I need to share a Big Truth that I’ve learned as a revenue coach, helping hundreds of CEOs market and sell more successfully: The behavior of the business leader making decisions about marketing and sales makes an incredible difference to the success of the company. The proper behavior of a business manager can be summarized in these two concepts:
- Selling is no longer about selling. It’s about making it easier for the customer to buy.
- Marketing used to be 80 percent creative and 20 percent logistics; now it’s flipped; it’s 80 percent logistics and 20 percent creative.
What happens to a company where these two realities are embraced, well-managed, and implemented? Sales go up, even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.
I’m happy to say, I currently have a stellar example of someone who has embraced, managed, and implemented these two realities.
Meet Brandon Budd, VP of Operations for ServerLIFT, a company in Phoenix that makes lifting machines for data centers. Brandon has an engineering background, but he also has a creative streak. The best managers combine both, in the sense that while they have an intense focus on logistical efficiency, they are also very empathetic to the customer.
In fact, they know they have three customers. The people who:
- Buy from them
- Work for them
- Partner with them
All operations improvements are designed to serve these people better. It’s a culture of helping, of taking good care of others. It’s what drives good leaders every single day.
Here are some real-life examples of how Brandon has done this for ServerLIFT. All of these actions have resulted, among other things, in the best January the company has had in the last five years; this January’s revenue was 36 percent higher than any January since 2015.
How to make it easier for customers to buy.
1. Give customers the fullest range of options. Brandon and his team initiated several buying options for customers. One was a rental program. In addition to being able to buy one of these data center lifts, you can also rent one if you are undertaking a major task for several weeks, such as mass migration of equipment from one data center building to another. They also designed and offer a buyback program. If you have bought another company’s lift that is not working well for you, ServerLIFT will buy it back from you, and even remove it from your premises for you as part of the deal. There’s also a 30-day guarantee for every data center lift sold.
All of these options make it easier for the customer to make a positive decision, and remove any barriers to the sale that might have existed.
2. Be available to answer questions. When a customer comes to your site, and they have a specific question, you need to be there to answer it. Chat has become standard—and expected—out in the web world. Brandon and his team are there during business hours to answer both support and sales questions, and everyone manning the chat knows a great deal about the products and their use.
One thing I appreciate about Brandon is his willingness to talk personally with customers. Once he had marketing running smoothly, he applied his logistics and management skills to “what used to be” the sales department, and made sure that he spent time every day on the chat. Because of this, he knows personally what the Mindset of the customer is during the buying process. We define the customer’s Mindset at the time of purchase as a combination of their desires, questions, and concerns.
There is absolutely no substitute for the kind of knowledge one can gain interacting directly with customers. Any top-level executive who spends weeks or months without conversing with customers misses out on so many great insights; insights that lead to great ideas.
For example, Brandon and his team knew that the ServerLIFT data center lifts were more expensive than the cheap, not-designed-for-data-center lifts— because the ServerLIFT units were designed specifically to move those expensive and heavy servers.
But sometimes it was tough for an IT manager to convince his boss that the more expensive option was the right option—or even that a lift was necessary. Too many bosses think, “Well, if we need to move some servers around, we can just get a couple more staff members in here.” But manual lifting by computer techs leads to injuries to important staff members and damage to valuable equipment. (ServerLIFT customers report a 100 percent accident-free safety record, by the way.)
The rental program and the 30-day guarantee went a long way to opening up the market, making sales that would not have been made otherwise. It turns out that once someone gets their hands on one of these smoothly operating, reliable machines, they never want to lift manually—or with some cheap flimsy lift—again.
3. Hire the right kind of people to help make it easier for customers to buy. One of the most “radical” things Brandon did was to replace the traditional “account manager” types of salespeople with customer-service types. I’ve been writing about this for some time now.
Customers, who are now in complete control of the buying process, don’t want to be “sold”; they want to be helped. And that’s what Brandon’s team is doing. They are willing and able to answer customer questions, addressing those “desires, questions, and concerns” all day long.
Brandon has a wonderful way of helping his staff get in the “zone” as they interact with customers: “Whenever you talk to a customer, have your hand over your heart.”
I love this, because of the way I look at business overall. I’ve long said that “Branding is the promise that you make; your brand is the promise that you keep.” You keep your promise with your products, people, passion, processes, and policies. Every interaction with a customer involves a promise, and when you have your hand over your heart, you are basically saying, “What I’m saying is true, and I have your best interest at heart. I will do my best for you.” It’s a good reminder that we are here to serve.
4. Make processes a top priority. As a revenue coach, keeping the “Five P’s” above in mind, I always found the following to be true, for hundreds of companies:
- Products: In almost all cases, in all the companies I’ve worked with, the product or service is competitive and offers some clear benefit.
- People: With rare exceptions (usually due to bad management), the people are intelligent, well-meaning, and hard-working. Of course, if there is a jerk at the top, nothing goes well, because jerks always make everything harder for everyone.
But I don’t work with jerks, so I avoid these companies. Interestingly, even in jerk-led companies, there are a lot of good people working there—until they can’t stand it anymore.
- Policies: If the leader of the company isn’t a jerk, the policies are fair and sensible.
- Passion: If the leader—regardless of whether the leader was the founder or not—has his or her passion in full force, the company will continue to make progress in all areas.
- Processes: The main area where ALL companies can do better is in their processes. It’s rare that the top manager has a laser focus on processes. Jeff Bezos, who recently decided to retire from day-to-day management of Amazon, was one of the few top execs who started out focusing on customer-centered processes, and never stopped. I am not surprised that he is the world’s richest man, because I came to see over the years how much of an effect solid processes have on the health of a company.
Most company founders start out focusing on the product or service, with people and processes seen as just part of the mix, there to support the product or service rather than to support the customers. Seeing the results Brandon is getting at ServerLIFT is just more proof to me that solid processes—especially those that focus on meeting the needs of customers and staff—really make a difference.
Processes either hinder or help the people who use them. Customers, workers, and partners all interact with the company’s processes in some way (mostly digitally, these days, of course). Our companies have become a combination of apps that make life easier for everyone or place barriers in their way.
In the time we have partnered with Brandon, we have seen the results of a manager who combines efficiency with empathy. Marketing efforts pay for themselves; sales are up; customers are satisfied; new opportunities are created; and the company continues to grow. Having Brandon do such a great job of management with his end of the partnership definitely makes it easier for us to succeed in what we do for the company. We really appreciate that. A win-win all around.