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Capture Your Competitors' Customers With Confidence
Every season, we hear sports professionals state with supreme confidence that they will be the champions by the end of their respective seasons. Of course, there can be only one champion at any season's end. Pundits will forever analyze and evaluate what produced the winning team. For the most part, they will assume it is the combination of savvy owners, smart managers, tough coaches, and the best players. In reality, it is the confidence the executives engender in their team's ability to win that makes the difference and motivates everyone within the organization to rise to the top.
As in sports, business requires the same need for the right combination of planning, management direction, sufficient resources, and key players to implement and execute at the highest possible level. It also requires the highest degree of confidence to accomplish the primary object of winning over customers.
This chapter is dedicated to the owners, management teams, and sales pros who want to get to (or remain on) the top and are responsible for succeeding in winning new customers and obtaining the highest levels of customer loyalty.
Let's look at the critical elements necessary to sway customers over to your company. By using a sports analogy throughout this chapter, you may relate easier and gain generate greater insight into achieving that goal.
"Team PLUS" Creates Confidence
The team plus its elements that are necessary to create the confidence to capture your competitors' customers are as follows:
These are the critical elements for you and your team. To be successful each and every game, your entire company must have them in alignment with the guarantee that all are headed in the right direction with the same goals.
In addition to the core elements, your team must have a real passion for the game...regardless of their job position. There are too many organizations whose players get suited up every morning and go through the motions throughout the day. They don't enjoy what they are doing and they ultimately don't care what happens to the customers and to the organization. You have seen this for yourself when walking into a retail store where no one greets your or, for that matter, even looks your way. Clearly, the people on staff do not care if you move on to the next venue and become someone else's customer.
The Essence of Team PLUS
Professionals in sales and sales management
These are your coaches and players. These are the individuals in any sport that are ultimately responsible for successfully executing and implementing the vision and strategic plans of an organization that owners plan in cooperation with the coaches and staff. The biggest issue (and a lot of sleepless nights) for owners and upper management is determining if they have the right coaches and players to fill the appropriate roles and bring home the trophy. Many team owners have great vision and plans, but lack the coaching experience and skilled players necessary to get the job done.
Owners and upper managers need to continually evaluate their organization's strengths and weaknesses at every level. Do they have coaches that share their same philosophies on commitment, preparation, and winning? If there is a weakness in their coaching staff, can a specific coach be trained to improve to the levels of the others?
In evaluating players, in which positions are they strongest and where do they need the most improvement? To paraphrase an old saying, a team is only as strong as its weakest player. Relentless dedication is necessary to reassessing the team to ensure that there are not weak links within in the organization. You can't afford to have even one single player who is not dedicated to playing the game to win.
In business, our challenges are identical to those of any sports team. We need to make sure we have the management that has the skill sets to execute and implement the vision and plans of the company. Management must thoroughly evaluate their professional sales team to determine the inherent strengths and weaknesses in the mix. Each player makes a unique combination. Does it enhance the team? What players need to be replaced (or repositioned) to build a stronger team that can win over new customers?
Many times, companies will become stagnant in their evaluation process of their management team and professional sales staff. In sports, you have instant results every week that quantify your record of winning and losing. In the sales world, especially with the goal of actively going out and capturing your competitors' customers, the cycle of time for success can take from months to years. How do you know if your management and sales team are doing an effective job?
This does not hold true for all businesses. For example, a retailer can dramatically increase store traffic with creative advertising and in-store promotions. They can turn shoppers into buyers faster than an organization that sells business to business. Nevertheless you need to set milestones, or targeted success goals, with specific time frames that help you see the progress of capturing your competitors' customers. You simply cannot wait, in today's market, for one more dinner meeting or the tenth proposal to know if the prospect is going to become a customer. You need to take a tougher stance and make sure your sales staff knows that the time for conversion is now...not in two years.
As you begin to close in on successfully capturing your competitors' customers, what appeared as a distant image, will become a better-defined picture. When you look back, you will see the path taken was full of unplanned twists and turns. Re-evaluate what has been achieved within specific incremental phases. Honestly look at where you are going and if success is still realistic. Find out what has worked and what has failed. Adapt your plans and strategies to fit the latest information available. As in sports, teams make necessary changes to their game plans during half time. Make your necessary changes during milestone reviews. This will ensure that the effort given by everyone in the company stays productive and focused.
Sales professionals are the front-end players for your team in capturing your competitors' customers. They are the ones that build the relationships with the potential customers, cultivate the relationship, and strengthen the bonds and affinity the customer has for your products and services. Differentiation from your competitors is always the foundation to establish sound reasons why these future customers should change their current suppliers. Sales professionals must be able to quantify to prospective new customers the added value their products and services have from your competition. Successfully executing a strategic plan to take away your competitors' customers is far more challenging than simply putting it as one of your top goals.
Long range vision, planning, and execution
Vision, planning, and execution are the foundation for a successful long-term business plan. The major aspects of corporate vision and planning will come from ownership and upper management. Based on markets, current finances, and the economy, the owners/management will define the framework for the company's future. Management will also contribute their input to vision and planning, with their focus more on fine tuning the planning to fit their current and future desires for growth and profit.
What are examples in the sports world where the proposed vision did not work? Just look at the losing NFL football teams that have hired the best college coaches. There have been a few that have worked, like Bill Walsh from Stanford to the San Francisco 49rs. The majority of the college coaches who have moved to the NFL have eventually been fired or left —most going back to college football.
The vision sounds right. Get a high-impact college coach who has won a College National Championship; he should make a great NFL coach, right? Many times the answer is no due largely to the nature of the difference between college and pro ball. A college team is made up of students who don't get paid directly and are still trying to make a name for themselves to advance to the next level. Coaches at the college level are mentors, teaching a young athlete to become better in the sport and become a better person.
Professional football teams have high paid top athletes from college who are hand picked to play for the team that drafts them. Being a coach of professional athletes (all of whom have their own agents) changes from a mentor and teacher to leader and boss. It is the antithesis of coaching college and takes a special personality to coach at this level. Many college coaches simply cannot adjust to this new environment and their chance for their success diminishes rapidly.
Without coaches and players there is no execution. One hears a great deal about the execution of the game plan and plays in sports, especially football. If a player, after the game, comments that the team executed well, they undoubtedly won the game. If they talk about poor execution, they lost.
Good or bad execution makes or breaks the game. In business, it sometimes can be hidden because there is no "game day" and there is a lag between selling effort and customer response. While the corporate team may believe that it did well in executing the plan, the truth only comes out with the customer's feedback. In capturing a competitors' customers, there will be many stages of execution over an extensive period of time. This is where establishing and evaluating at milestones becomes so important to accurately define success.
In sports, when the team does well, it scores on the play and eventually wins the game. In business, there is no reliable instant feedback to determine how well the effort was. Many times, sales professionals will come away from a presentation feeling they could have done much better. Sometimes they think they lost the business when, later, the customer tells them what a great job they did. Conversely, there are those who think they did a great job, only to find the customer chose another supplier. In fact, it is tough to read a customer, no matter how seasoned or experienced the sales person.
Fine-tuning the execution strategy is critical to capturing your competitors' customers, while keeping your own. Make sure you prepare well, know your vision and plan, and clearly communicate your strategy for success over your competitor.
Underlying quality customer service
Behind every successful sports team are a myriad of support staff to keep the organization running at optimum capacity. They range from the front office staff, public relations, equipment managers, medical staffs, planning and travel departments, and many others. Without this support, the teams would not be able to operate successfully.
In business, Customer Service provides us with the direct support and service to customers that is vital to win them over as well as keep them. They are our internal sales team that has direct contact with every customer. Some companies have invested years to capture a competitors' customer. In a matter of moments, they can lose them due to poor customer service response.
In the sports world, these direct support teams show their value week by week. In the business world, we may go a year before we know we have a problem with Customer Service until we have an exodus of major customers. So how do we ensure that we can keep a closer view on Customer Service?
First, Customer Service must parallel the vision, planning, and execution that have been established throughout the company. Since they are the internal sales side of the organization, they need to be joined at the hip to the Sales Department. Customer Service needs to report to the sales management team to ensure this continuity.
For example, what if the NASCAR pit crew did not report directly to the driver and pit crew boss? We would hear that "It's not my fault it took 20 seconds longer on that pit stop. I'm not responsible that all the tires and gas be ready to go when the driver comes in."
Ensure that your Customer Service treats every customer as though they were just "captured" from your competitor. Your level of customer service should never change depending on who a customer is. Large, small, new, old...it is always the same.
To accomplish this, document every complaint, and hold weekly Customer Service meetings to talk about how you could have prevented the complaint. End the meetings with pep talks. We will address more on this in Section II but for now, ask yourself these questions: Are you losing any customers due to incorrect practices or attitudes within Customer Service? Are there any disconnects between the Professional Sales Team and Customer Service?
Establish a Quality Control Program for Customer Service that establishes easy, clear cut guidelines to follow and makes it irrefutable what role they are supposed to play and at what level. This is an ideal time to bring in a trainer to help establish guidelines for excellent service. Often, management is too close to the situation and will balk at some necessary customer services. Hear from the expert what is needed and what should be implemented. The sooner you improve customer service, the better equipped your team will be to retain current customers and capture new ones.
Capturing competitors' customers requires discipline from Management, the Professional Sales Team, and Customer Service to ensure everyone works as one team. In the sports world, the support team's efforts may be easier to evaluate depending on the support. In business, you must establish those guidelines so you can easily monitor how well Customer Service is supporting your sales team.
Savvy Ownership and Management with passion for the game
In an organization where staff is eager to perform, there is also a top-notch management/ownership team that knows how to plan and execute the company mission and to maintain a passion for the business at hand.
There is indeed a trickle down effect — assuming the ownership and upper management support all aspects of the company's strategy and implementation. From the top down, the company that will survive and grow is one where there is a winning attitude and a degree of support that is backed up with a financial commitment to add the necessary resources and to demonstrate the same attitude and passion they expect from others.
In the NFL, the winning teams in the Super Bowl are those whose ownership and upper management motivate and train the coaches and players to perform at their optimum levels. In other words, once the vision and planning are in place, they do not interfere. Even if they are "Type-A" personalities, they stay in the background.
We all know owners who are very hands-on —in the media almost every day and on the sidelines during games. In essence, this "micromanaging" can "unbalance" the coaches and players. It can also diminish the authority of the head coach and cause players to work to please the owner, not the coach—often with devastating consequences.
In business, ironically, it's the same way. If owners and upper management "micromanage" their organization, it will lead to confusion and diminish the authority the management team and their players have in implementing the company's business plan. This confusion can cause mixed signals—jeopardizing the key strategic plans, including capturing your competitors' customers and keeping your own.
Ownership and upper management always want to hire the best people for their management and professional sales positions. These people need to be allowed the opportunity to do their job without interference or disruption.
Attitude and Passion
Attitude and passion are the fuels that light the flames to any successful venture. No one trekked across South America or climbed Everest without an abiding passion for the effort.
It is the passion for the game that brings on the winners. It motivates, stimulates and drives others around them. It lays the groundwork for the positive attitude that is essential for going forward with confidence.
Having a vision (or dream if you will) and implementing the plan takes the strength of a positive attitude that almost ensures that one can succeed at anything. It is what keeps someone going even if the odds are against them—to survive even when the circumstances are dire. It helps filter out the negative thoughts that make us feel inadequate or incapable of achieving our goals.
A positive attitude reflects your self-confidence and your certainty of success to those with whom you work and the new customers you are trying to capture. For the customer to believe in you and your superior product and service, you must demonstrate confidence. Customers go with the strong, not the weaker, player. They are betting on your ability to achieve what you believe.
Passion is vital to capturing our competitors' customers. It is the engine that never stops moving us forward no matter how great the challenges we face. Passion gets us back up the hill to the top when we experience a valley of disappointment. Passion helps drive us to overcome any odds where others opine we may have little hope in succeeding. Passion is the insatiable fuel that keeps us moving forward in the right direction no matter what roadblock comes our way. Passion cannot be purchased or attained by reading a book. It is an inner drive that is ignited deep within us, proving we believe as much in our mission as we do ourselves. Passion is the one intangible that drives individuals to successfully capture their competitors' customers.
Positive attitude and the passion to perform can give your company the edge to overcome any odds and successfully capture your competitors' customers, even if no one thinks it is possible.
This chapter details only some specifics that you need to capture your competitors' customers. Section II will go into more depth. Here's what it takes: It takes the right team, strategic vision, solid planning, and amazing execution, combined with a relentless positive attitude and inner passion to succeed. All of this brings together the strengths of your organization while mitigating the areas where you need improvement. With that strength comes confidence — in the abilities of yourself and those around you. Profound optimism and a positive outlook for the future will help you move your entire organization into a better future.
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