Archive for increase value

Attention CEO’s and CFO’s; Do you have a “Sales and Marketing Funnel” or Bucket? …the answer may surprise you, take a short quiz and know for sure

Posted by on July 17, 2013 with 2 Comments

 

 

do you have a marketing and sales funnel or a leaking sales bucket?

do you have a marketing and sales funnel or a leaking sales bucket?

 

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could have our sales and marketing run like our plant? We could have key indicators, a proven methodology, and process with predictable results…”I hear business owners and leaders say this to me often once they relax and truly share their thoughts and concerns. Far too often CEO’s and CFO’s think/hope their marketing and sales teams have a defined process that is efficient and effective to drive predictable results. Unfortunately, if you really understand and look at leading indicators what they think is a marketing and sales funnel is actually a sales bucket. In this post I will share how to determine if your team has a marketing and sales funnel or a sales bucket that leaks an occasional sale or two.

 

I was asked by the chairman of the board of a company to have lunch. He heard through his venture capital and private equity network what I do, and he was warned early on my approach is a bit different. I enjoy meeting new people and business problems are drawn to me. I enjoy learning new things, facing new challenges and each meeting like this one always teaches me something. Once we made it through the pleasantries it was not too long for me to hear his concerns;

 

Why can’t sales and marketing be like my manufacturing plant? Predictable, scalable, and provide me sales forecasts I can count on?

 

It drives me nuts to know we are spending so much money on marketing and I do not see an immediate and often long term return on that investment, but I am afraid to stop making it in case it would hurt the performance we are seeing.

 

What we need is a repeatable sales process. We need the sales guys to be more efficient at closing business and bringing in the revenue.

 

Based on our moderate to poor sales results over the last few years, do I have the right salespeople or should I be looking for new ones?

 

I feel like the CEO / President is asking for more money each year for marketing, but I am not seeing a corresponding increase in sales…why?

 

We seem to have high turnover in sales, we lost some good sales people and this has to be expensive and hurting our results.

 

About the time we finished eating he said; “what do you think? Is this something you can help with, can you fix sales problems like this?”

 

I have and often do “fix sales problems.” However more often than not what CEO’s and business owners want to hear on how to fix sales problems is not the way they anticipate. In most cases they think they have a repeatable sales process, but they don’t.

 

They think they have a marketing funnel that is dumping primed and ready leads to their salespeople and their sales people have a proven way to close them quickly. They think they need more sales training. They think they need to better motivate their sales people to perform.  No, no, no and in most cases no again.

 

What I have observed in most cases is leaders, particularly those not from marketing and sales believe they have a marketing and sales funnel, but in reality they have a bucket, with an every so small hole in the bottom that occasionally leaks a sale or two. Left unchecked this marketing and sales bucket becomes a Chinese water torture to your senior leadership team as they try to explain and predict future revenues and ROI with owners and investors. As one thought leader just shared, what they think is a funnel of live and vibrant leads and opportunities is actually pipeline stench. The pipelines may look full and make you feel good in senior management meetings Monday mornings…but are actually full of dead and rotting opportunities polluting your entire marketing and sales process.

 

Do you have a Marketing and Sales Funnel or Bucket?

 

  1. What is your lead to close %? Do you know it?
  2. Do you have defined stages in the marketing and sales pipeline? What are they?
  3. Can you share the # in each phase?
  4. If I met with your latest new salesperson, could they share your repeatable sales process with me?
  5. Does sales and marketing have an understood definition of the terms; opportunity, prospect, lead?
  6. Can you tell me the average time a new person you engage with spends in your process until they buy or die?
  7. Can you share the qualifying questions you use?
  8. Do you have the top three buyer personas  identified and have you mapped out their buying journey?
  9. Have you added new sales tools in the last 6-12 months?
  10. Does your web site speak in the tone of the problems you solve?

 

If the answers I receive to the above have three or more “no’s” you have Marketing and Sales Bucket not a funnel.

 

How about your company?

 

Do you have a “Marketing Funnel”, “Sales Funnel” a “Repeatable Sales process”?….are you sure? (you need to be)

 

What other questions could we ask to determine if you have a funnel of vibrant buyers anxious to buy and solve their problems, or a bunch of rotting dead leads just polluting your management process?

 

In the market of today there is no excuse to not have marketing and sales funnel that is a systematic process driven tool to maximize your team’s effectiveness and do so in the most efficient way.

 

So did this post make you nervous, anxious, and maybe a bit angry? As your team for the answers to the above that I use to diagnose teams I serve, and you will quickly understand your internal truths. Once you do, you are well on your way to driving a process that gets results. In my next post I will share some techniques I have used to turn marketing and sales buckets into funnels.

Want to Improve your Sales and Profits? “Reboot Your Business”… (and yourself)

Posted by on July 5, 2013 with 5 Comments

crtl book

 

If you have been in business for a while like I have one thing we can always count on is “change”. Markets change, the way buyers buy changes, and how customers find you have drastically changed over the past 10 years. Like it or not, there has been a huge shift in power from the company and salesperson to the buyer who can now find more information about your company and products (and you) with a few simple mouse clicks. Has your business been agile and identified these changes and adapted? Or are you waiting for business to get back to normal as I hear so many say? Well, I hate to be the one to tell you, this is the new normal! If you are one of those business leaders that recognize changes have occurred but are having a hard time getting your head around what to do about it, there is a brilliant book by thought leader Mitch Joel titled; Ctrl Alt Delete, Reboot your business. Reboot your life. Your future depends on it.

 

 

My wife and I had a plan over the July 4th holiday. We invited all my wife’s relatives and my daughter’s college friends over for an old fashioned July 4th cookout. We planned a simple menu per my daughters request with hamburgers and hot dogs, baked beans, my wife’s aunt Shannon’s famous potato salad and my daughter planned to make another one of her creative desserts. I bought charcoal and decided to grill old school instead of over gas. We bought the supplies, invited everyone, and planned an afternoon out side that included some bocce ball, Frisbee, and watching the fireworks from the deck. We had a plan.

 

Ohio weather decided to change our plans with rain on and off all day. I hoped it would stop long enough to grill the food but around 4:00 pm I needed a plan B. So I moved the grill under the shelter of the front porch and although “no one grills on their front porch” we adapted, the food was great and everyone had a great time together.

 

porch gill

 

This experience reminded me of the book I just finished this week; Ctrl Alt Delete. It reminded me of how environments and business landscapes change and will be changing again and we must and need to adapt or we risk going hungry. I wonder why it is so easy, second nature for us to adapt in our everyday lives but in business we struggle to change, we fight the tendency to be nimble and agile. Why? Is it hubris, laziness, and or even fear? Or is it something deeper, something that was blended into my generation’s’ DNA? I was born in the early 1960’s and my father started out his career as a meter reader with the local natural gas company. His company sent him to college at night and after 25 years of moving up the corporate ladder  held a senior level financial position when he retired. This is the way we were taught how it works, how it was supposed to be… right?

 

So imagine how I feel, and how my dad must scratch his head with the crazy life I have led. I have served many companies over the past 30 years as you can see from my Linked In profile. My titles have included Account Rep to VP of Sales and Marketing, from COO for one assignment to Managing Director for another company. I have been a sales coach, entrepreneur,  marketing strategy consultant, author, and public speaker. I led a few start ups and turnarounds as President and CEO. However admittedly if I am being totally transparent with you (and myself) a part of me has felt there is something wrong with me. Why have not I not been able to do what my dad did and work for one company for 30 + years retire with a pension, benefits and winter in Florida like everyone else from Ohio? In the second part of Mitch Joel’s book he discusses how we as individuals must also adapt and change. He calls it embracing the squiggle. The squiggle is what I have done….a number of different roles based on the problems to be solved, many different industries and if you were to graphically plot it it would not look like my fathers straight line career trajectory, but would be a squiggly line with little if any ability to plot or predict the next data point.

 

Another area where I feel I do not fit in and quietly has made me feel anxious and sometimes guilty is… I like to work. I enjoy bumping into problems to be solved. I have developed over the years the ability to see around corners as I share with my children. I use this gift of pattern recognition and shape strategies that work. What I do for companies does not feel like “work” but more like my sport, play, my art. In the early 2000’s I even branded it “the art of thoughts” trying to explain the service I provided but quickly stopped using that description as my customers and market were not quite ready for it yet. This book shares how today and the future will challenge all those leave it to beaver work  life models we have had woven into our DNA and how there now is a blend of work and non work life. Technology enables us, affords and empowers us the ability to work anywhere, anytime, and because of this make more time for our families if we use it correctly. The future strategies that will drive explosive sales growth will not be developed in boardrooms but in coffee shops deep in the markets you serve.

 

Not since David Meerman Scott’s book: The New Rules of Marketing and PR has a book grabbed me like Ctrl Alt Delete and I wanted to share it with you. I highly recommend if you have been waiting for your  business to get back to normal, searching for a crystal ball that will give you some hint of what the future has in store you, or like me have seen and felt a blending of your work and non work life, …you  buy and study this book.

 

How about you…Have you too seen and experienced major changes in your business?

 

Have you adapted and embraced social marketing?…or do you still think it’s a fad?

 

Has your business raised the surrender flag and admitted you no longer have the power, or have you dug in like Colonel Custer who also had a plan?

 

 

The reality of today is buyers can now find more information about your company, product, salesperson, and the leaders of your organization with a few simple mouse clicks. How buyers buy, how consumers shop, and how employers search for and hire new team members has forever changed and will continue to evolve and change. Will you adapt and survive or dig your heals and do it the way we have always done it around here? ( and how’s that working for you?)  It truly is your choice; I hope and pray you chose wisely.

 

 

 

What are the top 12 ways to keep and attract top sales super stars?

Posted by on June 20, 2013 with 10 Comments

 

By Mark Allen Roberts

super man

 

I believe there is a problem festering deep within a number of companies that may, if left untreated be the single biggest threat to your team achieving sales, profits and your bottom line objectives. A study not long ago said 60% of your employees plan to leave when the economy improves. Well the economy has and is improving? Is your organization at risk? Most companies think they clearly understand salespeople, what motivates them and how to motivate them to achieve super human sales results…and most are wrong. In this post I will share what sales super stars need, why sales stars will leave, and how to keep and attract top sales performers.

 

Like all my posts this post has been swirling around inside my mind for weeks. This one however has bounced around much longer. I have my opinions based on leading sales and marketing teams for over 30 years…do I share them? what if the experts have different opinions? My desire when I write it to share what I have found to work to help you make strategic corrections , adjustments before you find your business in a crisis of chaos. So how do I best serve you? The more I thought about it the more I delayed following up my last post; Why Do Star Salespeople Leave? (it is not what you think)… I decided to share what I have experienced and provide thought leadership from others in hopes of helping better serve you and your organization.

When I am asked to help a company turnaround their sales, increase sales, I always use the same process and it starts by identifying current market truths. I bring them into the light as the Bible guides us to do for once in the light we can clearly see them and address them before they become terminal. Then I seek internal truths about your companies’ true strengths, weaknesses and ideally clearly define your distinctive competence in the perception of your market. Once we have this information we can shape and design a go-to-market strategy that drives explosive results. So I want to use this same process to identify what I am referring to a “Sales Force Sink Hole” that could result in one….two…or even three of your top sales producers leaving your team and crippling your results. I hear that voice of clients past saying; let them leave I will just hire more… Before you quickly jump to being defensive you need to ask yourself some practical questions;

 

How long does it take for a new salesperson to gain traction and start truly adding value to your bottom line?

 

What is the cost of lost revenue when a Sales Super Star “just leaves”?

 

If you are truly honest, it takes much longer than it should for a new salesperson to gain traction and losing a top producing salesperson (or two or three) is estimated to cost you up to 10 X their annual compensation package. Note; When I keep saying one-two- or three it is because when your top salesperson leaves, studies show there is a high probability your other top performers will leave as well.  So why not intentionally create a culture that keeps and attracts sales super stars? Why not understand what truly makes sales stars tick and meet those needs?

 

What are the top 12 ways to keep and attract top sales super stars?

 

Trust

Be a company that has a history of doing what it promises, doing what it says it will do for internal and external customers

 

Communication

Take the time to clearly articulate expectations, objectives and why those objectives must be met, and quickly follow up on questions and concerns

 

Competitive

 

Top sales people are competitive, they need it, and they thrive on it so intentionally build it into your culture

 

Be a winning team

 

Top salespeople win, its what they do. They win new business, more orders from current customers and they desire to be on teams of other winners. Do you have a team of winners or do you need to fix areas of your company that are underperforming and have been for some time?

 

Driven

 

Most executives that do not have a sales background assume its all about “money”, but in reality top salespeople thrive in organizations that are driven to be the best just like your top salespeople.

 

Leaders have High Emotional Intelligence

 

Teams that are open and transparent, that welcome new solutions attract and retain top salespeople, they have the courage to say “I don’t have all the answers today but I know a process to find them, and I will”

 

Strong Values and Integrity

 

Do not ask your salespeople to compromise what is best long term for the market and its customers to hit short term financial objectives

 

Strategic Compensation Plan

 

A results driven plan that is easy to understand, reinforces desired objectives of your strategic plan, and has no cap, no claw backs

 

Listen

Organizations that learn to actively listen to identify and bust through common roadblocks in the sales process, listen and sense their market, that are agile and adapt quickly to strategic shifts in how buyers buy and the criteria they are now using to make buying decisions

 

Sharpen the Saw

 

An almost paranoid drive to constantly improve your people and processes with training and new technology

 

Passion

 

Make what you do about more than you, your numbers, make it a quest , top sales performer embrace objectives much bigger than themselves

 

Lead and Coach, do not Manage

 

We lead and coach people, we manage processes, don’t confuse the two

 

 

If you are committed to focusing on this area and intentionally creating a culture that keeps and attracts top sales performers then I recommend you also visit the below links to content to serve you and your team.

 

Clayton Christensen’s “How Will You Measure Your Life?”

http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7007.html

 

Micromanagers: 6 Reasons your Employees Don’t Like You

http://www.recruiter.com/i/micromanagers-6-reasons-your-employees-dont-like-you/

 

War underway for top sales talent http://blog.sellingpower.com/gg/2013/06/3-reasons-to-apply-for-our-50-best-companies-to-sell-for-list.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+typepad%2Fgerhard+%28SellingPower%29

 

10 laws of successful sales management http://www.thepeasegroup.com/_blog/Articles/post/The_Ten_Laws_of_Sales_Management/?goback=%2Egde_2392593_member_246416948

 

Communicate clear expectations http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-57586930/great-leaders-manage-expectations/

 

How to hire, find a sales star http://www.salesforcesearch.com/download/eBook-How-to-Find-Assess-and-Hire-a-Sales-Star.pdf

 

 

Hire recruiter if you can http://web2.salesforcesearch.com/bid/148121/How-Can-Sales-Recruiters-Benefit-Your-Business?goback=%2Egde_71410_member_246012667

 

10 tips to motivate people http://humanresources.about.com/od/motivationrewardretention/a/motivating_employees.htm

 

How people are motivated to work http://humanresources.about.com/od/rewardrecognition/a/needs_work.htm

 

How to motivate sales people http://sales.about.com/od/trainingasalesstaff/a/Motivating-A-Sales-Team.htm

 

Want to Jump Start Sales and Morale? Write a “Passion Statement” For Your Business…. http://www.nosmokeandmirrors.com/2010/05/24/want-to-jump-start-sales-and-morale-write-a-%E2%80%9Cpassion-statement%E2%80%9D-for-your-business%E2%80%A6/

 

Does my business need a “passion statement”? Take a short quiz…  http://www.nosmokeandmirrors.com/2010/05/26/do-i-need-a-passion-statement-for-my-business-take-the-short-quiz%E2%80%A6/

 

I hope you found the above useful and you agree keeping sales happy and productive is about much more than just “money”.

 

      “Sales Super Stars leave when their intrinsic needs are not met and they validate this decision with extrinsic conditions”

-          Mark Allen Roberts

 

What have you found to keep and attract your top sales performers?

 

Do you agree with the above 12 ways to keep and attract top sales super stars?

 

Which of the above do you believe is most important? Why?

 

 

 

 

The Toughest Sale an Entrepreneur Can Make….Investment Capital to Grow

Posted by on September 29, 2011 with 2 Comments

 

I enjoy sales, I really do. I see sales as the ultimate example of serving others. You connect with people in your market that may have problems your product or service can solve, and you help them solve their problems. For me it’s the ultimate rush helping clients solve problems they have struggled with and felt they must learn to live with. However there is another sale entrepreneurs have to make that is not nearly as fun and can be emotionally and physically taxing if you do not know what you are doing…raising investment capital.

Typically the companies I serve have the capital and or are self funding and I am asked to create a repeatable sales process, based on how their buyers want to buy. Then I train their team how and when to use the sales tools we create for each step of the new sales process. In one instance however, a company I was asked to turn around lacked adequate access to capital to truly scale the business. So I approached raising investment capital as I would any market with various buyer personas , but in this case what I was selling was the viability of the business and future potential. I found there are basically five ways to fund your growth and each has its own characteristics, requirements, needs and challenges. Over a three month period while out making sales calls with customers, I met with as many “potential buyers” for funding as I could to understand  shape and I even named my buyers, my ways to raise funds.( I had way to much car time, so stick with me)

Self Fund through sales revenue – “Willy Lowman”

 

State and Government Grants – “Annette to detail”

 

Friends and Family- “Have-I” , as in have -I got a deal for you

 

Angel Investors- “Michael”, like the archangel

 

Venture Capital –”Barbra”, from the show shark tank

 

The first I called “Willy Lowman” from Death of a Salesman. You are out chasing revenue, cold calling, following up on every potential lead, and networking like crazy. You bootstrap your way, working 12-14 hours a day meeting with clients who could provide that next big order. At night you stuff envelopes with letters and brochures, and scour the internet using social media tools searching for the right contact to speak with at your future targeted accounts.

Characteristics- You often find yourself bunking on friends couches and driving great distances simply because the meetings need to occur but you lack the capital to afford air flights and hotel rooms. You have a passionate connection to your product and you have the ability to sell convincing presentations that drive early orders. You may hire independent sales representatives to sell your product on straight commission, but quickly find they too require time, your most precious asset at this point.

Requirements – You have to be skilled at taking inventory of what you have to work with and leveraging it to the best of your ability while always being cognizant of the businesses cash requirements, cash flow. You personally will do without.  You need tenacity, good old fashioned (excuse the expression)… “piss and vinegar”. You will have many doors slammed in your face and you will need the ability to press on in the face of adversity. You know the “right” way to get orders, but you lack the capital today, so you do what you need to do. I have 50 other ugly truths in my eBook you can download off my blog. You have to possess the ability to create learning’s through each transaction and adapt quickly.

Need – samples, sell sheets and a clear understanding of the problem you solve, and who potentially has that problem. With some of the software out there today and help from friends in your network you can create some professional presentations and sell sheets. You must have a web site.

 

Caution – it’s not unusual to start a business this way trying to sell your way to success, however know that it is not for the faint of heart, and if you do it for too long you too run the risk of going nuts like our buddy Willy. If whatever you are launching cannot gain traction and begin to result in predictable sales revenues within 12-18 months, cut bait! Chances are you are pushing mud uphill and you have not answered one of the four questions with a yes.

So how about you…have you launched a business on shear tenacity? How did it turn out?

 

As you look back, how long were you in the bootstrap mode? (Or are you still in it?)

 

What did you find the hardest part of this phase?

 

What advice would you give someone who has desperately tried to scale their business, their dream for 18 months with no success?

The key to funding I have learned over time is to truly understand where your company is on the business growth continuum. Is your business pre-cash, do you have a few customers, some revenue… but needing capital to scale, ….?

Once you clearly understand where your business is, you can connect to the right kind of funding. As you move from self funding / friends and family to Government Grants to Angel investors to Venture Capital, you must clearly understand where you are at and what your buyer (investor) requires.

What I have experienced is friends and families are investing more in you and your abilities than the business. They are looking at your past success and your personal abilities. They have a personal relationship with you.

Government Grants/ other Grants are focused on answering a specific issue. You must be skilled at writing grant applications and clearly answering how your product falls into their grant offering.

Angels fund from small $20k investments up to $2 million from larger angel funds. Angel funds are groups of angel investors who pool their monies and invest in companies. Sometimes members of the fund may also wish to make “side car” investments in addition to the fund investment. Angels focus on;

  • proprietary product and or technology
  • leaders ability to lead organization, monetize opportunity
  • the market and your product solution’s potential
  • your team and its ability to execute
  • your exit plan, who would be potential buyers, or do you plan to go public

Venture Capital traditionally invests in opportunities over $2 million. They are industry specific and the cost of their funds in terms of equity in your business is often much greater. They are focused on return on their investment. They have specific business valuation models and your engagement with them will feel more like a business transaction than a relationship. VC’s will receive 1,000’s of pitches each year and only work with a select few companies that match their criteria. I recommend you watch the show Shark Tank and pay attention to the discussions, the interaction as it will prepare you for possible discussions you may be having should you pursue VC funding.

If you are an entrepreneur and feel the next step to truly scale your company is funding, make sure you understand where your company is at, and what type of funding source best matches your needs. If you are like me, you will find it the most challenging sales process you have ever experienced!

The Value of the “Four Legged Sales Call”, …Fix Sales problems quickly

Posted by on May 6, 2011 with 5 Comments

 

 

 

 

The Value of the “Four Legged Sales Call”, …Fix Sales problems quickly

An “old school” technique to drive explosive sales and profit growth is the “four legged sales call” It doesn’t matter if you have a direct sales team , regional managers and or independent representative firms, the four legged sales call is the quickest path to incremental revenues and fixing your sales problems.

Let’s face it, in most markets out there it’s tough. The buying process has changed, we have more irrational competitors, and a much larger number of people influencing the purchase.

 

Sales today is like walking on Jell-O, its difficult to gain traction and easy to fall down.

I have a number of business leaders expressing a need for a quick fix, a quick way to fix their sales problem. They often phrase the need as “my sales rep team just can’t execute our plan.” When I hear this I often pause as based on my experience most salespeople “try” to execute “the plan”, however the root of the plan (marketing strategy) is often flawed and therefore they fail to execute and meet their sales goals. What market losers do is race to engage with what I call Mullet Marketing; doing the marketing work after the launch instead of understanding the market and it’s problems before the launch.

What are some signs your sales process is disconnected from the market?

 

  • 70% or more of your sales team are missing sales key performance indicators
  • Profit per sales below key indicator goal
  • Lead to sale ratio below prior, below goal
  • New product sales fail to meet plan
  • Customer satisfaction scores decrease
  • Customer service, technical assistance increases

 

The quickest way I have found, even with all the new CRM tools , win/ loss survey companies, online surveys, and so on is the “four legged sales call.”

In the four legged sales call the salesperson in charge of the account and is accountable for the sales from that account is joined by the VP of sales or the company President. While your salesperson is selling, your focus is to listen and observe.

What you are listening (looking) for?

  • salesperson’s understanding of the buyer’s problem
  • salesperson’s ability to communicate the problem your product or service solves
  • Does your salesperson have the right tools to help the buyer make a buying decision?
  • What are the buyers’s buying criteria today?
  • What is the buying process?
  • Does your sales process mirror the buying process?
  • What sales tools does your salesperson have and which ones do they use? Are they current, or something they created themselves?
  • Does the buyer have other problems they verbalize but your salesperson fails to hear?
  • Where does the buyer turn today when faced with an unresolved problem? …the internet, a trade journal, calls a local representative…
  • What other products does your buyer buy from competitors that they could be buying from you?
  • What % of the time is your salesperson listening versus talking? ( my favorite indicator)

 

I promise you, after a few four legged sales calls you will have a much better understanding of your market, buyers, and how buyers are buying. Make sure you visit accounts you are currently selling as well as those you lost and or are trying to sell. When you return to corporate gather your notes, look for common data points and adjust.

If you have not changed your sales process in the last six months it is broken!

 

When is the last time you went on a four was legged sales call?

 

When you ask your salespeople why they are not hitting sales objectives, do they say “price”? ( if so they are wrong)

 

What is your buyer’s buying process today? How has it changed over the last 6-12 months?

 

Are their other “old school” methods to fix sales problems? If so, what are they?

Here’s a Banana For Your Baby… (your business)

Posted by on May 29, 2010 with 2 Comments

 

 

One of the most difficult parts of serving entrepreneurial leaders is telling them a part or their entire baby (their business) is ugly.  Some self proposed consulting experts say; “focus on the positives, build on successes” and not to risk their monthly retainers. I choose to ignore the obvious politically correct answers and add value by presenting market truths.

If your baby is ugly I prefer to tell you so we can develop a plan based on current truths to help lead you and your organization to a position of market leadership.

The quickest way for your baby to become ugly is to stop focusing on understanding your market, its buyers and their problems and start focusing on your growth objectives.

 

Last week I had dinner with my friend Graeme from the UK and he told me a joke that made me laugh, and also reflect on what it is often like to serve some organizations and their leaders.

 

 

So this guy is walking through the park and comes upon a woman with a baby stroller and she is crying. Trying to console her asks what is wrong… The young mother goes on to say that everyone says her baby is ugly and it really hurts her feelings. The stranger goes on to assure her that babies are cute and he was sure her baby was no different. The woman stopped crying and thanked him for his kind words. As he started to leave he said “Once again, I am sure your baby is not ugly…and oh, here’s a banana for your monkey”.

Having served a number of teams over the past 26 years I have experienced these integrity moments when I must share market driven truths with aggressive, entrepreneurial leaders. Often discovered truths are ugly. If the leader and his or her team is truly focused on authentically, passionately serving their market and increasing shareholder value they hear the market truths and ask me to guide them in developing a corrective roadmap.

If the leader and or their team however lack the emotional intelligence to hear constructive market driven feedback…I loose a client, and once again I am labeled a Heretic ( the person who stands up against group-think)  as Art Petty discusses in his recent blog post.

I am curious…if your baby needs a banana do you want me to tell you?

Are you sure?

 

Do members of your team have the moral courage to give you a banana when they need to?

 

Have you fostered a culture that welcomes bananas?

What goal is more important to you…your ego or becoming a market leader and increasing shareholder value?

 

One of the first stages of a fall from market leadership that Jim Collins discusses in his book: How the Might fall is; Hubris born of success.

Does this describe your senior leadership team? Your owner?

 

When asked to serve a team that is struggling or just suck, I prefer to gather current market driven data and present the current reality. My clients pay me to help get them back on course and I must be a good steward of their investment and present market truths.

Would this approach work with your senior leadership team? Why or why not?

Proven Steps to Profitable Growth; Step one Truth, …Understand Your Internal Truths

Posted by on November 25, 2009 with 7 Comments

 

One of the roles I must play to truly serve my clients is that of a “Heretic”. I often listen to business leaders discuss how what distinguishes them, their team, their product or service in their marketplace. They confidently state ; product quality, our service, and my favorite of all…our relationships is our competitive advantage… Bla…Bla…Bla. That is when I need to explain that in today’s competitive global economy, quality, customer service and relationships are not differentiators. Very quickly some leaders become defensive and start discussing how “I don’t understand their industry…” and they often start sharing how “their competitors suck”. Again, you may have weak competitors, but the fact that you may or may not be better than competitors that suck is not a way to differentiate yourself or create a sustainable competitive advantage…(sorry)

The Bible is provides us some very clear advice in this area…” “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? ( Matt. 7:3) and this advice rings true as leaders must look within their own organizations and establish their internal truths.

 

Having a core competency in; service, quality, or market relationships is not enough anymore.

 

Your team must have something that differentiates you in your market as Jack Trout explains in his popular book: Differentiate or Die. The authors of the best selling book: Tuned In, refer to this as your “distinctive competence.” The difference between a core competence and a distinctive competence is the latter differentiates you in your market.

You must gain a clear understanding of your distinctive competence in your strategic planning.

 

Assuming you established Market Truth as I discussed in my previous post, the next truth you must clearly understand is your internal truth(s). To help my clients establish their internal truths I like to ask a number of questions;

  • What do your customer’s say your team does better than your competitors?
  • What are the strengths and capabilities of your team leaders?
  • What is your team’s track record in terms of market growth over the past five years?
  • How many new products have you launched in the last three years?
  • Did those new products meet or exceed your launch objectives and ROI targets? Why or Why not?
  • Has your team introduced existing product(s) into new markets in the past two years? Did you meet or exceed your sales goals?
  • What is your current unused capacity that does not require additional investment?
  • What is your team’s ability to raise funds to support growth?
  • Do you have the access to funds to support your growth?
  • When was the last time you or one of your team’s leaders spent time in the market?

 

For example, I was asking these questions with one of my new clients in the past and their senior team all said the same thing but in different ways; “ we are not good at new…” What was interesting however was that at the recent off site strategic planning meeting it was decided that they would leverage new products to hit next year’s sales objectives. When I interviewed some of their key accounts they too confirmed this teams poor track history in launching new products. One clients said “ they are a great vendor, but they launch new products before they are ready, so we plan to wait six to eight months after their next launch to insure the product has all the bugs worked out before we buy…” Ouch!( their sales plan was not in alignment with clients waiting six months to buy) Again , what was disturbing was the mid level managers and their key accounts all knew a truth that the only people who failed to see were their senior management team. Sometimes senior leaders see issues and put band aides on them hoping they will heal on their own.

As you plan for a profitable future year … Rip Off the Band Aide(s) and Position Your Business For Growth in 2010.

Another new client wanted “more sales” . However, when we reviewed their internal truths the reality was they were currently at 90% of their production capacity and could not service new business. Had we launched a plan to gain new customers we would have frustrated those new clients as well as existing customers ( and their employees) as their service levels would have suffered. As we peeled this onion further we found a large percentage of their current orders were not profitable. So what the owner saw as a need “more sales” was actually a problem with a sales compensation model not in alignment with overall sales profitability.

You must establish internal truths, distinctive competencies, and identify your weaknesses when building your strategic plan. What we are discussing is about  

leveraging what you have. I am not saying as leaders you are not to improve weaknesses and bridge gaps . However what I am saying is you must authentically and openly humble yourself and your team to your internal realities.

Understanding your team’s strengths, as well as weaknesses and limitations insures the strategic plan you write for 2010 growth objectives is obtainable.

Market leading organizations clearly understand market and internal truths.

 

 

 

Market losing organizations can be identified by strategic plans not in alignment with their market or internal capabilities.

 

 

 

 

What kind of organization do you work for?

 

 

Does your 2010 strategic plan rely on effectively launching new products? (even though the last launch was supposed to sell 2,000 and only sold 2?)

 

 

 

Does your senior leadership team have the horsepower to take your business into a market leadership position?

 

 

 

Are you relying on those that got you’re here to get you there in the future? How’s that working for you?

 

 

 

Does your 2010 strategic plan count on you leveraging a capability your team does not have?

 

 

 

Have you reviewed the “why’s” your team failed to meet some of their objectives in 2009? Have you corrected what you found?

 

 

 

If you failed to achieve some of your 2009 strategic plan targets was it a “strategy” or “execution” problem? …you sure?

 

 

Market leaders understand the importance of identifying internal truths when strategic planning.

 

 

 

Market leaders understand the power of leverage. They leverage their distinctive competencies that solve market problems.

Rip Off the Band Aide(s) and Position Your Business For Growth in 2010

Posted by on November 7, 2009 with 1 Comments

What are you aware of that is broken in your business? You know that area, person, process, perhaps website that is not producing? It’s that area that you know you need to address, but you have tabled for now as you focus on bigger fish to fry. If you can’t admit perhaps it’s” broke”,(like a number of those who ask for my help)  let me ask you another way: What is that area that you know is just not right, but you slapped a band aide on to “get through until the business comes back to normal again”?

The reality is you will never see your business like it was unless you identify the areas that are roadblocks or worst yet broken ,and fix them.

I remember when my children were very young and when the would fall down playing and scrape a knee or elbow they did not want me to clean the minor scratch or put some medicine on it….they wanted a band aide. Band aides are magical in that once the problem is out of site they were miraculously healed. Tear filled faces became filled with smiles and the desire to get back to the play that resulted in the injury in the first place.

The difficulty came at night, before their bath when we had to remove that band aide. Back in the day, in an effort insure they did not fall off,…band aides were once glued   your skin and the removal of them caused some pain and or irritation. So what do you do? Do you slowly pull the band aide off? No, what you learned to do was to rip the band aide off quickly. Yes there is a momentary pain, but not nearly as long as trying to slowly remove it. Once the band aide is removed you can assess the true nature of the injury, clean it, and apply medicine to insure it heals and does not become infected.

As I work with a variety of companies in a number of industries I uncover band aides in a variety of areas; broken processes, people who are not adding value and should have been dealt with long ago, people in the wrong roles, websites that scare customers away instead of begin a discussion, antiquated costing systems, poor marketing, the use of old selling practices, …and the list goes on.

What I find is most leaders are aware of the problems, but quickly mentally ranked them, they performed a triage and determined what needed to be addressed immediately, soon, or something we can slap a band aide on and deal with it when the business gets back to normal. There is also some who seem to hope and pray they just go away.

The reality is you may never see the days you consider normal again.
If today is the new normal , what would you do differently moving forward?

The recommendation I give to my clients is to; reset their understanding of the market and their business. In that process we will identify band aides that were slapped on areas that needed repaired and now have become infected. The only way to determine if those broken areas miraculously healed themselves, or if they became infected and may be costing you business, is to rip them off quickly, and rip them off now.

Over the next series of posts I plan to share the process I have used to help businesses; launch new products, launch into new markets, grow in existing marketing, and rebound when they were faced with rapidly decreasing sales, profits, and market share. My commit to you is they are practical and you may even scratch your head and say “well it can’t be that easy”…the reality is; yes, it is.

I am not sure what caused it, or when it occurred , but leaders at some point decided problems were complex and therefore required complex solutions that none of us could execute if we had to … if the truth be told. The reality is when you boil problems down to their true essence there are no new problems. The problem may on the surface look or feel new, but in reality it has existed before. Identifying problems and the road blocks standing in the way of your team’s success and solving them is what we are paid to do.

How about your business…when I ask the question; what is broke and you know you need to fix it but it will be painful? …do you think about?
Are you sure the band aide you slapped on it long ago is working? How can you be sure?
Are you sure underneath that band aide you don’t have a festering infection that may spread throughout the body of your business? ( and worst spread to your customers)
Did you just address an area by “Ripping off the Band Aide”? If so please share what your learned.

Top 20 Entrepreneurial Best Practices to Make Sure 2010 is a Profitable Year

Posted by on October 28, 2009 with 6 Comments

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When I wrote my EBook: 50 Ugly Truths About Owning and Running Your Own Business…and 5 reasons why you should do it anyway I was responding to a number of misperceptions I was hearing from entrepreneurs.

Historically, at any given time six out of ten US adults is thinking about starting their own business. A number of new entrepreneurs are emerging that  I refer to as “necessity-preneurs “who were downsized and can not find new employment, are deciding to launch their own businesses as they want a much more active role in the security of their careers. The last group are cashing in their 401k and or borrowing from friends or family to buy an existing business and in a short amount of time realize they really just bought a job and they are quickly running out of cash.

One thing I have learned over the past 25 years of identifying roadblocks impeding businesses profitable growth is there really is not any new creations in terms of problems and strategies to grow a profitable business. Peter Drucker simplified it even further; there are only two considerations; innovation or marketing.

Just as I shared 12 mentor moments that I have used personally over the years to help businesses grow profitably, I have the Top 20 entrepreneur best practices that I have observed and lived over the years.

#1 “More” Sales or “Create Sales Velocity”?

#2 Dismiss or Distribute “Yafo’s” quickly …

#3; If Sales are Scary, You Can NOT Afford to NOT get Creative..

#4 Remember “The Law of the Locker Room”… it truly is a small world after all

#5 Tailor Questions for your buyers that Illustrate your Expertise and Prepare you to Serve their Needs

#6 Learn To Cut Bait …early

#7 You are Not Your Market

# 8 When Sales Get Rough…Look for Diamonds

#9 Don’t Let the Two Most Important Plates Drop

#10 “How” you “CHASE” New Business Matters….Do you want pepperoni with that new checking account?

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

#12 An “Idea” is not a product…and it’s definitely not a business

#13 Hire Strategic Partners… Not “Marketing Tools”

#14 Customers will Stiff you…But Don’t Let Them Burn you…

#15 Beware of “Smores”…Social Media Whores

#16 “Make a Wish” come true with Focused Passion

#17 intentionally reward the customer behaviors you desire …

#18 You will Receive Your Best Tips To Grow Your Company From Prospects Who Do Not Buy From You…

#19 Interview those who Exit and identify Roadblocks to Achieving Your Strategic Objectives…

#20 Exercise Your Power of Choice in Choosing Your Role on the Team…If Your Gift is Being a Duck….Be a Duck!

 

The above are by no means an all inclusive list of every entrepreneur best practice but they are some of my favorites. The post that seemed to resonate the most and create the greatest number of discussions was the difference between creating “more” sales versus “creating sales velocity” ( entrepreneur best practice #1).

 

 

How about you….do you have an Entrepreneurial Best Practice you use regularly and would like to share?

 

 

Of the above which best practice(s) resonate most with you?

 

 

Which of the above do most entrepreneurs struggle the most with based on your observations?

 

 

Is there a Key best practice not identified? (If so please add to the discussion)

 

 

As we move into 2010 which of the above Best practices do you feel will resonate most? Why?

 

Thanks for hanging with me  in this series of posts and I want to particularly thank those who have reached out to me personally to discuss this series of posts. As I have discussed, I enjoy helping entrepreneurs realize profitable growth and the strategies discussed are not new. One of my goals in blogging is to help business owners who may not be able to afford outside help at this time and I hope this blog adds value.

If you are wired to take on the 50 Ugly truths of starting and owning your own business and you have intentionally chosen to do it anyway I hope the above best practices were of value to you and your team.

Entrepreneurs will lead our country to economic recovery and I am proud to serve this innovative group of passionate problem solvers along with my other clients.

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

Posted by on October 22, 2009 with 0 Comments

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?