18/02/2014 - 12:50

Customers’ view the only one that counts

18/02/2014 - 12:50


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If you want to know how good you are at business, ask your customers – and then honestly assess how much you can improve.

Customers’ view the only one that counts
DO IT AGAIN: Like athletes, salespeople need to undergo repetitive training until they master their craft. Photo: iStockphoto

If you want to know how good you are at business, ask your customers – and then honestly assess how much you can improve.

Jim Collins’ immortal business bestseller, Good to Great, created a revolution in many businesses and an explosion in book sales. The book was adopted, adapted, taught, and implemented. In many instances, companies did go from good to great – or at least from good to very good.

The key is these companies sought improvement – self-improvement. Whether it was from within, or from an outside group of impartial experts, the concept was and is to get better. ‘Great’ is an elusive target. Collins knew it.

The concept is not complicated. It revolves around self-assessment, an agreed-upon game plan of action, measurable results, and an overall spirit that includes individual work, teamwork, and remarkable leadership. So far it’s simple.

The real issue is, and the thing that has always bothered me about the book, is that the beginning premise assumes you are ‘good’. Most companies and their people are not. Most businesses are not. And you see them every day, going out of business.

Many companies try to maximise profit by cutting costs, or worse, cutting quality, or way worse, cutting service offerings. Then customers get angry and tell other potential customers through social media, or some form of online reporting. Then reputation is somewhere between questionable and lost; followed by a downturn in business.

Good to Great was published in 2001, long before social media dominated the scene. Companies no longer have to self-assess; all they have to do is go to their Facebook page, where their customers have already done it. And there’s usually a huge gap between what companies and their leadership think they are, and what their customers say they are. I will always take the latter as the true picture.

So the real challenge is not how you get from good to great, it’s how you get from crappy to good. Things like rundown hotels, lousy food in a restaurant, rude clerk in a retail store, long lines to be served, long waits on hold, not keeping up with technology, and poor management seem to be pervasive in our society.

An easy way to begin your march up the ladder to greatness (or even just goodness) is to talk to more of your customers. Get their views both online and in person. Get video from them if you can. Create a YouTube channel that features their voices – the voices of your customers.

It creates a solid foundation from which to start. What better place to start than from the customer’s perspective of what would help you get better?

This same lesson applies to salespeople. How ‘good’ are you? Is ‘good’ your starting point? If you didn’t make your sales goals last year, can you honestly say you’re good? Or would you fall just below good? Somewhere between crappy and good?

Keep in mind that, as I’m attempting to help salespeople assess themselves, they are the lifeblood, and the cash flow, and the profit of the business. Businesses that don’t make enough sales go out of business. Were they good businesses gone bad? Were they good businesses with bad salespeople? Or were they bad businesses that failed? I’ll take the latter.

There is no quick fix to get a salesperson from good to great, or from below good to above good. But there is a real answer – training. Repetitive training until the salesperson goes from understanding and willingness to application, to proficiency, and finally mastery through daily action.

Be willing to measure your results.

Make sure to measure pipeline dollars, measure sale-to-profit percentage, measure new customers secured, measure reorders.

Make measurement a learning experience, not a punishment.

Good to Great isn’t just a book and a concept; it’s also a challenge. The ultimate desired outcome, wherever you enter the process is improvement.

Where are you on that path? How much room for improvement is there in your world?


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