"Leader, You Don’t Have to Go It Alone!"

When I asked CEO’s and business leaders where they turn when they face a problem in their business I heard two common answers and one that disturbed me. The common answers were;

  • I call someone in my network
  • I talk to my spouse

However the answer that also bubbled to the top frequently was;

  • nowhere,… that is what I am paid to do, solve problems so I figure it out
  • 

The third response disturbed me… when did business leaders decide they need to go it alone? When was it decided we need to have all the answers? I tell my clients in fact I do not have all the answers,… but I do , based on my experience know what questions to ask.

So let me get this straight….

  • if you want to improve your golf  game you have no problem hiring a pro for a few lessons
  • If you want to get fit you join a gym and hire a personal trainer
  • If you sprain your back you see a doctor ,enter a rehab program with a physical therapist to get you back in shape and out of pain

But if your business has a problem…you feel you must go it alone based on your gut?

Market leaders have the emotional intelligence to know what they know as well as what they do not know. They seek help from experts that complement their gifts and realize faster and much more profitable growth.

So where do you turn when your business needs help? Why?

“Leader, You Don’t Have to Go It Alone!”

Leaders, Help your Team Bust Through Sales Roadblocks by Becoming a “Reductionist”

 

 

I don’t care what business you are in or plan to launch there will be unforeseen roadblocks. There is a direct correlation to the effectiveness and thoroughness of your marketing prior to launch and the number of roadblocks your team will face after launch. If you intimately understand your market prior to launch your roadblocks will be few and often easy to overcome. If you launched on brash Hubris and gut…well get ready for a number of roadblocks and possible detours. While your team is plowing ahead, you as the leader can add the most value by becoming a “Reductionist”.

So you have launched your new product or service and your team is marching, attempting to execute the strategic plan and yet they keep facing roadblocks, unforeseen obstacles that are inhibiting sales. As the leader you have the ability to see, from 45,000 feet what is occurring and help shape and even change the plan. You see roadblocks that may feel unique to one salesman across your entire team and you can prioritize them based on impact to your bottom line.

I had a wise mentor named Hugh tell me once…” ya know Mark there are three kinds of information; Good, Bad, and none, leaders understand the difference and quickly gather what they need to make decisions that have the most impact” In one of my very first posts, I put it another way as well;

Market Leaders Know what they know and they know what they don’t know.”

One of the steps in my last post about trying to “manage fruit ripe” was; “Help your team identify common roadblocks and help create sales tools to help them break through them.” I am a big advocate of focusing on your gifts as apposed to your personal short comings. Too much time is wasted trying to make people gifted at selling also become “strategic market planners”. Luckily entrepreneurs by nature are gifted at creative problem solving so use your gift to help your team.

I often hear entrepreneurial leaders comment in frustration…” why can’t Bill see that the real road block is……and not …..?” Here’s why…

Your salesman Bill is focused on goal achievement (what you pay him to do). To Bill his market is defined by his last sales call. You however have the ability to review data from all your salespeople, customers, non customers, and potential customers to better shape a strategy that will add value to your bottom line.

You must look at the current sales process and seek out roadblocks, places where the process of the sale stalls, or what I often call…” goes dark”.

 Once you identify these common stalls or sale loss points you must prioritize them and build sales tools to help your team keep the sales conversation flowing. This will do two things at a minimum;

First, it will improve your inquiry to lead to sale ratio.

Second, by understanding how your buyers buy and providing them the perfect tool at the perfect time, you show you know them.

Buyers like to buy from people who listen and understand their problems.

Help your sales team break through the common roadblocks and you are on your way to improved results and overall morale.

If you chose to instead say things like;

 You need to overcome that objection

Or

“I can’t believe you could not sell through that…”

Or every salesperson’s favorite…

I don’t pay you to bring me problems I pay you to bring me orders…just make it happen”

If this is your leadership, then you are not positioning your team or your company to be the dominant leader in your market.

Find out quickly what you know and gather what you need to know.

Take that information and boil it down, become a reductionist for your team.

Create strategies and tactics based on market truth.

Constantly assess, test, and modify until you consistently overcome the roadblocks in the way of achieving your sales objectives.

So how about your organization…does you have leaders good at being reductionists?

“Pushing Mud Uphill” …Launching a New Product or Service Without Four Clear “Yes’s”

launch new products like pushing mud uphill

One of the most exciting things you can do in business is launch a new product, service, or entire business for that matter. As high as six out of ten US adult consumers are thinking about launching a business at any given time. If you chose to take the leap yourself, you will experience what I refer to as the “50 ugly truths…” but in so doing you will become stronger, and if you survive you will ultimately help people solve problems.

I can’t imagine anything more rewarding than helping someone solve a problem they thought there was no solution for. If this is true, then why do over 70% of new products (businesses) fail?

They fail because they failed to answer “yes” to four simple but key questions.

Question 1

Do you clearly understand the problem you are trying to solve and does your product (service) solve that problem completely? (if you have already said “no” stop, gather more data)

Question 2

Are there enough people, a market of people, with this problem to meet your desired ROA? ( if your answer is “I think so” stop and validate)

Question 3

Do the members of the market you validated as big enough have the ability to pay to solve their problem? (there are all kinds of problems we all have, but we are not willing to pay to fix)

Question 4

Are the members of the market you validated that is big enough, with the problem you solve, and ability to pay, “willing” to pay now? (there are many problems we have, and we have the ability to pay for, but not the willingness to pay for)

If you answered “Yes” with current market data (not data from three years ago when you first came up with this idea) go for it!

But remember; An Idea is not a product and it’s definitely not a Business.

Where most entrepreneurs blow it …as Jim Collins refers to it is; Hubris. They believe because they have launched products in the past and they were very successful they trust their gut and intuition that there new endeavor will also be a huge success.


So what happens if you launch based on emotion and Hubris?….

Your sales may come, but slowly

You will miss ROA targets

Need to add investment, instead of cutting bait

Your sales team (who trusted you) will push mud uphill each day…the good ones will leave due to frustration

You strain your entire organization (who is probably already multi tasking) morale suffers

You demonstrate to your market you do not know them

Personally you will become frustrated, aggravated, distracted, and you will loose focus

How can I rattle the above off so quickly?…Because I have done it. I have experienced the rush of growing companies by launching new products and or new divisions and when I find what feels like a huge unsolved problem in a market ….I get excited (emotional).

Instead of gathering current market date, I used to move into; validate my gut mode.

Instead of admitting what I did not know… and finding answers…I relied on past experiences to get me through the unforeseen roadblocks.

I have felt the emotion that builds, and heard that little voice in your head that says; “I don’t care what engineering, marketing, operations, and sales thinks we should do, or the more information they want to gather…we need to launch before someone else beats us to market”

What I lacked back then was a filter…simple filter that quickly cuts through the emotions and feelings and quickly lets you know if you have an “idea” or a “business”. The above four questions are the filter I recommend everyone use PRIOR to launching your new product, service, or business.

How about your company….

Have you ever had to push mud uphill?

While your team loyally pushes mud uphill, what is the opportunity cost of their time?

Do you have other questions to add to the filter to insure the products you launch do not fall into the 70% of those that are an expense without a ROA?

Again, having launched products, services, even new businesses in my career I understand that inner rush of adrenaline that makes your creative juices fire on all cylinders…I do. Maybe it’s an age thing…but I now highly recommend a pause, a strategic pause, before you launch and ask yourself the above questions.

To insure you maximize your percent of wins and your ROA for new products, make sure you use a filter, get the four “yes’s” prior to launch.

If you do not use mine above, I have also used the economic value added model back in the day. This model helps insure decisions are not made of Hubris.

Whatever you do, do not rely just on your gut, and or your key accounts, friends, and family members saying “go for it”.

If you would like to read more about this topic, I recommend you read;

Tuned In

How the Mighty Fall

Delivering Happiness

Delivering Happiness; Enterprise Rental Cars Knows it’s About Doing a Number of Little Things, Consistently Well

 

 

Delivering happiness to your internal and external customers is not about just doing one big thing very well. Market leaders understand delivering happiness is about intimately understanding your customers and your market and consistently doing a number of little things exceptionally well.

Delivering happiness is the “golden rule” in action.

 

This week my work brought me to Chicago. As I discussed in a previous post about the buying experience as a differentiator , my preferred rental car company is Enterprise Rental Cars because of the amazing expertise I had at their Denver location.

I arrived at the Chicago airport, retrieved my checked bags and I was off to the rental car shuttle bus location. When I arrived I was happy to find the Enterprise bus waiting and I quickly boarded. The driver helped me with my bags and provided me a map to help me return the rental car when my trip was over. Another bus arrived and we were quickly off to the rental car parking lot. On the trip the driver (just like Denver) said “we will be arriving at your car in approximately 12 minutes”. As we drove the driver offered to provide us directions if we needed them. The driver radioed “we have two customers approaching and we are two minutes out”…great, I wonder if they will greet us when the van rolls up like Denver?

Sure enough, we were greeted by professionally dressed associates waiting for us. They introduced themselves and invited us inside. As I made my way to the counter, I was offered a cold water to drink. (How did she know I was so thirsty)? We quickly started on the paperwork and she asked how my flight was. Interesting, this is when Dollar or Hertz is typically trying to sell me a GPS rental or insurance, and she seemed to genuinely want to know about my day…

The reservation was pulled up quickly and she led me outside to pick out my car. I chose a small Kia and she walked around the car with her clipboard inspecting the car for damages with me. Again, how nice as this is my job with other companies and it never seems to fail I miss something. She asks about gasoline and insurance packages, but in a way as if she was concerned about my overall service experience and not like she was receiving a sales spiff like I have experienced with Thrifty and other rental car companies. Again she asked if I needed directions and she drew on my map the route to my hotel. She too offered me a map for returning the rental car and circled the directions I would use based on the location of my hotel in Shamburg. She quickly handed me my paperwork and said; “you will need to show this paperwork and your drivers license to the guard at the gate when you leave”. How did she know? How did she know one of my (many) travel pet peeves is if you need to see my drivers license again when I leave your lot, tell me. Don’t wait until I am in the driver’s seat, seat belt fastened and now having to retrieve my wallet and license again. Awesome, it’s like they shadowed me for the past 26 years of traveling and know each of my needs.

Another smaller irritant if you will is finding a radio station I like. Not a big deal mind you, but I often find myself trying to find a station , as I am driving at night in a strange place, trying to follow my Google Maps directions while keeping my eyes out for the right exit signs. When I sit behind the wheel of my Enterprise Rental car I look up and there, hanging from the rear view mirror is a list of radio stations…again how awesome.

After my work was completed I followed the circled directions and quickly found the rental car lot for my car return. When I arrived I was directed to rental car returns and found three people, professionally dressed again, waiting to help me. I would say from the time I pulled in, to the time I was back on the bus to the terminal was no more than 3-5 minutes. Again…awesome! They must know that travelers on their way home just want to get home. We seem to lack patience even more so on the return home than when we arrive and waiting in lines to drop off a rental car is not something we want to do.

Enterprise Rental Cars is in the delivering happiness business and they again reinforced my loyalty based on an amazing overall buying experience.

 

To deliver happiness you must intimately understand your buyers and not rely on your gut and intuition.

 

The test if you are truly committed to delivering happiness is the repeatability of the overall service experience.

 

Market leaders identify customer needs and build repeatable processes and procedures that insure a quality experience each interaction.

 

Market leaders committed to delivering happiness also instill a passion in their team members that is seen in authentic individualized service that reinforces the overall passion to serve.

 

So how about your team?…

 

Do you choose to deliver happiness to your internal and external customers?

 

Is your customer experience the same in Denver as it is in Chicago, Cleveland, or Miami?

 

Do you have processes and procedures in place to insure you consistently deliver happiness? (Market leaders do)

 

How can you instill a passion to deliver happiness in your organization?

 

Just as Enterprise Rental Cars has taken what historically was a matter of fact exchange of service in renting a car to an opportunity to deliver happiness, you can too. You too can get to know your buyers, your market and identify all those little opportunities to serve them that often cost very little but have a huge impact. To do so you need a culture passionately committed to the overall customer experience and an intimate knowledge of your buyers, their needs, and frequent problems.

Oh…as a side benefit, when you passionately deliver happiness customers are forgiving when things go wrong. When I arrived at my hotel I noticed my automatic door locks and truck release did not work. Given how many times I was in and out of the car and trunk over the weekend this would have normally been something that irritated me and tainted my overall buying experience. Since so many other parts of the buying experience were amazing I found the door and trunk release not working not a major problem. I was more forgiving of those inevitable occurrences that go bump in the night than I would have been having rented a car else ware.

Are you in the delivering happiness business?

 

If not now is as good a time as any to start!

“Colonel Custer had a plan “…What To Do When Your Plan Is Not Driven by Market or Internal Truths and You Lack a Market Driven Motivation

After writing my post: Third Part of truth …Motivation; Are You willing to go the extra mile like Chick-fil-A? I had someone contact me with a question I thought was worth sharing.

“I read your last post and I can’t agree more with gathering market truths, assessing internal truths ( particularly after recent lay offs) and having a motivation to make a difference in the lives of those in your marketplace….

 

But what do you do when you work for an organization that built a plan based on old market data, an inflated view of internal capabilities ( that assumes we work 18-20 hour days) and a motivation that is singularly focused on making our owner wealthier and not changing the lives of those in the market we serve?”

Having helped a number of companies in a variety of industries over the year’s… shame on me for not expecting this question. Not only have I personally faced this dilemma, I know a number of people trying to obediently execute plans that were written from within their organization and lacking market data today.

I enjoyed the conversation with this young man, and below is what I advised him to do;

Gather current Market Truths

Chances are, at some point your leaders were market driven based on the growth they have experienced over the past 20 years. At some point however they started relying on their own personal guts and intuition and forgot the true market sensing process that empowered their original growth. The first thing I advised him to do is assess the market truths of today. Once complete, compare and contrast the plan you were given to execute in relation to current market truths. Note the strategies and tactics that are in alignment and call out those that are no longer rational based on new data.

 

Write a market truths document

 

 

Highlight strategies and tactics in your current plan that are no longer in alignment with the market of today

 

Asses your internal truths, capabilities, discard to-do’s that do not support your road map

 

 

If your team lacks a motivation to serve your market, create one

 

 

Write a plan you will execute based on the information you have shared and allow some flexibility

 

 

 

 

 

As we closed the call this young manager said “we have a plan, but I am sure Colonel Custer thought he had a plan too…

Yes, I am sure he did. But he too underestimated the competition and lacked a clear understanding of his market realities. He had scouts warn him that he grossly underestimated the size of his completion but he failed to listen. Is it any wonder this famous battle was over in less than an hour? ( kind of like how most new products are off the shelf within 18 months)

The people I always wondered about were his men…I am sure most were seasoned military soldiers and by nature trained to take and follow orders. However there had to be a few heretics in the ranks and I wonder if they had the courage to speak up, did some dissert the night before the battle, or did they knowing walk into their own demise? History states a number of his men were seen running from the battle when it was obvious all was lost.

If you are asked to execute a plan that is not market driven based on the current realities of your market today, you owe it to your team ( and yourself) to present current market data.

 

Leaders do not just state the disconnections their plan has with the market realities, but they also provide possible new strategies, they become a part of the solution.

 

Be a leader… and if you are a member of a team that frowns on gathering current market data to create market driven strategies your have two choices;

 

Stay on the team and expect to be to do driven, chasing outcomes of the day

 

Leave the team and seek out market leading organizations that value writing plans strategically based on current market data

 

I could tell he did not like the second option , (nor did I when I felt the need to leave one of the teams I served when their plans were so far from market truths I experienced physical health concerns as I attempted to be a soldier and follow orders.) I was much younger then and I was still under the erroneous assumption that the Hippos in the room were the most knowledgeable.

How about your organization…do you believe the plan you will execute in 2010 was written with current market data?

 

 

 

 

 

If you answer is no, what do you plan to do? Why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever presented your Hippos current market data that was contradictory to the plan they gave you to execute?

 

 

 

 

(Would love to have an expert jump in here on the effects on employee physical health when they attempt to execute plans that are not in alignment with the market realities of today)

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #19 Interview those who Exit and identify Roadblocks to Achieving Your Strategic Objectives…

exit sign

Market leading entrepreneurs value data and feedback. They seek and are constantly sensing the changing needs of their internal and external customers. When an account or employee exits your team, make the time for an exit interview with the mission of identifying roadblocks that are standing in the way of your team’s performance execution and success.

I shouldn’t be surprised, as it happens so often… a key account leaves an organization and very quickly the team moves into “good ridden mode” with comments like; well they were slow pay anyway. Or “they were a pain since the day we signed them” …or “they were not all that profitable anyway”…and so on. Team members assume they know why the customer left and often quickly close the file, and or arrogantly say …” they will be back, our competitor sucks and is not as good as us…”

Market leading organizations understand the value in interviewing customers who chose to leave to improve the overall experience of the customers that stay and future targeted new clients.

When you contact a client that has chosen to leave your organization the key thing to remember is the goal of your call; gain insights into why they left and not try to sell them or win them back. I have often been the one to make those calls as the salesperson who served the account can not help but try to win them back. Your mission is to understand, from the client’s perspective why they chose to leave, take detailed notes without “defending the fort” and reflect on that information. As you review what you learn look for roadblocks and “no-see-ums” in the overall customer service experience. Your team will be “assuming” it was price. However I have found price is rarely the true wedge that drove the relationship apart.

road block

Just as you interview clients that leave, you must also conduct exit interviews with your team members that voluntarily or involuntarily leave. In this interview you are trying to gain insights into roadblocks and or disconnects in initiatives in relation to your teams flight plan or roadmap. You will need the emotional intelligence to handle the often harsh criticism particularly if the separation was not voluntary. However the leaving team member has no incentive to play politics and their raw feedback is actually something market leaders value as it is can be acted upon once verified. For example you may learn you have dysfunctional “kingdoms”, silos within your organization that are more about the silo than achieving the strategic plan. You may learn that a perception senior management has is a significant disconnect with the market reality of today.

Team members who leave have information that others who may be busy blame storming are not articulating.

Interview team members who are leaving before they leave and you may be shocked that a key assumption or two the senior management team has is a significant disconnect with the reality of the market today.

 

How about your organization…..

 

 

Does your team have a procedure to interview clients who chose to leave you?

 

Do you interview employees who are leaving your team?

 

When you conduct those interviews do you have the emotional intelligence to listen and later validate or do you defend the fort?

 

 

Market leaders value feedback. Market losers believe the only view that matters are theirs…what kind of a team do you serve?

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #14 Customers will Stiff you…But Don’t Let Them Burn you…

money burning

The majority of customers are honest hard working people, like you, looking for someone to help them solve their problems. They do not have a problem paying for the value exchange they receive from you. There are however those low life’s out there who will engage with you and have no intention of paying you. I included this in my eBook: 50 ugly truths about starting your own business…and why you should do it anyway, as it often shocks and infuriates new entrepreneurs. Although these low life’s will attempt to stiff you, you don’t have to let them burn you.

I can still remember the first person who failed to pay me. Although it was many years ago, it was one of those tough leadership muscle building lessons during bootstrapping. I was asked by an investor to engage with one of his portfolio companies to figure out what was wrong and turn it around. I have played this role a number of times serving VC’s and Angel investors and I enjoy the assessment and turnaround of entrepreneurial teams.

When I first met the young CEO at the helm of this organization my gut said run away. He was an arrogant young man who was irritated that I was even asked to help fix his team’s poor performance. He was irritated the board and the investors did not seem to buy his explanation that the reason for his shortfall to goals was: a poor economy. He was concerned that I would share what I find with the investor who brought me in to serve his team, and for the first two months he instructed his team to run their answers to all my questions by him prior to answering me. (Another sign I should have run away)

I tried to build trust and I advised this young CEO the issues I discovered and made recommendations. One recommendation was the need to explain the problems he solves for his clients with an aggressive messaging plan targeting his optimum buyer personas. His response was one I have heard by CEO founders before…” we do not need marketing…the market clearly understands what we have…I just need hungrier salespeople.” (So he cut their base pay to make them hungrier) He could not have been more wrong. Since he instructed his team to not openly share information with me I went into his market and interviewed his past, current, and targeted new customers. I found the market was in fact aware of his business, but they consistently did not understand how this business could solve their problems…the market branded his business by default.

After a number of months the retainer payments were paid later and later and eventually they stopped. While he told me and his team the business was really struggling, he personally leased a Hummer, bought himself an expensive laptop and went on a trip internationally with his wife. (But that’s another post)

I was so connected to helping this team and investor; this company properly brand the business in the market I failed to pay attention to his not paying me. What started out as “ I will pay you next week…turned to next month…and after two months I was informed he can not pay, and he was actually shocked I would ask for the payment of my small retainer given the difficulties the business was having as he shared at a recent board meeting I was asked to attend”.

There are two schools of thought with customers who do not pay you. The first says write it off as bad debt and move on. In this case this young CEO went on to say “you don’t want to be known as someone who sues his clients do you?” (I later found he had said many times before, and had I done my homework on him this could have been prevented)

The only thing worst than not having customers is selling customers who do not pay.

The second thought is you have provided a value and you should expect payment. Customers who fail to pay will be sent to collections and or sued. I actually do want to have the reputation of suing clients who do not pay as this will help weed out the low life’s who become time vampires sucking the life out of you with no intent on paying. So I went to the courthouse filled out the proper paperwork and we went to court. The judge provided a judgment in my favor and as we left the courthouse this young CEO went on to say …” good luck collecting you @# hole” Sure enough after multiple attempts to collect he failed to pay . The next phase of this process required an attorney and we won that judgment as well with interest.

 

 

This young CEO stiffed me. However where I blew it was I became angry, I allowed it to stick to me.

 

Anger is an acid that only burns the container that tries to hold it.

 

beliefs

 

I let this young man’s poor ethics personally affect me. Anger left unchecked can turn to depression and leaves us feeling bitter. As I worked with new clients I built processes and procedures for the less than 1% of business owners out there who are the low life’s like this young CEO. That unchecked bitterness stayed with me and became a frequent thought; small business owners will stiff you if you fail to protect yourself. This thought repeated over and over again became a belief, stemming from one unethical young man. It failed to recognize a sea of very prosperous relationships I have enjoyed with past customers over the past 25 years, and it tainted my outlook. My coach eventually brought this bitterness to my attention and explained I needed to forgive this young man and move on… Not for his sake, but for mine.

 

 

What should you do if a customer stiffs you?

  1. Seek first to understand
  2. determine if this a deadbeat with a history of treating partners like this or someone who needs you to work with them
  3. cut bait early, with the first missed payment, services must stop
  4. if they refuse to pay, start collections proceeding immediately
  5. ask yourself what lesson ( often expensive lesson) can you learn for this experience to insure it does not occur again
  6. forgive their unethical behavior for your sake, not theirs
  7. move on, as the Bible says, “dust off your sandals and move on” As 99% of customers are ethical people
  8. do not allow this bad experience to taint how you treat current and new customers

 

Anger if left unchecked is like acid, and it only damages the container that tries to keep it contained.

 

As an Entrepreneur customers will stiff you but they need not burn you. One of the best ways to prevent serving someone that does not pay you occurs at the beginning of the relationship. Just as your customers are qualifying you early on, you too must qualify them.

 

Ask yourself…

 

 

Is this someone I want to work with?

 

What does the market say about this company? This person?

 

 

Do I trust this person with my money?

 

 

If you gut says “no” to any of the above move on to others who would truly value your product or service.

 

 

 

How about you and your organization….

 

 

How do you deal with deadbeats who try to stiff you?

 

 

Do they just stiff you…or do they also burn you?

 

 

Have you established processes and procedures that screams your lack of trust in new clients based on your bitterness?

 

 

Do your current processes and procedure cater to the 99% of ethical customers or the 1% who are the low life’s?

 

 

If a deadbeat makes it through your pre engagement qualification process, and if they do stiff you I recommend you engage the various collections procedures within the law, and you personally forgive them and move on to serving the 99% of those in the market who will value your product or service.

 

As an aside I bumped into the investor who asked me to help this young CEO and now the list of vendors he has stiffed is very long and his business continues to suffer missing key performance indicators and has high turnover. I call it “Business Karma”; others say “what comes around goes around.”

 

Markets. like people, trust or do not trust businesses. When markets hear often enough that someone in their community of service providers is a deadbeat, the market ostracizes that owner, that business, which only further accelerates their death spiral into personal and business bankruptcy.

 

#11 Follow the leader is a dangerous game, particularly when you follow Hippos…

hippo2

Entrepreneurs often make the mistake of focusing the majority of their attention on what their competitors are doing instead of gaining first hand market data. When entrepreneurs play “follow the leader” they are playing a dangerous game that assumes the perceived market leading competitor is connected to the needs and pains of market buyers.

Market leaders are aware of competitor activity; however they plan their strategy with first hand market data.

 

Market losers set out to do what their competitors are doing…but better.

 

When you copy what your competitors are doing you are making one key erroneous assumption: that your competitor knows your market, your buyers, and your buyer’s buying process. ( which is often not the case)

If we recognize most marketing is developed at board room tables with gut , intuition and “back when I was in the market…” information following your competitor is a dangerous game to play.Or as David Daniels put it in his eBook : Is your Product Launch Doomed?…” Mimicing a competitor can lead to lost market opportunity, misdirection of resources, and loss of focus…”

hippo3

More often than not marketing strategy is made by HIPPOS; the Highest Paid Person in marketing’s Opinions.

 

blog pics, tyler apt,kecia riely 128

For example, I had to run some errands in Mesa Saturday and imagine my surprise when I returned to my car and I saw a sea of purple windshield fliers in the parking lot creating marketing litter. In my recent post I discussed how we must make sure when we Chase new business we do so in a way consistent with our brand and our brand promise.

blog pics, tyler apt,kecia riely 112

I shared how Chase Bank used a purple windshield wiper flier to drive new accounts at month end in my last post. Do the leaders at TCF Bank think Purple windshield fliers ( Like Chase Bank) is an industry best practice since one of the market leaders does it? Or was the nimble , much smaller TCf Bank’s efforts the reason Chase Bank tried this strategy?

You have been in those meetings…everyone on the cross functional team share their views , and then the highest paid person in the room (hippo)  calls an audible from left field based on their gut and or what a market leading competitor is currently doing ( after they are real smart right?). The cross functional team is left scratching its collectives heads as strategy direction is made based on the gut and past experience of the highest paid person in the room.

 

Market leaders gather first hand market data and shape their strategy based on current information.

 

They say ; “rational people, if given the right data will make rational decisions” .What we learn in “rational choice theory” that people make decisions about how they should act by comparing the costs and benefits of different courses of action. Patterns of behavior will develop within the society those results from those choices. The society in this case is competing suppliers battling for market share each day.

 

 

Decisions made with first hand current market data drive successful strategies.

 

 

Strategies that are initiated based on what market leading competitors do often fail.

 

 

How about your organization….

 

 

Are Hippo’s calling an audible that lacks market data justification?

 

 

Does your marketing team kick off campaigns that mirror what market leaders in your industry are doing?

 

…how’s that working for you?

 

  

Are your sales tools built by corporate Hippos who have not met with a customer in over six months…twelve months?

 

 

Playing follow the leader is a dangerous game, particularly if your Hippos insist you mirror a competitor with the assumption the competitor must know what they are doing.

 

Smart entrepreneurs are aware of what the 800 lb gorilla in their market is doing, but do not blindly mirror their strategies and tactics.

 

Smaller competitors are often more connected to the needs of their market and more nimble.

Have you mirrored a competitor and it drove sales that surpassed your ROI goals?

Can you share a Hippo based initiative that mirrored a competitor and failed miserably?

Besides,when you choose  follow , competitor and or a Hippo,the view rarely changes,..ad the outcome often stinks.

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #7 You are Not Your Market

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Entrepreneurs often make a common mistake …they assume, and then they extrapolate.

They assume because they are a member of a market and they have a problem others too want to pay to have this problem solved. Secondly they fail to do research (after all it’s expensive right?) so they extrapolate.

When Entrepreneurs assume and extrapolate they lose.

When leaders rely on their personal experience, their gut and intuition they become one of the 90% of small businesses launched each year that fail within 18 months. When leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit in large organizations launch without current market data, their products are discontinued and removed from the shelf within 12 months…(and sometimes the leader joins their products in the recycle bin.)

Keep in mind: YOU ARE NOT YOUR MARKET!

 

How about your organization…

 

 

 

Do you have entrepreneurial leaders who shoot from the hip based on their past experience, their gut and intuition?

 

 

 

Have you ever launched something you, your wife, and all your golf buddies thought was brilliant only to sell 1/10 of what you forecasted in the ROI to justify production?

 

 

 

How do entrepreneurial leaders build their discernment muscles to rely more on market data and less on their gut?

 

 

 

Every once in a while someone will get lucky and hit the market with a product that solves a pain they had, and luckily many others have. However I would prefer to mitigate my risk by doing more homework upfront…

 

 

 

How about you?

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices; #1 “More” Sales or “Create Sales Velocity” ?

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For the past 25 years I have helped entrepreneurs realize what I refer to as Explosive Sales Growth, or said another way;

I help organizations Create sales velocity.

 

Sales velocity occurs when you connect your product or service to a market need, and create messages that clearly tells them how you solve those needs for your buyers.

Sales Velocity is Sales Acceleration, with Direction and creates Momentum.

 

Creating Sales Velocity is one common need every business has, particularly in 2009.

A few nights ago I attended the local TIE event here in Phoenix. As I mingled with entrepreneurs before our guest speaker I heard a constant need;

I have an amazing product (service) but we need “more” sales…now!

 

I met with a number of entrepreneurs and their passion for creating something bigger than themselves seemed dampened by the immediate need for sales. I shared some “quick win” techniques that always work for me, but I went on to explain that what they really want is to create Sales Velocity.

Sales Acceleration

I have helped entrepreneurs and their teams grow businesses and what they often need first is sales acceleration. What I mean by this is a number of quick wins in new accounts or new products placed in existing accounts. A big part of sales acceleration is intentionally driving the sales you want to grow. When entrepreneurs mistakenly say they want “more” sales, by default they are saying “any sale will do”.

Not all sales are good sales if they strain your team to “slightly” change your product or service.

 

These “slight “changes slowly pull you form the core of your business and distract focus.

I have served a variety of industries and the best way to create intentional sales acceleration is always they same; talk to your customers and others in your market. In doing so you must determine “current truths” because your gut and intuition alone will not drive the growth you desire.

Direction

 

I think we have all seen the monthly sales charts that resemble a heart rate versus a market leading organization. Sales are up, and then off, up, plateau, then drop.

As an entrepreneur you need sustainable, repeatable sales or your personal heart rate will fluctuate as you try to plan cash flow.

When you implement a ; creation of sales velocity mind set, you have specific targets that support your overall vision, road map and serve market needs.

Momentum

 

One of my favorite classes in high school was Math and Physics. (odd for a sales guy huh?) The concept of momentum always fascinated me. How a body of mass moving with direction creates an energy of its own, and that energy can be transferred to other things that the mass bumps into.

Sales momentum occurs when your sales pick up in a positive, intentional direction with velocity.

 

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Now the fun part, if you have two particles ( sales) , with masses clip_image002and clip_image003and velocities clip_image004and clip_image005, the total momentum of these particles , clip_image006is

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However, if you have one particle (sale) going to the right, the other to the left they cancel each other out. ( how sales and marketing often act) Once you pay commission you have a net negative effect on your bottom line for the energy produced. If you sum the two momenta together, you get a total momentum of zero. ( this is what often occurs when sales teams are asked to …”hit your numbers and make it happen” …because that is what we “sales guys” are wired to do. However if not directionally focused and aligned with your road map the net result over time is zero added value to your bottom line( and often reduces the value of your business).

The real fun begins when you have a number of particles (sales) bouncing around in the right direction. The equation gets a little sophisticated and the total momentum of N particles (sales), of masses clip_image008and velocities clip_image009as

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The net result is increased sales and the valuation of your business increases if done correctly.

(Thanks to Joshua Deutsch for the above equations.)

 

As an entrepreneur and future market leader you do not want “more “sales you want “sales velocity”. When you realize sales velocity you experience sales acceleration with direction that builds a sustainable momentum over time.

 

Sustainable momentum provides predictable cash flows and helps you find willing investors for future expansion.

 

How about your team?      heart rate 2

 

Do your sales look more like a heart rate monitor?

 

Do you have salespeople “making it happen” but the way they are making it happens seems to cancel each other out?

 

Are you or your salespeople running in many directions, getting your organization exhausted …without building momentum?

 

 

Over my next series of posts I will be discussing entrepreneurial best practices. I will be sharing personal experiences of what worked as well as did not produce in hopes of helping entrepreneurs shorten their sales cycle and accelerate their revenues and profits, and most importantly the value of their business. I am always looking for thought leaders to contribute as it is my goal to add value to the entrepreneur community.

If you have thought leadership for entrepreneurs, please contact me.