Is there a difference between selling products and services?

This is a question often asked as people look for ways to refine and perfect the way they go to market.  Answering this question is made more complex by the large range of marketing and sales options that people can draw upon.  However, the fundamentals have not really changed; the proliferation of options has just made it harder to see those fundamentals.

While having multiple marketing and sales options is a key factor complicating the answer so is the use of the terms; product and service and also the now common use of the term solution.  Before you decide how you should approach selling what you offer, you must first decide whether what your offer is really a product, a service or a solution.

In answering the question will also provide input to both the strategy and the tactics to be deployed in pursuit of new customers and for growth of established customers.

Product, service or solution?

Although there is a lot of debate around these terms understanding the differences is generally quite straight forward.

  • A product is tangible so it has a specification that describes its capabilities and limitations.  So when you, for example, buy a; car, photocopier, washing machine or accounting package you can compare your needs to the specifications to inform your decision making process.  For the sales person, the specification provides a framework for exploring the needs of the potential buyer as well as a mechanism for describing how well the product fits the buyer’s requirement.
  • A service is intangible but it has a specification that is flexible with the final scope being determined through agreement between supplier and buyer.  The specification will have limitations either because resources are finite or because the supplier has limitations.  For example; a company selling hosted cloud services may only have the capacity to manage projects involving user communities up to 200 so the scope will include a size component.  Similarly; a commercial window cleaning company may limit itself to two story buildings so will not be trying for business to clean the outside windows of a skyscraper.
  • So, what is a solution?  This is one of those questions where if you ask 10 people you will probably get 11 answers.  A solution will often combine products and services but the core differentiator is that a solution provider takes away the problem and delivers back the desired outcome.

Take for example where a business needs some contract labour that they bring in and manage, then the provision of the labour is a service and some might argue the people providing the labour are in effect a product as they come with a specification in the form of their skill profiles and capabilities.  If however the supplier accepted the responsibility for delivery of the desired outcome, within an agreed timescale and to an agreed budget, then an [outsourced] solution is being provided as not only is the supplier providing the labour they are also managing the project to deliver the required result through the use of that labour.

I characterise this as the customer exporting the problem, thus transferring risk and controlling cost,  and re-importing the solution; the authority and responsibility for delivering the desired outcome rests with the supplier.  If that responsibility is on the customer side of the relationship then they are buying a service.

Summary example for a customer looking for cost effective business travel for frequent point to point carrying of samples/equipment.

Options:

  1. Buy Product = buy cars – maintenance costs variable
  2. Buy Service = rent* or lease cars – maintenance costs controlled, admin costs variable
  3. Buy Solution = use taxis* or outsource fleet management – maintenance and admin costs controlled

* Car rental or taxis would be effective for intermittent usage, lease and fleet for frequent/high utilisation

Presenting these three main categories of proposition is probably more of a challenge for the marketing function than it is for those doing the selling.  Once the sales process has commenced there is one-on-one engagement between seller and buyer and hence differences in propositions can be discussed and explained and questions from the buyer can be answered.  For the marketing function explaining the proposition in a one way communication is much harder and it requires good anticipation as to what problems the customer might have so a real understanding of the market is essential.

So what is different when selling products or services?

My high level answer to this question is that there are, or should be, no real differences.  But, the question deserves an answer:

The key difference in the way people approach selling can be found in the fact that; products are made and then sold whereas services are sold then made.

The product is made in the privacy of the suppliers’ environment whereas the service is ‘made’ in the public gaze of the customers’ environment.  A solution on the other hand is more like a Bake-off challenge; the target is defined and the result subsequently appears for judging.

Products have a finite specification and the capabilities and limitations are known and can be demonstrated before a sale is made.  A service can in effect have an infinite, or least very flexible, specification limited mainly by the available resources and capabilities which makes their demonstration more difficult.  A Service Level Agreement is often created to define the boundaries and expected behaviours for a service.

To sell a product you only have to demonstrate what it is, but with a service you have to demonstrate what might be which is a quite different challenge.  All forms of selling require the establishment of trust; the greater the intangibility the more the selling challenge involves the creation of trust without direct proof.

Good effective selling techniques can be characterised by a few key building blocks and all apply whatever you are selling:

  • Bear in mind that whether you think you are selling a product, service or solution, the customer is in effect buying the same thing; a means to achieve a result.
  • Ask don’t tell. No matter how much you know about the customer’s industry or their individual business to try to tell them the answers without agreeing on the question is just arrogant.
  • Use questions to explore and understand the specific concepts the buyer is wrestling with. Once you know what they need to achieve you can start to talk about the features of what you do in the context of their specific vision and you can begin the process of explaining the potential benefits they might gain from working with you.

If the sales person talks about features before understanding the buyer’s needs they gain no value from you being in the room; they might just as well read a brochure.  To illustrate how ineffective this will be, consider a couple of ‘comical’ terms used to describe this behaviour ‘features dump’ and ‘spray and pray’ – both put the onus on the buyer to ‘get it’ and then buy it but there is a very good chance they won’t do either.

  • Use questions to demonstrate that you understand the types of issue they might have, for instance a simple question “What impact has xxx had on your yyy?” portrays an immediate image of someone who really understands their world and the issues they have to deal with. This will trigger a process of mutual needs definition – using the question posed above you will get one of two answers; “the problems it has given us are …” or; “no that isn’t an issue for us but …”.   Either way you have acquired information that you can use to progress the exploration of their needs and the demonstration that you have the answers.
  • Use questions to educate prospects into what might be e.g. “Have you considered what you will need to do when the new xxx comes in?”. They may not have been aware of the requirement/technology/… or may not have thought how it would apply to them yet so you are helping them through your wider sector knowledge.
  • All selling activity requires the establishment of trust and in the case of a product this is potentially easier as features can be demonstrated whereas in the case of a service the features will only become tangible once delivery has commenced. However whether a product or a service the buyer is still undertaking a leap of faith that the supplier will deliver so will require the same amount of re-assurance from the seller. People selling products often underestimate the need to build trust relying too heavily on features as the main selling tool.

In summary, the key to effective selling is to recognise that you are only facilitating the buyer in their understanding of the problem, the potential means of resolution and your ability to deliver it.  You must treat all sales situations; product, service or solution, as a process of discovery, building trust and a demonstration of your capability to deliver.  Demonstrate your knowledge but don’t show off, and make it clear what it will be like for the customer to work with you if they choose you as their supplier.

One final thought; all product is likely to have an element of service e.g. delivery time, packaging integrity, order completeness, reliability, help-line performance, etc and this enveloping service may be the differentiator between you and the competition – so you need to understand how this may impact on the customer’s choice of supplier.  This service may only be required for a short period of time between order placement and commissioning of the product but don’t under-estimate its value in differentiating you from your competition.

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Are you vertical, horizontal, or something else?

In the book “The Discipline of Market Leaders”, written just over 20 years ago by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema where they looked at competitive business strategies, the overarching conclusion was that a business needed to;

Choose your Customers, Narrow your focus and then Dominate your market.

A key reason for doing this is to make best use of your sales and marketing resources.  This requires a focus around a well-defined market or in most cases a logical subset of the wider market.  Deciding how best to do this is a common topic of debate with our customers and the most common dimensions considered are; vertical, horizontal, geographic and e-location.

Vertical refers to a market consisting of businesses in a particular sector where the product or service addresses issues particular to that type of business; insurance brokers, engineers, logistics companies, etc.

Horizontal applies to a market where the product or service satisfies a need that is common across a wide range of businesses regardless of sector.  For example; a software product that produces invoices, calculates vat and automatically produces the vat return would be of interest to any business.

Geographic; this model is common with; taxi companies, decorators, service engineers and in fact any business that needs to travel to get to and service its customers.  This is also a very common model with bricks and mortar retailers who know they need a physical presence in the locations where their customers will want to shop.

e-location; the arrival of the on-line environment has to some extent removed the need for a geographic dimension but the vertical and horizontal dimensions are in many cases even more important.  It is now all too easy for someone to ‘wander by’ your website; just browsing, and in the process they may trigger you to respond but if your on-line presence is too general many enquiries could be a waste of time for you.

These dimensions are important when you are planning how and where to focus your outbound sales and marketing effort but they are also important, as mentioned under “e-location”, to focus the nature and volume of in-bound enquiries that you receive.

Blending various combinations of the four dimensions is also common and this can help to further refine the focus of your efforts and a typical mix will see a geographic component with one of the others.  There are also many other parameters that can be used to further refine a target market including; business size, private rather than publicly quoted and demographics such as age, lifestyle and interests.

Matching your market strategy to your product/service

Defining a business’ marketing strategy as being ‘vertically focused’ has become very popular in recent years.  If you do actually have a vertical offering and you adopt a vertical go-to-market strategy then you and your customers will benefit hugely.  However, I see various companies that have adopted a vertical go-to-market strategy when their product or service actually provides a horizontal proposition.

I recall an example of a company that provided IT support services that considered itself to have a vertical offering for the utilities sector.  It is true that around 40% of revenue did come from contracts with utility companies and this spurred them on to approach other utility companies with the message “we are a supplier to the utility sector”.  As a result they gained an appointment with the CIO of a large electricity company and during the meeting he asked the supplier what they knew about smart metering systems.  The answer was actually very little.

It is said that perception is truth.  The CIO believed that someone claiming to have utilities experience would know about the business issues specific to a utility whereas the supplier only knew about the technical issues of the IT systems.

This example illustrates very well that doing a lot of work in a particular vertical market does not mean you have a vertical offering.

The experience the supplier had with that CIO proved to be invaluable as they re-evaluated their offering and realised they had a horizontal proposition.  Their knowledge and expertise was focused on the IT issues around processing very large volumes of batch data; they had developed experience in tuning systems to optimise performance.  Their market focus thus became any company needing to process large volumes of data; utilities, insurance companies, membership organisations and many others.

Points to consider when deciding on your go-to-market strategy

  • If your products or services directly address specific business issues of companies in a vertical sector then you have a vertical offering.  If your offering solves issues of; infrastructure, processes, systems or methods that are common in many different types of businesses, what you have is a horizontal offering.

Once you have a clear view of your proposition measured against the two dimensions of vertical and horizontal you can now overlay other parameters such as location or company size to further refine the definition of your preferred target market.

The above will feed into creating appropriate sales and marketing messages specifically aimed at your target market.  The messages can be accurately framed to appeal to the needs of your target customers and specific individuals with relevant responsibilities; financial director, production manager, HR manager, quality manager, etc.

  • Next to consider is how your proposition addresses the question “why you?”  Unless you have something truly unique your prospective customers will be able to buy it somewhere else so why would they choose you?  Although propositions are rarely unique the way a company delivers it may be and hence the ‘how’ will provide fertile ground for creating your unique proposition.

Incidentally, not many prospects will actually ask “why you” but naturally they will be thinking it so you need to ensure your sales and marketing messages proactively answer this question.

  • The previous points  help you to build a profile of the industries, business sectors and specific companies that are most likely to be interested in what you provide which in turn enables you to better focus your sales and marketing efforts.  However; what you have so far is a well formed but possibly ill informed picture as you have formulated your opinions primarily from internal reference points.

Before you can consider this part of the job as finished you need to take account of what your potential customers might think.  Unless you do this there is a risk you will be telling your prospects what you want them to hear rather than what they need to know.

To ensure you have a complete picture you need to gather external inputs from customers past and present plus a range of external stakeholders such as; your suppliers, relevant trade bodies and publications, government legislation, general media commentary and if justified specific market research.

  • The final task is the process of deciding which routes to market you will use and how they will blend together to form a complete go-to-market solution.  The previous steps will provide valuable inputs to the decisions that need to be made on the routes to market and how the mix should work to satisfy your needs for new business generation.  During the conversation with past and present customers you should ask how they actually found you and their preferences in terms of marketing environments they prefer to use when looking for products or services such as yours.

None of this is especially difficult but it can be time consuming which can be frustrating when all you want to do is get out there and make some more sales.  However, you will find this structured approach will pay you back handsomely as the key result is to make your sales, selling and marketing effort more focused which in turn will give better return in terms of conversion ratios leading to more orders won and therefore more revenue to bank.

 

mouse in maze hunting cheese

Did someone move your cheese?

The question is inspired by a book; Who Moved My Cheese, written by Dr. Spencer Johnson first published in 1999.

The book tells an amusing story of four mice who live in a maze and in a particular part of the maze there is a permanent supply of cheese so life is good and easy.  Unfortunately a day arrives when the cheese isn’t there and the book goes on to illustrate different reactions to, and strategies to deal with, this state of imposed change.  Cheese is a metaphor for anything that we might want or need and in this article I explore two areas where many businesses are suffering imposed change to; the way they define and present their propositions and the way they take those propositions to market.

In the book, the mice handle the unexpected change in different ways and basically two of them stubbornly keep returning to the same place hoping the cheese will be there** while the other two, aptly named Sniff and Scurry, immediately go looking elsewhere.

** “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done
you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got” comes to mind.
W. L. Bateman

The message for any business; you must be in a permanent state of anticipation, ready and willing to adapt and ready to quickly embrace change as soon as the need is foreseen.

So where can the two heroes Sniff & Scurry help in this context?mouse in maze hunting cheese

Sniff out your real proposition

Your proposition is the combination of products, services and also your mode of operation ** (how you do what you do) that creates your unique proposition.  This is what you provide that customers can buy to address the needs and wants that they wish to satisfy.

**We were asked to undertake a review of customer satisfaction for an organisation where we were already working.  One important outcome was that customers liked them having a human, UK based, service desk that worked extended hours and was able to act to rapidly dispatch vital parts.  The organisation had been contemplating replacing the human service desk with an automated one – phew; lucky escape!

A reasonable question to ask is why, if the proposition was good in the recent past, has it become less attractive?  It is common that this happens and the main reasons are:

  • The proposition should clearly demonstrate your ability to satisfy customer needs and wants by delivering a positive means to achieve the required change. If these needs have changed then your proposition will no longer look like a good match. Someone may have “moved your customers’ cheese”!
  • You need to undertake research to understand what current needs/wants actually are and build this into you account management and new business selling processes.
  • Consider the price, cost and value of your proposition. Your price may look high compared to your competitors’, especially new market entrants, and you need to ensure the presentation of your proposition focuses on cost and value. The price charged by a competitor may be lower than yours but the total cost of ownership may be higher (for example the total cost of ownership for a cheap air fare is the ticket price plus all the extras they require you to pay); so don’t be shy, it is your job to demonstrate this to ensure the customer understands the full value they will gain from buying your solution.
  • A key part of the previous step is actually recognising and accepting your weaknesses – the proposition scope; what you say you can do, must be what you can actually do not what you wish you could do. If that scope leaves you vulnerable to competition you must act to address it otherwise your cheese will be moved!
  • It is common that suppliers consider their proposition to be attractive to certain vertical markets and if this is genuinely true then it is a valuable asset to have. However, it is all too easy to be seduced into believing you have a vertical offering, because you have a cluster of customers in the same type of business. The majority of businesses have horizontal offerings and the reason for the apparent vertical capability is typically based on an outbound marketing and sales focus on particular market sectors. This leads to a self-fulfilling belief which rarely stands up to scrutiny when a customer is really in need of a supplier with vertical business knowledge. This also means the supplier is limiting the breadth and depth of the market they can genuinely service.
  • When presenting your proposition avoid the trap of telling people what you do – tell them what they will get; paint the picture, help them visualise and understand what the end result will look and feel like. A common reaction to falling sales is for the supplier to start ‘shouting’ at prospects saying how wonderful they are but this usually falls on deaf ears. This reaction is often accompanied by internal conversations along the lines of “they (as in customers) just don’t get it” when it is actually the supplier that doesn’t get it.

In an apparent contradiction to what I have just said you should never lose sight of the fact that you might just have something that is genuinely new that people will want once they realise they have the need that you satisfy. When the Walkman and the tablet computer were first launched there was to some extent a leap of faith that people would want to use them. These products were creating the desire rather than just responding to it.

With any disruptive solution there will be a shortage of supporting information so the launching of such a proposition comes with a high risk of failure and this can be, and usually is, a costly diversion so; approach with caution!
Don’t kid yourself; be rigorous, do all you can to explore the potential but don’t get wrapped up in over ambitious self-belief, but having taken all these doses of cold water you might just have something that no one else has thought of.

Scurry off to your market

Your suspects’ profile will define things such as; business activities, processes and style, size, location and all other factors that together represent the type of organisation you think will be really attracted to your proposition and that you will be able to service successfully. This is how you separate the wheat from the chaff for the effective use of your resources.

Research and search for potential customers based on the profile and checklist you created. Bear in mind whether you have a truly horizontal or vertical offering and market – don’t be seduced into the wrong direction.

Consider the many options available to marketeers and decide on the right mix of marketing options to match the chosen market and your proposition.

In parallel with getting the marketing mix right you need to decide how you will handle all those nice warm leads. How are you going to turn them into customers providing you with profitable revenue growth? In short you need to decide how you will sell your proposition, which may vary to suit each prospect. Consider the tools and techniques you will need to use:

  • Techniques such as solution or consultative selling are very adaptable and often prove to be the most suitable approach.
  • Is your market mature and does it understand its own problems or might your sales people need to ‘educate’ prospects as to the range of solutions that are available?
  • If your customer has had their cheese moved they may have developed some prejudices about the correct solution to their needs/wants in which case your sales strategy must be robust enough to challenge entrenched positions and provide enlightenment. A word of caution; it may be that the customer has developed beliefs about their need and the potential solutions through contact with other suppliers so be careful not to appear to be rubbishing your competitors – focus on your positives not others’ negatives.
  • When the evolution of propositions and requirements start to move along different paths the engagement process often focuses on price which is a game with no winners. You need to ensure your marketing and sales thrust is based on Value and RoI not just the price.

In Summary

If you feel your cheese has been moved, and it came as a surprise, you need to review the way you are monitoring your business, your market and your customers. You must ensure your business management systems and processes provide you with pertinent leading indicators; it is much less painful to dodge the pothole than to repair the tyre after you’ve hit it.

Most of this article has focused on doing things systematically which is generally the safest route to success but you should also allow and facilitate free thinking as part of your business review and planning process.

Free your mind, break with convention, think the impossible and it might just become possible and sometimes the audacious land grab can work delivering a great jump in performance and results.

Having decided what customers need (or will desire) and what you are able to supply, you now have a guide that will help you build a profile and checklist to identify your likely ‘suspects’ and indicate how and where to find them.

2014 – a continuation of 2013 or planning to make a difference?

If 2014 is just a continuation of 2013 all that is required is a little tinkering around the edges and off we go again? Or is 2014 going to be a different sort of year? It is getting on for six years since the economy ran into trouble and the intervening period has brought about many changes which could affect businesses fundamentally.

We believe that 2014 will be different to the previous six years; you can at last contemplate healthy sustainable growth in your business.

Although it is common to pass resolutions for the New Year; most involve minor adjustments to last years’ habits and few are maintained for very long. However, for businesses this would be a serious mistake at this point as 2014 is likely to deliver the most significant growth and expansion opportunities since 2007. In the intervening six years many things have changed so simply taking what worked last time and tinkering a bit won’t deliver.

The way you approach your market now has many options ranging from; physical networking, social media and LinkedIn through to more established tools such as advertising, trade shows, mailshots (“e” and physical) and of course telephone prospecting. So, when planning how to take your proposition to market there are now many more decisions to be made and it is even more important that you choose the right channels for your market. Some of the choices seem simple and obvious but might prove to be time consuming and not very effective for you. What is required is a well thought through marketing plan that defines which marketing options you will use, what the mix will look like and how much time and money you will spend on each. Now, create a Return on Investment (RoI) projection for your marketing plan – what you will put in and what you want out, and use this to monitor progress through the year. For an established business you can use past history to select your most effective channels – don’t have the metrics?  Then maybe that’s your first change for the new year.

The next factor to consider is the threat to your business posed by competitors; not just the established competitors as a greater threat may come from new ones. One thing that has seen plenty of growth through the period of economic strife is the creation of new businesses many of which come with original and innovative solutions.

To pull all of this together; right market, right proposition, right routes to market and competitive strategy you need a sales and marketing plan. Read more on four tools/techniques that you can use to help you with this planning process.

Global Mailing

The Outcome:

Performative’s work assisted Global Mailing to define and articulate its market proposition and refine its selling operation to exploit its unique position.

“It has helped us to refocus on our current products and also to look at new markets and we are working as a board far more efficiently.”  Director, Global Mailing

The Challenge

“Global Mailing is a company with an approachable human face that passionately believes in the creation of close working partnerships between customers and suppliers. By maintaining professional and straightforward communication, we continually address customers’ specific requirements, and are able to respond quickly and effectively should any unexpected demands present themselves.”

Global Mailing has a well-established international mailing business, but was promoting low price as its key differentiator.  The company wanted to grow and asked Performative to assist in analysing and addressing the issues that were preventing this from happening.

The Performative Solution

A series of structured steps enabled Performative to help Global Mailing achieve its objectives:

  • A Sales Maturity Assessment (SMA) provided an initial view of sales capability.
  • A Win-Loss review exercise proved a valuable method to uncover Global Mailing’s true differentiation as viewed through the eyes of its customers.
  • A Market Focus Review (MFR) built on the findings of the Win-Loss review which was used to develop the market proposition.
  • Work with the Executive team included business planning around the new proposition and creating a robust forecasting mechanism to enable annual revenue targets to be set.  The work with the Executive team also served to improve the effectiveness of the board and to support the creation of a three year strategy and business plan.
  • The new business plan was mapped into a sales action plan that included:
    • Creation of clearly defined and equally valued territories with an associated re-structuring of the sales team to reduce tension over prospect allocation.
    • Focus on key customer types to build knowledge of customer business to improve service and loyalty.
    • Development and implementation of a Sales Handbook covering all relevant and important sales steps and processes, in particular:
      • Pipeline creation and management.
      • Introduction of the CAPO ratio – Calls : Appointments : Proposals : Orders –  to refine forecasting accuracy and aid sales activity planning.
    • Assistance with sales recruitment to supplement the team.

Integral Mobile Data

The Outcome:

A well-focused and carefully positioned market offering and go-to-market model.

Working with Performative helped management and the board clarify its strategy for the next stage of the company’s development. It also greatly improved the quality of engagement with potential customers and our ability to forecast outcomes from those.”    Philip Neame, MD, IMD

The Challenge

Integral Mobile Data (IMD, now owned by Hytec) spent its first four years developing a mobile computing solution that enabled companies to improve customer service and reduce costs by providing mobile staff tailored task-orientated computing power in the field.

IMD engaged Performative to help move the focus of the business onto sales and marketing to grow revenue and to move into a profitable position.

The Performative Solution

Performative initially led the management team through a Market Focus Review (MFR) designed to review and consider:

  • The objectives of the next stage of the business, to provide context for the activities.
  • The business assets – products, knowledge, processes – and consider exploitation possibilities.
  • Target market and customers.
  • The portfolio and its positioning.

Subsequent work focused on addressing the points raised in the MFR and included:

  • An extensive win-loss review exercise, which explored the reasons for IMD’s past success or failure at closing contracts.  This exercise helped in understanding customer perceptions, which fed into defining the true value and positioning of the company and its products.
  • Full definition of the product portfolio and its market proposition.
  • A target market strategy including research into potential target companies.
  • A promotion strategy to rapidly create visibility to a large market.
  • A multi-level sales model to ensure that IMD targeted senior customers and did not sell purely at the technical level.

ERA Technology

The Outcome:

The end result was a fully integrated end-to-end Lead Generation process that focused on target customers and ensured valuable sales resource was engaged appropriately and at the correct time in the sales cycle.  This process delivered in excess of 10 fully qualified new customer opportunities against which in excess of £330,000 additional business was secured.

As a result of Performative developing and executing the Performance Initiative Programme we have benefited from the potential of more leads in 4 months than we would have been able to generate ourselves in 12 months.”    Divisional Head, ERA Technology

The Challenge

ERA Technology provides specialist engineering consultancy to owners and operators of large-value capital assets and systems; helping clients to reduce risk, improve operational performance and comply with functional safety and regulatory requirements.  The division of ERA focused on the Telco sector was finding it increasingly difficult to find and win new business.  A very large customer was also planning to move to off-shore operations thereby threatening the loss of a major revenue stream.  The management team recognised the need to rapidly gear up to proactively acquire and develop new customers, but there was a lack of internal sales staff to focus on this as they were fully engaged in protecting the existing revenue.

The Performative Solution

ERA engaged Performative to assist in the drive to increase new business.  An initial Sales Maturity Assessment (SMA) confirmed a number of potential improvement areas, which led to a two phase Lead Generation programme.

Phase 1 involved a series of preparation steps, tailored to the divisional objectives, to establish a solid and reliable base for generating new contacts.  This included:

  • Crystallising the value proposition and defining Service Lines and associated benefits.
  • Conducting structured “sales focus” workshops, resulting in a re-definition of the ERA product proposition and the market segments to be targeted.
  • Developing and implementing processes to separate new customer creation and development from the identification and pursuit of individual sales opportunities.
  • Creating a fully populated database of potential new customer contacts.

Phase 2 involved:

  • Creating an effective telephone-based Lead Generation process.
  • Undertaking the Lead Generation process designed to generate qualified meetings for the ERA sales team with a view to creating 8-10 new customers.
  • Handing over structured information packs to the sales team for the arranged meetings.
  • Assisting with the transition of this approach, and the associated knowledge, in house.

Wadenhoe House

The Outcome:

This was very successful measured in terms of increased levels of business from existing customers, an increase in the number of new customers and a consistent increase in the overall level of bookings.  In the area of weddings we had a phenomenal success with bookings more than doubling between 2002 and 2003 and as we start a new year, I am confident this trend will continue.”

“I have no hesitation in recommending Performative to any other organisation seeking a solution to business and/or sales performance issues.”    MD, Wadenhoe House

The Challenge

Wadenhoe House is a magnificent Jacobean manor house in the rolling Northamptonshire countryside.  It is recognised as offering the highest levels of residential and non-residential conference, training and special occasion facilities to meet the needs of the most demanding clients.  The Wadenhoe House management team approached Performative to help bring about long-term improvement in the performance of the business.

The Performative Solution

Performative worked with the Wadenhoe House team over a two year period to achieve improvement in a number of areas, the key ones being:

  • Using the Market Focus Review process, implementation of a dramatically reduced prospect database to enable much more focused selling effort to get the best return.
  • Creation of a selling model specifically tailored to the Wadenhoe House business.  This gave the sales team tools and processes to support all aspects of their selling activities.
  • Introduction of tools for the Managing Director to easily manage the process and, in particular, the sales pipeline.
  • Creation of a proper selling team based partly on existing staff and partly on a new recruit.  In particular, Performative helped identify the talent in one existing team member, who then became the team leader.
  • Introduction of the concept of meeting prospects as well as talking to them on the telephone. This was unusual in the venue business and was acknowledged to be one of the reasons behind subsequent improved performance especially in the weddings area of the business.
  • Development of a customised training and development programme covering; general selling principles, use of the telephone, handling objections, negotiating and closing.  This brought all the other work together and contributed to a significant improvement in confidence and morale across the whole team.
  • Provision of a telephone support service to coach through individual sales negotiations and any general sales or business issues.