The B2B Revenue Executive Experience
The B2B Revenue Executive Experience

Episode · 5 years ago

Jeff Koser on The Power of the Voice of the Customer


When you look at your best prospects and customers, they should be just as distinctive as zebras.

That was the idea behind Jeff Koser’s book Selling to Zebras. Jeff noticed that the companies he was working with had the same problem, even though they thought they were unique. So he just wrote a story.

It’s gone on to be wildly successful, and Jeff has now written another book called The Voice of the Customer. Listen in to hear why you shouldn’t sell without the secrets in that book.

Find a breakdown of this episode here.

... Sanderson. Today we're talking about the power of the voice of Customer Voc for those that have heard those letters before, and why it's so critical for sales exacts to understand and sales reps to utilize. You got to keep in mind people buy from people and people buy for emotional reasons and then justify with logic. So understanding the customers critical. To tackle that topic today we have with US Jeff Coozer, CEO of sales software firm selling to zebras. Some of you have probably heard of Jeff, know his name. He's also an award winning author of widely respected books. Selling to zebras was recognized and Andrew clancys, the Sales Grus, is one of the best sales authors of all time and as they sought after a keyno speaker, you're listening to the BDB revenue executive experience, a podcast dedicated to helping the executives train their sales and marketing teams to optimize growth. Whether you're looking for techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's accelerate your growth in three, two, one. So, Jeff, first I want to thank you for taking time to be on the show today. Hey, Chad, thank you. That was a great introduction. Thank you. I practiced in the mirror. So before we jump in, we ask all of our guests kind of a an initial first question to so people can get a sense for who they are. And you've had why the career, and I'm curious if you look back, was there a defining moment or something that happened that taught you a lesson that you go back to over and over again? kind of what was that moment would you learn and why do you keep going back to it? So so I saw your question, which you were gracious enough to to coach me, that you did ask. Yeah, exactly, and and you know the here's the lesson. Jump. Jump when you feel the urge. And what I mean by that I was with, actually with with the computer side of the same company you you referenced before, and I had sold a pretty large software deal. It was about one point one million and the services for that we're going to be significant. Hadn't really been completely worked out yet, but it would have ended up being multiple millions over the years. It was an earp solution and it was to a division of Text Ron. So it's, you know, Multi Multi National Company and in the computer services firm that that design the software. We won't mention the name, but sometimes their name is synonymous with making a copy. Has that. They decided that the main frame that we had sold this on, that that particular version of the software had a hole in a technology hole in at. This was a new CT that came on board and he said they couldn't be fixed. I'd never experienced anything like this in this this deal was worth, you know, six figures to me personally and and they were going to pay me to stay,...

...but they were going to pay me over a two year period. It's a lot of over handcuffs, exactly, exactly, and and I left to join bond and that was the the best decision I ever made in my life. I walked away from a lot of money but walked into an opportunity that shaped me and taught me so much. And you know so is so the lesson was, you know, when you feel the urge to jump, jump, don't as they just do it. Yes, excellent, all right, so let's do the typical intro stuff. Now, so give us for people out there that have heard of the book selling to zebras. There's also a company called selling Diseibra's help our audience understand kind of the focus and mission of the company. So so a zebra. First of all, a zebra is is your perfect prospect. It's and it's based on your perfect customer. So you you, you you work through the process which we defined in the book. You come up with the seven attributes that make up a zebra and and you you define who your best customer is and then you you measure all of your future prospects against that best customer and you measure it and you score it and we have a ready yellow green system. It's simple, it's fast, it's easy and it has to be. Our sales guys wouldn't do it right. And and and the reason we call it a zebra is because when you you know Zebra is distinctive. You know it's not a horse. It doesn't look like any other animal. Nothing has stripes like that. You know, it's just so obvious when you look at a zebra that you can't confuse it for any other animal. And the analogy is that when you look at your your best prospects, in your best customers, they should be just as distinctive to you. Excellent. And so the company, when you're when you're building that company, what are you guys focused on? So today we're a little bit different. Today, so we what we've done over the years. Used to be really expensive to to engage with a client and and to teach them how to sell the way we do it, to build a value model the way that we used to do it, and we used to do it in excel in the early days. Yeah, and it didn't look like excel because it was really cool, but it was. But it was still excel. A lot of visual, basic and and but but that, you know, we literally built a new model for each client each time and that was very expensive. took a long time. And what we've done over the years as we've actually put that into software now, so literally an individual seller could could could use it and do it. So that's where we're going. Excellent. So let's let's back up and start with kind of the genesis of the concept. From what I've read, it appears this this came to you when you were working at bond. You mentioned them earlier. You go to bond, you...

...are excited to make the jump, encourage people to make the jump. But what was it? What happened at bond that gave birth to this idea? So they were there were a couple things that happened. So the first one, you know, when I left that other company and joined bond, I joined the Bond USA organization, which was brand new. There they had they had two customers. They were both sold through independent resellers in the US from the Netherlands. They were, you know, that's where the headquarters for bond was, and they were sold poorly and and they were both unhappy and and both were both were actually sewing behind. So sometimes when I present I say we had to customers. So we you know, the first is Eber. We produced. We brainstormed with some of the best in the company, some of the folks from Rd that knew deep, deep secrets about what we did. That was unique. We mapped it out. Who would care for if we care about that? WHO's problem did we solve? Where did they live in? They were azzation and and a very bright guy, Kevin Calderwood, actually took all these notes from the White Board and that night created the first bond zebra. And Yeah, and he says I did it, Chad, I didn't know. He he's that kind of leader. You know, he gave the credits somebody else. I led the White Board discussion, but he distilled it into what became known as the Bond Zebra. But but we did that just to survive because, you know, step was already in the US. They were already a fifty million dollar business in the US. Oracle was here, they were already, you know, you know, very big in database, but they were also in earp already and and quite large. And those were our competitors on every day and so, you know, why would somebody buy from a company that's headquartered in the Netherlands, that doesn't have any customers and this is critical software that runs every facet of your business? Who would do that? Right? Trust going to go so far when you're talking about that type of investment. Exactly. And then the second part of this came into being when I've been with with bond for about three years and we were we had a lot of success. We had sold some big name companies, you know, bowing had bought snap on tools was first and bullying had bought and many others. And then we bought a supply chain company called Burke Lane out of Canada and and and they hadn't grown. We own them for about a year and supply chain was hot'. You Remember? I too, Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, so I too remember that. Yeah, so. But so, back back when I took sprang up, you know, nobody knew what supply chain was, right, I mean it wasn't a common word that it wasn't a common phrase in our vernacular. And I too made it common. And Really, Eli Gold Rat, who wrote the..., wrote the book. The goal made it, made it a common language for all of us. But bond bought this this little company that was only one point four million and annual revenues at the time and they hadn't done anything with it for a year. But the industry was on fire and they asked me to move over and run that and and we then created the Zebra for supply chain. And then what we did was we created a model around the business issues we solved and the value that we created by solving them. And that was the first time we ever created a business case around this that was actually produced by the software we did in an excel even back then, and and we took that, that little supply chain business, and when I left a couple years later, it was it was almost eighty million in annual revenues. Yeah, yeah, the so it will. It's fun. So you start with so you your bond, you to find the first Zebra using the excel. I'm sorry, I'll apologize for the rest of us that yet had to use excel to do that. I remember having to put visual basic over. Yes, but then now you're transitioning into this, into a software company. What what was the genesis that and what has that been like? Well, some some success and some failure. So the first the first attempt. You know, we all joke about excel, but it's probably the best application Microsoft ever produced, right for true, true, you know, it's amazing, right, what you can do with it and it's hard to replace. In the first version that we first software that we had produced, we actually did it in Poland and we gave away part of the company to do it, you know, we kind of bartered it for piece of the company and and it failed and and it and the reason it failed is because it did exactly what we asked them to program and and you know, we can laugh now, I paid a lot for that. Education was an expensive one, it was, it was. But the so the third version of our software we brought a guy in who is he's our CTO, Tom and he had worked with Seebul back you know, for the listeners that don't know, seebol and some others kind of created the the CRM, the customer relationship management space, right, so before sales force there was seabolt and he was there in the only days and what he forced us to do is sit down and and design. We literally designed for a year and wire framed things and and decided as much what we weren't going to do is what we were going to do. And he was really good at simplification and before we ever coded anything,... know, he had it. He had it mapped out. It was all with intelligent design so that it would shrink down to an iphone, so you could score on an iphone, it would work on an IPAD, you know, is Amazon aws, you know, which is nothing new around that today, but three or four years ago that was still pretty the novel, right, they're not a lot of little companies were doing that and a lot of not a lot of people knew about that. And we did that and that was under his direction. And and when we came out that with this version. So all the coding, by the way, was was done in Sri Lanka. And sure it was. So we went from Poland to Sri Lanka. So, you know, you'd think we'd be smarter, right. But but that turned out to be beautiful because he had a relationship with this offshore firm and already knew them, already trusted them. And and the guys we have their working on our on our coding and our Guy Design guys here are you know those, those guys are our guys. We pay for them as an offshore but but there are guys that it's been the same team from the beginning and they're still with us and and and our guys have grown to be great designers and we give them really good direction. And and you know, we do a scrum every night at ten o'clock and and that's that's the key. It works, but it's because of the constant diligence together. It does, I mean to be that adulant. Incorporate offshore resources. I've had my fair share headaches with that. I'm glad to hear that the lessons learned turned positive for you. Yeah, and it was really Tom's leadership and Brent, who now designs, and in others who design the software. Now that that's really made that work. Even if you've been in sales for decades, new technology, new buyers and new dynamics create challenges your team may not be ready for. Value Prime solutions enables you to focus on sales, on the prospects and customers, not the noise, and the sales framework you implement with them is simple, scalable and proven. CHECK OUT VALUE PRIME SOLUTIONSCOM and ask how they can help you beat your target. Let's talk about your first book for a minute. Selling to zebras it's why they recognizes great sales book. It's wanted to see by other respected sales leaders put you in the company as some of the top Selon sales authors in the world. But a lot of authors, you know, a lot of people have awesome ideas and never write a book. I'm curious what was the genesis? How did you get to the point where you felt like the book was necessary and then, you know, made it through the painful process of actually creating it so necessary. I don't know if I ever thought it was necessary. I liked it, you know, I you know, the companies that I was working with at the time had the same problem, right, but they all thought that you were unique and I just wrote a story and I did it in a way.

So I so I mentioned Eli Gold Rat's book before the the goal. Have you ever read that one? Yes, I have. Yeah, so it's a novel, right, Sin's parent. It's a parable and and and there you know it. You know, I didn't know that I was doing this because I just copied that theme, but I was using the hero method theme when I copied that approach. I you know, there's this. There's a sales guy, sales leader, who's WHO's WHO's in trouble and you know he's he's not going to meet his numbers again and and he needs a solution and and the business needs him to find a solution. So there's you know, there's this, there's this problem, there's a quest for the solution. You know, there's a treasure because it's there are ideas out there. You know, there's a guru that helps them. You know, we call them Kent Clark. Right, now that's, you know, not to be confused with Clark Kent, you know, done on purpose, right, to be a little playful, and and and then he figures it out and his world is a better place and the rest of the world is a better place and he succeeded. So there's, you know, the whole healed land thing from and there's a really good book on that, on this topic, by the way, how to do this in business. That that just came out. In fact, you should talk to her, Catherine Jillette, called the hero method. Have you ever heard of that? I haven't. I'm writing it down, though. Yeah, I'll connect you with her. The hero method by Catherine Jillette. So you know, unbeknownst to me that that this is, you know, she says that all good movies follow this theme, you know, all good novels. So that's the way the book was written and the only reason I did it was because I wanted it to be fun. I want it to be fun to read and and and and it didn't actually get published till it was the third version, by the way. So there were you had your own heroes journey on it. Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. Excellently well and now there's a new you're working on a new one. Have a new one. This came out called Voice of the customer. What's the genesis behind this one? So that's an Ebook and that one is is actually free on our website and in the reason we did that was because the whole core of what we teach comes from messaging from the customer and and the Voice of the customer is something that is is it's not easy to do and there are some secrets to how to do it and so we kind of want to just put them out there in detail. And and you know, as we talked with potential investors and selling to zebras, they all said, hey, you know, the thing we're worried about that isn't scalable. We don't know if this voice of the customer thing is scalable, you know, and even even executives where we had done where they had become customers, wondered if it was. So we wanted to figure out how do you teach...

...that? So that's what we did. So we've trained partners on that now and we know how partners that do that work and sell and implement our software and and that's made us scalable. And so we put the secret sauce in a book and and even though it's out there, it doesn't mean it's easy, but it's out there that way right. Well, I mean it's so many people. I forget what this that was something like all the sales books out there and only like eleven percent of sales people actually read them. So it's like you can give all the stuff where free. We could, they're not going to do it. They're going to need they're going to need help. They need know, even if they read it, they still going to need out right. And one of the things the book focuses on is getting access to our and understanding the business power problem that they actually solve, which near and due to my heart, something I talked about all the time. I'm curious, from your perspective, in your experience, why do most companies and sales rep struggle with this? To me it seems like a common sense thing, almost, but it takes up the vast majority of our billabill hours is working with customers on that. I'm curious your perspective on that. Isn't that the truth? What you just said is exactly the truth. In you know, common sense isn't very common. Yeah, you know, if you ask, I do presentations it like you guys do. And and one of the first questions I'll ask a room full of CEOS. First I get I bring my little zebra pad, so it's a three by three inch, you know, little sheet of paper. Stack of them and it's got zebra print, and I give every one of them a little three by three inch piece of paper, obviously very small, and I asked them to write down the business problem they solve on that little sheet. So it's, you know, it's a very short or it's a short building elevator pitch right. And and what they invariably do is they tell me what their company does or they tell me what their product does, but they don't talk about the problem they solve for power and so the you know, the person that would approve there the purchase for their solution. They don't frame it in their eyes. And, like you said, it's it's it's a natural thing, but it's not a common thing and it's not always really easy to figure out. It's kind of like your men, kind of like your mission, right. You know, missions always look easy when you read them off somebody's wall. You want me to pay how much money to have somebody develop that for me? Yeah, well, sit down and try and do it. It's not easy. Yep, they do, isn't it's not easy at all. So if there were, if the listeners wanted to know like the most important thing that they would learn from reading the ebook Voice of the customer, what would it be? So so that it that getting to power is what's key and you have to earn the right to get to power. And and I know you know what I mean by when I say power. So power powers the person that can buy even without a budget, and is probably the person that okayed your purchase, even if they've been a customer for years. There was, there's somebody... that chain of command that signed off on it so many times. What we've learned is that when we do voice of the customer work and we ask our customers who is power within their customer, they don't even know who it is right some sometimes they never met him or they met them when they first got business and they've not had a relationship since. And the only way you can get back to that person is to earn the right. And and we talked about how you do that you know. You have to study their website, you have to study their industry, you have to study a little bit about their competitors and then you have to frame what business problem you think you solve for them so that you can go verify it or get clarity. You know, though, straighten you out, but you but you have to. You have to do your homework and come prepared with a pretty solid business message to earn the right to talk with them for thirty to forty five minutes. Yeah, and that it's sets. It's a it's a respect thing to especially to that's right. I mean, you see, all of these BBC experiences are here apple and all these guys talk about design and the experience that livers will now that's translating specially to be to be and those expectations for how people want to be engaged with. It starts with respect and understanding them, having empathy for where they're at and understanding what they're dealing with. It's not about you, like every time I ask a customer, or hell, even when I started a new job, and what's the value? What's the value that we provide? Oh, our our software does this or our people are the smartest or and I'm like, okay, well, that's not what I'm asking. That's great that we've got that, but that's not what I'm asking. What is the business problem we're solving for our customer? Was the value to them? And people struggle with that. I don't know if it's just hard for me to get out of their heads or what. Yeah, you know, it's they just never asked. You know, they eat, they would. They were successful without knowing and and that's perpetuated that cycle without okay, I could see that with ay are without it, I mean you just get so comfortable to right it's like yeah, I need to learn. socially. I feel bad sometimes for Reps. I get on boarded in new companies right, like you got all this product stuff that you're getting taught. So then why would your sales management be surprised that you come out and all you want to talk about is you and your product? You just spent three, six, eight weeks getting on boarded through all this product training, but nobody was showing you how to temper it, to approach the company or to talk to people that can actually sign the checks. And and you fall in love with your own product and you know, that happened to us to the you know, going back to that first version of software that we produced that wasn't excel. We found ourselves talking about that damn product because we were really proud of it, you know, but that's not why anybody ever bought from us. Right, isn't that funny? I mean, you know, I we set back one day and we said we're doing what we teach not to do, you know. Right, yeah, it's it's it's hard sometimes you get into the drink, the Kolid on the product, you get into the pace of the sales profession and being able to be selfaware enough to throttle yourself and really...

...look at things objectively, it gets tough, right, you get it's easy to get caught up in especially gover bid. Somebody's chasing a commission check. Right. You see those big deals and it's like also, the best just come on. Yes, they do. They did. And so when you work with clients to do the voice of the customer work, how do you then help them because you've kind of shaken them a little bit, you've got them focused on the customer and not necessarily themselves. What kind of challenges and how do you approach actually getting into the leverage those findings internally. So what we do then? You so that the the the VOC work, it's still distilled down into the critical business issues that they say or the reasons they bought, and then what value was created by by by addressing those those business issues and its economic value. It's quantified. And then what we do is we help them develop a range. So here's the business issue you solve for this industry set for this type of economic buyer, and here's the range of value you can create, and then we create a predictive model around that in the software does that now really easily for us, and you can then approach them. You know, you can then approach additional prospects with that are similar to to the where you've had success and you can have a dialog that says, look, I'm trying to humbly or in the right I did my homework. You know, I think you're really similar to other zebras of mine. Let me tell you what that is. Here's what I found. You know, I think you've got the problem I solve and here's the value I would create. This is a hypothesis and the next step, if this is intriguing and if I've done the right homework and you're the right person that cares about this, I'd like to move into a verification step with you, with the people you try us, because when you're with power, that could be just a fifteen minute conversation, literally, and right, and then they direct you to their subject matter experts and then you do what you normally would did before. You know, you prove it, but now you're you're proving something that's a little different and you do your selling in between the cracks. Right, right, excellent, excellent. All right. So let's let's pivot here a little bit and talk about selling. The ZEEBRAS the company. So what is what is your guys top business goal right now? So our goal is to help other companies build, build a business around us. So we were teaching others how to do the voice of the customer work, literally, how to do this, create the materials that we create for the clients and and turn them loose. And because our real goal, you know, it's it's lofty and you'll probably laugh and we won't achieve it till I'm going but but we want to change the way the world sells. We literally think the world would be a better place if everybody sold this way. So that that's our goal. Hey, there's nothing wrong with lofty goals, and there I applaud that.

Actually, I come from a come from a background where too often people don't set goals like that and they are much like they want to talk about themselves. It's all focused on them. So to hear that's actually inspiring. So you don't get a laugh for that one. Sorry, okay, welcome. Well, well, thank you. So we laugh after? Yeah, well, we'll laugh after. So what problems are you guys currently encountering that are, you know, problematic in order to achieve that goal? Well, teaching others how to do the VOC work does take time and and we had we had you and I were talking before, before when we were just getting to know each other a little bit. And and you know, some of the certification that we put in place was tedious and and wasn't the best way to teach it. So now we're sort of on our next version of that and and I think that's getting better. So, but that's a challenge is how do you how do you speed that up and and make other successful doing that work? And then after that the rest of it is is fairly easy in comparison. Okay, and now I have to ask, not to be not too smart act, but I do have to ask, since we talked about what business problem to selling to Zebra. Solf, good question. So we've been talking about zebras right in and you know, when you when you look at your customer base and you analyze it, we know statistically that eighty nine percent of your revenue comes from zebras. Literally, eighty nine percent. That's the number. It's Parato. It's a parato principal thing and in a hundred and fifty percent of your profits come from those eighty nine percent of those customers. So what we do? What the problem? We saw, but we help you find, close, implement, retain and expand more zebrous Nice. So there's a lot of companies out there that you know, and I've worked for smaller companies and larger companies. You'd always end up in that situation where it's like hey, eighty percent of our revenue is coming from one customer. Yeah, that's not a good situation to be and how do we? You know now, go find another one, replicate it right, and then, of course, you know the sales been, the consultants. They scamper out going, Oh crap, what, how am I supposed to do this? So it's a great problem to solve. It's a great problem to go after. Yep, and we we put a lot of time into that simple answer. Excellent. All right. So let's change direction one more time. Here we ask all of our guests kind of two standard questions towards the end of each interview. The first is simply you are a revenue executive if you're running a software company. That makes you a call them targets, but that some people don't like that will say prospect that some people want to sell to. I in my head it didn't seem that unfortunate, but I got called on it by a previous guests. So we'll say you are a prospect that some people are going to go after. I'm curious, how does somebody who you don't know, don't have a relationship with, how did they get in front of you and build credibility, capture your attention to talk to you about problems... may have that they could solve? So you know you have to you have to learn how to create a buying experience for your prospect because you know when somebody says the word salesperson, that you know the the image that's always conjured up isn't positive, even for us right in this in this profession. So because nobody wants to be sold and and it feels really good to go through a buying experience. So you and that's not easy and you have to pivot till you get it right. And the second thing is is to come with a knowledge of my business. So if you're going to call on me, make sure you understand what it is we do and can communicate the problem that you think you solve for me and tell me why you think you found that I have it. So prove to me that you've done your homework, that I have it, even if I don't know I have it. And then, if you helped me, tell me what value would be created, because I may know intuitively, but I don't want to have to do your work for you. Right, right. So it's back to that earn the right or in the right it is earn the right to engage and then capture some of my time. That's exactly right. And when sellers do that with me, I'll talk with them because I'm impressed. Right, you know I and I you know other seller. You know, sellers like to talk to people. They get it right. I mean, yeah, it's always a great strategy. If you can't get into an account, call one of their account exacts, because they'll tell you everything you want to know. I mean sales people will. We love to talk. Yes, I us. All right. So last question. We call it our acceleration insight. There was one thing you could tell sales, marketing or consultants that you think would help them be more effective, beat their targets, make more money be more successful? What would it be and why? So it's it's practicing that buying experience. It's it's it's it really does still go back to that again, because you know the statistics. I think it's IDC says that fifty seven percent of the sale is done today before they ever call you. I don't know if I agree with that. Some people say even more, that more of it's done because they they look you up on the web, they have a realization of their problem. But what I would say is you still have to take over the buying experience and turn it into something that that you guide them through, that that allows them to opt out. So it's not like you're manipulating or spinning them or anything like that. It's it's where you you demonstrate why they're your zebra and we actually are. Software actually allows you to show them right in your software why you're good fit and let them decide that they are a good fit, that them come to the realization and then agree on the next step and the next logical step which which you're guiding. And there's there's...

...flexibility there, but but you're creating a journey that they're a directing. But because you're in the right place, because you did it, I'll steal your words, did it with respect. It feels good to them and if you can't build a business case around the solution, you'll exit, and that's part of your message. And and that feels good to them too, because you're not just trying to sell them something. You're working to create a buying experience to make sure that you, as well as them, are in the right place. Excellent, excellent, Jeff. I can't thank you enough for the time today. If a listeners interested in talking more about the topics we touched on or will want to engage with you what's the best way to get in contact with you? Selling? Does Eberscom? Okay, we're easy to find. accellent. What kind of can't thank you enough for the Times of great having you on the show. Thank it. Chat has been a very joyable experience for me too. Excellent. All right, everyone that does it for this episode, please check us out at bb Rev exaccom. Show the episode with friends, families, Co workers and, if you like what's you here, please leave us a review on itunes. We do use those reviews to determine what guests and what content to produce for you, guys. But until next time, we have value prime solutions. With you all, nothing but the greatest success. You've been listening to the BB revenue executive experience. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show and Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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