2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lesson #6: Without a Road Map Your “Administration” Will Attempt Too Much, Too Fast and Not Achieve Any of Your Goals

 philly map

 

It is an all too common problem;leaders trying to execute to many  things and not doing any of them effectively and thus missing their goals. Our current 2009 Health Care Reform is providing another lesson for business leaders throughout the world;

“Buy a Map!”

It was the late 1990’s and my independent sales representative Randy and I were working downtown Philadelphia looking for a new video game distributor. As we drove in what felt like circles we were obviously lost and frustrated. We must have passed the same hot pretzel street vendor three times, so I asked Randy to pull over in the next gas station so I can ask directions. As we pulled into parking lot and parked, I got out to ask directions, (Randy quickly locked the doors.) I thought …after all I am in the “city of brotherly love”…surely someone will be happy to give me directions… As I walked up to the bullet proof window the clerk said: “What?” I explained I was looking for the following address and I will never forget what he said…

map

Buy a Map!”          

 …little did I know then how profound that advice was when you feel lost.

A Road Map helps your organization (administration) understand where you are, where you want to be, and maps the 2-3 key initiatives  (from an overview standpoint) you plan to execute. In addition to identifying 2-3 key initiatives versus 23 or more, it also shows where you do not plan to go. Will your road map change? Sure, you may encounter a roadblock in your marketplace and you will adjust your trip plan, however you will recalculate the course to get to your desired destination.

A Mistake businesses leaders make is trying to do too much, too fast, and not execute any of your initiatives and miss your goals. When this occurs, your market loses trust in you, and you lose their votes. ( orders)

The current administration in the white house came in after a poorly executed stimulus plan. The market was already Leary of Washington’s ability to execute.

The past launch failure caused a lack of credibility and trust in the market.

Very quickly they announced the following plans;

American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.”

Close Guantánamo

Education Stimulus

Auto industry bail out

Tax Cuts

Increase Efforts in Afghanistan

Stop the Iraq war.

North Korea

New Energy

Plan for Immigration

Normalize relations with Cuba.

Auto higher mileage standards

Estate-Tax Plan

Confront Iran

Gun control

Climate plan

Plans for Israel

Is it any wonder the current administration will miss its budget projection by $2 TRILLION DOLLARS?

“Buy a Map!”

Again, this was not meant to me a political commentary but an example for us all to learn from. When you list all the initiatives your team is working on I think it would surprise most business leaders.

An exercise I often do with new clients is I meet with all middle and senior leaders and ask what they are working on. Very quickly I determine if I am helping a team that has a road map and is aligned.

When I polled CEO’s not long ago asking what concerns them the most;

Finding out six months into a launching a strategic plan that my team members are not executing to the plan.

The leading cause of teams taking on too much and team members acting on their own initiatives not in alignment with the overall corporate strategy is the lack of a road map. So…

“Buy a Map!”

Once you develop your map you must prioritize the initiatives that made the cut. You must assess what your team has the capability, financial resources and skill sets to execute. You will identify 2-3 key initiatives…not 23…54…or 76 .

Market leaders assess their capabilities and create a road map for their organization and share it with all team members.

Market losers lack self control and alignment that results in many initiatives and they fail to execute any of their objectives.

Market losers resort to name calling and blame-storming.

Less is more with a Market leading Road Map.

How about your …administration?

Have you added initiatives to your plan to hit your numbers or identified 2-3 you plan to do well?

Do you have a way to filter new opportunities?

What causes your team to be distracted from the road map?

Do you know your companies road map?

Do you and your leadership team need to …”Buy a Map!”?

 

Is “fleece throwing” the best way to launch your solution in the marketplace?

 

I was reading the Bible this morning, and in Judges 6:36-40 is the story of Gideon. A quick review of this story; God called Gideon to fight the Midianites. What we are supposed to do is obey and take action. However Gideon “tossed fleece.” What he did was a test of sorts, to make sure he would win before he went to battle. He said to God:

“If you will save Israel by my hand as you have said Lord, I will put a fleece on the floor overnight. If the dew is on the fleece only and it is dry on the ground, then I shall know you will save Israel by my hand as you have said”

This passage reminded me of product launches I have experienced over the years. When I wrote: Don’t let “FUD” cause you to “soft launch” your next product, I discussed how we let fear, uncertainty, and doubt prevent us from boldly launching our products and solutions into our markets. Gideon had a clear picture of his mission, he had all the power and wisdom of the universe behind him ,but he had doubt and uncertainty. ARCA0WGM1OCADC0AZOCAONZ7FWCA9CTXV2CA1587T4CAF2WA8RCA1QPY0CCAQYHW3GCATCNB8LCAW0TJCHCAAT12FWCACSX6MVCADSWY1DCA5N58OZCAV8C3QPCAEG7A94CATP9XXZCA6VA5HTCAIC0H9G

I have been following the blogs of Dave Daniels as his experience in launching products comes out in each post. What I enjoy most is his fresh “no smoke and mirrors” approach to launching products. I have yet to read how we are supposed to “put our toe into our market and make sure we will win” before we launch with everything we have.

I have lived through some product horrible launches and often I was to blame for poorly executed launches. The product came out of engineering late, sales was not properly trained, and our marketing failed to hit on time. So we soft launched and if the market embraced this new solution then we would do it the right way. Companies spend millions upon millions of dollars on; R&D, team member time (and the opportunity cost considerations of what they could have been doing), marketing campaigns are funded, sales people are trained and yet very few launches receive the attention they deserve. Dave is currently running a poll that I find very interesting that you can participate in at http://polls.linkedin.com/poll-results/43135/blzpm . He asks a very simple question, “Who is responsible for your launch?” I am very interested to see the results. My guess is the results will confirm this critical stage of the product lifecycle is left to chance, and because no one “technically” owns it, the results are predictable.

When I have experienced teams fleece tossing is when they lack confidence in their product or solutions’ benefit to their customer or they have not treated the launch process with the same urgency and discipline they did in writing the business plan, gaining funding, and or development.

The good news for Gideon is the Lord did give him a sign he would be victorious, and what did he do? He tossed another fleece just to be sure….

How about your team, are you boldly launching products or are you tossing fleece with soft launches?

What causes you team not to give launch the same attention the product received in development?

Does someone own your launch?

“Wet your sales team’s shields”… before they go into battle in your marketplace

 

Back in the days of the Roman Empire the warriors would prepare to go to battle by placing on their armor, gathering their weapons, and most importantly carry their shields. Their shields were obviously a tool to protect them in hand-to-hand combat, but also for  arrows shot from far distances where they often did not see the opponent who fired them.

Shields originally were made of wood wrapped tightly with animal hides. Some enemies however understood that shooting flaming arrows into opponents troupes long before hand-to-hand combat was a strong tactic as the outcome was often the destruction of the opponent’s shields. Without a shield the warrior was at a significant disadvantage in combat, and more likely to fall to random arrows fired from afar.

Experienced warriors would wet their shields prior to battle in anticipation of the flaming arrows. In today’s economy, salespeople are now receiving a number of flaming arrows that were not a part of the sales process in prior years.

round_shield_preview

· Longer sales cycles

 

· More people involved in the buying decision

 

· Need to have a stronger ROI to support the purchase

 

· Higher level executives within the customer’s team now must approve purchases

 

· Headcount reductions , so buyers are busier and more difficult to reach

 

· The internet, buyers now Google for solutions instead of calling their sales rep

 

 

My challenge is what are you doing to help your sales warriors go to battle in this marketplace? Have you created new sales tools to help them “wet their shields” before battle? Some of your competitors may even be equipping their teams with metal shields that not only defend against flaming arrows but also are much more efficient in the day to day hand-to –hand engagements.

 

The reality of today is just hoping the flaming arrows do not connect is not a strategy for success.

 

What new tools has your team created to help your salespeople win?

 

Have you identified the flaming arrows being shot at your sales team today?

 

Do you plan to use this time to move to more efficient tools and processes?

$84 million Greeting Card new product idea for Father’s day? …not so fast

Picture fathers day

Father’s day is approaching and what do you get the guy who seems to have everything? For my dad it’s pretty easy, although he lives 2,000 miles away we still talk each week and a couple of ideas quickly come to mind. He’s a big fan of the television show 24, and he likes to golf so I went to the store and I quickly found episode three of 24, a golf shirt, and a card that connected to a memory of when he would say” I’m not sleeping, I am just resting my eyes”.

My wife however struggles each year with  father’s day as her parents were divorced when she was very young and she has little if any communication with her dad. Each year she gets frustrated while shopping for a card as they all say things like; “to the best dad in the world”, or “for someone who was always there”. So I offered to find a card for her to send to her dad this year. (How hard could it be?Just go to Target and buy one right?)

I started looking at funny cards, yet they referenced time together. I looked at serious cards; however they expressed a deep message that did not seem appropriate. (Why did I volunteer for this mission?) This was becoming very difficult to find a card that basically says ; “Happy father’s day, although you choose not to be a part of my life I love you unconditionally and I am thinking of you this day, and although you forgot my last birthday, I want to thank you for helping to bring me into this world and it’s never too late to build a relationship”.

Having launched a number of new products over the years, my mind started racing…this is an unresolved market problem: Cards for children who wish to connect with their parents who are absent from their lives. ( I am reminded of the scene from the movie Night Shift when the actor gets out his tape recorder and says…I’m an idea man, for example; stop the garbage problem by having edible paper..yes, I have a tape recorder too)

Then that familiar little voice in my head said; I should start a company to fix this problem…..

Not so fast… does it pass the 3 step acid test discussed in the book Tuned In? Is the problem; urgent, pervasive, and are people willing to pay to have it solved?

Is this an Urgent problem? I would say yes every father’s day, Mother’s day, birthday, and holiday.

Is it pervasive, do a number of people have this problem? Again, I quickly say “yes” as this is a problem for my wife.( and therefore becomes a problem for me) I need to be sure however before I take funds from my home equity it will work. Very quickly I start extrapolating( justifying why I should do this); the divorce rate in the US is around 50%, so this problem could touch ½ the US population. So I remember reading somewhere the US population is around 290 million so ½ would be a potential market size of 145 million, sounds good so far. Not all parents that are divorced are absent from their children’s lives. However I do hear quite a bit in the news about deadbeat dads…so let’s assume 10% of divorced parents are absent from their child’s lives…so the market size is now around 14 million per occurrence, and there are at least three occurrences per year per person

Are people willing to pay to solve this problem? I would say yes again. After all I would pay more than the average cost of a card if it perfectly solved this problem, and I would not have to search so hard for the right card.

So we have an unresolved market problem, as far as I can tell. We have children of absentee parents who wish to communicate with them on special days and holidays. So let’s try to size this opportunity ;(three times per year kids need cards ) X(my market size of 14 million) X (retail price of the card, say $3.00). This would be a nice $84 million business right? Well no, my guess is the gross profit margin Target realizes on greeting cards is around 50%, so now the opportunity is $42 million.I need to write a business plan, go get funding and launch this puppy before anyone else thinks of it….again,maybe.

The above scenario happens to me mentally each day, many times per day as I find unresolved problems. The problems feel urgent, pervasive, and I am willing to pay to solve them…and that’s where most people blow it, because like me you assume and guess without market data.You may very well be willing to pay to solve this problem with a perfect solution designed just for this specific niche, however at this point you really do not know if others would be willing to pay to solve this problem. You really do not know if others feel this problem is as urgent to them, and therefore it may not be nearly as pervasive as you once thought. It may very well be an awesome idea and because we know this problem intimately we would be the perfect person to solve it.

I have helped a number of startups who saw unresolved market problems that were so crystal clear they felt they would be a fool not to launch a solution to solve this problem before someone else did. About 6-8 months into missing their positive cash flow projections they hire me to “fix it”. Sometimes they find problems in markets they know very well. Most of the new companies launched today were started by someone who was working for someone else at the time they discovered a problem. However some entrepreneurs fall into a trap; I’m a pretty smart guy, I have done ——-, and ——-, and I believe I can turn this into a nice business quickly that I can then sell to a market leader for millions, buy matching Bentley’s and never have a care in the world again…right? Again, Maybe…

I did a little research not long ago and found that at any given time 6 out of 10 US adults are thinking about starting their own business. The disturbing statistic was the majority, between 80-90% who do launch a new business fail within 18 months. Why? They launch without a thorough understanding of the market, they lack a business plan, and grossly underestimate the cash needed to build and grow the business.Of those that fail, 50% declare bankruptcy.

There are a number of great on line tools for how to write a business plan. You can Google “how to write a business plan” and you will find sites like; My own Business, and many others. Before anyone takes equity out of their home, or borrows from their 401K or loved ones I highly recommend you do research and write a business plan. When you write a plan, you will be forced to answer hard questions, and you will need to go into the market and do research and not just rely on your gut and mental extrapolations of market size. Based on my experience,when you estimate the cost to start your business pad it by +25%, and when you estimate your timeframe to positive cash flow add 8 months to your forecast. You still in the game?

You may vary well have the next great new product, and when you complete market research and build a business plan you may validate that opportunity. Once the plan is written show it to at least 5 trusted advisors and ask their opinion of the opportunity. Ask them if they would loan you the money to start this business and listen to what they say.(many will say it’s a great idea as to not hurt your feelings, however the true test is would they back it with their checkbook?) If these advisors say you have a winner, meet with a number of people who would be representative of your buyer persona and ask their opinion of your solution. What you must determine is ;does your solution perfectly solve their problem? In addition, you will be asked to create a SWOT analysis for your plan. In doing so make sure and review competitors in the space, as well as competitors adjacent to the space you wish to participate in. In this case I would be up against American Greeting and Hallmark to name a few. Far too often entrepreneurs launch great solutions to unresolved market problems but they underestimate competitors already in the space, or adjacent to the space.

If you find an unresolved market problem, and you find the problem to be pervasive and buyers are willing to pay to solve it, do yourself a favor and do some additional research and write a business plan.

Oh, and as for my hunt that became a three hour quest to find a father’s day card for my father in law…the card pictured worked just fine. Was it a perfect solution…no, but it will do.

Do you need to “Detox “your business before it can hit your goals?

detox_diet_toatl_diet

About twelve weeks ago I had a wakeup call. I had my regular check up with my doctor and he informed me I needed to have a prescription for high blood pressure. It seems my blood pressure was dangerously high and if not addressed could lead to a stroke or heart attack. I am not a big fan of taking medication that addresses the symptom and not the cause, so I asked the doctor what I should do. He reviewed my folder and looked me square in the eye and said “you need to lose weight, I don’t know if you realize it but over the last seven years you have gained over 50 lbs…loosing this weight would be a great start.” What the doctor did not know was that I was working out three times per week but just couldn’t lose the weight this time.

A friend had a noticeable weight loss (70lbs) recently so I asked Dave what was his secret? Without hesitation he said “Medifast” and he gave me the phone number of their local office. When I met the counselor she started by asking me a number of questions, taking my blood pressure and handing me a prescription for blood work I needed to have done at a local clinic. The counselor then explained the weight loss process will begin with a week of “detox” .

Instantly my mind raced and I became apprehensive and anxious. I thought of the infomercials from television about detox programs and how John Wayne was supposed to have had over 20lbs of undigested toxins in his system when he died. I started to worry about the process and how uncomfortable it probably would be.

The counselor obviously has seen the look I now had on my face before, so she started to educate me about how our bodies work. Our bodies were designed to be amazing efficient machines. We are designed to consume food that contains essential vitamins and minerals to keep us alive and full of energy. What happens through poor food choices, stress, and bad lifestyle choices is we accumulate toxins over time. Toxins significantly impair the efficiency our bodies were meant to operate in. Toxins surround fat cells and if left unchecked, prevent our bodies from metabolizing stored fat for energy. One result is we consume more food and do not burn the stored energy reserves as we were designed, and coupled with inactivity we gain weight.

When we detox our bodies we help clean out accumulated toxins and bring our bodies back to the efficiency we were designed for. In addition to now accessing fat cells for energy, your body will absorb vitamins and nutrients as is was designed and need to eat less.

Since starting the program with the m’lis suppliments eight weeks ago, I have lost just over 30 lbs and I have noticeably more energy, I’m wearing clothes I have not worn in years, and most importantly I no longer need to have a prescription for high blood pressure. The detox process prepared me, my body, to achieve my desired goals.

As I went through the week of detox it made me reflect how a number of the businesses I have helped over the years needed to detox before I could truly help them. Businesses accumulate toxins and by not actively participating in their markets they lose their effectiveness and become sluggish. They find their gut and intuition is not producing desired results. As I reflect about the process I have used to help companies over the years I noticed they often followed a predictable series of steps;

1. They ask for help, something is off; a missed goal, poor performance of key indicators…, they learn what it would take in commitment, time, cost, and they postpone or choose not to change…live with it hoping the problem, the pain, goes away on its own

2. Wake up call, something happens; having to use their line of credit to make payroll, they lose a key account (or two), a competitor launches an amazing new product that obsoletes their cash cow, poor EBITDA, or the board gives the leaders a timeline for improvement.

3. They commit to change

4. We go into their market, find out why people do business with them, find out why others do not, and gain the markets’ perception of what this company does and does not do.

5. Discover market problems no one is solving

6. If the business has a solution that solves unresolved problems, reposition it in the markets’ voice based on the problems this product or solution solves

 

7. Identify roadblocks, how easy or hard is it for your clients to do business with you? Identify the “flaming hoops “customers need to jump through, and tear them down

8. Detox- the entire team, flush all the old , dated , beliefs and clean the business from within of all the roadblocks preventing the efficient absorption of revenues and profits. One area that grows fat and becomes less effective is often marketing. I discussed this in my post; “Skubala” Marketing. Sometimes it is actually team members we need to deter as Art Petty identified in his blog post Detoxing Your Team.

9. Create new product solutions if your current offering does not solve the unresolved problems you discover

10. Collect testimonials of clients, in their words ( do not “marcom” their words) that describe the problem they had and how your product solved it

11. Tell, tell everyone in the market the problems you solve

12. Start absorbing the new revenues of a healthy business

13. Plan to detox your business frequently as markets change

If your business is not healthy today, you are not alone. The current economic condition was a wakeup call for a number of businesses. As Kristen Zhivago identifies in her blog post Bravery and your Revenue, it takes a brave CEO to operate in the “beyond the call” mode. For a number of teams they learned their business was not as healthy as it outwardly appeared in good economic times, times when the phone just seemed to ring and they were in call mode. Good economic times do not push us, stress us, and test the overall health of our business. Just as a stress test or a blood pressure cuff can provide an early warning to a potentially fatal problem in the future, tough economic conditions show us the weak points, the kinks in our corporate armor that must be improved.

The majority of the teams I have worked with needed to detox, flush their old beliefs, and inside out perceptions ,processes, and their “company speak” prior to being positioned for explosive growth. The most common way of detoxing your business is to seek the truth. You find truth in your market asking questions , not sitting around board tables starting sentences with; “I think” or my personal favorite “ when I ran _____( you fill in the blank) 10 years ago we …..” That probably worked great 10 years ago and that is why you now hold a leadership role. But guess what, the market has changed! Once the business completes the detox process they are positioned to become healthy, and ultimately a market leader in their space.

If you cheat and try to cut corners, not flush all the toxins from your business you will only postpone your future profits and shareholder value. If you don’t flush the dated perceptions, non contributing team members, policies and procedures that serve your team, but feel like flaming hoops to jump through for your customers, your business will remain inefficient, ineffective and could, if left untreated …die.

So do me a favor, start detoxing your business today and your team will become more efficient, effective and ultimately a market leader. Market leaders have higher gross profits, grow 2X that of competitors, have higher morale, and valued higher.

Most competitors will choose to be lazy and keep carrying around the dead weight of old assumptions that suck the life out of their growth, profitability, and their market value as an organization.

A couple of questions for you:

What Toxins has your business accumulated over the years?

What symptoms have you seen over the last nine months that were a wakeup call for you and your team?

If you choose not to detox, what is the reason? What are you afraid of?

Do you have team members that need to be detoxed?

How healthy is your bottom line?

13 “old school” steps to hiring the right independent sales representative

I have worked with independent sales representative firms throughout my career and wanted to share how I found firms that produce rapid results. These results include increased sales revenues, market share, and rapid strategic account product placements. As I discussed in my previous post “Should you hire Independent Sales Representatives?” before you hire an independent sales representative (ISR) you must understand the role they play as well as the role you will play supporting their efforts. For example, good ISR’s have a close network of buyer relationships and lines of complimentary products. Their goal is to sell as many of their product lines to the buyers they have built trusted relationships with over the years. ISR’s rapidly increase your speed to market and placement. At the same time they are “independent” if they wanted to be “managed” they would not own their own business.

So how do you hire the right ISR for you? Today there are many online tools to help you find ISR’s, from online rep finders to blogs and legal sites that even provide templates for ISR contracts. However sometimes the ways we did things prior to the internet, prior to the availability of so many tech based tools is still the best way. Below are the ten steps I learned to use over 15 years of experience on how to find top producing ISR’s.

1. Identify the accounts you want to sell in a region

 

2. Determine the appropriate buyers who purchase your product category at each account

 

3. Call each buyer, explain you are planning on hiring a independent representative and ask what are the top three firms you would recommend

 

4. Review your current markets where you have independent representatives and what complimentary product lines do your high performing firms have?

 

5. Call the sales managers at these complimentary firms. Ask them who they hired in the market(s) you plan on developing, and who they would not recommend and why

6. Take the lists you now have and prepare a letter of inquiry to introduce your company, your products, and the sales opportunity to the various ISR’s. Ask them to respond by a specific date with a presentation of their firm, the lines they currently carry and any other information you require.

 

7. Note the firms that called to confirm you received their information and asked if you had any questions. Weight them higher than those that do not follow up.

 

8. Sort all the responses and weight them with buyer and other manufacturer referrals. Review the lines they represent. Do not quickly dismiss firms that have competing products to yours as good independent firms will drop poor performing lines for product lines with bigger revenue opportunity or bring with them entrance into other strategic accounts within their territory. You may already have a relationship with an account in their market they have not opened, so representing you may open a door to a new relationship and sales opportunity for all their other lines as well.

 

9. Call the firms you are interested in working with and get a feel for their professionalism and phone presence

 

10. Book a Hotel room with an attached meeting room in the desired market and meet with all your top candidates. Request that not only firm principals attend but also some of their salespeople. A mistake many firms make is hiring an ISR based on meeting the principal of the firm, and they actually work with a team of different people.

 

11. How well did the firms you met with sell their firm and the value they can add to your organization?

 

12. Listen to your gut. Ask yourself honestly: How well does this firm match our team’s culture?

 

13. You also need to insure your product line will not get lost in their portfolio of products. How important will your product line be to this firm? Will your line provide 10%-20% of their overall commissions or will you “just pay their light bill?”

 

The above steps consistently produced high performing ISR’s in the markets I have served. It may seem like a lot of upfront work, however I have found the time you spend upfront finding the right firm for you will pay multiple dividends over the years, result in explosive growth quickly and a strategic partner to help your company grow year over year.

 

How about you…do you have a technique you use to find independent sales representatives?

 

Are you an independent sales representative? What do you want manufactures to know?

 

How do you know when it’s time to hire a new firm?

 

What do you do if a key account says they do not want to work with one of your ISR’s?

 

What is your policy on “house accounts” in the ISR’s market that you do not pay commissions on?

Should you hire an Independent Sales Representative?…the right firm is a key partner, not a necessary evil

I recently answered a question on linked in with regards to working with independent sales representative firms (ISR) that is all too common. The Vice President who posted the question mentioned his frustration with independent sales representative firms. He went on to say “how do you hire good representatives as he has to change representatives often, and none seem to be opening new accounts and growing our companies’ market share?” I really do not have enough information at this point to answer his question.

I have hired independent representatives for over 15 years of my career. Good independent representatives are worth their weight in gold. The company that chooses to hire an independent sales force needs to understand the role of these professionals. The main role of independent reps is to use their current relationships, established through supplying complimentary product lines they represent, to get your product placed. They have built trust with buyers in their market, and their relationships with their accounts will ALWAYS be more important than your rep contract…and their relationship with you. Factories come and go, but the accounts in their market limited. Just as you may feel risk when you hire an independent representative firm, the firm actually has a greater risk. Each product line they represent is both an opportunity to become more important to their buyers and increase their income, as well as a risk. Should they agree to represent your products and your company fails to do what they say they would do, and or your product fails to meet your brand promise, the local sales representative not only loses potential commissions, but they run the risk of a break in trust. (Their most important asset they have with buyers)

If you are thinking of hiring independent sales representatives, I would ask you to answer the following questions…

So tell me…

· What market are you in?

· What problem does your product solve for that market?

· The representatives you choose, how did you choose them?

· Did you profile complimentary products that touched the same buyers, and then hired those representatives that had those lines?

· What is your commission structure in relation to the industry, other lines the representative carries?

· When you hired the independent representatives, where did you get their names?

· What % of the independent firms overall income do you represent in relation to the time required to sell your product?

· How well do you know the buying process for your products?

· Do you have sales tools you have developed to help the sales process match the stages of the buying process?

· Do you have written buyer personas?

· How does your competitor(s) sell? Direct, or with independent representatives?

· Did you hire them with base revenue in each market, or will they only “eat what they kill”?

· Do you have any “house” accounts in their market?… you know, the big guys you don’t pay independent representatives commissions for?

If independent sales representatives wanted to be “managed” they wouldn’t be “independent.” As a manufacturer, a “factory” your role is to provide products that solve unresolved market problems. Your job is to understand the market potential for your product and build obtainable goals from the market up. Unfortunately the majority of factories establish goals by extrapolation. (In other markets we have sold z units, and you have y number of those accounts, so your goal should be z times y…right? Wrong!

I am looking forward to hearing from those companies contemplating the hiring of independent sales representatives.

 

Please answer a few questions for me;

 

How did you establish the goals for their territory? Was the independent firm involved in the building of the territory goals?

Do you have written buyer personas?

Have you mapped the buying process?

Do you know the sales process for selling your products?

Have you identified sales tools for the steps each persona takes in the buying process?

 

If you answered “no” to any (all) of the above then your problem is not finding the right independent sales firm, it is what you lack, and it is how you have set your sales representatives up to fail. Independent sales representative have instant access to goal achieving accounts if equipped and set up to win. What independent sales representative are not…they are not magicians, nor are they your product management, development or marketing.

In my next post I will share how to find and hire independent representatives that add tremendous value quickly. I will discuss how hiring the right independent firm is the most cost effective investment you will make. I will discuss how even the biggest bean counting CFO will be thrilled with the ROI produced by independent sales representative firms.

As CEO Should you give yourself a “pink slip?”

 At a recpink slipent T.I.E. event, a venture capital firm partner said “ by the time you change CEO’s, you are already twelve months late.”As I discussed in is your business is bleeding , if  your business is in trouble it is one, or a combination of three back to basics business triage areas; product, market or team.. Sometimes it may even be the team member titled CEO. So why do we have such a difficult time with this? Is it ego, Pride? A great post by Kristin Zhivago tilted ; Revenue and your charactor: the high cost of Pride touches on this as it relates to listening to cutomer needs verse thinking you know all the answers.I have found two types of CEO’s emerge over time in the life of a business; the entrepreneurial founder and the professional  business builder. Both skills are valuable and very important and rarely does one individual master both.

Entrepreneurial leader

This CEO has a technical expertise in their space, and are visionaries, “big picture leaders”. They are passionately focused on solving unresolved market problems. They see problems as opportunities. Their quest is the difference their work makes in the lives of others in their market. They are inventors who can not rest until their product or service perfectly solves the problem.

 

Business builder

This CEO knows how to scale a business. They know how to grow markets and their people. They measure what matters and have a strong network . They are balanced team builders that create a sustainable and repeatable growth.They are connected to their market, but may lack the technical expertise to solve unresolved market problems.

So how do you know what kind of CEO is needed by your business? 

What stage is your business in today?

What type of CEO does your team need at this stage of the organizations growth?

Honestly, are you that person?

There is nothing worse than providing the wrong skill set and leadership style given the lifecycle of your business. I am not saying to actually “give yourself a pink slip”, but a true leader knows his/her strengths that add value, and their weaknesses .Leaders know the needs of their team and market. If your business has grown to a point with your entrepreneurial flair, great, but rarely will this type of leader scale that perfect product or solution without help.

I see this very often in the Biomed industry. The founder is most often a scientist focused on “the work”, not the business of monitizing the work. So once the new solution is developed, they often hire a CEO to scale the business. This individual is not their “boss” but a partner with complementary skills  that will grow the business. These founders have the emotional intelligence to humbly admit their personal distinctive competencies.

So ask yourself a simple question to find what kind of CEO you are; is your passion in the development of products and or service solutions that solve unresolved problems? Or is your passion and expertise in the management and growth of  teams and  markets? Some might say, “well why should I pick, I am good at both.” Well I hate to break it to you, but if you feel that way you are either very rare, or very wrong. ( the odds favor wrong) Once you answer the above, now ask yourself what type of leader does your business need today? If you want an unbiased view, ask your team to participate in 360 review.

If you find the business needs a skill set you do not possess, one of the best things you can do for your business and personal wealth, is to hire that skill and it may be a new CEO. This decision will free you to serve with your gift while being complimented by a partner who also has unique competancies . Agreat article by David Allen some time ago Titled : You can do anything-But not everything helps solidify the need we all have to narrow our focus.

If you are a founder, how can you come to grips with growing and handing your baby over to someone else? Focus.Focus on your business and its needs!

Besides, the founder is the one authors write books about.

 

Is your business bleeding?… Three back to basics triage steps to stop the bleeding

 triage

If your revenues are off as of late you are not alone. However knowing others are struggling does not help you know where to make adjustments to achieve your corporate objectives, or for smaller companies to help you make payroll. I call this looking for the real “why.” Once you determine the true “why(s)” you can make strategic corrections and adjustments to correct your business.So what should you do if your business is bleeding today? It may feel like death by a thousand cuts, but I can assure you it is always one of three ailments.

Over the years, when your business was booming you really did not need to be that good. I know that disturbs some people, but the tendency for some is to have taken a position of; “do I know where the business is coming from and why people buy from me? ..Why should I care as long as it keeps coming in?” (as described by one of my customers years ago.) Well, now is the time they are caring.

There are three back to basics business triage reviews I  always asses. If you are not achieving your revenue targets your business is bleeding in one, or a combination of the below;

 

1. Product

 

2. The market

 

3. Your team

 

 

Product

Do you have a product problem? What problem does your product solve? How well does it solve this problem? What have your customers been saying lately? Is your product the perfect solution for an unresolved market problem?

 

Market

Do you have a market problem? Do you have a market or solution for one customer? How pervasive is the problem you solve in your market? What new conditions has your market experienced? Has your market experienced any new market dynamics like new competitors, government regulations, environmental factors, technology changes? Does your market feel the problem you solve is urgent? Does your market have the ability to pay for your solution? ( a word of caution, too quickly leaders determine they are bleeding due to a market problem, be careful)

 

Your team

If your product is a perfect solution (determined by the market) and the market is urgently looking for someone to solve their problem with cash in hand, then your problem is your team. This is one of the most difficult areas to adjust. The quickest indicator I look for is how market driven your team is overall. How focused and passionate are they to serving the market? Does your team possess the skill set required for the market of today? As is often the case some team members provided tremendous value in the past, but now lack the experience or training to meet the market needs of today. In a Fortune article recently it discussed how market leading companies are always training their team members in good times and bad.

Here’s a shocker for some CEO’s …you are a part of the team too!

If you have a product that perfectly solves and unresolved market problem, and a market that desires to pay someone to solve the problem your product solves, and you have an amazing team….then the problem may be you. Ouch!..that hurts , how do you know if you are the problem? You need to ask yourself some tough questions;

How well does your experience and training match the needs of your team and your market?

What area do you feel is your strength?

What area is your weakness?

What skill does your business need today?

What steps have you taken, and or are you taking to offset your weakness and or the needs of your business?

leaders know their strengths and humbly admit their weaknesses. Top leaders are committed to continuously improving their abilities to better serve their internal and external customers. This is accomplished through growing our abilities and balancing our teams with leaders who compliment our weaknesses.

It’s time you go back to basics and perform honest triage if you find your business bleeding.

A backpacker's advice when we feel lost in business…

 

I was sharing with a friend who is an avid backpacker that a number of clients feel lost in today’s economy. Today is unlike anything they have experienced before and they feel lost. The things that always “worked” before, do not seem to apply now. As we discussed this my friend Jim said “well you know what they teach backpackers? We teach backpackers when they are lost to; STOP.

 back sitting

Sit                                        

Think

Observe

Plan

 

As I drove home that night I thought how profound that advice is for business leaders and owners today. I see so many business owners thrashing around, busy with tasks (tactics) that they have always done and hope they will change their current circumstance. It is difficult to just stop. Yet the reality of thrashing around without focus only depletes our resources and exhausts us. Exhausted and afraid we are not able to make rational (strategic) decisions which results in our becoming even more lost, and increasing the potential danger. Like a tire stuck in the mud some of us keep pressing the accelerator only to sink deeper into trouble and making more of a mess.

When we STOP, we replace activity and busyness with stillness. We stop depleting resources aimlessly throwing everything at the wall in hopes it sticks and allowing us to conserve our energy for more strategic effort at a later time. In a quiet state we can recognize what resources we have, where we are, where we have been, and accurately assess and observe the reality of the moment. In this state you may choose to make camp and seemingly do nothing. Rescuers will tell you when lost; the best way to be found is to not move. You may notice a landmark you failed to see while thrashing deep in the brush. Once still new options become evident.

When we STOP thrashing around in busyness and we can make our plan. Planning after thinking and being intentional about your future movements or non movement coupled with a thorough understanding of what is reality prepare us to make the most effective and efficient plans.

Plans give us focus, purpose, and an objective to rally behind. When we plan we naturally review a variety of scenarios so we create alternative plans that we may engage as we gather new information or encounter new challenges. The old saying “when we fail to plan we plan to fail “affirms this advice.

How about you? Have you taken the time to STOP over the last six months? If not, how’s that working for you?

Deciding to STOP could be the most valuable exercise you can do for your business and yourself.

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