Start From the Inside

At GAPWORX, we work primarily with small companies led by entrepreneurs—the captains of their own boats. There is an understandable reluctance on their part to take things outside. Self-reliance can be a good thing … if there is a strong organizational culture and requisite resources of talent and time. There is a lot of useful outside expertise available for companies, but often it is perceived as “you’re telling me what to do,” instead of “helping me make my company better.”

It could be helpful to think—that instead of “outside in,” it could be “inside out.” Meaning, if you want a strong business culture, employee engagement, and customer engagement—the organization must have accurate information, meaningful communication, and effective systems. All individuals within an organization must possess personal motivation, ownership, and accountability—and then act that way.

Think of it as the intrapersonal drives the interpersonal. Intrapersonal attributes are individual self-awareness, critical thinking, effective mental habits, and emotional intelligence. Interpersonal effectiveness is when self-aware, self-motivated, and capable individuals work together within the organization to accomplish collective and shared goals. Conversational intelligence among employees, which relate company stories, positive customer experiences, and problem-solving—all build shared meaning, beliefs, and the “esprit de corps” needed to keep the company moving forward. This exemplifies the socially intelligent organization.

We encourage businesses to look beyond packaged “one size fits all” programs for organizational change. There are no silver bullet or bolt on solutions that work for every business. For any change process to work it must capture the “hearts and minds” of the people who do the everyday work. For organizations that are small or closely held—the more important it is to get everyone’s input, to analyze weaknesses and problems, implement solutions, and build systems.

Intellectual honesty—as Jim Collins calls “confronting the brutal facts,” can identify the rational elements that need attention. Employee emotions must be accounted for, as well. Organizations with clear vision and mission can build intrapersonal strength with leadership, mentoring, and coaching. Strong individuals can make for interpersonally effective teams.

Outside expertise and consultation that incorporates objectivity, feedback, and facilitation can yield tremendous results. No individual, or no organization, is completely self-aware. Even though it is a cliché—you can’t work on, or change what you don’t know.

Simplicity

We are fans of alliteration. It is evidenced in our company’s tagline—Awareness, Action, Achievement—and in other constructs within our models, processes, and intellectual property. We recognize that alliteration is advantageous, as it supports how all of us can more effectively remember things—processes and activities—that otherwise might be too complex.

Many business processes are complex, some by necessity. They provide a means for teams and individuals inside a company to accomplish specific activities in a best practice manner. The opposite approach might be described as “winging it,” and that is rarely advisable in business. Wherever possible, we believe that business processes and activities should be clear, concise, and complete (another alliteration), and not unnecessarily complex.

Many aspects of personal lives outside of business do not have templates, and we instinctively just “wing it.” That is how it should be. There should be freedom and flexibility, as we interact with family and friends. We adopt routines around our work days, but the consequence of NOT adhering to a specific personal routine is typically minimal.

In business, however, the negative consequence of “winging it” can be significant. It can adversely impact almost every aspect of business, but especially the interactions of employees with prospects and clients. So, to prevent or minimize such negative consequences, businesses have practices, processes, and procedures, which help build capabilities in roles, responsibilities, and relationships.

But, let’s consider the added dimension of business schemas. A schema is the present capacity of AWARENESS, attitudes, motivations, behaviors, capabilities, and knowledge to effectively perform in given situations.

For example, if you hire a new sales executive to fill a vacancy, but nine months later you are questioning that hire, because anticipated predictive performance indicators are coming up short. You ask, why? Often the answer is multi-faceted.

Maybe the executive’s prior sales environment was quite different, with a variety of factors. And those factors contributed to prior success.

Maybe sales capabilities need to be more aligned to a team selling environment, or maybe onboarding processes fell short of transferring needed company, technical, or product knowledge. These are performance factors that can be readily improved in most circumstances.

Understanding that salesperson’s prior sales environment in greater detail might have changed the hiring decision, but understanding it now might help you expand your business schema. With greater awareness of attitudes, motivations, behaviors, and capabilities, you can help the sales executive to once again be successful.

It might be … something surprisingly simple.

Important Questions

Do You Have Too Many Customers? This question was posed to a room of about 80 business owners and senior executives. Not surprising, there wasn’t anyone in the audience that said yes. In fact, there was a low chorus of chuckles and incredulity.

The presenter then asked: Are you making too much money? The collective response was the same, but noticeably even louder, with more laughter. The entire audience was fully engaged. EVERYONE wanted MORE customers and money. Go figure!

This presentation was about customer experience and journey mapping – very important topics for all businesses. Yet, it occurs to me that every business owner and executive charged to grow their business might reflect upon these two questions and arrive at completely different change initiatives to generate MORE customers and MORE money.  It might be improvements in IT infrastructure, operational efficiency, HR hiring practices, marketing communication, and/or a host of other critical business activities.

Our advisory practice helps businesses to improve “customer-facing” employee motivations, capabilities, and habits, and the company processes and business practices that support customer creation and customer retention. We help sales teams to sell more effectively and all employees to deliver customer services that keep more customers. Many business owners have concerns in this area.

While the challenges (we call them GAPS … hence our company name) vary in each company, it is important to frequently evaluate poor financial performance to determine what is causing the shortfalls.

For instance, if the challenge is weak revenue growth, the resolution of that issue may reside in the sales team, or it may reside elsewhere in the business. It may derive from dysfunctional company hiring or onboarding practices, or order processing procedures. Numerous factors can combine to have a negative impact on customer perceptions of the value delivered.

We believe all business owners need to understand the root causes of underperformance, the resources required to resolve those challenges, and how best to prioritize the resolution of those challenges.

The perspectives of independent expertise can help businesses in this discovery process, and implement specific initiatives that can move the entire organization to being significantly less forceful in answering the two questions posed in this post.

One final question: What are you doing about it?

 

Prospects and Persuasion

Every business starts with a belief that they have a product or service that others need and will buy. The business usually starts slowly, as time, energy, research, and an untold number of conversations with friends, colleagues, external advisors, and potential customers begins to congeal into a Vision, Mission, and Purpose.

Assuming the business has achieved a reasonable measure of market traction, and as the business pushes through its initial months and years, the structure, strategies, and tactics of the business solidifies. Processes and practices are formed, refined, integrated, and executed by employees, each with specific roles and responsibilities to create and retain customers. We call it Customer Building.

But, it’s not just about creating customers. Ultimately, it is about thrilling your customers to promote retention and long-term advocacy. To create, thrill, and retain customers is, truly, a never-ending set of activities.

What is included in the process of customer creation? It must involve:

  1. Understanding the opportunity and the prospect’s business needs and concerns,
  2. Creating trust in you and your company,
  3. Solving prospect problems aligned to your company’s offering,
  4. Effectively communicating how your company can and will accomplish the objectives, and
  5. Building an ongoing relationship.

Some would describe the above process as selling … the requisite steps in closing a sale.

In certain business settings and industries, these individuals would be titled as Sales Representatives, Sales Managers, Vice President of Sales, and similar titles. These companies are business-to-business oriented, and are in industries that are more typically product-driven and transactional.

Other businesses would prefer to describe the same process as customer or business development, and have the same objective – closing a sale.  These individuals frequently have titles that either say Business Development or Customer Development, or offer no indication that a core role and responsibility includes “selling” – regardless of the label assigned to it. These companies are also business-to-business oriented, but are in industries that are services-driven and far less transactional.

Many companies that emphasize “customer development” are lawyers, accountants, bankers, wealth advisors, consultants, architects, and engineers – and in other professions that have a longer vision of customer creation. Many of these individuals are owners, principals, and associates in their companies, or hold CEO, President, General Manager, and other titles that signify leadership rather than selling responsibilities.

Regardless of the title or label, the “selling” process is the same. Only the language is different.

You are persuading a prospect to become a client.

High Tech and High Touch

We live in a demand world. Technology has enabled businesses to push unlimited messages out to the consuming public. Emails with special offers pummel our inboxes daily. “Like us on Facebook today, and get a free doodad!” “Take our survey and get 20% off your next order!” We may tolerate the bombardment, but I’ll bet that most of us still don’t like it.

The more that “high tech” marketing and sales tools provoke negative reactions, the more crucial it is to differentiate your company—with positive “high touch” CUSTOMER BUILDING practices.

The thing is… human beings have real and specific needs. Have you noticed how you feel when you realize that a company really gets you? It is almost as if you don’t mind giving them your money—because they are providing you with what you really want.

It is not a mystery—we just want companies to understand us. That realization should be front and center for a business. Zero in on what people want, and then deliver it with good quality, and at a fair price. We call it the “FAIR EXCHANGE,” and we teach fair customer development and service practices at GAPWORX.

Your marketing messages should be understandable, and convey a clear value proposition to the prospect. Hire capable salespeople that can follow an effective and humane sales process. Teach them to ask probing questions, to uncover the prospect’s CORE interests and needs. Build capabilities in your sales team about product and service knowledge, so that they can answer any question about prospect FEARS, UNCERTAINTIES, and DOUBTS. A well-equipped sales person will be able to match real prospect needs, with your product and services.

The way your company sells… and the way your company serves, should be balanced to the same high level of performance.

Creating positive CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES should be a priority for every company employee who encounters a prospect or a customer. Just as with successful sales people, customer service employees should ask effective questions…to understand the customer’s problems, and their emotions about the problem.

You can’t fix what you don’t understand!

This does not happen automatically, but it can become the intention of a company’s CUSTOMER BUILDING strategy, tactics, and systems. It can work with knowledge, training, and perfect practice-practice-practice.