Are Processes Penalizing Your Customers? Here Are 5 Tips to Improve Them
Teams can only improve processes if they understand specific customer expectations.
Processes alone are not enough. They cannot magically improve revenue growth, reduce intra-office stress between sales and operations or make customers deliriously happy, but they can lull us into a false sense of well-being.
They can also allow leadership to take their eye off the ball and make assumptions everything is running like a finely oiled machine. I like to continually improve processes and check in on the people that execute these processes. Measure what you manage.
Customers do, every day. Forget about customer referrals if you rely solely on processes. They want results, not “processes-driven companies.”
Strategic Accounts Require Special Assessment
Being a “recovering engineer” I like processes but not for process sake, rather for the end game of tangible results. Sales and operational teams have been at odds for as long as I have been in this industry, with management on the sidelines with striped shirts and whistles.
Can you prevent delay-of-game calls and penalty flags from customers when you are in the red zone of making points with them? Yes you can, and you can do it decisively with some discipline and a plan. So what happens when a customer throws a penalty flag on sales?
Well, your salesperson must begin disaster recovery without embarrassing the company, themselves or the customer. They must also rebuild trust, which may have taken years to build and moments to destroy. From an investment standpoint, this can be dismal.
Think about what your investment is in a salesperson to earn a strategic account, marketing to support it, and resources to fulfill the commitments. A new penalty-free game plan is rigorous but I assure you, it is well worth the effort.
Sales must learn to lead and not whine about how the company is sabotaging years of account development time. This starts with good communication and a solid account plan that the entire team can clearly understand. This helps mitigate differences in personalities, histories of conflict and the deadly potion of raw emotions not based on facts.
So what are the facts that matter most to your business growth and prosperity? I suggest this begins with the lifetime value of strategic customers (or LTVoSC, a new acronym for you … it’s been a while).
What are their expectations, revenue history, future opportunities, recent referrals and the consequences of self-inflicted failure on their trust in your company? Do you know? How do you find out?
Figure Out the Gaps in Your Game Plan
Start by parsing your customer base. Who are the big dogs that run in your yard? Can you get off the porch and run with them every day? Will they take you into new yards to run in? Not all customers are equal. Not all processes meet high value customer expectations.
Processes that are well thought out and consistently delivered meet 80% of most customer expectations. However, transactional customers are opportunistic based on timing, pricing and perhaps the sales team. They keep your lights on, but can be a huge drag on your resources, which can affect your strategic growth.
Processes can often help reliably deliver most of the time for this customer base. Transactional customers can be quite fickle, swaying to the whims and winds of changes in technology and pricing. Thus, mixes of good transactional, bread-and-butter business must be blended with strategic accounts that can help you weather the high and low tides of business.
Does your team possess the right skills, attitude and processes to do this? Here are tips to help:
- Teams can only improve processes if they understand specific customer expectations. That is the primary role of the sales team. In military terms, they are your recon/scout/sniper team critical to accomplishing your mission.
- The sales team must accurately share troop strength (competition), army movement (where customer is headed), logistical challenges (pricing, product, budgets and timing) and opportunities (your competitive advantages).
- Build and share a strategic account profile, and support needs and expectations from a sales development view.
- Next, look at your existing processes and determine if they will consistently deliver. Where are the gaps, tools and communications that must be part of your supply lines?
- Then use the five C’s of communication (email me and I will share).
Present these strategic account profiles to the operations team. Then ask what the sales team can do to help operational delivery to drive referral business. Share your role clarity in this process. Reconvene to identify gaps and ownership of processes.
Replace unproductive behavior that is emotionally based, with positive process change and communication. Invite operations to a “report card” dialogue with your strategic account customers to see how you are doing as a team, and figure out where to improve for the next grading period. Learn what works well, refine your playbook and keep driving downfield to paydirt.
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