Reignite Sales: 5 Simple Changes that Drastically Increase Your Odds of Success
At the end of the day, companies need to grow to be successful. What executive will say they don’t care about profitable growth? And that means more pressure on sales. Yet, growth is very elusive and less than 20% of companies are able to sustain even modest single digit growth for five or more years. Burning the midnight oil won’t change that.
You can beat the odds by being in an industry with a tailwind, or if you are a newer company on the front side of the growth curve, or by acquiring other companies and consolidating. Even then, in aggregate they represent the exceptions. Not to mention, those aren’t variables in your direct control.
Most leaders struggle to achieve organic growth, especially in a mature industry. The good news is, it can be done, in any industry, and it isn’t as hard as it sounds—unless, of course, the organization is stuck in the status quo.
What does it take? Leaders need the vision and courage to lead, salespeople need to sell to the right customers, and the two groups need to be aligned in action by the strategy. Together, they can identify new paths to growth that still deploy existing capabilities while not being restrained by them. It is time to break free from limiting view points and traditions that no longer work.
Here are 5 specific things you can do that will lead to increased company sales and put it on an accelerated growth path.
1. The ROI of thinking:
Many of us who have been in business for a while operate off our experience. We are able to keep up with the growing pile of work because we have operating history that enables quick decisions on our part. But, do you think or do you know? How much of what we think we “know” do we really know based on fact, and how much of what we think is based on that accumulated experience? Both matter but we need to respect the differences and understand when facts are necessary and the proper role of opinion. Typically, those that use a rear-view mirror, or past experience, to make decisions that impact the future often end up perpetuating the status quo and missing great growth opportunities.
Rely on facts for decision-making and expect your employees to do the same. As a leader, you drive that through the culture by asking employees why they recommend what they do, not telling them what to do.
2. The profitability of “outside-in” thinking:
As hard working professionals we know there is always a problem to solve. Often times, that problem has to do with the way the company works—can we get more products to ship, or how can we make up production time on a delivery that is running late, or how do we reduce costs so our margins aren’t so squeezed? Unfortunately, those answers don’t help us sell more because they are focused on our needs—not our customers. Our customers often don’t see it the way we do. They don’t really care why we can’t do something or if we make money. At the end of the day, to grow you have to care more about what they think than about what you think, even if you know a lot more about it than they do—even if they are wrong. Spend time solving their problems, seeing things through their eyes and then re-engineering your organization’s approach to better meet their needs. Leaders and salespeople are tasked not with being right but with delivering against expectations established by the industry as a whole and your brand specifically. If you are the company that solves the “elephant in the room” –the industry issue that has always been a thorn in the side but is accepted because it has always been done that way– you will reap significant rewards.
Don’t accept the status quo and never fail to approach business decisions from an “outside-in” perspective; you will find better solutions that add value to your customers and growth to your organization.
3. Focus on Strengths:
It is much easier to build on strengths than correct a weakness. Yet we tend to spend a lot of time trying to be good at everything rather than developing a strategy or game plan that leverages our talents and capabilities. The downside of focusing on what isn’t working includes:
- It is swimming upstream; it takes longer and requires more total effort.
- Fixing weaknesses typically requires a larger investment relative to return, especially if it only brings you or the organization even with others.
- It takes energy away from what is most important. There is only so much time to allocate and this may not be the best use of yours.
Building on strengths is an approach that applies to overall company strategy as well as management of individuals within the company. Focus people, departments and the company on what they do best.
4. Me-too Solutions Don’t Lead to Growth:
Does your firm try to match your competitors at every turn—carry similar products, offer similar discounts, try to be in the same price range, and add the same services? If so, you are playing the me-too game and it is a losing game. Customers who can’t see the difference between companies decide who to work with based on —price. (Yes, customer relationships can be a differentiator but will your relationships stand the test of a better price or just get you the job if all else is equal? It may not be the advantage you think it is unless it adds quantifiable value.) Companies who emulate competitors add more cost without getting more margin or new customers—a losing proposition. Don’t follow competitors; differentiate from them.
What can your organization do better or differently in order to set your organization apart on a criterion meaningful to your customers? A criterion that they will pay more for? This works even in the most mature industries dealing in commodity products. Apply outside-in thinking to define the win-win that leads to next-level growth.
5. The Inequality of Customer Profitability:
Not all customers are created equally. In fact, most companies lose money on a surprising number of customers but don’t have the means to identify how many or which customers are detracting from profits. That means that the profitable customers hide the losses from the unprofitable ones, masking the scale of the problem. Some companies spend too much time seeking every sale, regardless of size or whether the customer requirements necessitate deviation from their standard business models. While it is perfectly fine to customize, if everything is customized, it derails operating process and creates the “whac-a-mole” environment of constant fire-fighting. No company should try to sell everybody and growth-oriented leaders and salespeople are clear about which customers are the “right” customers.
You can define your target customers by answering these three questions:
- Which customers are we profitable with?
- Which customers can we grow with?
- Which customers can our capabilities and strengths best serve?
Use the insights from these questions to design your target customer criteria.
Spend 80% of your time pursuing this high-opportunity, financially rewarding customer, and 20% of your time on anything else.
If we are willing to practice these principles, our organizations can escape status quo and reap the rewards of significant growth. In every case, it is not about big budgets but big thinking. The only thing holding us back from approaching business this way is the past.
Margaret Reynolds is a growth catalyst, an expert in strategically engineering organizations for growth, a professional speaker and founder of Breakthrough Masters Unlimited, a consulting firm dedicated to making growth-oriented leaders, entrepreneurs and executives more successful. Margaret’s book, Reignite: How Everyday Companies Spark Next-Stage Growth is available now. For business growth keynotes, seminars, and 1-on-1 consulting, contact Margaret directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (816) 350-7680.