Sales Moves

Are you 'good,' or maybe slightly below?

February 21, 2014
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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 — 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 maximize 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 like TripAdvisor or Angie’s List. Then reputation is somewhere between questionable and lost, followed by a downturn in business.

In 1996, I wrote this customer service truth: “It never costs as much to fix the problem as it does to not fix the problem.” Eighteen years later, that statement has never been more true.

“Good to Great” was published in 2001 — way 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 clerks 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.

“Voice of customer” in any format forms a clear picture of exactly where you are in their opinion — what they like, what they expect and what they wish was better. 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? 

Oh, it’s also your reputation. And it’s also free!

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, 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.

And while I realize that I’m taking a superficial view — not going into detail about quality of leadership, quality of service, quality of product, employee retention or customer retention — I maintain my premise that “voice of customer,” both internal and external, will net better truth and a better foundation than a bunch of leaders and consultants sitting around a table coming up with ideas, many of them self-serving.

Back to salespeople for a moment: 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. Caution: Measurement isn’t how many cold calls you made this week. Weak measurement. Don’t measure failure, measure success, 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 big is the “room for improvement” in your world?

Want to see the best online experience for repetition, mastery and fun? Take a look at the challenge by going to gitomer.com and entering the word REPEAT in the GitBit box. You’ll get information and a link.

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of 12 books. His “21.5 Unbreakable Laws of Selling” is available as a book and an online course at gitomerVT.com. For information about training and seminars, visit gitomer.com or email Jeffrey personally at salesman@gitomer.com.

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