LAS VEGAS -- "The biggest problem in business today is execution we talk but we don't do," said Sam Geist, author of "Execute or Be Executed: 18 Ways to Move Strategic Thinking to Strategic Doing," during the keynote speech kicking of Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week 2013.
The business model we grew up with has changed, Geist told a crowd at The Mirage convention center. Technology has changed the business, with customers able to go online to research any product or service they want to buy and that may be through the official product website, but also through social media, online reviews, and bloggers who are paid to write about a company's offerings. Search for "truck lights" on Google and you'll end up with more than 11 million search results.
When anyone can find a cheap part on the Internet, having low prices becomes a less than persuasive selling tool.
"When you use price to drive your business, you become a commodity," Geist said. "You become a commodity, you're history. There's always a lower price.
"When you take price off the table, what do you have left? Why should someone do business with you rather than someone else?"<!break>
Geist said businesses need to ask themselves: What is your differentiation? What makes you different? What do you stand for? Have you exploited that difference?
"What have you done for your client base to provide the how-to, the why, before they ask you?" Geist asked. "If they ask you, that means your competitors have knocked on their door."
Customers, he said, are constantly raising the bar, wanting more for less, no matter what the type of business.
It doesn't matter how many good ideas you come up with to address those customers' needs if you can't follow through. A brand, he said, is a promise are you delivering on your promise?
As an example, he cited a park near his home where Pedigree dog food had a dispenser for dog poop baggies. Great idea. But it is rarely kept filled. Bad execution.
"There is a disconnect between knowing and doing, between idea and what we do with that idea," Geist said. "We say, 'Buy my product, buy my service, but when you don't deliver on your promise, that has a direct effect on the buying decisions that's going to happen later on."
Another disconnect he discussed was the difference in opinions between businesses and customers of why customers leave. A CustomerThink2010 survey found that 72% of customers said they left because of poor service. Yet only 23% of the companies said that was why customers leave. Conversely, only 25% of customers said they left because of price, while closer to 50% of the businesses thought price was the stumbling block.
In the end, he said, "it boils down to creating value by delivering results. If you want to sell more, you have to give more." And that comes down to your people. "Every company's brand is nothing more than the sum total of the actions its people take."
Of course, that's all easier said than done.
"Changing is tough. Not changing is terminal," Geist said, pointing to once-powerful companies such as Blackberry, Kodak, Sears, Sony, Panasonic and Sharp.
"We have to learn to let go of yesterday. And that's one of the toughest things in business today."