Recently, I've spent a lot of time thinking about two of my favorite and most interesting customers
- Both well established companies with recognizable strong brand names
- Both have definitive needs in large, complex markets with lots of competition
- Strong leadership in both companies at the CEO and senior management levels
- Both have strong products, solid sales employees and strong engineering
- Both have sales cycles of 3 to 6 months with similar ASPs
- Both have good cultures and solid employees
- One is highly successfully. Beats top and bottom line plans every year. A solid company with not much in the way of marketing or sales processes. Doesn't believe in measuring metrics other than "targets". Doesn't believe in business plans. No head of sales or of marketing. No social media or social selling. No CRM or CMS platforms.
What they do do exceptionally well is that they are totally and proudly focused on relationship selling, and the selling of customer trust. For me to describe in two words their singular focus on creating total customer trust, the words would be "unrelenting" and "exceptional". Yet, they continuously push themselves to "do more" and "be better", plus they themselves would never rate themselves as "exceptional", only that "we work real hard to do a very good job for our customers!" They also have an openly stated creed about financial reporting that comes down to "if we take care of our customers first, everything else will take care of itself."
- The other company is doing "just ok". It has superb, well-oiled sales processes and highly-developed sales tools, all captured in an elegant and highly integrated CRM system which exquisitely ties into its marketing CMS system capturing every step in the buyer's journey. It has well-planned marketing campaigns both Inbound and Outbound. It has highly talented leaders of sales and of marketing with large and complex structures in both departments. It has excellent customer service with dedicated employees.
So, what gives?
What makes one company, granted in a very different market, always win quarter after quarter, year after year, and consistently drive excellent performance above their targets even without the assistance of "new school" selling and marketing tools and practices?
What makes another company with equally strong leadership, plus having all of the management slots filled by highly talented managers, consistently struggle even in spite of superior sales processes, layers of integrated technologies and highly developed metrics?
A good Culture just isn't good enough
I've been thinking about this issue for months now and diving deep into the metrics from both of these companies and another 25 of our customers since I've come to realize that this same dichotomy exists in a number of our other customers. The answer that I've come up with is that in order to be a consistent sales leader, an A and A+ level super achiever, and a consistently dependable winner, period after period, a "good", or even a "very good" work culture just isn't good enough.
One of our customers, AIM Mutual Insurance Companies, in Burlington has won one of the very highly coveted Boston's Globe's "Best Places to Work" for seven years in a row! Couple that outstanding achievement with very solid year-after-year business performance, and the question needs to be asked "Why them and not the hundreds of other companies (some of whom are our customers) who apply for this award and never achieve it even in one year?"
- Most companies have solid, experienced and "very good" management teams
- Everyone has lots of competition in noisy and very complex markets
- Every company hits speed bumps in product launches, unexpected resignations and everything else
The difference I've come up with so far is that the consistently high performing sales and marketing companies seem to have taken on a positive, high energy, self-driven community of laser focus on delivering real value to and creating a solid bond of trust with their customers. This attitude of winning goes far beyond wanting to achieve their operating objectives and having a "good culture", and becomes a cult and a pride of working at the company, in all of the positive manifestations of that word, "cult".
- That is certainly the case at AIM Mutual Insurance with Mike and his team of stars at all levels!
- It's the difference I see in Hubspot and in OwnerIQ as dominant software leaders in their markets
- It's the drive that I see in my Tufts alums working at Google, Facebook, Sapient and Silicon Valley Bank
- It's what used to drive EMC under the Egans, Oracle under Larry Ellison and Apple under Steve Jobs
- It is what drives exceptional results at Nike, year after year.
- It's the difference between superior service at Home Depot and bland courtesy at Staples
Last I looked, there's nothing wrong in not only being self-driven to achieving excellent results month after month, but in also wearing company logos, standing and applauding the best salespeople after a strong quarter, and telling and retelling corporate legend stories about excellent customer experiences.
...and just maybe, that's the difference between "just okay" and "consistently superior" sales performance. I'm still trying to figure this out and would love to have your comments and guidance in this.
Have a great selling day today!