Design ThinkingSales Problem Solver’s Skills

Sales Problem Solver’s Skills

Sales Problem Solver's Skills

We all are problem solvers at our own level. Handling challenges, hurdles, persistent issues and alleviating them is what differentiates a great sales manager from the rest.

Tools and techniques for solving problems are well established for a long time now and there are various methods, techniques and tools that can be used. For example, Lean Six Sigma, TQM, Agile, Scrum, Design Thinking, etc are few such frameworks. Various sectors have seen success with these methodologies. However, when it comes to functional success, business development and sales is a unique function in that, it is highly dependent on external factors. Even many internal factors are not within good control of the sales organization. Thus, there are certain unique challenges that sales managers face when they try to apply such proven problem solving methodologies for sales problems.

More than a structured approach or framework for solving sales problems, the first thing Sales Managers should develop is a Sales Problem Solving Mindset. The skills that support this mindset are described below. Each of these skills can separately add value to every sales manager’s performance. When applied in the form of a structured problem solving framework, it becomes very powerful.

Problem Framing Skills

The first step in solving business problems is knowing exactly what is the problem that has to be solved. This might sound like a no-brainer. But don’t underestimate the power of clarity. If the organization wants to improve its market share in a particular segment, the problem may have to be framed keeping in consideration points such as – Is our market share very low compared to peers, how long has it been this way, what have we done and why have they failed, what is the customer’s perception about us?, etc. After sufficient exploration, we may narrow down and define the problem that we wish to solve as “How can our employees engage with our channel partners effectively?” instead of “How to improve our Market Share?”

Sometimes, we can define the problem and then collect data, but on other occasions, we have to do the reverse.  Thus framing a problem for a given scenario is a skill in itself and Sales Managers need to master this.

To register to our online ‘Sales Managers Problem Solving Skills Course’.

Data Collection Skills

In order to permanently solve any problem, we need to go to the root cause of the problem, and use data or facts to validate really if a particular cause is the reason for the problem. Often, Sales Managers are plagued by reasons that their team members use to justify their poor performance. But these have to be validated with data. Unfortunately, the problem in sales is that required data is not often available. Sales managers should develop necessary skills to understand what data is needed to validate a given problem or cause and how to gather that data. Sometimes surrogate measures will have to be used and sometimes they have to live with surveyed data. Thus the ability to know what data is needed in a given scenario and how to gather that is the second skill needed for Sales Managers wishing to solve business problems.

Quantitative Analytical Skills

Today’s sales enablement systems such as CRM, ERP, etc provide enough data to get started with some basic sales analytics. However sales managers need to upskill themselves in analytics. They need to know how to perform necessary analysis from the data available. While Sales Analysts are well versed in crunching numbers and preparing charts, many Sales Managers are not even comfortable with relevant formulae and charts in Excel. The ability to work with data, using visualization methods to validate association or relationship between various factors, use statistical tools to identify sources of inconsistency in performance & factors driving it, ability to identify known best performers from data, using probability principles to validate demand-supply problems in sales and statistical association/correlation studies to identify causes are all essential analytical skills for sales managers.

Qualitative Discovery Skills

To solve most sales problems, an augmented approach of using both Data and ‘Gemba’ is needed. There are several aspects such as field observation, validation or audit of sales standards across the sales process, partner sales rep skill and will validation, qualitative evaluation of customer objection handling, benchmarking competition best practices, picking up verbal and non-verbal clues, etc., that require strong discovery skills that sales managers need to develop.

Experimentation Validation

The willingness to accept that not everything that we are doing is going click & that too the very first time is the basis for experimentation validation. When solutions are put in place, often sales managers are anxious to see the results right away. In reality, many of our action plans are unique to the circumstances and the mindset to see it as a series of experiments and set logical check points, learn the lessons and move forward to refine the action plan or solution is any skill that sales managers need to acquire too.

If you are looking for Sales Analytics Training and consulting in Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi and across India, contact us.

I notice that most people misunderstanding ‘Design Thinking’ for ‘Design of Six Sigma(DFSS)’. The latter is an approach within Six Sigma to develop new products or services. In reality Design Thinking and DFSS are different animals, but not mutually exclusive.

Here’s how i see it:

Six Sigma offers a systematic way to improve or design products/service. It brings tools, methodology and rigor into the process.

Buy The Master Book for Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification CSSGB

Design thinking is the way designers think! Designers have nothing in front of them, but they visualize, experiment, hypothesize, iterate and iterate before coming up with the final output. There are variety of tools they use such as Journey Mapping, Mind Mapping, Visualization, Story boarding, Co-creation, Assumption Testing, Rapid Prototyping (& piloting), learning launch, etc.,

The being a practitioner of both these approaches, I think ONE most significant difference is that – Six Sigma thinking process is linear (but allows iteration). On the other hand, Design Thinking process is iterative (but allows linear progression).

Second difference is that Six Sigma emphasizes more of data rigor (& less of creative rigor – imaginative aspects). Design Thinking emphasizes more of imaginative rigor (& less of data rigor).

So it must be obvious that both are not certainly mutually exclusive, but they are very different!

Design Thinking has seeing a lot of traction in Service Sector, because traditional service design never followed any rigorous process.

For more  and

Customer Journey Mapping Definition:

Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) is a framework to explore all possible scenarios of customer’s journey so that we can implement the best design. It plays an very important role in Customer Experience (CX) Management and Customer Experience Re-design.

As an approach, in Customer Journey Mapping, we create a map of the customer’s journey to shop, journey to buy and journey to use our products or services. Thus Customer Journey Mapping is a Design Thinking Tool that is aimed at improving our understanding of customers and their needs.

Customer Journey Mapping Definition

Customer Journey Mapping Definition

Salient Features of Customer Journey Mapping

When you start a journey map, the emphasis is more improving our understanding rather than focusing on its accuracy. So you can choose to assume how the customer’s journey is or ought to be and create a customer journey map. Using this as a starting point, you frame few hypotheses and then using customer research, validate if it those are true. This way, you can challenge status quo, empathize with the customers and better understand their needs.

As a result, Customer Journey Map is created based strong experimentation or fact validation. It is a factual map of how the customers get things done. So, you can create a Customer Journey Map, even when you don’t have a product or service to cater to customer needs. All you are trying to do is map the customer’s journey from inception to exit, though in major part of this journey, the customer may or may not even interact with your products and services.

One of the big differences or advantages of Customer Journey Map is that, it takes a holistic view of the entire customer journey rather than fixing isolated events. Such isolated improvements are very common general practice in the industry. They can relieve customer pain points but cannot help you re-invent or re-design the entire customer experience. Instead of choosing such piece meal approaches go for Customer Journey Mapping.

Benefits of Customer Journey Mapping

Typical benefits of Customer Journey Mapping includes improvement in Customer Retention, revenue enhancement through up sell, cross sell and share of wallet improvement, increase in customer experience (CX), customer satisfaction (C-Sat) & customer loyalty (NPS), ability create wow moments or delights for customer and the power to emotionally connect with the customer.

Customer Journey Mapping Training Course

If you want to learn to create customer journey maps, you can visit our online course
Design Thinking : Customer Journey Mapping Online Course

At first, measuring customer satisfaction is fun, just because many get to push traditional problems to others’ boundaries.

“How can we sell a product that has poor support? My conscience doesn’t allow me to do that”

“See, this is the kind of customers we have? Is he our target customer? No. Should we be wasting our time on him? No.”

“See there is something called as market dynamics, we need to accept things the way they are.”

When the dust settles and customer satisfaction scores become targets to achieve, many leaders struggle to improve customer satisfaction or NPS scores. Those who improve the scores, find it difficult to relate its improvement to business performance measures. For example, a large brand has NPS score > 70% now, consistently moving up from 20% over the years. But the CEO is left to ponder as to why market share isn’t moving up. Leaving a marginal lift, it’s almost stagnant.

Similarly, companies invest time and money to conduct market research and embark on a journey to develop new products or services, but at the end, hardly there are any takers. According to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, each year more than 30,000 new consumer products are launched and 80% of them fail. The numbers across other sectors aren’t very different.

Webinar : Case Study For Customer Journey Mapping

DATE : Mar 27, 2018 TIME : 3.30 to 4.30 PM IST

To register for webinar

It’s an irony to note that many big data analytics firms that promise data based decision making to their clients, have themselves perished. I wonder, why they didn’t use those tools for themselves first, like the oxygen mask of an aircraft. One has to accept that even with numerous data sources & analytics tools, hitting the bulls eye is still a magic.

We can blame it on the flat world, disruptions, ample choices, etc. There are choices available to customers now and in future, those choices will only increase. To be future fit, of many things, organizations need to understand why their customers like or love to do business with them? What are their greater motivations? It can be ‘coolness’, ‘hotness’, ‘simplicity’, or the absence of ‘frustrations’ that drives customer’s emotion and ultimately their behavior.

Unfortunately, data often fails to ‘fully’ communicate the frustrations and experiences of customers. The last mile insight of ‘Why’ isn’t answered by data, instead it only helps to narrow down when, where and to whom should you pose this question of ‘Why’.

Choosing to understand ‘the customer’s story’, as told by the customer and as told by employees, can be a soul-stirring experience for any organization and its leaders. It can get you answers to questions such as what to develop, how to sell, when to sell and whom to sell.

A simple yet powerful way to do that is using ‘Customer Journey Map’. It is a design thinking tool that allow us to think beyond the box (frame of mind) and unlearn.</P

Experience of creating a Customer Journey Map is more of “Unlearning” that “Learning”. And that is why I consider it as a treasure map.

Sadly, most leaders mix-up Process Map with Journey Map. When organizations cross that barrier, they get entangled in a tool-mindset – Filling a template and making a presentation.

Learn more about how to, how not to and why to create Customer Journey Maps in the upcoming webinar.

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