Customercialism

Customercialism

At the recent annual TMSA Conference, Align4Growth, the idea of consistent messaging across all dimensions of customer contact reigned supreme. The purpose of that contact is to build trust with existing and prospective customers. The credibility of an organization, particularly in the early stages of the relationship, is developed through the crystalline focus on the customer: what they need, how they engage and what they are trying to accomplish.

The First 50 – The Story Projects

Research across industries (B2B and B2C) shows that somewhere between 50% and 75% of the customer journey is made prior to the first true engagement with the business. Potential buyers are exploring, learning and comparing possible solutions. Digital presence and past performance are key indicators for these buyers to take next steps in the decision process.

Clear product definition, particularly in a service industry, is instrumental in providing useful information to those buyers. Explanation of the features, benefits and success outline how solutions are positioned and create a more holistic approach to your communication model.

First Contact – Building Credibility by Placing the Customer First

Sales rarely happen during the first contact – or second or fifth. Too often, the sales team disregards the process and message that brought the prospect to the table in the first place. They are focused on the close, getting a lane to quote or other misaligned metrics that drive compensation instead of driving the relationship.

The process needs to be focused on trust building which can be accomplished through the continuation of the messaging aligned to the digital experiences already experienced by the prospect. Sales should ask questions designed to elicit information and needs.

There is power in establishing both what the company can do for the customer and what it cannot do. By establishing such parameters, it shows the prospect the recognition of your own capabilities and intentional limitations and, ultimately, honesty and respect.

At The Close – Aligning Solutions to Needs

Once Trust is achieved, the relationship accelerates. In developing trust with customers and prospects, they become more attracted to the company and the people within it. This attraction builds a desire to spend more time – through a business relationship that endures.

In many cases, once trust is established, the business relationship becomes a foregone conclusion. The focus becomes imagining of how the solutions will be executed to meet the customer needs and help them accomplish their goals.

Beyond Carrots and Sticks

Beyond Carrots and Sticks

Motivation is not simply about carrots (compliance) and sticks (non-compliance). It is about context and relevance to goals. It is about the flow from here to there and the achievement of success. It is about communication of expectations and the appreciation for reaching the goals. It is about removing obstacles and creating pathways to success. Motivation of the people on your team and of yourself is critical to growth and leading through change (both expected and unexpected).

Recognizing what drives you (and others) is vitally important to the overall success of your endeavor. Your energy reserves are depleted by activity that doesn’t align to your drive, while it amplifies when you are focused on activity that matches your passion. Activities that sap your energy are often done poorly – either rushed or mistake-laden due to inattention. Activities that energize you are given full attention and commitment to produce strong results. Assess your drivers and the tasks you perform to map out what you do well and what may suffer.

By reviewing the activity and responsibilities within your organization, you can assign the tasks that best utilize the energy of the team. List out each activity that occurs within your daily workflow and the people who are available to complete each. Delegating tasks based on drive/energy versus simply role/responsibility can provide a greater level of productivity and velocity in completing each task.

Historical structures and roles provide accountability, but they do not always provide the necessary flexibility to handle changes within the market or industry stressors. Mapping out your activities provides you with a framework of action, but also helps to identify gaps (both in role/responsibility and in energy/drive). This map can provide a blueprint for personnel needs – for both hiring and re-organization – to best serve company objectives.

At the Cusp of Greatness

At the Cusp of Greatness

“Borders are always tricky, intriguing things.” -Daniel Quinn The Story of B

For many entrepreneurs, there are steps along the path to success that are more difficult than others. Whether the move from $3M to $10M, or from $20M to $50M or even the steps beyond $100M in revenue, the methodologies of each requires new thinking and a change in behavior.

The steps across these thresholds are either simple strides of confidence or great leaps of faith – often revealed in the truths of perspective. Approaching a fundamental shift in mindset is both uncomfortable and difficult to achieve and much is predicated on the power of one’s belief in the goal. Defining what $50M in revenue looks like (with personnel, technology and leadership) helps to define the actions necessary to reach $50M. The clearer the vision, the clearer the steps necessary to achieve it.

However, if the goal is ambiguous, like ‘more’ revenue and ‘better’ processes, the threshold becomes stickier, causing the leaders to get mired in contradictory priorities with a lack of both clarity and focus on the actions necessary to achieve it or even to know whether it is actually achieved.

Visions must be simple to express and impactful to receive. Often, the numbers themselves ($10M or $100M) serve only as a measurement. The true motivation behind the numbers can act as the catalyst and collaborative force in achievement:

  1. $10M in total revenue allows us to provide quality health care benefits and 401k options for our staff;
  2. $3M in gross margin allows us the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of 100 people served by the homeless shelter in our community;
  3. $50M in revenue guides us to support our business’ Feeding America and Blue Star Mothers initiatives;
  4. Our 30 employees place us as one of the top employers and ‘business of choice’ in our county

How do these numbers make a noticeable impact on actual lives? Answering that question brings realism to an otherwise economic discussion. Whatever the impact that you want to make, clear growth goals, guided by purpose, can meet both the extrinsic and intrinsic motivations in your people (and yourself).

Naming the Good that is expressed by the goal attainment becomes the driving force behind ‘why’ your business exists and the purpose it is poised to achieve. The ‘what’ you choose to do and the ‘how’ you choose to do it follow directly from the ‘why’. The ‘why’ provides the context that allows a common focus from everyone that accelerates the actions to bring about the reality of the vision.

Be clear on your vision, share that vision, show how the vision positively affects others and you will be able to move more confidently across challenging thresholds of growth towards a more impactful future.

2018 TIA Conference Retrospective

2018 TIA Conference Retrospective

Reflecting on this past week’s TIA Convention in Palm Desert, I was reminded of the collective energy and genius that is present in our industry. From the solid structure of educational offerings to the powerful one on one insights over meals (beverages), the benefit to this gathering is immense. Buoyed by strong 2017 revenue and even stronger Q1 numbers, opportunity and excitement led the way.

With the added revenue and strong margins and profit, leaders are looking to make strategic investments in their organizations to capitalize on these growth opportunities. By clearly defining long term plans and the inherent priorities over the next few months, companies can capture the value that lies ahead.

Technology Perspectives

Data, in both capture and expression, is too valuable in today’s environment to be left wilting on the vine. Between TMS providers, information integrators, freight payment options and marketing providers, there are many ways to best utilize your internal data in conjunction with industry data to give your front line the power to succeed. Define what you are looking to achieve (not just for today, but for a longer horizon) and review options that will move you in that direction of Achievement. As new technology solutions (and their inherent problems) are created, be sure to ask questions with the context of your company to best understand the benefits and to avoid unnecessary exposure.

People Perspectives

People in structure and development are the machines of your operational expansion. You must be mindful of the way they are trained, organized, compensated and developed to ensure maximization of their long term productivity in the organization. They need to be given the proper tools, processes and motivators to grow and to effectively manage growth. Define the perfect employees for each role and the perfect processes for each function. Compare those to your current employees and processes to recognize the existing gaps. Build the hiring, training, organization and compensation models that will cross the gaps to the ideal.

Strategic Perspectives

Growth can come from a variety of different strategies. Organic growth springs from improvements to your existing methods, processes and products to drive expansion. Through proper utilization of Technology and People Strategies, your organization can spur growth and strengthen relationships across the enterprise. Beginning with your Vision of success, you can work backward to create the actions to move from your current situations and bridge the gaps. You can work forward into the future of your organization to develop sustainability or exit plans. You can find an existing external operation that strengthens an identified internal weakness and helps drive achievement faster.

It is imperative to find the right partners to both support your goals and to guide you in the areas where their expertise is greater. The TIA Convention is a wonderful forum to meet and share with potential partners to accelerate and maximize your business objectives.

Optimism Redefined: Building the plans for successful achievement.

Optimism Redefined: Building the plans for successful achievement.

Optimism defined: hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.

In a recent study, it was determined that the younger working class (millennials) is less optimistic than previous generations. In our current technology focused world, we are hyper aware of any local, national or global activity. This hyper awareness shows the granular existence of both good and bad. Less is open for interpretation. Reality can be less filtered through our own comfortable biases and can make one feel less optimistic than the less connected previous generation.

However, optimism isn’t a static existence or experience; it is a dynamic belief of the individual at the time of the questioning. There are moments in all our lives where we are truly optimistic and others where we have a deep pessimism about the future. Much is determined by our ability to understand and have control of the decisions that lead us forward in aligning our future with the perceived success that we desire.

Finding optimism in our personal and professional lives evolves from a clear understanding of our goals. These goals, defined by our desire and bound by our capabilities (both current and future), are at the end of a pathway – a pathway that is varied in both direction and length. There is no straight line between where you are today and where you plan to be. The path changes as a result of obstacles, conflicting choices and the unknown unknowns.

The key to achievement is to develop a plan that takes you to the vision of success.

The first step is to have a clear and honest understanding of where you are today. By assessing your business across multiple factors – financial, cultural, personnel and market position – you have a baseline starting point. Without clarity of this starting point, the following steps (and the decisions that must be made) are built on a faulty foundation and will be unsustainable as you move forward.

The second step is to have a clear vision of what success means for you and your company. Define the goals across the factors – this may be a financial number ($20M), it may be the creation of a sustainable, growing company to pass down through generations, or it may be to become the leading regional LTL provider in the upper Midwest. Once you establish the goal(s), a system is created between your current state (the baseline starting point) and your desired state (the goals and vision of success).

The third step is to take ownership of the plan and its corresponding goals. You and your organization must become committed to both. Each and every decision related to the business from that point needs to be made through the context of the plan and the goals. There is comfort in the status quo and often decisions are made that keep us within this comfort zone, but the goals exist in competition with the status quo and will cause discomfort. Belief and commitment, along with communication and reinforcement of the goals, will keep you focused in making decisions aligned to your success.

The last steps of the process are the actions necessary for achievement. The creation of useful metrics and measurements to assess the movement keeps you, and each person, progressing towards the goal. Regular review of the action steps – where you are accelerating and where you are lagging behind – will help you understand where to deploy resources to stay on track. Support your team through recognition and reward. Hold them accountable to the expectations and behaviors necessary to reach your goals. In short, lead them across the finish line.

Having a clear plan and the tools to work it creates an energy that drives success. This energy is contagious and feeds others within your organization to continue to grow and move forward. This collaborative and motivating energy is powerful. It fosters innovation and facilitates the necessary changes to bring greater value to your company. This energy has a name and that name is optimism.