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

 

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.

Proven Steps to Profitable Growth; Step one, …Establish Market Truth

The first key step in writing a powerful flight plan (roadmap) to grow your organization profitably is; establishing market truth. There are many truths we need to insure the strategies and corresponding tactics and key performance indicators are in alignment with the true market opportunity. Unfortunately a large percentage of business leaders use their gut and intuition and fail to establish current, relevant market truth before they launch market strategies.

The leaves are almost off the trees as I drove South on Route 71 in Ohio last week to work with one of my clients. It’s that time of the year for cold damp rains, grey cloud cover, and this time of year business leaders are sequestered off to key offsite meetings to write their strategic plans for next year. As I discussed in a recent post: October – November…National Strategic Planning Months…When Do you Focus on Strategic Plan Execution? …it never ceases to amaze me that over 70% of sales growth objectives were not achieved in 2009, and yet those same teams will receive sales quota increases in 2010. What are the leaders of these businesses thinking? Is it their assumption that 70% of their sales team is just incompetent, not trying hard enough, or are they just trying to “will” their businesses to succeed? As I discuss in my guest blog post far too often the true issue behind businesses not achieving key performance indicators is more related to your teams ability to execute effective market driven strategies. Since I discuss how to overcome the execution and accountability management challenge in the post I provided a link for above, in this post I plan to discuss one component of truth needed to; build market driven strategies that increase shareholder value.

As I discussed in my post : don’t look now but your lack of market knowledge is showing , far too many leaders are making decisions and writing plans based on dated or worst case incorrect information. How does this occur? The leading cause for Leader Market Disconnection Syndrome ( LMDS) are the Hippo’s in your organization calling audibles without any market data to support their directives. The reality is; thinking is hard work.

 

 

When you peel the onion and find the true “why’s” behind your team missing its goals you will find it is not for the faint of heart and requires a strong emotional intelligence.

 

The quickest way to build strategies that drive explosive sales and profit growth is to get re-acquainted with your market.

 

Years ago there was a great commercial in which a business owner called a meeting and instead of pontificating about opinions. gut instinct and intuition he distributed airplane tickets to his senior executive team and sent them out,…out into their market to visit belly to belly with those mysterious entities called “customers”.

 

 

If you want to create a business plan that results in explosive growth in 2010 and beyond get out of your office and dive deep into your market now.

 

What you will find very quickly is the market has changed considerably in the last 15 years from when you carried a sales bag. The market has changed significantly in the last six months! As I discuss in my post: Are you Enabling your Sales Force or Emasculating them? some of those changes include;

 

  • longer sales cycles
  • more influencers involved in the buying decision
  • greater pressure on terms
  • increased pressure from international suppliers
  • as well as many more…

 

The first step in establishing market truth is to get out in your market and speak with your customers, potential clients, and those potential clients you recently quoted and failed to win.

 

While your sales team will tell you the reason you did not win the contract was price, my personal experience and research has proven time and time again price is not even on the list of reasons why your buyers do not buy. As high as 50% of lost sales are due to the sales process not having the right sales tools to help their buyer buy.

Market leading organizations continually outpace market losers and one of the key reasons why is their clear understanding of their market, its problems, and their changing buying processes and buyer criteria.

Market losers listen to disconnected Hippos and increase their sales objectives although they failed to meet goals last year.

 

 

Do you work for a Market Leader or a Market Loser?

 

 

When was the last time one of your key leaders met belly to belly with a customer? Potential customer? A customer you bid but failed to win?

 

 

Is your organization launching strategies that are market driven or Wall Street driven?

 

 

Are the new goals you are asking your team to achieve built from the market up with real current market data, or are they the result of ROI justification meetings with product mangers who never left the building?

 

 

Step One, Truth: Establish Market Truth

 

Walls Don’t Solve Problems…They Create New Ones

20 years ago today the Berlin Wall came down. It was described as “the triumphant end of a failed system”. Like the Berlin Wall, organizations throughout the world have walls, inner kingdoms, silos, that add no value to their markets. As I discussed in a previous post ; Silos are Great for Shooting Missiles not for growing Market Leading Organizations, “Tear Down Your Dysfunctional Silo’s and become a Market Leader. If your organization has silos, walls built around business units designed for kingdom building and a self serving desire to feel superior its time to change. As your business prepares for 2010…tear down those walls!

 
 
Market leaders identify and solve market problems.
Market leading organizations understand the value of having every team member aligned around the corporate mission to serve their market.
Market losers have inner kingdoms, silo organizations within the organization that add no value for their markets.
One of the greatest challenges facing organizations is the ability to execute effectively and efficiently.

Walls built between organizational units like; sales and marketing, and or marketing and engineering add no value. These inner walls have a negative impact on your organization’s ability to be competitive with nimble competitors who do not have the added costs of kingdom protection built into their overhead. Walls are propped up by insecure leaders who are more focused on their personal goals and compensation than that of the organization. A quick way to identify one of these kingdom builders is their frequency of blame storming other departments when they fail to meet their Key Performance Indicators. These Lords and Ladies of the castle rarely use words like “we” and regularly use sarcasm when referring to other silos not within their command. The outcome of inner walled organizations is bureaucratic processes and procedures designed for individualized leader safety and not growing the organization.

Attention All leaders…tear the walls down and prepare for 2010.
How about your organization…..
Do you work for a market leading organization focused on serving its market? Or do you work for a market loser that allows walls and silos to form to create internal kingdoms for individuals and groups?
Does your culture allow walls?
If you culture does allow walled departments loyally guarded against other departments…how’s that working for you? More importantly …how’s that working for shareholder value?

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

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.

The Fruit of Understanding Your Buyers…”Pomegranate Marketing”

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So your marketing has done a great job of explaining the problems you solve for your market…but you are still not hitting your key performance indicators for sales? Your market may not know how to start working with your organization.

Does your market know how to work with you?… You sure?

 

What I find far too often is teams who feel that it is “so intuitive” with regard how to start a relationship with their organization. I hear things like “anyone can understand how to become a customer”. However when you actually talk with customers, potential customers and others in your market, you find you are more of a pomegranate; something I know I need, you solve a problem for me, but I just don’t know how to open and get started with you.

Pomegranates are an amazing fruit with a number of antioxidants. They are of particular value to men over 45 as the consumption of pomegranates has shown a reduction in prostate cancer. There has been a tremendous amount of information shared about the value of consuming them, yet very few US consumers actually buy them?

I know they have a value, they solve a problem and the price is not prohibitive, so why haven’t I bought one? The truth be told I did not know how to get started with one, how to open it and receive a benefit from its fruit.

blog pics, tyler apt,kecia riely 138

I must not be the only one with this problem as the pomegranate growers have produced a flier that walks its market through a simple three stage process to open one and harvest the fruit.

How about your business?

 

Do you count on clients intuitively knowing what you do, how to find you, and how to open a relationship with your team?

 

The burden of providing how to harvest the fruit of your product or service is yours and not your markets’.

Market leaders help buyers along their buying journey and teach them how to engage.

Market losers feel their product or service is so perfect, brilliant, that you would have to be an idiot not to get it…. Unfortunately for this group the idiots are often identified at the quarterly board meeting explaining their poor execution.

 

 

Does your organization provide pomegranate marketing for your market?

 

Do you clearly explain to your market how to engage with your organization?

What is your buyer’s journey? Have you highlighted a map for them?