Smart Salesperson. Dumb Data.
Over the last 28 years, I’ve worked with some very smart salespeople. They go into the field and do their best to educate and persuade prospects to buy their products or services and although they are truly excellent at what they do, they may have very minimal knowledge about the marketplace or the decision makers they are trying to reach and sell.
Here’s where Voice of Customer depth research can make the difference between getting a sale or, well… not. VOC focuses on the people and the decision-making process and has consistently provided important insights that have helped companies get to market faster, more effectively, and with fewer mistakes along the way.
Scott Hornstein of Hornstein Associates is an expert in VOC, and I decided that it would be beneficial for everyone to get his valuable insights. Here’s what I learned:
Q: Scott, why is VOC valuable for the small business market?
A: VOC is a qualitative research process that yields unique insights into the market, and the way decisions are made. The goal is to go beyond the obvious and identify opportunities for both marketing and sales. It’s telephone based so you can go deep on questions such as: [starlist]
- What are the values and benefits of your product that customers/prospects find most important and compelling?
- How do customers want to learn about these values and benefits – what are their preferred methods of communication and learning?
- What are customers’/prospects’ current perceptions of competitors?
- How can you establish clear competitive differentiation?
- What are the potential reasons for adopting/switching to your product? How does that decision get made – who is involved and what are their contributions? What’s “in it for them” – the individual.
- Do decision makers find the potential offers compelling?
- When, in their consideration journey, is a sales conversation appropriate? [/starlist]
The results can be a focal point, orienting and driving the marketing and sales process and avoiding mistakes.
Q: Can you give me two real-life examples?
A: Sure. The first is a family-owned software company – backup and recovery software, specifically. They’ve been successful for many years but had never really penetrated the bank vertical, which is, of course, highly regulated. VOC research revealed, among other things, that there was a misperception that federal regulators were predisposed against this company’s software because it is “in the cloud.”
A small consulting company felt the time was perfect to greatly expand their reach and sales. VOC research pointed to the exact type of organization and the Director-level executive that would be most open to hearing their story. It also pointed to a higher echelon executive who would be hostile to their message unless it came from that director.
Q: How do you even start?
A: Based on your goals, the first step is to baseline where you are now. Then, through meeting and discussion two things are created: a matrix of who we want to talk to, (for instance, to compare prospects and customers); and the list of questions we’d like to ask these people.
The questions are molded into an interview guide and tested. Telephone interviews are recruited and scheduled. An interview may last from 30 minutes to an hour. The questions are a guide; the goal is insight.
Q: How can we use that technique to increase sales now and can a business do this themselves?
A: The essence is to pay attention to the “voice of the customer” and make adjustments in real-time. What the customer says is closely related to what they do. Here are a few hints:
- Rapt attention to what your customers and prospects say, whether it’s an email, a phone call, on social media, whatever. Look for trends, an opportunity to interact, or an expression of dissatisfaction. Unhappiness is so much fun these days – writing and texting and posting and tweeting…
- Share the information that comes from paying attention company-wide.
- Make sure you ask a question in every conversation that furthers your knowledge of that individual’s satisfaction with your company, your product, your service.
Lots to consider and I want to thank Scott Hornstein for sharing his insights. Scott can be reached at email@example.com or 203-938-8715.