1. Benchmark Memo – September 2011

    September 29, 2011 by

    Greetings to our members,

    Click here to read the Benchmark Memo

    This month's content includes:

    1. Building your personal profile to connect with professionals worldwide.
    2. Comprehensive best practice report about target marketing.
    3. Feature case study concerning successful target marketing.
    4. Expert opinion – Value Creation Selling

    Best Regards,


    Neil Crawford

  2. Value creation selling helps your customers succeed

    September 11, 2011 by

    Ram Charan, author of “Leaders at All Levels”, describes [1] a new approach to sales that revolves around helping customers to succeed. He calls this value creation selling (VCS).  Successes should be measured in terms of how customers benefit from your help.  The ability to create value for customers will differentiate an organisation from its competitors and attract a fair price paid in return from the customer. Value creation selling includes the following practices:
    1. Understanding the customer’s business by devoting time and energy to learn about it in detail:
      • What are their goals?
      • What financial measures do they employ?
      • How do they create market value?
      • What key factors differentiate their product or service from competitors? 

    2. Utilising new capabilities and tools for learning about how customers go about their business and how you could help them improve.  Staff from key departments must also highly familiar with these customers.  Share information about customers with key personnel and collaboratively decide the best ways to help the customer win.  Build new social networks which lead to frequent interaction among people from differing functional backgrounds.
    3. Knowing your customers and the customer’s customers. Tailor solutions to satisfy your customers' markets by discovering:
      • Who their customers are,
      • What they want,
      • What their problems and attitudes are, and
      • How they make decisions.
      • In order to devise unique offerings for your customer work backward from the needs of the end consumer to the needs of your In order to devise unique offerings for your customer work backward from the needs of the end consumer to the needs of your customer.

    4. Value creation selling generally requires longer cycle times to produce an order and to generate revenue. Therefore it requires patience, consistency and the development of high levels of trust with customers. Two-way information exchanges will be far deeper and lead to increased credibility.
    5. Redesign recognition and reward systems to encourage the behaviours needed to make the value creation selling approach more effective.  Members of the sales team in other functional areas must also be recognized and rewarded in proportion to their contribution.

    [1] Charan, R., (2010), Profitable Growth, Leadership Excellence, Vol 27, Iss 11, pp 3-5, Executive Excellence Publishing, Provo,

    Neil Crawford

    Members can read the full article by clicking here

  3. 9 Tips to Mental Toughness

    September 7, 2011 by

    Mental toughness is having the natural or developed psychological ability that enables you to cope better with stressful events such as competition, job conditions and lifestyle. Being mentally tough means facing and overcoming the negative influences at work and in life and remaining focused, confident and in control.

    According to experts mental toughness is not something inherited or an inborn DNA trait. It is something that has to be developed over time through different methods such as coaching, reading and even past experience.

    Below are interesting tips on how to gain better mental toughness.

    Ahmed Abbas

    by Garrett J. Braunreiter, CSCS, The Energy Coach

    It takes more than visualization, self-talk, relaxation and concentration to be a real winner in life. (If only it were that easy, right? I am leaner, energized, and have a great body. Plus I make a million dollars a year working only a few hours a week. POOF!) It takes a kind of strength through mental toughness that a few people understand.

    But once you DO understand it, you can master yourself and how you respond to ANYTHING that comes your way. Remember, too, that YOU ARE GREATER THAN ANYTHING THAT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU.

    You do not have to be born with mental toughness. Mental toughness is a transferrable trait. You don't have to go through a trial by fire to experience it. Life will give you what you ask for. But once you ask, Life sets you to task. You will be challenged, many times a day to keep moving forward and reach your goal.

    Here are some action tips for you to gain more mental toughness in EVERYTHING you do.

    1. Listen to the experts. Read biographies and listen to audio programs telling of winners who have overcome tremendous obstacles and setbacks to become successful. Check out success stories in magazines and the Internet – fitness, money, or otherwise – you'll find they are people JUST LIKE YOU. So if they can do it, WHY THE HELL CAN'T YOU?
    2. No pain, no gain vs. Patience, pacing, and persistence. You don't need to go through emotional or physical pain to succeed. This is a myth. When you realize that failure and handicaps have NOT prevented winners in any area of life, you gain more confidence and courage to pursue your own dreams.
    3. But you don't need to "come from behind" to get ahead. Learn from the trial and error of others, and expect a lot of yourself. Not a pipedream, but expect a lot, and expect to get it. It can be easy to overtrain, overcommit, and overwork if your expectations are too much. GO WITH THE FLOW. Success WILL come; understand it may take months instead of days.
    4. "What next?" thinking. Give yourself solution-oriented feedback when solving your problems. Don't dwell on what went wrong. What are you going to do about it? Spend your energy on moving forward, finding an answer. Journaling helps here. What did you accomplish today? What went well? What can you do better? How do I feel about my progress? Are my goals making me reach, or am I just going through the motions? Am I focused? Are my goals MY OWN?
    5. Get comfortable with the unfamiliar. Make it a part of your daily routine to do something totally different than what you normally do. Work out at a different gym. Put your TV in the closet for a month. Drive to work using a different route. Change workout routines regularly. You'll be better prepared to handle diverse environments with greater calm and confidence.
    6. THINK AND SPEAK WELL OF YOUR HEALTH. Teach yourself and your children to use positive self-talk about fitness and personal health. Too much attention is paid to minor aches and pains, like there's value to not feeling good. We tend to make real what is the "main feature" of ourselves. What's YOUR "main feature"?
    7. Don't be a victim of ads and fads. Yes, the world is full of greedy people looking for a fast and easy way to put your money in their pockets. Make sure the thing that impresses you meets your criteria, and satisfies your concerns. Mental toughness doesn't mean going it alone, with lose-weight-fast or get-rich-quick schemes. Mental toughness means learning from the pros who have been there and done that.
    8. Hang out with people who have already achieved their goals or who are dedicated to goals similar to yours. Avoid associating with people who have the same unresolved problems or who are frustrated by their lack of achievement. You know, the pity parties. "Oh, woe is me. My life is in an upheaval. How about you?" "You poor thing. Woe is me, too. I feel terrible about myself. How about you?"
      Some people tend to thrive on the attention they get when they feel bad. A strong community of like-minded people give you motivation, support, and purpose for succeeding.

    9. Focus on desired results. Pure and simple: winners dwell on the rewards of success. Losers focus on mistakes and failure. Do what's necessary NOW. Be in the present. Then you don't have to worry about what happened yesterday or what's going to happen tomorrow. Thus, two-thirds of your worries disappear.
    10. Expect the unexpected. You can't control what nature and others do. You can anticipate what MAY happen, and prepare for them as best you can. You can also control your response to what happens.

  4. Relationships: is social media a help or a hindrance?

    September 3, 2011 by

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    Social media is undoubtedly changing the face of business. Business experts are increasingly encouraging businesses to utilise social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the new player Google+.

    At the same time, there are a lot of stories about the negative effect of social media sites  on business such as employees getting dismissed  for posting malicious content about their companies and decreased productivity due to distraction and time needed to follow up and update social media websites.

    The below article outlines some helpful steps to make social media a great help for your business.

    Ahmed Abbas

    By Claire Sporton, Director Enterprise Feedback, Confirmit

    In a multi channel world that now includes social media, the opportunities to build relationships with customers has grown exponentially. Whilst this is an extremely positive move, it has to be said that it is very difficult to maintain, let alone control, relationships with customers over such a broad range of communication vehicles.

    The rise in social media – 100 million Linked In users, 95 million tweets per day worldwide and 30 million Facebook users in the UK alone – means that there are billions of conversations going on at any one time, many about companies and brands and they are making an impact – a big one. It is estimated that 34% of bloggers regularly post comments about brands and companies but how many organisations track this activity to find out what is being said about them and use it to positively enhance their relationships with their customers? Given that the implications of good and bad word of mouth are mind blowing, companies really should ignore social media at their peril. 

    Although every facet of customer relationships has been investigated for many years and companies have invested in technology and processes to help manage them more effectively, the addition of social media as yet another channel of communication obviously raises certain issues.

    It is important to remember that social media was not set up for companies to build relationships with customers. Its raison d’etre is to help individuals manage their personal and business relationships with other human beings. Companies imposing themselves in this space can be seen as a hugely inappropriate. For example, it has been muted that 96% of social media advertising doesn’t work because people see it as an intrusion. 

    As a result, companies that intend to use social media as part of their customer relationship management strategy should plan their entry carefully.  There are three levels of engagement to consider:

    Listen    Respond   Initiate
    It’s important not to force your way in, initiating conversations that have not been requested. Start by listening to existing conversations and use this as another feed of data into your Voice of the Customer programme.  Social media scrapping, linked to text analytics, introduces the capability to categorise what is said and analyse the sentiment expressed, which enables you to listen more effectively to the chatter.

    Only when you are confident that you can respond in a timely and appropriate manner should you start attempting to respond via social media.  There are examples of companies doing it well – for example Virgin Media have “The Tweam” monitoring and responding to tweets. 

    Then and only then can you start thinking about initiating conversations with the community.

    That said, companies need to be careful not to rely too heavily on social media feedback when creating and maintaining relationships with their customers. Just because a small minority shout out loud about an issue or create a fuss about a ‘squeaky wheel’, it does not necessarily mean that their comments are representative of the majority. 

    Companies will need to confirm that the feedback they get via the social media channel makes sense for the whole business.  Otherwise they risk making poor, perhaps knee jerk responses to what they hear on Twitter and other media when it is not reflective of the entire customer base.

    Combining social media activities with a strategic customer feedback programme will help to create a more two-dimensional relationship that both parties can rely on:

    1. It makes feedback representative: People using Twitter to complain doesn’t tell you what your customers think. By sending out a survey to a representative sample of your customers you’ll develop a much clearer idea of what the impact of your decision will be. Use social media to find out which questions you should ask, but use the responses to those questions to give you real insight.
    2. It helps you to make the right decision at the right time: Social media might very well provide a live window into people’s thoughts but feedback needn’t be a slow process either. With online and mobile feedback platforms, it’s simple to create, launch and report back on a survey over a weekend if you need to, particularly if you have a loyal customer base who are happy to share their opinions. You can still make decisions fast, but you’ll be making them based on better data from the right people.
    3. It proves that you’re listening, not panicking: When you go back to your loyal customers to say “we’ve heard people say this, we’d like your opinion”, you demonstrate that you’re not only paying attention but that you genuinely want to understand their views. By reacting too quickly, purely in response to a media storm (social or otherwise), you risk looking like you’ve panicked and doubt your own decisions. Asking people for their opinions shows a more mature approach to customer-centricity.