you can’t afford to ignore your list.

Ever. It’s the most valuable thing you’ve got.

Once my client and I had this conversation, he realized pretty quickly that he didn’t have that information easily at hand, and so couldn’t have efforts in place to take advantage of it. Our work started shortly after that.

Your Challenge For This Week:

Spend time with sales and marketing and do a thorough review of your customer database.

Is it current? Is it up to date?

Do you have credible info on customers such as the last time they were spoken to and the next point of contact for every customer?

Is your customer database and prospect list growing? Are you making an attempt to capture info from every prospect?

Are your contacts current and up to date?

Most importantly–how are you actually using this information? Are you using it as well as you could be?

Have a great week!

P.S. There's a new episode of my new podcast The Evergreen Show available HERE.

If You Can’t Explain It, You’re Not Doing It Right

I got a lot of flack (and praise) from last week’s Tidbit, where I said that your people are not your most valuable resource, but that instead of the single most valuable asset most companies will ever have is their customer database and purchase history.

A lot of people seemed to think I was saying that you don’t have to treat your employees well, or that it’s not important to recognize when they go above & beyond.

There were some heated comments in the comments section & my inbox (along with many more from business executives who understood exactly what I was saying), and so I wanted to follow up on that theme this week.

I was working with a client where we found two sales reps who were just crushing everyone else regarding results. The CEO would often say things like, “We just need two dozen more guys like Jim and Steve! Unfortunately, the people we have now will never be as good as Jim and Steve.”

I told him he was likely wrong. I wanted to see what was responsible for the difference because I know from long experience that it’s easier than most people realize to replicate success in sales and marketing.

We started by talking to Jim and Steve. Neither of them could explain it. They were humble. They didn’t claim to be the best salespeople on the planet. They didn’t try to dazzle us with unbridled hubris. Instead, they both said things like, “I can’t explain it. I just do things a certain way, and it works.”

The sales manager had set excessive quotas for them, but she couldn't explain

why they were doing so much better either. As you may have guessed, there was not much of a process in place.

Here’s why this is important. If there’s anything in your company where you or others say something like, “I don’t know how I do this, I just do it” or, “I can’t explain it, I just do it that way, and it works,” then the company will lose the ability to do that when you leave or retire or die.

One of the things that is undervalued about having processes in place is that it allows you to transfer learning. As you might have guessed, there was no process in place to either ascertain what these guys were doing or how to transfer those skills to the others.

We moved on to watching Jim and Steve. Both of them had built a sales process that worked for them. The process included things like researching the client before making a visit or scheduling a call before showing up. Each was using a simple excel file to manage each prospect and client. They ALWAYS had a next contact date for a client, especially when they had to work to get it (i.e., suggesting next call times, or follow up times if the client didn't’ get back in touch as they’d promised).

Here’s the takeaway: Companies don’t necessarily need more people like Jim and Steve. They need to know what skills, or processes that can adapt from Jim and Steve and bring everyone up to a higher level.

We do a lot of internal benchmarking with our clients who have multiple locations. Let’s find the outliers because if we can find them, we have a baseline that we know everyone should be able to hit.

Creating formal structures/models/processes around the most important things that you do not only make it easier for you to replicate it more frequently and successfully–it allows you to pass on that understanding to others, to train them & help them grow.

Your Challenge For This Week:

Find one thing that you do well, but can’t explain to somebody new. That’s a trouble spot.

Take an hour and see if you can identify the components of what you’re doing that make you successful in that area. Now ask yourself if you can codify the process. If you can, you've likely found an area of your business that can be quickly improved with a simple process.

Here’s an easier way to understand this week’s challenge–find your Jim & Steves and ask yourself what you can borrow, adapt from them, and disseminate through the organization.



P.S. Here's the latest version of The Evergreen Show. We have new episodes being posted every Monday. Check it out if you haven't already!

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