The Shortest Path to Higher Revenue

The fastest way to find out what your next customer wants to buy, and how they want to buy it, is to ask your previous customers what they were looking for and how they went about buying it from you. In other words, if you want to increase your revenue, reverse-engineer your successful sales.

The information you gather, and the customer-driven actions you take afterwards, will start you on a fast track to higher revenue. Everything your company does – from product development to after-sale support – will be more attractive to customers and generate the kind of revenue momentum that makes it fun to come to work every day.

Taking this approach eliminates the chronic problems that plague marketing and selling efforts, including:[wcm_restrict]

  • The subjective, biased decision-making (“We did this at my last company, and it worked there!”);
  • The bitter animosity between sales and marketing (“Marketing never gives us what we need.” “Sales ignores what we give them, and produce their own presentations, which are totally off the reservation.”);
  • Marketing managers who can’t resist the latest marketing shiny object (“Oooooh, social media! Mobile! Google+!”);
  • Copywriters who write boilerplate copy that customers have seen a thousand times before, don’t bother to read, and wouldn’t believe it if they did read it; and
  • Website designers whose passion for flash over function actually impedes the customer’s buying process.

The reverse-engineering approach addresses and solves the problems we face in today’s rapidly changing markets. Sellers are no longer ‘in charge’ of the customer’s buying process. They never had as much influence as they imagined, but now it is obvious to everyone. The universal use of Google for pre-contact research, and the literal explosion of customer-generated content has forced company-generated efforts into the background.

What you need to know, in order to reverse-engineer successful sales, is what your existing customers were thinking as they were looking for you, how they looked for you, what their questions and concerns were, how they interacted with your content and your people, and how they feel about using your product or service and doing business with your company. Then you will put that information to work.

No one will reveal this information while you are selling to them. Nobody is dumb enough to tell salespeople what they’re really thinking while they’re being sold to. But after they have purchased from you, if you ask them correctly, they will be more than happy to reveal what they were really thinking, what drove them to buy from you, and how you could improve what you are doing to sell more. After they buy from you, they have a vested interest in your success. They want you to be around when they need service, support, or parts, or if they want to buy something from you again.

The trick is to make it convenient, interesting, and even pleasant for them to answer your questions, and to ask questions that give you the right data. You do that by interviewing them by phone (I’ve tried every known research method; phone is, by far, the most efficient and satisfying method), and asking open-ended, conversation-starting questions. I’ve developed a set of questions over thousands of interviews, which I spell out in Roadmap to Revenue.

When I interview customers for my clients, by the 7th interview, the customer issues, sentiments, and buying process are crystal clear. I know what my client is doing right, and what they could be doing better. I know which marketing and selling methods will work best. I know the message that we should be sending out into the market. I know how the customers want to buy, and how my client can make it easy for those customers to go from initial interest to purchase. I have uncovered the ‘barriers to the sale’ that have literally been driving customers away, and I know how we can remove them.

You may think that you already know your customers, and that this exercise won’t help you very much. If so, I need to tell you that every single time a client hires me, they tell me what they think is important to their customers. Then I do the interviews. Their customers’ issues, concerns, and priorities are always decidedly different than what my client believes.

Once you’ve interviewed some existing customers, and heard what they have to say, you will understand where your own efforts have disappointed potential customers. You will know which marketing channels and selling methods you should be focusing on, and which ones only waste time, money, and opportunity. You will be able to say, “No, we aren’t going to do that, because our customers really don’t care about that. What we are going to do is this, because that’s what really matters to them.”

Of course, gathering the data is only the first step. You will map out your customers’ buying process, in which you describe the buyer, the buyer’s investigative process and questions, the answers that satisfy them, and the changes you must make to your products, processes, people, and policies. You will all agree on what you have to do, to meet them at every step in their buying process with exactly what they need. You will build a Revenue Growth Action Plan, which will set those changes in motion.

Being certain about what customers want from you and how they want to buy it is so much more satisfying – and financially rewarding – than guessing and experimenting. Your own customers can show you the shortest path to higher revenue, if you ask them the right questions, the right way, at the right time, and then take the right action on what they tell you.[/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember]

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About the Author

Kristin Zhivago is a Revenue Coach to companies of all sizes. She helps CEOs and entrepreneurs increase their revenue, by understanding what their customers really want to buy from them and how they want to buy it. Clients have included IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Dow Jones, Bazaarvoice, and hundreds of other companies. Kristin also speaks worldwide on the subject of increasing revenue, marketing, sales, and social media. To read Kristin Zhivago’s complete biography, click here.

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