Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ten Do's and Dont's in Good Times and Bad

As a business leader, here's a quick look at key areas of focus for the success of your business.

1. Magnetic Vision- It's the role of the leader to ensure our associates understand where we are headed and are regularly reminded of their role in making the successful journey. The successful vision is one that gets everyone excited each day to be a part of it, looking forward to coming in and making a difference. "Making it up as we go along" isn't going to cut it!

2. Winning Culture- we've talked about this in previous newsletters, but as a reminder, what we want to create is an environment in the company where the people who work there don't get up and feel like they "have to" go to work, but rather that they "want to" go to work. We get this by winning over their hearts. So, the great challenge of a question is "what are you doing to win over the hearts of your associates?"

3. Key People in Key Spots - a Sales Leaders job is NOT TO GROW SALES, it is to grow salespeople. Do that, and they will grow your sales. So, who is actively and regularly growing the sales force in quantity and quality? I don't believe it to be effective if the CEO is also the Sales Leader. As well, promoting the best sales producer rarely results in a solid Sales Leader. And, the worst is where we make the best sales producer the Sales Leader and expect them to continue with their book of business. If you seriously want to grow your sales, invest in a top performing Sales Leader.

4. Cash and KPI's- CASH is KING. The CEO needs to stay on top of this critical number and should have daily/weekly actual and rolling 60 day forecasts available for review. As well, attention must be paid to the current ratio, particularly in these times of the financial and banking crisis. The lines of credit you "think you have" just might be an illusion when you really need them. A daily review of a quality financial "dashboard" is highly recommended- see Verne Harnish' "Mastering the Rockefeller Habits" for a good model.

5. Change Agent- Take it from Jack Welch: "If the change inside your company is slower than the change outside, the end is in sight." It's the responsibility of the leader to "sell" change throughout the organization as not just a needed thing but as a good thing.

6. Winning is in the Preparation- All too often in challenging business environments, we see a cutback in the training and practice areas. The best sales people are "canned", saying the same things each time they encounter similar situations. We need to ensure all on the team are prepared, practiced and not out there "winging it".

7. Systems and Processes- There's hardly anything that goes on in a sales call that couldn't be anticipated before your arrival. As such, most everything can be designed and built into a system and process. The largest sales force I led was 2600. Clearly there are not 2600 "best ways" to sell. So, our opportunity is to discover what those "best ways" are and build the needed systems and processes.

8. Key Relationships- Identify your key relationships by category: for example, bankers, centers of influence, key clients, government officials, etc. Go "deep". Example: If you are working with 3 banks, you should ID 1-2 more prospect banks and nurture them, along with nurturing the existing 3 with about 4-5 bank executives in each. Set up a schedule of "touches" with personal visits and email/phone calls to ensure the relationship is leveraged.

9. Continuous Education- there are a myriad of organizations of CEO's, entrepreneurs and "C" level positions designed for idea sharing, high level business education and mentorship. These organizations can bring insightful solutions and support for your business challenges and opportunities, comprised of business leaders from all matter of industries. As well, we recommend active involvement in your industry trade groups. Never stop learning!

10. Have Fun! If you as the leader aren't, it will be reflected throughout your organization. Companies enjoying what they do typically outperform those that don't. Besides, do you really want to wake up and decide to not have fun?

The "Don't's"? Just re-look the list and play out the opposite!

Good Hunting!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Continuous Self Developement- Books of the Month

Two books on the list this month, one for business and one for personal. This one will be missed by many business book enthusiasts, and yet it is a "not to be missed" book:

THE CHECKLIST MANIFESTO by Gawande. In a nutshell, the book shows that a team is only as strong as its checklist- a way of organizing that empowers people at all levels to put their best knowledge to use, communicate at critical points, and get things done. Experts need checklists-literally-written guides that walk them through the key steps in any complex procedure. In effect, "by the book" trumps individual prowess. Here's what Malcolm Gladwell of Tipping Point fame had to say: "It has been years since I read a book so powerful and thought-provoking." This book will force you to ask, what could we "checklist" and increase our efficiency and profits?

My next book is HEROES FOR MY SON by Brad Meltzer. This one is a short jewel to be shared with children/grandchildren of all ages. Brad Meltzer is one of my all time favorite fiction writers but HEROES is a departure for Brad, inspired by his son and wanting to share examples of the spectacular potential that can be found in all of us. Once read, this is a book that cries out to be read again and again. My bet is HEROES FOR MY SON will be one you buy several copies for friends and relatives. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Win With Culture

On several occasions I have spoken and written about the importance of designing and implementing a "Winning Culture" at your respective business. The evidence continues to mount that "culture" can make all the difference between so-so performance and dramatic positive results in any market. One CEO/Owner recently said it best: "If we get the culture right, Jack, all the other things you speak to in Sales and Sales Management will be easier. If we don't get the culture right, everything you speak to will be hard." Wow, how right this is!

When I think about culture, it's creating an environment in our company, where the people who work there don't get up and say "Oh, I gotta go to work today", but rather "Hey, I get to go to work there!' and actually recognize the positive differences of working in our company and look forward to going in. If we can create such an environment, we then would have a competitive, sustainable advantage. Unfortunately, few companies are spending the efforts needed here, and in a tightened economy, even less effort is being expended!

John Kotter spent 10 years studying and comparing companies with a focus and effort on culture to those companies that didn't and he discovered four significant take-away's:

•Revenues increased 682 % vs. 166%
•Stock prices increased 901% vs. 74%
•Net income increased 756% vs. 1%
•Job growth increased 282% vs. 36%

Pretty compelling data! Key to a winning culture are the systems and processes that reinforce communication, recognition and empowerment, amongst a number of other areas. Someone needs to "own" this effort and make it an ongoing lifeblood of the company. The fad of the quarter would arguably be worse than doing nothing at all. So, the first thing we must wrestle down is "who is responsible for this effort?"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Continuous Self Development-Books of the Month

Two recommendations this month, both hitting in the critical area of "Marketing". Reality Marketing Revolution by Lieberman & Keiles is simple, basic, on point, action oriented and provides follow-thru suggestions with a Resources Directory. I loved the identified five questions the authors use with their clients to craft an effective marketing strategy:

1. What are the company's revenue goals over the next 12-18 months?
2. Who is the exact target audience that will purchase your service?
3. What pains and problems does this target market have when they purchase services like yours.
4. What solution does your company provide to cure those pains?
5. How are those solutions remarkable enough to start a buzz and set you apart from the competition?

This is a great, marketing guide for small to medium sized businesses.

My second pick is Inbound Marketing By Halligan, this is a must read and guaranteed to kick up your effectiveness at leveraging social media and blogs. This book is all about getting found online and driving business in to you! I've yet to read anything better out there on this critical topic to every business. Short on theory and long on action, that's how I like it and that's what Inbound marketing delivers. It will not only tell you why you should be more active in this relatively new frontier, but more importantly "HOW". Ever since reading it, my mind continues to race with ideas, we've put several things in place and know we have a long way to go before we have tapped the potential. I suspect Inbound Marketing will be used like a reference manual for us, and you, for at least the next year in order to leverage so many of the actions that Halligan shares. The internet has the potential to be a game changer for our companies and our sales forces. Once you've read just 30 pages of Inbound Marketing, you will be salivating over the potential and begin putting in place action items to get business coming to you!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Inspect the Baskets

This is an activity, that if done at least monthly, will in it's own right add increased business to your bottom line. So, let's take a look.

Every sales professional should be maintaining three baskets of business:
1. Prospects
2. Customers
3. Clients

Prospects are people/firms that aren't currently doing business with us, but we sure wish they were. Customers are those firms/people who buy from us occasionally but not regularly. Clients are the very best-those people/firms that do business with us regularly and ongoing. The Sales Professional's goal should be to build a clientele. We then call this working smarter, not harder. In fact, the top sales performers tend to work with less people and trade off of their relationships.

So, back to inspecting the baskets. For a starter, each sales person should identify the top twenty in each of the three baskets and inspect what stands in the way of winning over their business, and what actions are being taken to winning them over. Once we are solidly reviewing the Top Twenty, we suggest adding another twenty, and so forth. Over the years, what we have experienced is the age old things that get measured, get done. Do this on a regular basis, and watch your business grow!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

We Are All in Sales

Airlines losing money, as normal course of biz.

I recently sat on a flight that was 30 minutes past departure time, and there was zero communication to the passangers (also known as customers, the people who create the revenue). 4 flight attendants were standing 3 rows up from me in the bulkhead, having a jolly good time with one another, catching up with who knows what.

Meanwhile, the customers (many who missed connections the previous day due to weather and were anxious to get on to their destinations) are ignored. I wondered if the owners/managers of the business were present if the flight attendants behavior would have been different?

What if the flight attendants were outside their business and were now the customers, being ignored by the store they were considering shopping in. Would it affect their purchasing attitude? Would they share their negative experience? Is it any wonder the airlines as an industry are losing money?

So, now, let's look to your business. What messages are the people in your company sending to their customers on a regular basis? Create a system to ensure you know regularly and that all can be consistently aware.

We are all in sales, just don't realize it enough.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Test the System

How bad is the economy? Imagine trying to make a reservation for a hotel room at 9pm in the evening for a date 2 months out and being told to call back tomorrow at 8am when "reservations" is open! When I laughed and said I had never heard of such a thing, the hotel rep asked "what?". I said that I never heard of a business telling a customer to go away, she replied she wasn't doing that, just to "call back tomorrow after 8am".

Is this what the owner had in mind? Could the person on the line have asked for my contact info to followup that I didn't go elsewhere?
Here's the icing on the cake. When I related the story to my wife, she said she runs into it "all the time".

This is all happening when unemployment is north of 10% and the economic news is reported as dismal. I know 10 year old kids who are more enterprising!
Lesson: check what's being said regularly by your team with the customer. Be a customer and "test the system". Are you welcoming business or sending it away?