In Sales & Marketing, Remember: It’s About the Customer, Not You!

Your prospect or customer wants to know: What can you do for me?

If you really want to breakthrough with prospects and customers, you’re going to have to be prepared to demonstrate what’s in it for them. That means asking the right questions, listening well, doing your research and skillfully crafting a story that shows how your products or services make the customer and his company winners.

The concept of strategically collecting and applying information for positive customer engagement is nothing new. Knowing about the concept is one thing. However, being able to successfully deploy it is something else.

Marketers should know and understand the key points about strategic and consultative selling.  (There are numerous articles and guides than can be read.) Further, marketers should provide sales teams with the necessary tools and materials to successfully engage in this type of selling (e.g., examples of how the products and services can help customers and prospects succeed in various usage applications, end-user research, etc).

Dynamic and Fun Example

This example takes the practice of strategic selling to a whole new level of proficiency. It provides a discussion springboard for what can be applied at your company.

In this story, the seller wants the customer to have an excellent experience. One member of the selling team takes extraordinary action to go beyond making that happen. His objective is to cater to the customer’s specific interests and tastes instead of simply fitting the seller’s standard offerings to the customers. He creates an amazing, unique experience. For that sales team member, it is customer first.

To begin, let’s introduce the main characters.

■ The seller is an industrious restaurant wine director.

■ The customer is Greg Popovich, coach of the NBA team San Antonio Spurs. Under his leadership, the Spurs have won five NBA championships. Popovich also serves as the head coach of the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team. In addition to his basketball coaching prowess, describing him as a wine enthusiast is an understatement. He is a true oenophile. Popovich, often referred to as simply Pop, has created a bit of legend and mystique around the dinners with wine that he hosts for his team, colleagues and friends. They are food and wine combination events designed with a business leadership and teamwork purpose.

When Greg Popovich scheduled one of his team dinners at a Sacramento, California restaurant for a group of 40, wine director Jeremy Threat went into action. Continue reading

Execution Breakdown: Sales Team Sent to Trade Show with Defunct Email Address on Business Cards

What separates the winners from everyone else when it comes to successful business execution?

Credit: iStock

Attention to details, or put another way, making sure the operational nuts and bolts are in order. Plus, doing that with a customer-focused mindset that’s spread across the entire organization.

It’s not surprising, with so much emphasis on high-tech tools, that the basic “low tech” stuff that keeps the trains moving can be overlooked or even dismissed. Sometimes, the new tools are positioned in sexy wrapping paper and target (take advantage of?) those always looking for the next shiny new object. Of course, others offer real utility and have staying power.

To be clear, technology and related wow tools can provide amazing ways for marketers and business people to succeed in their jobs. For example, last month I attended a presentation on artificial intelligence and machine learning, geared as an introduction for marketers. Cool stuff and important to know more about that.

The basics aren’t sexy but get the right things done well!

Last week, I reconnected with a former colleague at an industry trade show. It was great seeing him and we exchanged contact info.

The next day I sent him a short note, using the email address on his business card. The message bounced back undeliverable. Strange. Fortunately, I located a second work email address on LinkedIn (we’re connected), and resent my note. Someone he met at the trade show would not have been able to do that.

He responded as follows: “Sorry, we just changed our email addresses and we don’t have new cards yet.” Then, prominently marked in bold red at the bottom of his message was the real “NEW EMAIL ADDRESS” to be used going forward.

I share this story to reinforce my message about the nuts and bolts required for best execution. Continue reading

Interact with Customers in Real Time to Boost Satisfaction & Repeat Purchase

It’s good to ask your customer how was everything. It’s so much better to ask how is everything.

Learning in real time enables you to receive and process customer feedback so you can act and influence the outcome.

The team at the Hilton hotel in Fort Collins, CO embraces this philosophy. They reached out to me before and during my recent visit. Continue reading

Value Proposition: An Unlikely Source of Strategic Inspiration

“You just saved $63.00 by using your library!”

That statement was printed at the bottom of a check out receipt for two books recently borrowed from my public library.

Credit: Morris County Library.


The focus of my last post was providing action tips for instituting a formal system to determine how your products and services stack up versus competitor choices. It’s an important part of monitoring and understanding your strategic situation analysis.

Critical outputs from such analysis can include identifying competitive differentiation opportunities and developing a value proposition. Surprisingly, the library check out receipt is a wonderful example that can provide inspiration for this type of strategic challenge.


Credit: Morris County Library (mclib.info)

The statement “You just saved $xx by using your library!” is brilliant. Continue reading

Get-Started Action Tips to Evaluate How You Stack Up Versus Competition

The late New York City mayor Ed Koch created a personal, attention-getting mechanism for gaining input and feedback. He famously asked: How am I doing?

Business and marketing leaders have much to gain by utilizing a “How are we doing?” outside-in learning approach. One easy-to-implement way to get started is to conduct a regular program to compare your products and services versus other available options.

During my brand management days at Unilever, the marketing teams had scheduled “cuttings” during which they would compare their products to those of their competitors, review new products and/or generally explore options in the category. It was a cross-functional gathering including R&D and sometimes other colleagues. It fostered collaboration and led to productive and interesting conversations about the business, beyond the technical details.

It was also a fun part of the job, and vividly demonstrated why we all came to work each day: to provide great tasting products to consumers.

I remembered those product review sessions when reading about the keynote speech former Kroger and Harris Teeter executive Fred Morganthall gave during this month’s Private Label Manufacturers Association trade show. His advice has widespread relevance beyond the grocery business: Continue reading