Revenue Growth Services
There are two kinds of businesses in the world: Those that make it easy for customers to buy, and those that don't. Most don't.
Only a handful of companies make the buying process smooth and trouble-free. Examples include Amazon, Allstate, eBags, iTunes, Netflix and Progressive. With these companies, from the moment the buyer starts to search for a solution, to the time spent on the website (or with a salesperson) getting his questions answered, to the purchase and the service that follows, everything flows easily from one step to the next.
Right now, someone is trying to buy something from you and is having difficulty. It could be because:
- You're not showing up on his search results, because you don't know the FIRST search phrase he typed in.
- He got to your website and got frustrated by unfamiliar and confusing navigation.
- He went to your website and looked all over, but couldn't find an answer to his most important question.
- He talked to one of your salespeople and just couldn't get a straight answer.
There are literally dozens of barriers to the sale - I've listed scores of them in my upcoming book, Roadmap to Revenue: How to sell the way your customer wants to buy. And even that is just a partial list.
I've helped hundreds of companies improve the buying process for their customers. I can tell you in full confidence that you could be making it easier for your customers to find you, understand what you're selling, and buy from you. The trick is to find out what you're doing right (so you can promote that) and wrong (so you can fix it).
When competing products are basically equal (which is quite common), the ease of dealing with the company becomes the deciding factor. Your efforts to make the customer's experience effortless will make your competitors a pain to deal with by comparison.
Here's a snapshot of my revenue-growth process:
- Interview your customers (plus partners and employees, if appropriate)
- Build a report containing word-for-word transcriptions of the interviews, in which customers tell you, in their own words, their buying process, concerns, perceptions of your company and your competition, future needs, problems, and opportunities.
- Create an Executive Summary and Recommendations Report. Once the problems are discovered, the solutions are obvious to me, because I've solved these problems before, for so many companies
- Hold a big meeting where we:
- Review the findings
- Use the findings to build your brand - the promise your customers want you to keep, that you can keep, using the resources you have available.
- Build a Buying Process Roadmap, showing your customers' buying process - who's involved, their concerns and questions, and what you must to do satisfy their concerns and expectations and close the sale
- Discuss and decide on the remedial actions to increase your revenue. The solutions will be logical, affordable, and appropriate. My clients are always relieved to find that the solutions are well within their capabilities.
- Create an Action Plan - this spells out what the changes are and how you're going to make them.
Some of the items on your Action Plan will involve additional help from me, which I will be able and happy to provide. But you should know that one of my goals is to "work myself out of a job." There are always more companies in need of revenue growth assistance, and I have no trouble acquiring new clients. So you won't find me holding on to you with that all-too-familiar and none-too-pleasant consultant death grip.
Instead, I will help you become self-sufficient in all areas as quickly as possible. I may write the first set of content, for example, then help you find and train others to continue to generate content that meets the standards we've already set. The general goal is to help you build a self-sustaining revenue-generation machine.
Some CEOs continue to bring me in for specific projects as years go by, knowing that I will make them successful. Others come back for regular coaching, as they new challenges arise.
Call me at 401-423-2400 or send an email to kristin at zhivago dot com to discuss your company's situation. The first hour is always free.
Services I provide for my clients:
Interviewing Customers, Partners, and Employees
Over the course of conducting literally thousands of in-depth, conversational interviews, I have perfected the art of eliciting information that will lead to increased revenue. Customers will tell me things they would never tell a salesperson or even the company's CEO, (often because they're being polite). Each in-depth interview lasts about an hour. The carefully phrased questions I ask, and my ability to draw out a customer, ensure the optimum return on your research investment.
By the time I have interviewed 7 - 10 people in any given category, the trends become obvious; people (who have never spoken to each other) start saying the same things, even using the same exact phrases. We will know what needs are drawing them to you - and what is driving them away. I will have uncovered problems wherever they exist: product or company positioning; selling, marketing, financial, development, and service processes; people; product design and usability; systems; policies; and your website.
We will build the interviewee list together, I will contact the participants and set up the interview appointments, conduct the interviews, and have the conversations transcribed. I create an Executive Summary and Recommendation Report. All of this takes just a few weeks, and then we are ready to have our meeting and start making the appropriate changes.
The barriers to the sale that are currently restricting your revenue flow will be clearly articulated by your customers during the interviewing process.
The corresponding solutions will depend on your specific problems, of course, but I've gotten to the point in my career where I've "been there, done that," when it comes to solving any problem in sales, marketing, product development and management, and customer service. Once the customer interviews reveal the nature of the problem, I won't be guessing about which solution will work. I bring a full tool kit to every issue, and apply the right solution to the problem and correct it quickly, completely, and cost-effectively.
Companies have used my research to help their customers buy more, help their business partners sell more, and help their employees get more of the right things done.
Redesigning Marketing and Sales
When you see your selling process from the standpoint of the customer's buying process, everything changes for the better. You're no longer guessing what might work; you know what will work. You can focus your expenditures and efforts on the messages and vehicles that will actually result in higher revenue. Instead of falling prey to the latest marketing fad or sales technique, you'll understand how your customers want you to market and sell to them, and that's exactly what you will do.
So many times, CEOs come to me asking if they should invest in the latest, hottest marketing vehicle. The answer: It depends. First we must ask: Are your customers there? Would they expect to find you there? More importantly, where would they expect to find you? The interviews will reveal the correct answers. Of course I am able to help with any new vehicle; I've always enjoyed staying at the bleeding edge of marketing, sales, and technology. But it's important to invest where it will do you the most good.
One of the main benefits of the customer-driven approach, especially after we have built the Buying Process Roadmap, is that it will actually end the civil war between marketing and sales - and all of the other departments who get involved in the interdepartmental squabbles, including product development, product management, and customer service.
As we map out the customer's buying process in the meeting, you will see various types of people in the room change from separate camps with different agendas, to one camp with one agenda, working together in concert. Your customer's needs and preferences will become the ultimate arbiter, shifting the focus from internal jockeying to customer-satisfying strategies and tactics. Everyone will understand their role in the customer's buying scenario. They will all see where they can provide value.
After the interviews, your marketing people will understand the customer in a way they never have before. All of the content they generate from that point forward - on the website and in all other areas - will be more customer-relevant and will produce better results. Your product development and product management people will have a new understanding of what matters to customers - and what doesn't. For example, the product functions that are often considered most critical are usually not the ones that buyers find most attractive.
Once the improvements have been made to the positioning, product, content, and vehicles, we tend to focus on the sales force, training them to interact more successfully with customers. Further gains are available there.
Successful marketing and selling boils down to one overriding principle: Answer the customer's questions to the customer's satisfaction, and you will make the sale. Even minor improvements in this area lead to increased sales.
Restructuring Websites and Developing Content
Your website and your company are now one and the same. Almost all purchases involve visiting a website, and your website must make it easy to take the next step. When people come to your website, they want to DO something. Are you making it easy for them, or standing in their way?
I have been designing and re-architecting websites since the beginning of the Web, from small-business sites to massive sites for Fortune 100 companies. I interview site users and determine what they need. I then redesign sites to meet those needs, work with developers to create the sites, and then conduct usability testing to make sure all of the requirements are met.
Your website logs can tell you what people do, but not why they do it. Your website logs also can't tell you what they wish you would do instead.
If you really want to make it easier for your customers to get what they need on your website, the most effective (and the quickest) way is to use my very popular "Road Test," where I interview the customer on the phone as they go through your site, capturing their comments and the screens as we go. The conversation is recorded and transcribed. The resulting report is a powerful way to identify problem areas and make the necessary improvements. Just changing the names of certain links can have a significant impact on your sales levels.
My Road Test research tells you why your website visitors visit certain pages (or not), and what they think is going to happen when they click on a link. You'll "hear and see" their reaction when they land on the new page. It will tell you how they wish your site was organized, including the phrases and navigation they'd find more convenient. I can also write site content and train content providers. All of the marketers at IBM are using my instructional materials to create marketing and selling tools, and I have trained copywriters worldwide.
Armed with this information, we can make the improvements to navigation, design, and content that will please customers - and enable them to spend more.
Repositioning Companies, Products, and Services
In 1994, I introduced the concept that "branding is the promise that you make - your brand is the promise that you keep." The tools you use to keep your promise are your products, people, processes, policies, and passion. Each of these resources must be operating at peak performance in order for your customer to have a streamlined, straightforward, and satisfying interaction with your company.
So you must be able to make a promise that appeals to your customers, and you must be able to keep it with all of your available resources. The promise you make must be consistent. Your company name, your URLs, and your products should be tied directly to the promise. Your products and services must work the way you say they will - and the way customers want them to. Your people, processes, services, and systems must deliver a comfortable and helpful experience for the customer. When all of this happens, delighted customers refer other customers.
It's lonely at the top. It's distressingly rare to find a trustworthy, strategic partner who can help bring value to any discussion about your business.
I bring a unique, revenue-growing perspective to all discussions, not to mention 40+ years of experience solving marketing, selling, customer service, and management problems.
Together, my CEO clients and I analyze, discuss, and solve problems involving:
- Marketing - what's being done, what's working and what isn't, what should be done, and how. Aspects include people, processes, systems, brand promises, marketing approaches, and projects
- Selling - how sales are being made (or not); what systems are in place and how they could be improved, how the sales force is managed and how it could be managed more effectively. How to make the plodders more productive
- Personnel - managing current employees more successfully and finding high-performing new employees when required
- Market and customer trends - looking ahead and developing strategies for the future
- Competitive strategy - understanding what competitors are doing and how they can be leapfrogged, marginalized, and squashed
- Website strategy - From the overall goals, audience, and architecture to all of the tasks necessary to make the site as "buyer friendly" as possible
- Products - determining changes that can be made to existing products so they will sell more, and discussing the new products that could be created, launched, and sold successfully
- Product support - many companies have excellent products that are not well-documented or well-supported. Improvements in this area can have a very positive impact on sales.
Manager and Staff Coaching
Even the best people in your organization can use some help sometimes. They may have the talent to do the job, but need to be pointed in the right direction. I have coached managers in sales, marketing, business development, product development, product management, and customer service. It doesn't take long for me to figure out what motivates the person, what they are capable of doing, and what they need to do a better job.
Often it is a matter of helping them see what is important and what isn't, which approaches will work, and how they can improve their processes and methods. Sometimes it involves teaching the basics of sound management. Unfortunately, most companies do not have formal management training systems in place.
When a person needs to improve, sending them to "school" is usually not the answer. Academic training seldom addresses the psychological and political realities of the corporate environment, and is too generalized to help the person make the right changes, right away.
My instruction is custom-tailored for the person involved, their strengths and weaknesses, and the way they learn. One of my key skills is identifying the pivotal one or two things that the person could do differently to solve the problem once and for all. In almost every case, they're grateful to know what their problem is and are really motivated to make the necessary changes. Once they've been taught exactly what they need to do, they start putting the new method into practice. I coach them as they apply their new knowledge, to make sure they're getting it right.
I can also help new and newly promoted employees get up to speed as quickly as possible, eliminating the all-too-common fumbling, false starts, and expensive learning curve. They will understand what they are expected to accomplish, and will be given the training and tools to accomplish those tasks.
As a side note, many high-tech companies have hired very capable people who were born elsewhere, and English is not their first language. They struggle with the language and are difficult to understand. They are bright, fast learners, and well aware that they have a communication problem. But they find it difficult to get effective coaching. I am able to quickly identify their major linguistic stumbling blocks and help them solve the problems. They become much more effective in their jobs.
The training process is very efficient; the goal is to focus on the areas that are most critical and most in need of improvement - and to bring those areas up to standard as quickly and decisively as possible.
Optimizing Business Partner Relationships
Before your business partners can sell successfully for you, they must 1) first be sold themselves and 2) be equipped with the right concepts, materials, and processes - the tools they will use to answer customer questions effectively and make the sale. I've spent years helping companies improve their business partner programs, materials and processes - including creating partner strategies and partnering structures; designing partner portals; creating presentation templates and content; teaching marketers how to provide readily accessible tools that business partners will find helpful and relevant.
Many CEOs assume that their business partners are "feet on the street." Unfortunately, those "feet" won't start walking - or will simply stumble around - if your partners aren't first given the right training and equipped with the right sales tools. Tools can be something as simple as relevant sales presentations that answer customer questions, or as complex as an easy-to-navigate partner portal stocked with all of the information and tools they need to sell a comprehensive product line successfully.
I can interview your business partners and customers, then recommend out what your business partners need to sell successfully, and then help you provide it. I've done this work for small and large companies, including IBM, where I completely redesigned the marketing and sales sections of their partner portal, mapped thousands of pages to the new design, worked with developers to create it, tested the usability, make any improvements necessary, and launched it. When we were done, their partners were no longer saying, "There's a lot of great stuff in there, but I just can't find it." The navigation was obvious and intuitive.
Recruiting Needed Personnel
Getting the right people in the right jobs is critical to company health and revenue growth. I have been recruiting for clients for years. They appreciate my services in this area because:
- I already understand their business, culture, and goals. I can strategize with the managers involved and help make qualification decisions, before beginning the recruiting process.
- I can represent the company to candidates appropriately and successfully, in the job description and in interviews.
- I am able to screen candidates accurately on a variety of levels - their character (and how it will "fit" into your company's culture); their experience (including assessing their technical experience, since I am very technical); their ability to work well with others in the company; their prior history and successes, their ability to produce and manage; and more.
- I don't charge a commission, which only encourages headhunters to "push" a candidate even when they're not right for the job. I charge only for the time it takes to find the right person.
I will help you strategize about the kind of person you really need, write the job description, post it on the appropriate online sites, screen and interview candidates, call references, and help with the hiring decision. I bring finely honed talent and character assessment skills to these recruiting assignments. I can also provide training as needed after the person is hired.
Call me at 401-423-2400 or send an email to kristin at zhivago dot com to discuss your company's situation. The first hour is always free.
The following companies have taken advantage of our consulting and/or educational services.
Abbey St. Clare
E-A-R Specialty Composites
Gen Corp Polymer Products
H&W Computer Systems
IBM (numerous projects over the last 10 years)
Jennings and Associates
Laboratory Products Association