Ep 45: How Product Mix Adds Sales Complexity

BuzzSprout Audio

“You could be the best apply stand in town. People could come to you because you’ve got the best apples in the world, and you’ve got this tremendous business. And then, a customer comes to you and says “I like some oranges.” and then, for whatever reason, you say “alright, I can do that, I can do some oranges. And then you do that, and all of a sudden, what happens? Now you’re just another fruit stand.” – Taylor Barnes



Josh Sweeney: Hi, I’m Josh Sweeney, joined by my co-host Taylor Barnes. Taylor Barnes, how are you today?

Taylor Barnes: Man, I’m doing well.

Challenge Illustration

Taylor Barnes: I’m excited to talk about this topic today because I come into contact with so many organizations that have got so many great things going on but one of them does not relate to the other, that doesn’t relate to the other, and, all of a sudden, you’ve got 25 different offerings that you cannot relate to each other and it’s a total disaster. So, I want to talk a little bit about aligning those today.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, I feel like this happens all the time. You know, I talked to other founders and they got that new idea, something a customer asked them for, and it’s just like, “That doesn’t seem like it’s a fit,” you know? And they justify it and they want to go into it and it’s exciting because somebody asked them, so, you know, the leader challenge is really it’s hard to sell multiple services that are not directly aligned. And so, we’re going to talk a little bit about what does that mean? What are those types of services? So, what are some of the reasons this happens? Why do people end up with services that aren’t aligned?


Challenge Follow up ( I too have been through this… )

Taylor Barnes: Yeah. An analogy I like to use here, I couldn’t tell you where I heard it all those years ago, but you could be the best apple stand in town, right? People could come to you because you’ve got the best apples in the world and you’ve got this tremendous business and then a customer comes to you and says, “You know what, I’d really like some oranges,” and then, for whatever reason, you say, “All right, all right. No, I can do that. I can do some oranges,” and then you do that and all of a sudden, what happens? Now you’re just another fruit stand, right? So, what do you have to do in order to stay focused kind of has a lot to do with it and — but, basically, I think what happens, Josh Sweeney, is that these teams get a new idea for a service that kind of aligns, kind of like in that apple example, “Well, they’re both fruits so I guess I could probably do it,” but it doesn’t necessarily align the way that they think. It just kind of sort of aligns with what they do. So, I think one of the reasons that they get into this situation is because they try to justify it or they try to manipulate the fact that it sort of aligns with what they’re doing already so you might as well get into it and there you go.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah. I mean, that’s a great analogy because on all fronts, right, if you’re not used to running a business or a sales team or anything, you would say, “Well, adding oranges is pretty simple,” right? It’s a fruit stand or it’s an apple stand, they add oranges, that’s totally aligned, I can justify that. All of a sudden, it’s like, well, actually not. You just doubled the amount of work because the oranges come from a different vendor. The oranges go bad at a different rate. The oranges are weighed differently and have different pricing in the market and there’s all these things you now have to keep up with where you just thought you were selling fruit and it’s like, “Wait a second, this just — this got twice as complicated, three times more complicated now because I carry this one extra thing that was kind of aligned” —

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: — and I think I see people justify it all the time, right? It’s kind of aligned, but they don’t think, “Well, what is actually all different about it?” Well, that one alignment is the one thing that’s the same but the 20 other things are totally different.


The leaders challenge/purpose

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, exactly. That’s a really good analogy that you just brought. People don’t think that, you know, if they add a service, they think, “Okay, well, the customer might buy that as a compliment.” That’s why they do it. “I’m already doing this, I’m sure that I could do this too.” But what they don’t think is the effect of the backend. They don’t think, as you just mentioned very well, that there comes the different vendor, it comes from a different average failure rate or goes bad rate in the fruit business or whatever. So, they don’t really think of all the things that are all the way through that and the management of all those things when you add a different service could be daunting at the end of the day for your delivery team, specifically. But another reason you mentioned that the customer requests it. I get it, we’re in the customer service business. We want to be able to align our offerings to what our customer needs. But that’s a slippery slope. I think a lot of the reasons that people do it is because, “Hey, it looks profitable so let’s get into it. It could make money.” And just that fact alone, Josh Sweeney, “it could make money,” takes people down a road that they have no business necessarily being down and, again, money mixed with the “kind of” aligns I think is a big reason why leaders find themselves in those predicaments.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, definitely. I mean, the customer request is a big one because, you know, what will happen is you hear it from one or two or three customers, you’re like, “Oh, there’s a trend. We ought to look into that,” and depending on the size of the business and the style of business, a lot of people jump into it way too quickly —

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: — right? They’re all of a sudden, “Let’s flesh this out. Let’s start pitching it,” and then all of a sudden you have to deliver one of these that you’ve never delivered before —

Taylor Barnes: Right.

Josh Sweeney: — and everything’s off the rails when you could have just been consistently delivering the other things that you had and be known for one thing, like apples, right?

Taylor Barnes: Right.

Josh Sweeney: But, yeah, the customer requests, I think, are those shiny objects that pull you off course and, you know, sometimes you need to validate and look at them but timing matters, how much effort goes into it matters, there’s all kinds of ways to try to offset that and do some customer discovery besides just jumping right into something you saw requested a few times.

Taylor Barnes: Absolutely. And if you’ve got the luxury of flying the plane as you’re building it, well, okay, then maybe you want to assume some of the risk associated with this. If you’ve got bandwidth to do things like learn from pain or go pilot a potential service offering with the expectation of “Can I do it?” versus “Am I making money on this transaction?” well, you might be in a good position to give it a try. This isn’t designed to be sales prevention, but it is designed to remind our sales leaders out there, look, guys, you have to be able to hold the line and stay disciplined enough to the fact that if you want to add ancillary services or add value-added services or products or whatever kind of business you’re in on top of your core, then you have to make sure that it aligns close enough and it’s not going to just unhook the way that you already go about your businesses, where you buy something, your supply, your lead time, your customer service stuff. I mean, it’s got to fit in probably what I would call, I think, “workflow,” Josh Sweeney, is maybe the right word here.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah.

Taylor Barnes: If it fits within a similar or a very close to similar workflow, then it’s probably going to be a lot easier for you to deliver on. So, people just tend not to look at that, right? They tend to see, as you mentioned, the shiny new object but they forget that the problem, it’s hard to support the effort, the sales content that has to come along with it. They don’t look at all this spider web responsibilities and tasks that come along with it.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, definitely. The delivery piece, I think, is a big one that gets missed, right? You want to sell that new shiny object and it’s like, “Wait, that’s delivered completely differently —

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: — than anything else we have.” They’re like, “Well, you know, maybe it’s a little bit similar.” Like, a little bit is still 90 percent different.

Taylor Barnes: Exactly.

Josh Sweeney: You know? And that’s where all the problems are gonna lie.

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, just because you got some slightly different sales vernacular, trust me, there’s a whole bigger problem associated with that. It is probably more different, especially on the sales side, more different than you think. And one thing that I know you walk into businesses a lot, Josh Sweeney, and see this all the time because you ask a lot of good questions about if you’re doing that and you’re doing that, why are you doing one or the other? How are you going to market? What’s your support look like? So, when it comes to the solutions, one of the things that I think you probably would agree with is looking at the different department heads and figuring out the alignment between those two. I feel like that’s a pretty standard part of what you end up unpacking and discovering when you go into organizations to talk.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, definitely. I mean, if you’re looking at sales and marketing alignment and sales and marketing operations, how does all of this stuff fit together? You have this idea but it’s like, okay, well, now I need to go to marketing. Well, what is it going to take to market this new idea? Oh, well, that’s a whole another list of ads and target audiences and names and data and it piles on and then, you know, you go to the sales team, you’re like, what does it take you to deliver it? Oh, well, we haven’t talked about the pitch, we haven’t talked about, you know, what challenges we’re going to overcome while we’re trying to sell it and what rebuttals we’re going to get on this product. Then the same thing with the delivery team and the service team. It’s like it’s the same problem over and over and it’s like, well, that shiny object looked really good when we had three people asking for it but that’s a lot of work to go do to —

Taylor Barnes: Absolutely.

Josh Sweeney: — try and sell potentially three people. And we all know, like a lot of people ask for things but then when they hear the dollar amount, you know, what it’ll cost to deliver it or when the rubber meets the road, you know, they don’t buy.

Taylor Barnes: Right, there you go.

Josh Sweeney: You did all this work and you launched all this and maybe they weren’t ready yet, you know? It wasn’t a good fit.

Taylor Barnes: Right.

Josh Sweeney: So, yeah, the solution is, like you said, vet the alignment with multiple departments.

Taylor Barnes: Right, and to your point, they’re not ready for it yet. They’re not the right customer for that. I mean, let’s remember, we’re here to the point where we have technically found our ICP, our ideal customer profile. So we’re in the middle, you know, back to that example of the apples, we’ve got the consumers that like the apples, right? And they’re buying and they’re buying and they’re buying and maybe we add a product and, all of a sudden, our customer base goes from ten to four because six people don’t like oranges. Well, we’ve just lost possibly some customers. So, one of the solutions that we have to continuously look at here when we want to align our service offerings is if I add this solution offering, does it still maintain my ideal customer profile? Or if I add this, does that all of a sudden switch? And if it does maintain the ideal customer profile, the people that you want to go after because they fit your mold the most, well, then perhaps it’s a great expansion to consider. Now, granted, we also have to look at all the backend that we just talked about, but if it fits in the same ideal customer profile as you’re adding service and aligning these services, that’s one of the solutions that I think you have to look at.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, definitely. I mean, if you’re adding another solution that you want to sell and it is the same ICP, right? It’s the same size company in the same industry and you’re selling to the same people with the same titles as everything else your brand already speaks to, then there’s a high level of alignment, at least for the marketing organization to get in front of those people. And your salespeople are already used to talking to those. Where it starts to skew where we talked about it kind of aligns is like everything lines up but it’s a different title. It’s a different department. “Oh, we’re used to selling in that industry so we know that we can sell that.” I’m like, yeah, but that’s a completely different department and you have no relationships in any of those departments. It’s a different title with different problems. So, okay, it closely aligns. You know, the worst one is getting totally off where it’s like, you know, the product actually is for a different size company, different title, different industry, and there’s no alignment, right?

Taylor Barnes: Right.



Josh Sweeney: Solution is, is it the same ideal customer profile? And the closer it is, the more aligned it actually is going to be.

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, for sure. And let’s just say, for example, here that adding a service offering checks all the boxes, okay? So we’re checking all the boxes and that’s great from a sales, from a messaging, from a vision point of view, adding this service or adding this product or what have you, still aligns with what we’re trying to accomplish as an organization. Great. So, now, one of the solutions that you’ve got to look into, let’s find a bridge. Let’s find a bridge, interdepartmental bridge, where the support, the marketing efforts, the sales content, the delivery, the program versus the projects, whatever the interdepartmental cooperation is going to be needing to support this, find a bridge, add a workflow process, make sure that when it comes in, if you end up actually converting to a sale of one of these new ancillary services, where the swim lane comes down into operations into transition. Find a bridge. Find a bridge to be able to link those two departments so that it’s not going to be a disaster during delivery and then you’re kind of off and running.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, definitely. I mean, if you can make sure everybody’s linked together before that happens, it’s definitely going to be more beneficial. You’re gonna run into less issues, everything else. And —

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: — I think the last solution we have is, I like to look, you know, when someone’s asking for something, does one thing open the door to another? So, if I’m in a sales cycle and I’m giving a presentation and then somebody goes, “Oh, well, do you also offer…?” right? And it’s aligned and all the time somebody is saying, “Oh, do you also offer…?” and it’s very tightly aligned, it’s a good indicator of something to look at —

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: — and because at least that same person you’re already selling to is also thinking about this —

Taylor Barnes: Right.

Josh Sweeney: — you know? So that’s another solution is, is it a door opener to another product? And how closely, again, is it aligned?

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, it’s a great call to look at. So, I guess what we’re getting at, guys and girls, is when you add a service offering that you need to align to another or if you’ve already got them in place and you’re trying to align them a little bit more and productize it potentially as a bundle, as you continue to add and align, what kind of door could this open? Is the answer to that it opens no doors and it’s just really a value-add? Okay, well, that’s one thing, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you have to manage to that. But if you, and I like to think of this in our industry as kind of like if we offer low voltage stuff, I don’t want to get overly technical here, but low voltage is basically, we’ll just say stuff, yeah, now, okay, well, pretty much every piece of network electronic equipment that you find out there in facilities and stores could classify as low voltage. Cabling could classify as low voltage. Demarc extensions, again, yada, yada, yada, and it’s just one of those things where if it opens the door to the next, okay, but be aware, be prepared, because if you add something to it, that really could create a domino effect and it’s one of those things, Josh Sweeney, if you get into a business where your competitors are doing the full gamut and you open a service offering that might only include a little bit of that gamut because it kind of relates, you just have to think about all those different things when you’re going in and trying to align because it could confuse your customer. It could confuse your customer if you say, in that example, “No, I do low voltage but only Cat 5 cabling. That’s it, I can’t do anything else.” It’s like, well, then you don’t do low voltage, you know what I mean?

Josh Sweeney: Right.

Taylor Barnes: And so you have to think about it in the terms of if you’re going to go in, hey, you might have to go all in. And if you’re not going to go all in, what does that look like? How do you bundle it accordingly to make sure that as you’re aligning it, you’re not going to confuse your customers as well?

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, most definitely.


Final Question

Josh Sweeney: So, I think that leaves us with the final question for our sales leaders out there: What are you doing to ensure that your products are aligned and that one door opens the next?

Taylor Barnes: And this has been Purpose-Driven Sales with Barnes and Sweeney. Now, go lead on purpose.

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