Insight pertains to understanding the market and competitors and how the business is performing. Insight is the highest-level competency: understanding the voice of the customer, the macro market, competitor moves, and the performance of the business. That insight will drive certain decisions to the next downstream level, which is sales strategy. Insight includes listening to the voice of the customer; considering the macro market environment; grasping competitors’ strategy, and; understanding your historical performance as a business.
– Mark Donnolo
Voice of the Customer
Simply defined, Voice of the Customer (VoC) is obtaining feedback from customers on their experience with and expectations of the company’s products and services. It focuses on the customer’s needs, desires, expectations, knowledge, and experiences. The feedback not only drives product/service improvements but provides a valuable perspective into the customer’s decision-making process, the company’s reputation, and the lifetime customer value.
Although surveys and net promoter scores are popular ways to hear and learn from customers, other avenues provide different and more thoughtful insights into customer behaviors, challenges, and preferences.
Customer Interviews: Interviews are time-intensive but may be the most valuable since questions can go where the conservation leads. Personal engagements provide a way to develop a more meaningful relationship between the business and the customer.
Social Media: Connecting on social media is less about talking and more about listening. Although it is informal, it does provide a level of straightforwardness without awkwardness. An unfiltered view may just be the most impactful to the business.
Focus Groups: Like the interview, focus groups allow for an open discussion with multiple customers. The moderator can lead the discussion while coming to a thoughtful conclusion from a host of voices. It can help prioritize areas to work on based on a consensus of feedback.
Customer Facing Employees: Sales and customer support connect daily with customers. They are the internal voice of the customer. Many times, their voice is discounted or overlooked. Relationships are built on people and people working together towards a common goal. Listening to the sales and customer support could be the easiest and most direct path for hearing the voice of the customer.
The Voice of the Customer is all about learning to listen and listening to learn. Listening to understand is a critical step for forming an effective strategy.
Macro Market Environment
Each organization is operating in a macro market environment with forces that either create opportunity or generate risk. Examine the forces below and consider each one and the impact it has on the sales strategy.
Demographic forces: Each market segment is typically impacted by common demographic forces. In the B2C space, the forces include country/region, age, sex, income, ethnicity, level of education, lifestyle or cultural characteristics, and trends. In the B2B arena, customer segmentation may look at industry, location, size, structure, or performance/potential.
Economic forces: The economic environment can impact production and the decision-making process due to shifts in supply and demand, inflation, and interest rates.
Environmental forces: Environmental factors can affect an organization’s operations or customer demand. Factors could include weather and climate changes, accessibility to raw materials, or sustainability initiatives.
Political and legal forces: The extent to which a government may influence or impact an organization through government policy, political stability, industry laws, and regulation, along with trade and tax policy.
Social and cultural forces: These variables are influenced by the ways of life, beliefs, and approach to family and relationships. The world is diverse with a variety of cultures and subcultures. Shifts in cultural and social factors may lead to changes in customer needs and want thus leading the organization to pursue new products and services.
Technological factors: Technological changes can either enhance or disrupt aspects of the market. Enhancement could come from creating a new demand for a product or industry or causing a product or industry to become obsolete.
The macro market environment can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of the sales strategy. These factors warrant deep consideration during the process of creating the sales strategy and advancing the long-term reputation of a company or brand.
At the core, competitive performance looks at what the competition has to offer to the market and how they position their products and services within the market. Seems like a simple task, right? Unfortunately, the answers to the following questions may not be that obvious.
- How do they solve the customer’s problems?
- How do they position their solutions?
- Is their message compelling and provides a relevant value proposition?
- What strategies do they leverage?
- What is the capacity for addressing an ever-changing market with constantly evolving buyer behaviors?
These questions only address one side of the equation, your business looking at the competition. If you are a leader within your competitive space, you will have to defend your position and ward off your competition. Answer the above questions of your business and see how you compare to the competition. Then take a look internally and consider these questions.
- Where are we weak and how do we improve in this space?
- Do we have other areas of strength that we need to capitalize on?
- How do we proactively address this ever-changing market and its evolving buyers?
To fully evaluate the competitive landscape requires a deep understanding of the competition while taking a good hard look in the mirror.
One might say business performance is straightforward; it looks at the historical revenue and profit performance. But what if it requires going a level deeper to identify below the surface trends that are creating a vulnerability that will lead to revenue leakage or profit deterioration?
Take a closer look at four performance areas and see how the organization stacks up.
Retention: Retaining existing customers is the baseline for strong revenue performance. Access the baseline risk from the competition, price compression, or economic impacts. At what rate are customers being retained? Does a retained customer result in a write-down in revenue? What actions can be taken to preserve as much revenue as possible?
Expansion Growth: Expand products and services into existing customers based on whitespace opportunity. Do a deep dive into the customer’s current product and services mix to identify areas for expansion into other products and services.
Acquisition Growth: Identify greenfield opportunities where the products and services can align with potential customers’ long-term objectives.
Growth from Penetration: Market penetration can be used to evaluate an industry as a whole to determine the potential within the industry to gain market share. If the market is considered saturated access new segments, territories, channels, and markets.
Do not assume only financial measures matter. Determine how to quantify and evaluate the performance of the people, operations, technology, and innovation of the business. Consider internal factors like workplace culture, organizational structure, and management and executive leadership.
SalesGlobe is a leading sales effectiveness and data-driven creative problem-solving firm. We specialize in helping Global 1000 companies solve their toughest growth challenges and helping them think in new ways to develop more effective solutions in the areas of sales strategy, sales organization, sales process, sales compensation, and quotas. We wrote the books on sales innovation with The Innovative Sale, What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation, and Quotas! Design Thinking to Solve Your Biggest Sales Challenge.
Director of Consulting with SalesGlobe.
Sales operations leadership, working with clients to drive positive change, productivity and performance.