Using the Customer Hero Story
is one powerful way to leverage Stories as a differentiator for improved performance.
I was excited about my new job and the high quality of smart people I had interviewed with at Management Science America many years ago. I had participated in a two-week on boarding program and now had to discuss with my manager my plan on how to work a seemingly good territory that had not produced for the company. I was somewhat surprised when he handed me a list of 5 people in key reference companies and insisted that this was my highest priority, to meet with them and learn. I was surprised at this assignment as we had active deals, seminars to fill, and pressing implementations. What a gift this turned out to be. As I met with those Customer Heroes, I learned more about our company, solutions, and value than anything I had experienced to date. I also came away with several good Stories that gave me confidence and ways to relate to new potential customers of why others buy from us and succeed. I am convinced that this advice and learnings helped me attain “Rookie of the Year” status, but more importantly it made me want to create Customer Heroes. Thank you, Doug MacIntyre.
Years later, I am realizing that Customer Hero Stories have always been important. Michael Porter, renowned Harvard Professor and author of Competitive Advantage, talks about companies that create differentiation by superior service. Selling to happy customers is 5 times less difficult than selling to new customers. 20% of our customers deliver 80% of our revenue and profit. SAAS companies know how important champions and demonstrating value are to usage and retention. And companies like Nordstrom, SAS, and Southwest have been competing this way for decades. Although not a new idea, what if we began creating Customer Hero Stories that cause us to focus intensely on customer success? What would that look like? Marketing and Sales, Customer Service, Strategic Account management all creating Customer Heroes and writing new chapters throughout the Buyers Journey with our company. This is a powerful idea we call a Nudge that we encourage you to consider.
Stories are the way we share and remember information, starting some 95,000 years ago. We all remember key events in our personal/work life that are etched in our brains through emotional Stories. And today we know from the latest research in neuroscience that Stories appeal to our subconscious brain, especially ones filled with emotion and a hero we identify with. Stories can break through the digital clutter, causing people to act. So, just imagine how powerful rallying your team or organization to create customer Heroes could be instead of focusing on us, our products or services. What if we inspired them to accomplish things with our capabilities that they never envisioned? And what if we shared these stories across our organization for accelerated learning, confidence, and internal collaboration? Now imagine how powerful it could be to relay these Customer Hero Stories to other prospects or customers, letting them step into the Story and imagine achieving similar results and accolades. Could this possibly be a more successful way to influence people than our tried and true PowerPoint slides all about us?
One quick story. In a recent workshop in London, the SVP, Jon, had CI2 facilitate his team building and telling Customer Hero Stories. There were many experienced people and several new people. It was an amazing experience as the team Gathered the Story from the team who had sold and implemented the solution. They learned a tremendous amount about the Struggles customers faced and the impact on Revenue/Risk; Profit and Cost; Customer Satisfaction; Employee Engagement; and top-level executive concerns. They saw examples of Tipping Points that caused their customer to transform from the old Status quo to a new digital marketing operation. They discussed in detail what marketing operations changed; how this reversed the negative impacts identified in the struggles; and why the Customer Heroes in these stories were adamant supporters of their company and platform. Through this building and telling of Customer Hero Stories, they have ‘upped their game”; bonded more closely as a team; and cemented their passion for their Customer Champions. Glen, their number one salesperson in 2017 at 350% of goal said “I have used stories often in my sales activities. But now I am committed to learning and practicing using them conversationally in every important meeting. I also will significantly change my demo openings to highlight prospect struggles and work in Stories. This is a powerful way to communicate.” Maia said, “I am an SDR with only several weeks on the job. Hearing these Customer Hero Stories has really made me feel good about my decision to come here. I learned so much about what caused our customers to change and can tell several of these Stories in a very condensed form to help with my prospecting.” The overall feedback from the group was that this was a valuable and powerful use of their precious time. Learning these Stories that were etched in someone “old hand’s” memory without a way to share was invaluable and immediately useable in many customer and prospect situations. That’s powerful.
CI2 loves helping our Customers change the conversation with Stories. Reply to firstname.lastname@example.org to get a copy of our Story Map and start your journey.
By: John Geraci, Co-Founder & CEO, Ci Squared LLC
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People in sales understand win rates. While most claim they measure and use them to drive execution improvements, this is not what we observe.
Win rates are the number of times you win deals that you have competed in. In a complex B2B sales world, these wins lead to revenue, customers, and confidence in your team. They are the one key metric that is easy to measure in sales cycles for every rep, pre-sales person, and products at the individual unit level. Win rates can be used for numerous roll ups depending upon organization structure, management and functions in your company. Many companies do this well and analyze this Big data with AI and BI tools. They use this metric as an after-action report on what has occurred to give the INSIGHTS to both predict the future and make necessary changes. However, we find that many hot growth SAAS companies are measuring it inaccurately; not using it to implement incremental improvement or innovation; or simply not measuring it at all. We believe that this can be dangerous; getting stuck with the wrong Status Quo as the competitive landscape shifts.
I recently asked Bill, the VP of sales of a $120M SAAS company, if he used this metric. He answered: “of course, doesn’t everyone?” My initial assumption then was that he understood this metric and knew how to use it effectively but was surprised when he told me his company’s win rate overall was 60%. As a healthily skeptical person, I told him that this was excellent, especially when Sirius Decisions research data reveals that best in class B2B enterprise sales companies have a 40% win rate, 30% loss rate, and 30% of the deals going away. How could this company have these awesome statistics? Unfortunately, I discovered they did not include all the total deals that quota sales people put time and effort into. Their numerator was skewed in a way that gave them a false sense of success, not looking deeper for operational improvements. As we helped them review this data more accurately, they discovered some ideas for improvement that caused large positive effects on their performance, revenues, and profit. If Sirius research statistics are accurate, depending on your revenue curve, winning one or two more deals per person can have a tremendous affect on the company’s performance. Knowing the types of deals that you lose or never sign can be essential in collaborative planning discussions to qualify out early or change strategy and tactics.
Another VP of sales I interviewed mentioned sales has changed and asked if there were other activity measures that were more important to measure. At CI2, we believe both. Sales has changed with buyer 2.0 having the ability to get more information and less time to meet with vendors. What is not true is that we are still in a game where winning means something. Although MRR, ARR, and retention metrics are important today, the core KPI of win rates is still one of the most reliable ways to assess and measure performance. When reps know their win rates by year compared to their peers, they will become more curious about what the “best of the best” are doing to achieve higher performance. When product managers know their win rates they will get more curious about what they need to do to make the product more competitive. When sales managers and VPs of sales know their collective and individual win rates, they will be able to assess their sales leaders, teams and sales operations to determine needed changes. Win rates are a way to discuss what’s really happening and engage in a dialogue about how to continuously change to increase performance. It’s a number that everyone should know and be working hard to improve just as it is in all other team sports where millions of dollars are at stake.
At CI2, we believe there needs to be a rebirth of the Win Rate metric. With all the advanced technology tools and data available it should be easier than ever to capture, report and slice in dice in ways to help companies and peoples improve and innovate.
If you are interested in challenging your usage of this metric, click the questionnaire link below. We are here to help you unlock more of your potential.
Connecting with and understanding customers’ business problems and personal implications is more important today than ever. But in this fast-paced world, bombardment of digital messages, priorities shifting on a dime and never enough time, it’s not easy. However, when you don’t fully understand your customer, you are at great risk.
One of CI Squared’s clients, a large software company, discovered the consequences of not taking the time to truly understand their customer. After an initial demo/presentation to this long-standing customer, CI Squared’s client received negative feedback that they were losing. They were given another chance and came back 8 months later with a renewed presentation. The 12 members of the team devoted their time and effort to the new presentation during these 8 months, but they were again rejected by the customer. What happened?
CI Squared’s lost deal analysis revealed that at the crux of why they lost this sale was a lack of understanding. No one on the deal team connected with the operational team or key leaders. They were not able to uncover the real implications of their customer’s business problem and the time frame needed to solve it successfully. Without these insights, they were proposing a perceived solution they thought would fill their customer’s needs. However, from the customer’s viewpoint it did not hit the mark and would take too long. By contrast, the competition had built strong connections with workers and executives, they understood the business problem, motivations of the individuals, and the sense of urgency needed. The customer’s team felt that the competitor “got them” and could deliver a better, timelier solution.
The damages were huge: time, resources, and opportunity cost. They could directly measure that they lost a 3-year, $1.5 million deal in an existing account, $4.5M. How about the investment in people and time or the opportunity cost? How much did it affect their standing with the customer and confidence?
CI Squared believes that better discovery which leads to understanding the customer, both business and personal, is critical in today’s world. How do you help your customer uncover their real problems and deliver insights when they don’t have time? Better human interaction through empathic communication can help you gather the Customer’s whole story and is at the heart of winning today. Customers want to be understood and want to buy from sales teams that give them insights and confidence. But we often rush to talking about our product or service vs staying in the moment and saying, “Tell me more.”
The world has changed and Buyer 2.0 with it. They do not want the same old sales teams who just pitch their products. They have seen that movie before. Your old sales techniques are not enough today to give you the ability to make a strong human connection and listen well enough to get their complete Story with empathy. However, most salespeople have not been exposed to new and innovative ideas and tools. Why not? Some don’t realize the magnitude of this problem on their performance. Some are complacent because change is hard. Some just won’t invest in their people to fill these GAPS. And some think they do it well already which the research debunks.
You can challenge yourself to see how big of a GAP this is individually or organizationally. Benchmark your win rate % against industry averages. Sirius Decisions statistics show that if you count every deal you work on, best in class B2B sales organizations win 40%, lose 30%, and the final 30% just do not buy. We believe that if you calculate this accurately, you will want to do something now. We can help you dramatically shift these ratios.
Or, why aren’t you breaking through the clutter?
You may ask yourself this question after a series of unanswered emails or a promising deal cut short. Here’s why. People don’t have time. What our research shows us is that the amount of incoming content to every person is staggering. “According to Time.com, the average person looks at his/her phone 46 times every day (up from 33 looks per day in 2014). Our new-ish -“always on” culture, complete with the enormous pressure of the expectation of instant responses, effects everything from the quality of our sleep to the depth of our relationships”. (Forbes)
In a fast paced world filled with overwhelming amounts of external and internal stimuli, people are of course:
- Busier than ever before
- Shifting priorities constantly
- Answering too many messages
- Bombarded with content
But if you do not realize this, your message or attempt to get through to a customer will undoubtedly fall flat. The most important mission of sales people and sales methods & techniques is to break through the static. Many current sales methodologies are stuck in the past, not reflecting the new behaviors of Buyer 2.0
Lack of understanding and not connecting personally with customers is a trait that unsuccessful sales people possess in abundance. They hog the conversation with chatter, solutions, features and functions instead of listening. They do not listen to or understand the customer. Humans crave emotional connections and a conversation that uncovers insights. According to this article on Openview, the top sales performers listen 54% of the time and talk 46% of the time. It’s not just that a conversation (not an interrogation) is happening, but the interesting topics that weave in and out of the conversation. What kind of sales conversations are you having? Is it just product, solutions, features and functions? Are you having trouble understanding and making a connection with your harried customers? Are you listening with empathy?
We believe that the world of work is changing dramatically and if you do not update your communication skills to have more insightful business conversations, you will struggle mightily.
Evaluate critically your business conversations to determine what needs to change and invest now to innovate and grow.