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Corporate social responsibility at the sales coal face – no more only ‘what’s in it for me’

June 21, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Brand & Reputation, Ethics & Values, Sustainability & Environment

Imagine our organisations making people feel good because they bought from us; imagine people changing their behaviours for the better because  our organisations showed them how; imagine the kinds of conversations and messages that will happen in our businesses when our people see what their contribution is making to the lives of their customers and their teams.

This is not the stuff of fantasy this is now happening in real time with real people.

In late 2012 we published the detailed 49 page 12 Sales Trends Report for 2013 and released a brief summary of each sales trend in December 2012.  In it was the Sales Trend: – Corporate Social Responsibility at the sale coal face – no more only ‘what’s in it for me’.    Here is an extended overview.

peter-drucker-the-age-of-discontinuityWay back in 1953 Peter Drucker stated in his book The Age of Discontinuity: “The purpose of business is not to make profit but to satisfy the needs of customers. The consequence of satisfying these needs is incremental profit…”  

Somewhere along the way this message has been lost by many businesses in the pursuit of profit at any cost and now many are paying for the folly of their ways.

How? Well, costs in terms of lost customers and profits, erosion of consumer confidence and trust, tarnished brands and backlash by shareholders against excessive executive pays and lack of shareholder return.

The irony is often that businesses are at the service of shareholders and it is all about making money for them often at the expense of customers.  With public trust in business and governments in fast decline around the world something has to change; something has to be done to reconnect community with business and business with community in a manner that sees everyone benefiting from these associations, not just a few fat cats at the top of the tree.

For instance The Trust Barometer (government, business media, NGOs) 2012 Survey results shows:

‘ an overall decline in trust globally, with steep declines in the levels of trust in government and business. Government is now the least trusted institution–trailing business, media, and NGOs. Business experienced fewer and generally less severe declines in trust, but has its own hurdles to clear – notably that CEO credibility declined 38 percent, its biggest drop in Barometer history. For the fifth year in a row, NGOs are the most trusted institution. 

 Distrust is now growing, nearly twice as many countries are now Skeptics in 2012 than in 2011.  Several mature markets see double digit drop in business trust for instance while Technology remains on top a most trusted the Finance sector including banks are going backwards at a fast rate.  There has been an around the world decline in trust in banks with the majority of countries now distrusting governments.

And with that the credibility of CEO’s and Government officials has plummeted. Government officials less trusted to tell the truth than business leaders and sadly ,but not unexpected   businesses and governments are not meeting public’s expectations’

money-bag-fullSo it is not surprising that one of the leading sales trends for 2013 is the shift away from the generally accepted corporate view that everything is about money and profits with a greater emphasis being placed on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), especially at the sales/buyer coal face.  What does this really mean for business?  Well for one thing those companies that practice genuine CSR find it is indeed very good for business on many levels: profitability, employee retention, brand loyalty, new collaborations and partnerships, innovations and respect. Articulating and really delivering on CSR will require sales teams to take a whole new approach to market, reposition what they have to offer, rethink how they engage with their clients and how they measure success.

Despite the business naysayers who dismiss things like the environment/planet and community as being relevant to, the good news is…

Practicing Corporate Social Responsibility  is good for business and profits

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever set the scene for CSR back in 2009 placing corporate social responsibility and values-based management at the centre of his vision and strategy for the future of the business and the consumer goods industry.  So important is CSR to Unilever’s future success that every employee’s business card around the world has the title ‘Head of Sustainability’ stamped on it – even the shop floor workers. The Sustainable Living Section of their website shows you how open, transparent and accountable they are making themselves with CSR.  Their three main pillars driving Unilever’s CSR are:

  1. Improving Health and Wellbeing: By 2020 we will help more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being.
  2. Reducing Environmental Impact: By 2020 our goal is to halve the environmental footprint of the making and use of our products as we grow our business.*
  3. Enhancing Livelihoods: By 2020 we will enhance the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people as we grow our business.

CSR is seriously good business.

Those companies who are implementing CSR are finding it is very good for their brand(s) driving up customer loyalty at a time when there is so much more competition around fighting for the hearts and minds of consumers, customers and employees.

No longer is business going to be about Share of Wallet (SOW), smart companies know that is it is about Share of Mind (SOM) and CSR is about SOM.

So how does CSR impact sustainable selling?

Corporate social responsibilitySelling needs to become sustainable. Sustainable Selling is not a fixed state of harmony but rather an evolving process in which the application of sales resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are balanced with future as well as present needs.   It’s about rethinking and reframing ‘growth’ and rethinking sales and incorporating the “sustainable selling” thinking into sales training, sales consulting and coaching (sales coaching) and more importantly, sales strategy.

With the CSR agenda comes Sustainable Selling.  More and more questions are being asked by many about how we can best manage business relationships now and for future generations.   More and more the sales and business conversations are revolving around managing value rather than only managing cost.

Many individuals are deeply concerned about our planet being in crisis of food and water security,  health and wellbeing, safety and achieving world peace as well as environmental destruction yet many feel overwhelmed about their inability to make any significant difference.  ‘What can I do? I am only one person’ they say.  But if the organisation they buy from or work for says ‘We can do something and here’s how you can help’ then individuals will feel empowered to making a difference.  Every little bit counts and we all feel good when we contribute.

So imagine our organisations making people feel good because they brought from us; imagine people changing their behaviours for the better because  our organisations showed them how; imagine the kinds of conversations and messages that will happen in our businesses when our people see what their contribution is making to the lives of their customers and their teams.


So what’s your CSR opportunity?


If you would like to you can purchase and download the full report on this trend and the detailed 49 page report of the 12 Sales Trends for 2013 now to get the full see which sales trends will have the greatest impact on your sales optimisation efforts in 2013.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert  sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. Her business Barrett P/L partners with its clients to improve their sales operations.  Visit www.barrett.com.au

Seeing with New Eyes

April 5, 2012 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Collaboration, Ethics & Values, Sustainability & Environment, Teamwork, Uncategorized

Joel Barker, a Futurist, has been a favourite thinker of mine for many years. His way of seeing the world with new eyes, his openness to possibility has inspired me to dream and explore the world. In times of unprecedented change we can be forgiven for feeling scared or worried. We can find ourselves looking backwards at the ‘good ‘ol days’ instead of forwards. We can feel closed to opportunity instead of seeing new possibilities as liberating.

Futurist painter Felix del Marle: Looping 1914

Rather than dwell on the past and become nostalgic I propose we breathe deeply and take a look into the future to see what is possible. As Marcel Proust once said “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

Therefore over this holiday weekend I would like to share with you Joel Barker’s ‘The Star Thrower Story’.

Joel writes that this story was inspired by the writing of Loren Eiseley. He goes on to say that Eiseley was a very special person because he combined the best of two cultures. He was a scientist and a poet. And from those two perspectives he wrote insightfully and beautifully about the world and our role in it.

“Once upon a time, there was a wise man, much like Eiseley himself, who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn’t dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer, he called out, “Good morning! What are you doing?”

The young man paused, looked up and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I guess I should have asked, Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

“The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.”

“But young man, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can’t possibly make a difference!”

make a difference

making a difference

The young man listened politely. Then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves. “It made a difference for that one!”

His response surprised the man. He was upset. He didn’t know how to reply. So instead, he turned away and walked back to the cottage to begin his writings.

All day long as he wrote, the image of the young man haunted him. He tried to ignore it, but the vision persisted. Finally, late in the afternoon he realized that he the scientist, he the poet, had missed out on the essential nature of the young man’s actions. Because he realized that what the young man was doing was choosing not to be an observer in the universe and make a difference. He was embarrassed.

That night he went to bed troubled. When the morning came he awoke knowing that he had to do something. So he got up, put on his clothes, went to the beach and found the young man. And with him he spent the rest of the morning throwing starfish into the ocean. You see, what that young man’s actions represent is something that is special in each and everyone of us. We have all been gifted with the ability to make a difference. And if we can, like that young man, become aware of that gift, we gain through the strength of our vision the power to shape the future.’

In times when changes rife and you don’t feel you can contribute effectively, remember that every small action makes a difference to yours and our collective future.

And in Joel Barkers’ words: ‘And that is your challenge. And that is my challenge. We must each find our starfish. And if we throw our stars wisely and well, I have no question that the 21st century is going to be a wonderful place.’

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

Success is a moving platform

May 22, 2009 in Brand & Reputation, Business Acumen, Competition, Complex Selling & Transactional Selling, Sales Consulting, Sales Culture, Sales Driven Organisations, Sales Excellence Acadamy, Sales Leadership, Sales Pioneer, Sales Relationships, Sales Strategy, Sales Training, Strategy, Sustainability & Environment, Vision, Mission & Purpose

Do you have the wrong sales team delivering your sales strategy?

Ask yourself the follow the questions:

  • How has your strategy and /or market place changed recently?
  • How have you seen the role of ‘sales’ change over the last few years in your industry?
  • How do your sales people compare to your competitors?
  • How do your sales people need to sell now?
  • How is your product offering behaving in the market place now? Was it once exclusive and now a commodity?

The definition of a ‘good’ salesperson is driven by many possible needs. Those needs are a function of industry standards, changing market conditions, competition, corporate strategy and culture, personalities, past experiences, just to name a few.

In addition, many organisations overlook the shift in their products or services from being customised and exclusive to a commoditised entity and the impact this has on their sales force and sales efforts.

So it’s not just how your sales people behave that can affect sales, it’s also how your product or service behaves.

Let’s take a look at computers

For many years (in the late 1980s and early 1990s) computers were highly priced, exclusive products sold by highly priced, exclusive sales people. These sales people were specialists, experts or advisors selling into the big end of town because these were the only businesses who could afford computers back then.

However, as:

  • the cost to manufacture these products decreased making them more accessible and cheaper to buy, and
  • customers education, knowledge, awareness and experience with these products and processes increased

The style of the sales people required to sell computers changed.

Now you can go to small or large retail outlets and buy a computer off-the-shelf from retail sales people (most of who are paid much less than their highly priced, exclusive predecessors). Or easier still, you can buy custom built computers online at Dell, thus eliminating the traditional type of computer sales person all together.

Daniel Pink wrote, amongst other things, about the commodisation of products and services in A Whole New Mind and specifically how we need to look at creating value beyond product.

This is why more thought needs to be given to how a business translates its sales strategy into sales action. You need to make sure the current products and style of sales people you have are matched accordingly.

If customer’s product or service education level changes (i.e. they become more sophisticated), and there is change to the product and access (i.e. online), there will be a change in your sales force requirements.

However, some products which can behave as commodities in their own right can become part of a complex sales solution and need sales people who are specialists, experts or advisors.

Let’s look at Business Banking

Business Banking is really an essential service for any business, however the products on offer are often standard and commoditised in their own right.

So what is a business banking customer wanting from a Business Bank?

It depends on the relationship.

Current research indicates that many want ‘ease of doing business’ and ‘value for money’. The research also shows that many customers are not as sophisticated and savvy in knowing the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of Business Banking and therefore many would like to rely upon the expertise, advice and support from their business banker.

However, many Business Banking providers have not developed, trained or supported their Business Bankers to be specialists, experts or advisors. Most customers still go to their accountant for that advice and then use Business Banking products rather than extracting the possible value from their Business Banker.

As with Business Banking, there is often a great opportunity to capitalise on the potential long-term, in-depth customer-supplier relationships even if you have a range of commodity products.

I suspect many opportunities for further profitable sales sit untapped in many businesses because misalignment with strategy, product and sales people fit.

Knowing your market, where your products sits in isolation and in combination, and the types of sales people you need to have to deliver your strategy is critical.

So as you prepare for the next Financial Year you may want to review the sales force you currently have and see if they will stand up and deliver what your business needs in FY 09/10.

I will talk about this next time in “Creating your ‘Ideal’ sales team”.

Sincerely, your advocate for selling the right way.

Sustainability – the new criteria

May 8, 2008 in Brand & Reputation, Ethics & Values, Sales Strategy, Sustainability & Environment, Value Proposition & Value Add

What is your position on SUSTAINABILITY?

What community improvement activities is your company involved with?

These are questions, among many others, that my team and I are responding to for a Request For Proposal (RFP) document for a sales training project with a large Australian Corporation. This is the first time we have been asked to respond to these questions in a formal manner and legitimise our position on ‘sustainability’. As sales people and as business owners, not only are we being asked to legitimise our product offering, our service standards, etc. we are now required to articulate our stand on ‘sustainability’.

How many of us could articulate our approach to sustainability into a pithy, meaningful, realistic, workable statement and strategy that incorporates the many areas that affect our ‘sustainability’?

This RFP raised questions for our team:

  • ‘What is meant by sustainability?’
  • ‘What do we mean by sustainability?’
  • ‘What do we say when someone asks us to explain our position on sustainability?’

The ‘Green’ agenda has be successfully linked to the term ‘sustainability’ for over 10 years now, however, ‘sustainability’ can and does mean so much more. We knew we needed to make visible our approach to sustainability even though on reflection we were all, consciously or not, working to be sustainable. Here are some of the areas we raised to include in our ‘sustainability’ strategy and statement:

  • Vision & Values
  • Culture
  • People
  • Expertise & Process
  • Service & Delivery standards
  • Innovation, Research and Development
  • Business Viability
  • Environment
  • Community
  • Corporate Governance

In researching this topic to help our business to articulate our approach to sustainability I also came across a great resource from Swinburne University which I thought you might like to review as well: Sustainability Strategy

Here is an excerpt from their document on:

Developing a Sustainability Strategy
A ten-point guide for small to medium sized businesses

Business sustainability is becoming increasingly important for managers in the modern economy. Put simply, business sustainability can be described as a holistic continuous improvement process that includes the sound management of people and the environment. Business sustainability makes good business sense because the benefits feed directly back into the bottom line. But where do we start as small-medium sized businesses?

Rather then being just ‘another thing to do’, business sustainability is an over arching concept that involves doing everything better and more efficiently. True sustainability must be integrated into all operations of business – from policy and management through to on-ground activities such as purchasing, production and distribution. While sustainability needs to be driven from the top, it’s not just the job of a single staff member or department – it involves everyone! Sustainability is often approached in an ad-hoc way. For example, you may have a couple of standalone initiatives in your work place that are not linked to any broad strategic objectives of the business. This is a good start, but a coordinated process requires the development of a sustainability strategy that is strongly aligned to the business plan.

My advice is to make sure everyone in your business knows where you all stand on sustainability. Besides all the benefits it brings for everyone in your business to know and live your sustainability agenda you now need it to be evaluated and considered as a valid business partner so you are in a position to win business in the sales world.

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