Category: Guest Blog Post

WARNING…The Apathy Of Success by Guest Blogger, Steve Weimar

October 19th, 2019

Time after time we see good companies, or what we thought of as good companies, experience major issues in their business health with some unable to pull out of their death spiral. What caused this and how could this have been prevented?

Apathy, or complacency, can be the root cause in many cases, especially in small to mid-sized businesses. Example…business is booming, everything we do seems to turn to gold. As you, Mr. CEO or business owner, are counting your stacks of cash and enjoying all the perks of your well-earned success you’ve failed to realize that your focus on every aspect of your business as you were growing has disappeared. This is what I refer to as going to sleep at the wheel while your business has been on cruise control for years. Would you do this while you’re driving a non-autonomous car, the answer is a resounding NO. Then why do this with your business? Aren’t the inherent risks the same, well not exactly because you won’t die by falling asleep at the wheel, but your business can succumb to the damage of that unexpected crash!

Think about your business for a few minutes and ask yourself this question “Is my business on cruise control and am I at risk of failure?” Are you thinking one of these 3?

  1. DENIAL: “No way is my business going to fail. I’ve worked 10, 20, 30 years building my business and we’re the leaders in our field and too big to fail!”
  2. GUILT: “Oh No, what have I done? Is it too late to recover?”
  3. AWARENESS: “I don’t believe so but I’m going to conduct a thorough examination of my business, from top to bottom, and identify where we can improve our processes and productivity!”

If you answered #3 then you are many steps ahead of the others. Owning a business and staying current and relevant doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the direct result of a commitment to succeed, a willingness to change and empowering your employees to be contributing and respected members of that success!

The old saying, You Can’t See the Forest Through the Trees, is very applicable to business and change. In some situations, a business owner and their team are so close to the company’s processes, its products and services, operations, marketing and more that they can’t see what’s wrong. While some business owners and their teams have the inherent ability to do identify and correct issues as a normal operating procedure, many can’t and that’s where you need to employ some different options like these.

  • Survey your customers to gain a better understanding of how they perceive the company, its products, your staff, the quality and reliability of your service and do they understand your Value Proposition, assuming you have one. Another key information point to uncover…Is your company easy and enjoyable to do business with?
  • Conduct internal discussions with your team and white board every idea that is presented and prioritize the top critical areas to change. Take each critical area and prepare a detailed Action Plan for the changes you desire and empower your staff to execute. Establish KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) to track the results of the change and don’t be afraid to make additional changes as needed to succeed. Establish regular meetings to discuss your progress and enjoy the results.
  • Hire outside professionals who will look at your company from a different perspective and a fresh set of eyes. Make sure to have a detailed agreement on their scope of work and provide them with background on the company and the employees. Their sole purpose is to help you and your company succeed so be open to the issues they discover and embrace the changes they recommend.

One of the big things to keep in mind is you must embrace change and the pain that sometimes is part of the process. Remember the old saying, No Pain, No Gain? Well that statement is so true in business and in life. We can learn so much from our mistakes and those trials and tribulations help form the core of who we are.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know. So, I encourage you to take that giant leap of faith and learn what you don’t know about your business. No matter how successful you are there is always room for improvement, Always!

 

 

www.salesxceleration.com/advisors/steve-weimar/

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Customer Care 1.01 & The SLURPY Method by Guest Blogger, Steve Weimar

October 1st, 2019

When we think of who’s responsible for developing and retaining the customer relationship business owners and CEO’s too often feel this is solely the role and responsibility of the Business Development or Sales team. I’m here to tell you that mindset is narrow-minded and can lead to a parade of lost business, sometimes in a very short time. Everyone in the company plays a role in customer retention!

When we think of why a customer buys from us and how to retain them we need to look at every aspect of our business, who adds value and who are the Contact Points or CP’s. We also need to adopt a simple company operating philosophy I call SLURPY, not the drink at 7-11, but a set of 6 basic principles that are critical to both customer and inter-departmental relationships.

 

S     Smile into the phone or in a meeting – it’s hard to communicate negatively when you smile

L     Leave your personal issues at home – distractions at work or in a meeting can derail your ability to concentrate and perform in a professional manner towards customers

U    Understand that the customers purchases are funding your compensation and benefits – no customer purchases, no job, no money

R    Respect your customer – business is people working with people. That means all types of people!

P     Problem Solving can be some of the most important customer and inter-departmental building and retention experiences – if handled improperly they can derail the relationship. Remember, in every problem lies the solution.

Y     You treat customers and your colleagues as you would want to be treated – think about the times you’ve had poor service. Is that what you want for your customer or colleague?

Now that we understand SLURPY, let’s see how understanding your company’s many CP’s are an extension of SLURPY and can make or break a company and customer retention.

CP1

Receptionist or Automated Attendant is usually the most common touch point in an on-going relationship but can be the first contact point ever for that prospect. This is where I see successful companies shine while others fail miserably. If this is the first CP at the company this position needs to be taken seriously and not considered an entry-level hire.

  • Live Attendants must come across as happy and cheerful on the phone and if they are really at the top of their game will be able to recognize those callers who regularly call the company and acknowledge them with either a “Hi (first name of caller) who would you like to talk to?” If they call for the same person or persons each time you should add that to your response such as “Hi (first name of caller), Sue is on a call right now, would you like to leave a voice mail or would you like to speak with someone else?” Invest in this position versus feeling this is an entry-level position in your company.
  • Automated Attendants can be a valuable tool or the kiss of death. What you want to have is a quick and easy means for inbound calls to reach their destination. This is accomplished by first recording a short but cheerful message with department code options and a method to enter extension numbers and/or a Directory (EXAMPL:E: Dial 1 for Customer Service, 2 for Sales, 3 for Accounts Receivable or 4 for the Company Directory). They should also have an option to reach a live person at any time to prevent customer frustration. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of Automated Attendants as many take too long to reach a live person. My recommendations if you have an Automated Attendant are…don’t go into a long-winded sales pitch or history lesson about the company on your recorded message. Use the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) method and help your customers reach their desired party quickly, just like you would want to be treated when you’re the caller.

CP2   

Customer Service typically has more CP’s with the customer than the Biz Dev or Sales Mgr. Customer Service can, and in many cases is, the most important CP in the customer relationship. A single call from a customer to an unhappy or rude Customer Service Rep can dismantle months and even years of customer relationship building. Ways to improve your customer relationship through Customer Service:

    Make sure to communicate back and confirm tasks, questions and order details before ending the call.

    • Follow up the call with a quick email detailing the topics and/or order details
  • Go the extra mile. EXAMPLE: An order is placed 30 minutes after shipping cut off. Don’t promise it will ship but work with Operations to see if this is possible then communicate to the customer. I’ve even seen the Customer Service Rep take the package to FedEx or UPS to make sure the customer is taken care of. Little things make a difference.
  • Make every attempt to diffuse friction and issues within reason. Remember, these are sometimes the most important calls and gives the Customer Service Rep and the company a chance to solve the problem and make it go away for the customer.
    • Advise the appropriate Sales Rep/Biz Dev person of any issues brought up during the call and what you plan of action you are undertaking

CP3       

Sales/Business Development is typically responsible for initiating and maintaining the on-going customer direct relationship but they also have some critical obligations and tasks to keep the customer happy, engaged and continuing to buy the company’s products or services.

  • The adage of Under Promise and Over Deliver is in some cases hard for the Sales/Biz Dev teams to adhere to. By being too optimistic and over promising you’ve established unrealistic expectations for the customer which can lead to loss of trust and a damaged customer relationship. In addition, it causes internal conflict between many departments within the company who are left with trying to pick up the pieces when the promise is not met.
  • Written confirmations of the offer, the company’s defined policies and procedures, product performance capabilities, shipping schedules, pricing, delays, product issues and more are ways to create and maintain a solid, trusting and long-term customer relationship. By sharing these with other departments you can make others feel included and informed.
  • Whenever possible, customers need to be pre-qualified to see if they are a fit with the company. Strange as this may seem to some readers not all prospects should be customers. For instance, a company known in the industry for violating MAP (Minimum Advertised Pricing) policies may do more harm than good to the company and its other customers. Same is true for prospects or customers who cause so much turmoil in other departments that they undermine the cohesive synergy of the company and its employees. You have to be willing to turn down or lose the customer if they aren’t a fit for the company.
  • Build on your customer relationships with regular contacts and meetings, meal events away from the office as customers are more relaxed and open in their discussions. Build relationships where possible that are long-term and go beyond business as those are harder to lose and typically less vulnerable to pirating by a competitor. But…don’t let down your guard.

CP4

Accounting, and specifically Accounts Receivable, plays a key role in a company’s success or lack thereof as cash flow is a critical component of survival. Sales and Biz Dev staff typically want to distance themselves as far away as possible from the role of collecting payments from customers and fail to realize the difficulty of this job. An over zealous and aggressive AR Rep or Manager can undermine the customer relationship. Some ways to improve this customer interface are:

  • The AR and Sales/Biz Dev teams have regular calls or face to face meetings to review problem accounts and work together to resolve the issues. Define a plan to improve.
  • Sales/Biz Dev can make sure AR is aware of extended terms and or pricing, disputes, customer cash flow issues, problems or anything that could stall on-time payments.
  • Get the Sales/Biz Dev person involved if AR is unsuccessful in collecting payment.

CP5

Operations is another opportunity to positively impact the customer relationship and the value to its customers. Additionally, Operations can add relationship value many ways:

  • Produce a quality product, package it properly to prevent shipping damage, ship the product on time and communicate any delays or issues to Sales and Customer Service.
  • Have some level of controlled flexibility in shipping lead times and order cut-off times.
  • Work as a team player with Sales and Customer Service to satisfy the customer.
  • If you deliver products to your customers in company owned trucks make sure the trucks are clean and the drivers are well groomed and courteous as they are representatives of the company. They should report back to the appropriate department whenever they hear of an issue with a customer or the delivery.
  • Meet regularly with Sales and Customer Service to discuss customer feedback, conflicts and issues and define a plan to improve.

CP6       

Marketing delivers your company’s messages to the world and strategically positions the company for success. They communicate the company’s value proposition and product or service differentiation in a consistent and strategic manner. Additionally, they should communicate your We Care customer philosophy as part of the many messages they deliver. Some added elements to support customer retention are:

  • They should have a direct connection to the company’s customers for research and feedback about the company, market channel, products, competitors, etc.
  • Be included in key customer and/or prospect meetings as needed to gain more direct input
  • Communicate their plans to the team in advance of launch
  • Track KPI’s for the various marketing programs and share them with the Team
  • Meet regularly with Sales and Biz Dev to discuss their marketing plans and programs

CP7

Technical / Warranty Support is your company’s 911 call center. They are either fielding problem calls or delivering answers regarding products. Your staff needs to be problem solvers and trained to diffuse conflicts. In addition, they should have in depth knowledge of all the company’s products and a general knowledge of competitive products and how they compare to yours.  Customers want quick answers and solutions but also want to feel you care. Some ways to go the extra mile are:

  • A quick follow-up email and/or phone call later in the day or the next day to see if the problem was resolved or to advise that a warranty replacement part or unit was shipped. You can add another layer of follow-up in 30 or 60 days, if warranted, to make sure all if well.
  • Advise the customers Sales Rep of any problems so they are in the loop.
  • Track technical and warranty support calls to create KPI’s that can be shared with the Team.

CP8

Engineering and Product Development are directly responsible for developing products of high quality that do what they say they will do as a bad product can damage, and in some cases ruin, the company’s reputation and damage customer relationships.

They also need to provide a solution to the customer’s needs and/or desires. In many successful companies the end-user and the target channel, or customer base, are included in pre-product planning and research. This allows companies to design what the customer needs and/or wants which leads to success.

Bottom line, every department and employee in the company is responsible for the company’s success. By harnessing the talent of the TEAM and creating a collaborative working environment, long term customer retention becomes part of the company’s DNA and operating personality.  This will be obvious to customers as they interact with the various departments and a sense of WE, not I, will permeate in every aspect of your business. I recommend developing KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) to track major focus points and use those as a scorecard of your company’s performance. One additional method of grading your company’s performance can be gained through annual customer satisfaction surveys. If done correctly these can be quite eye-opening and a valuable self-improvement tool.

By: Steve Weimar STI Enterprises, Inc.



The Power of WHY And Your Business

September 26th, 2019

I was always the inquisitive, and sometimes annoying, child in elementary school asking the teacher WHY as it pertained to certain math problems as I wanted to understand how and WHY that answer was correct or WHY my answer wasn’t. In most cases it was easy to understand and absorb but on at least 2 occasions my annoying questions of WHY uncovered mistakes in the grading book, much to the chagrin and embarrassment of my teacher. As I grew I applied the WHY to learning and competing in sports…WHY does that method produce better results than that method. So through my 40+ years of executive sales leadership and business ownership I’ve never lost site of how WHY can be used to succeed. So…let’s talk about how WHY may be the most powerful word you can apply to your business.

  • “WHY do customers buy and not buy our products or services?”
  • “WHY do we exist as a company?”
  • “WHY does our sales team continually miss their sales goals?”
  • “WHY did our competitor take away business from our top customer?”
  • “WHY do our employees like to work here?”

These and hundreds more can be the key to your success if you take the time to understand the power of the word WHY and how you can use it to identify business problems and uncover the solutions to those same problems.

Let’s take a quick look at the first question above: “WHY do customers buy our products or services?” Pretty simple and straight-forward, right? Well…in many cases it’s not that straight-forward and requires you to take a deep dive into every aspect of your business and not be afraid of what you might find. From your Business Value Proposition to understanding how each department impacts the Customer Experience, to how you manage warranty claims, to shipping orders on time, to how you handle delinquent accounts without losing the customer, to how your products or services can make or save money, to something as simple as the tone of your voice when you answer the phone and on and on and on. The Power Of WHY is the single most powerful word you can use in assessing you business.

Let’s look at how the Power Of WHY can be used to identify issues in your business.

COMPANY A – Manufactures plumbing products, have 5 key competitors and have declining sales the past 2 years. WHY are their sales stagnant? The CEO sits down his management team and works through a brainstorming and information gathering event they have called Operation WHY. Here are some of the questions and team answers:

 WHY do customers buy our products?

  • We have a vast line of products so customers can obtain most everything they need from a single source.
  • We’ve been in business 42 years and are known as an industry leader.
  • We ship 97% of all orders the same day.
  • Our products have low warranty claims.

 

WHY are our sales stagnant and not growing?

  • We haven’t stayed ahead of the competition who has developed some new products that our customers want and need.
  • Our company has lost it customer-first commitment.
  • We had turnover in Customer Service and have issues with attitudes and lack of relationship building.
  • Competitor A is targeting our key accounts and offering lower pricing on several of our key products.
  • Competitor B offers an extra 15 day terms to all their larger customers.
  • New account and pipeline development has declined.

Do you see some key trouble signs here? Absolutely…Competition is luring customers or part of their business away because they are In It To Win It. Company A has stopped being the industry leader in many critical aspects of their business and lost out to more aggressive and forward-thinking competitors.

Hopefully this exercise was a wake-up call for the management of Company A and they re-commit themselves to being the best in every aspect of their business as just having a great product is only a part of WHY customers buy from you. Like Lean Manufacturing Best Practices, you must constantly evolve and improve as a business and the Power Of WHY is a great place to start.

Another aspect of business is understanding who contributes to a positive customer experience. This is part of your “WHY do they buy from us analysis?”. Since People Do Business With People, the first exposure to your company may be the salesperson BUT…they aren’t the only ones who contribute to the overall Customer Experience. Anyone that interfaces with your customers such as the Receptionist, Customer Service, Delivery Person, Accounting, Technical Support, Operations and more are representatives of your company and your reputation is in their hands. You will succeed by making sure that everyone who interfaces with customers have the same commitment to treating customers as they would want to be treated themselves. If your first cultural business change is the Customer Experience then you are off to a great start.

WHY CHANGE? – WHY NOT?

www.salesxceleration.com/advisors/steve-weimar/

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Guest Blog by Jyoti Sharma

January 22nd, 2019

3 Ways AI is Transforming the Supply Chain

Artificial intelligence is increasingly becoming a vital part of the leading supply chain companies and is transforming the supply chain system at a very fast rate, even though many companies aren’t ready for it. The new inventions in the logistics IT solutions & various supply chain technologies are leading the organisations to leave their mark of presence in the race of digitisation. The inculcation of AI in the supply chain will help in collecting the data from various different sources and generate that intelligence, which will further help in making the predictions based on the historical pattern of that particular data. This will help in a smooth running of a cognitive supply chain.

The following trends are responsible for transforming supply chain business:

              1. Autonomous vehicle

Various Automotive Industries that are using artificial intelligent applications involve driverless cars that have received the most attention during the rise of this era. Driverless cars are no more a dream. With the development of technology where powerful computers, GPS systems and other small but distinct notable improvements have come up, Driverless cars are no longer a dream. Making all the procedures technology pro and highly efficient.

              2. Robotic solutions

Robotics solution is the one taken up by many distinctive companies for managing warehouse automations. Companies are using artificial intelligence to forecast what order inventory will arrive and leave the warehouse, allowing the pallets to be placed in the correct positions, boosting efficiency in moving products. Such technologies work best under the influence of efficient warehouse management system only.

            3. Drone deliveries

The popularity of drones is swiftly increasing across various industries like e-commerce and logistics. But still, the growing number of drones is posing new challenges like increasing air traffic, laying optimum air routes, dealing with emergencies like collision and managing drone swarms, among others etc. AI enabled drones are eliminating the last mile delivery challenges as it allows drones and other machines to make decisions and operate on their own on your behalf. AI enabled drone delivery is going to be very beneficial for the local deliveries.  

AI is driving the evolution of digital supply chain networks. As we step into the future, there are various AI powered supply chain analytics softwares that empower you to make decisions proactively based on the diverse data across your supply chain. It helps in making your supply chain responsive and enables you to have a real-time control on your supply chain.

This initiative can help supply chain managers to be more dynamic and efficient in designing strategies. Investing in AI is an important next step for supply chain companies looking to lower costs and improve productivity. Supply chains can also use AI to minimize the repetitive manual tasks and begin automating processes. This can enable the companies to reallocate time and resources to their core business.

Author Bio-

I am a budding and aspiring blogger and my area of interests are Supply Chain, Logistics, Retail Logistics, international Freight etc. Being a writer by profession and by choice I like to contribute to various quality websites especially those who talk about my area of interests.

We grow by making people happy and successful.

Jyoti Sharma

Consultant/Writer

Holisollogistics.com



Smart Succession Planning: Getting Ready for Your Next Move

June 11th, 2015

Guest Post by: Gayle Lantz

organizational management

Succession planning is an opportunity for innovation and creating a positive workplace as you assess the talent you need to grow and sustain your business.

What if you lost one of your key employees unexpectedly? Happens all the time.

“We really need to get better at succession planning.” A common desire expressed by many executives.

But the reality is that it takes time and brainpower. Succession planning often gets put on the backburner.

Sometimes it’s easier to see how far you can run without addressing succession issues. After all, you could strike some sensitivities. What if you position one person for advancement, and not her co-worker? You could upset the applecart. Nothing’s broken.

But if you’re serious about growing your business, it’s probably time to take a strategic look at succession planning.

There’s greater risk if you’re not looking closely at the talent you need to grow and sustain the business.

As you prepare for growth, consider how you’ll grow out of your own role. You’ll need to find new ways to leverage your natural strengths and interests to create the most value for the business.

Succession planning is not just about planning who will take over your role. It’s about anticipating what the role should really look like in your new state of growth.

Instead of simply identifying people to groom, determine what the role really requires first.

Job benchmarking can be a first step. Get clear and agree about the skills, styles and strengths that are most critical for success in the role.

When I work with clients on these issues, they often have difficulty anticipating their needs in the future. They’re just trying to manage day-to-day operations.

Take a first step this week. Visualize how you want to be contributing to the business in the future. What will your business require a year or two from now?

Jot down some notes. As you become more clear about your next move, you’ll grease the wheels on the succession planning process.

You’ll gain faster momentum in your business by moving succession planning up on your priority list.

Learn more about Gayle Lantz and WorkMatters.