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Selling into a tough economy or recession is easy when you do your homework.

Ever wonder why sales at some companies seem so effortless, while others struggle with getting quality leads, converting those leads into sales, and overcoming challenges like delays, long sales cycles, and having to haggle over price? These same elite companies look at adverse economic events like recessions as the opportunity to distance themselves from the pack. They crowd others out of key accounts and raid any talented people their competitors may have.

How do they do it? The cold, hard truth is those companies have done the rigorous work rooted in Scaling Up’s Seven Strata of Strategy. That work is necessary to answer these five key questions:

  1. Who specifically is our Juicy Core Customer?
  2. What do we know exactly about our Juicy Core Customer’s wants and needs that our competitors don’t know?
  3. What unique product or service can we give our Juicy Core Customer that solves their biggest problem? What is the corresponding
    Brand Promise: that unique competitive advantage that sets us apart from the competition?
  4. What is the fully accounted ROI to our Juicy Core Customer from this solution?
  5. As a sales organization, how hard have we practiced and role-played to make our understanding of our Juicy Core Customer, their wants, and our unique solution instinctive and automatic?

As a Certified Scaling Up Coach, optimizing the sales process and team is very often a high priority in client engagements. Let’s explore each of these critical sales questions in turn.

1. Who specifically is our Juicy Core Customer?

This seemingly innocent question can spark battles in the C-Suite! “What do you mean, didn’t you hear we need sales? “Our Juicy Core Customer is anybody in the industry. Anybody with a checkbook!”
This is far from the truth. Your Juicy Core Customer has very specific traits. They:

  1. Exist as a specific person with a very specific attitudinal buying need.
  2. Have purchase motivations beyond price that you know and understand. This is like the X factor in connecting with them.
  3. Buy for maximum profit and pay on time.
  4. Are someone you love doing business with.
  5. Have patterns around where they hang out and how they buy.

Once you identify, understand, and only do business with your Juicy Core Customer, it’s like the lights come on. You will realize that dealing with non-Juicy Core Customers is costing you time, opportunity cost, profit, and cash flow.

2. What do we know exactly about our Juicy Core Customer’s wants and needs that our competitors don’t know?

This is critical! It’s a true game changer. Kash and Calhoun, authors of How Companies Win, call this “proprietary understanding of your customer’s demand.” In essence, it is knowing so much about why your Juicy Core Customer really buys that you know more about it based upon insights than they can tell you directly. Why? Because you have tapped into their emotional needs and the implications that they may not be comfortable sharing with you.

These insights are where the profit pools are. To paraphrase Kash and Calhoun, “You must go beyond the customer surveys, sales figures, and [press releases]. No, you must participate in each [individual] demand profit pool—live it, understand it, and be able to describe not only the customers who populate it but what they want and how they make their purchasing decisions.” This is a depth of insight that very few companies even approach. When you can achieve this level of insight, you are on your way to transcendent market dominance for your firm.

Who does this well? Apple. Love them or hate them, each new iPhone release drives hordes of loyalists to line up outside Apple stores, eagerly awaiting to part with well over $1,000 of their hard-earned dollars because of Apple’s proprietary knowledge of their customer’s demand. They scratch an itch their competitors don’t even know about!

How about a B2B example? Right down to their name that uniquely connects to their Juicy Core Customer, Scaling Up practitioner Big Ass Fans also has proprietary insights into the nature of their customer’s demand.

While their competitors struggle with selling commoditized industrial fans, Big Ass Fans is playing at an entirely different stratum with their deep understanding of the unique needs of industrial plants and warehouses. They understand how proper air movement can greatly cut energy costs and improve employee productivity, reducing the load on air conditioners. This proprietary insight enables them to dominate their profit pool and expand their beachhead into other Juicy Core segments like gyms.

Lest you be inclined to think your business is much different from Apple or Big Ass Fans, remember both thrive in very commoditized businesses. Follow their example by doing the hard work of figuring out what your Juicy Core Customer really needs and wants. This is done through a combination of deep study, observation, and asking strategic, insightful questions of them that result in your participation in the buying dynamic.

3. What unique product or service can we give our Juicy Core Customer that solves their biggest problem?

Not getting the sales results you want? Then solve a bigger problem! Not solving a bigger problem is usually rooted in lazy thinking in both your corporate and sales strategy. You are simply too tactical and not strategic enough.

Oftentimes, your sales team is trying to solve a tactical problem. Myopically, they see only direct costs and the competition. The two most important words in strategy are “no” and “differentiated.” Strategic battles have rarely, if ever, been won head to head by equal and opposing forces in a frontal assault. Say “no” to direct competition and instead opt for a unique and differentiated flanking move. This unique and differentiated flanking move usually involves solving a bigger strategic problem for your Juicy Core Customer.
Manifest this unique competitive advantage as the Brand Promise your customer can literally “take to the bank” to set you apart from the competition.

Case in point: Suppose you are a company selling industrial dehumidifiers for greenhouses. Your competition sells lower-priced industrial air conditioning units. B and C Player sellers obsess over the price of their commodity competition. However, the greenhouse customer does not have the problem of needing a new industrial air conditioner. They have a humidity problem. This drives even bigger problems of mold, fruit and vegetable spoilage, and perhaps an even bigger problem of lacking the labor to manage this host of problems.

All of a sudden, your unique and differentiated solution of a more expensive, custom industrial humidifier versus a standard, industrial A/C unit solves the bigger problem at a better value. Always solve the business problem, not the smaller product or service problem.

4. What is the fully accounted ROI to our Juicy Core Customer from this solution?

If you are interested in closing well over 80% of your business, then you will want to combine solving the bigger business problem with a fully accounted business case that takes the full costs and benefits of your solution and delivers an ROI. In doing this, you will want to survey your customer for all of the costs associated with the solution, including waste and rework, administrative overheads, timing, opportunity costs, penalties, pricing, and quality to name just a few of the areas to explore.

An A Player sales leader can build this ROI assessment and calculator in a matter of a few short weeks. Excel is a great tool to start with. Make an individual tab that surveys and summarizes for each issue or cost component. Your final tab then calculates the fully accounted ROI of your solution. Start simple. You can always integrate the logic of your Excel calculator into an app or a special part of your website later. Your Juicy Core Customers will appreciate the rigor and the results of the assessment because it will lock down the ROI of solving the bigger business problem for them. And you will get the sale over 80% of the time. What are you waiting for? Get busy on that ROI calculator!

5. As a sales organization, how hard have we practiced and role-played to make the understanding of our Juicy Core Customer, their wants, and our unique solution instinctive and automatic?

As sales coach Jack Daly says, “Sports teams are better run than businesses, and as a CEO that fact should make you sick!” Jack is 100% right. Among other things, sports teams internally practice their craft every day to get better. I’d wager your sales team is out practicing on some poor customer right now, effectively burning the lead.

As a test, call your sales team into your conference room right now and quiz, drill, and role-play with them the four questions we just covered. I’d bet you Vegas odds you are chagrined by their lack of insights and salescraft. The good news is, if you are willing to coach them and hold them accountable, practicing these plays will yield better insights until they become great at selling. That Is a game changer!

Do the hard work now and the easy work follows. Pass on the hard work now and it never becomes easier.

Weak companies blame recessions for their woes. It’s funny, they never credit the economy in good times—sales people get shoulder strain from patting themselves on the back as they clamor for their “hard-earned” commissions based upon their heroics. The truth is, any clown can sell in a buoyant market. In contrast, strong companies almost welcome recessions as an opportunity for a market reset and respite from the madness of the circus. Their weaker competition goes by the wayside and they can expand their beachhead with less market clutter.

Embrace the work. I’m here to help!

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