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.

Solving Gaps

Let’s look at gaps from the lens of HOW a business can solve them.

Literally, we work on GAPS. We think you should, too.

We believe that gaps – also called challenges, problems, issues, roadblocks or even headaches – once resolved, can significantly accelerate individual and companywide achievement. We see gaps as impediments to progress, and if removed, good or even great things can happen.

The good news is that some business gaps can be resolved quickly. Others can take more time and resources. Many can be resolved with minimal investment.

What resources do you need to make positive changes in your business? They fall into several broad categories – Expertise, Experience, Time, Objectivity, and, of course, Financial. All are important. Look outside your company if you are missing one or more.

Solving your company’s problems starts with Awareness, by understanding which organizational gaps are limiting individual, team, or even companywide performance.

Sometimes a gap is so commonplace, that it almost goes unnoticed or is assumed as being normal, or as one business owner said to us, “I just came to expect a certain level of complaints from new customers.” Your gaps might be about falling revenues, low margins, a significant spike in customer complaints, employee attrition, the loss of one or more key clients, or a host of other concerns. A few key questions come to mind.

  • What is causing the GAP?
  • Which GAPS are easily resolved?
  • Which GAPS are larger challenges?
  • What GAPS are the highest priorities to resolve?
  • What internal resources are needed to affect a given change?

If internal resources are missing, rely on external expertise.

As gaps are observed (or periodically), leaders and managers in your company should be asking these questions. In some instances, it may be important to get feedback from external stakeholders, including vendors and customers. If input is needed from your customers, use external resources to qualitatively interview for increased objectivity. Customers will almost always NOT provide candid answers … if an employee is posing the questions. And shy away from a reliance on surveys. Qualitative interviewing will consistently bring better results.

When the questions are answered, the gaps are typically more clearly defined. Then you can be more strategic, make better decisions, and solve problems holding you back from desired levels of performance.

Again, solving performance-robbing business gaps starts by moving from having limited awareness to having a greater understanding by gathering more information. Then you can plan, and prioritize which processes, systems, and employee behaviors that need to be changed to create opportunities for the outcomes you want.

Working on company gaps is an effective means to accelerate financial strength.

Is The Status Quo Acceptable?

Almost without exception, business owners and executive teams would say an emphatic NO. Everyone is seeking greater levels of individual and organizational performance. Whatever type of organizational change or initiative you plan – be it a strategic or tactical initiative – there are a few basic things to keep in mind.

  1. Plan Collaboratively. This isn’t a solo endeavor.
  2. Set Priorities. Determine what “gaps” most need to be resolved.
  3. Assess Resources. Finances, time, expertise, and experience.
  4. Be Realistic. Use outside expertise to leverage ROI.
  5. Designate a Champion. Accountability drives achievement.
  6. Be Urgent. Change can happen fast. Don’t wait.
  7. Be Explicit. Set specific and measurable goals, with deadlines.
  8. Be Clear. Keep all employees informed.
  9. Set Expectations. Share realistic roles and responsibilities for everyone.
  10. Work Your Plan. Achieve goals. Reassess the status quo.

There is an eleventh thing to also consider; be flexible when appropriate. Change doesn’t happen in a controlled setting. External forces can constrain or provide opportunities to accelerate the initiative.

One last THING – be sure to celebrate achievement. It motivates the next change to be equally or more successful.

Managing Employee Behavioral Change

Anyone responsible for leading and managing other employees can attest that requiring or even influencing behavioral change in others working for you is highly problematic. Whether in the form of a casual suggestion intended to motivate (softly delivered), structured coaching (with or without an invitation), formal group training or something more threatening with consequences, changing how someone behaves is quite challenging.

People can and do change, but first they must understand and emotionally accept the need to change. This is possible through top-down feedback of the issues, and open communication through collaborative coaching. Feedback is about awareness and immediacy; coaching is about action and ongoing change. When combined, there can be achievement.

When attempting to impart change, be specific. If the goal is about improving skills – possibly communication skills, closing more sales, or whatever is the performance gap – feedback should build the case (why) for change and coaching should set the stage for how that can be realized and what the expected outcomes would be.

Then, there must be buy-in by the employee and sufficient time to adjust what are often entrenched behaviors. If there are many gaps, just focus on ONE issue. Once there is demonstrable progress, you can begin to deal with the next priority.

Support change by identifying and removing roadblocks that contribute to the non-performance. Set up the opportunity for change to happen.

Remember the big picture – for the company and for the individual. What else is going on and may also need to change? Be sure that poorly articulated company processes or the actions of others are not part of the problem.

Change can happen. Small steps can conquer a long journey.

THE PROCESS CORNER – Not Winging It!

As Jon Halleen shared in his companion post of this date – What Are Your 2017 Business Resolutions? – the start of a New Year is historically the time that most of us as individuals reflect on the prior year’s successes and failures, creating a short or long list of resolutions. I created a short list, and although I won’t share it here, I am already struggling with one and making headway on the other two.

The discipline and resolve for an individual to effectively change is difficult, but it can be even more challenging inside a business. It is far more complicated, with many moving parts that need to work together to achieve a given set of objectives. It isn’t called a resolution in that context. Rather, it is generally referred to as the year’s Strategic Plan or its Business Goals.

Be it as an individual with a list of resolutions, or a business with a set of objectives, the ability to realize significant measures of desired progress over a time is enhanced by NOT WINGING IT. That entails planning and planning requires a commitment to process, especially inside a business.

Reflecting on the past year, businesses typically engage in some variation of a S.W.O.T. Analysis – identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. From that analysis, strategies and tactical plans are proposed, refined and a short list of actionable initiatives are set in motion. I won’t address all of this in detail. I shall focus on weaknesses and the actionable initiatives.

Through each of these processes – analysis, planning, implementation, and others – it is important to include the expertise and experiences of all necessary resources (internal and external) and to communicate well and openly, focusing on actionable initiatives that resolve gaps, are measurable and lines of accountability are clearly defined. The list of “important things” is almost endless, but these are a great start. Approach each process and initiative with a clearly defined process to achieve specific goals.

Given that our company name is GAPWORX, it can’t be a surprise that we focus on weaknesses, or gaps. We believe that most businesses will achieve the most substantial R.O.I. by mitigating or resolving their most obvious gaps, in company processes or how employees interact with fellow employees, their managers, vendors, or most importantly, their customers.

If those gaps are in customer creation, customer retention, and/or delivering outstanding customer experiences, we can help you enhance what you are already doing well, and fix a troubling customer-facing performance-robbing gap or two. It is what we do best.