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.

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

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Market leaders act different. They understand it’s about more than taking your customer’s money. They go out of their way to teach their clients about their products and they show their clients creative new ways to use their products or services .

 

Market leaders focus on the buying experience.

 

 

The net result is they deepen the bond, the trust, with their clients and their sales increase.

 

I needed some chlorine tablets for my pool floater so I went to Paddock Pools. I have tried a number of pool supply stores over the last eight years, but I always come back to Paddock. I could buy my tablets at Home Depot, or even Big Lots if I time running out correctly, but I prefer to pay a little more and buy my chemicals from someone who knows pools.

 

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As I entered the store I could not help but notice a mini Haunted house to my right. I thought how cool…just like they create amazing Christmas tree displays to offset their down season sales, they also have Halloween decorations.

How smart…they created a merchandising customer experience.

As I checked out with my new bucket of chorine tablets I was asked …” Did you go inside?” I admitted the young boy still inside me wanted to, and she encouraged me to go inside and check it out. So I ducked my head and went through the cray paper streamers and went inside.

 

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Inside there where all kinds of products merchandised to illustrate how to use them, even a spooky fireplace in the back of the room. Everything in this mini Haunted house were product’s the store sells and they showed how to use them with a little creativity.

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I just had to ask the cashier how long this took to build and the cost. She said with a smile…” well we argues about how to do it for an hour, …we planned it for another, then it took two hours do when the store was slow.” I asked; “was it expensive?” …she said “no, not really.. I think we spent about $75”, (and my gut said they spent their own money and did not expense it.) I asked if I could take pictures of their handiwork and their faces just lit up with smiles.

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When business is tough you must be creative. As I discussed in my post about leveraging what you have, you must assess what you have instead of doing what most struggling entrepreneurs do and that is make a list of what they need to be successful…”if we only had….we could hit our revenue numbers”.

This store, this organization, did a number of things right…

 

They leveraged what they had.

 

They stuck to their “flight plan

 

Created an experience and not just a floor display

 

They “showed” their clients how to use their products

 

They “taught”their clients

 

They empowered their associates to be a part of the solution

 

They recommended I check it out

 

Once inside they had a create Halloween Christmas tree, reinforcing their other seasonal products

 

If I had young children, I promise you this display would spread in their network of friends and parents would be visiting this store, or junior would make their lives miserable until they did.

 

Market leaders act differently.

 

They understand it’s about more than taking your customer’s money. They go out of their way to teach and show ( versus tell and sell) their clients creative new ways to use their products or services and they focus on the buying experience. The net result is they deepen the bond, the trust, with their clients and their sales increase.

 

 

How about your business….

What can you do today that is creative, but is not expensive?

How can you create a customer experience instead?

 

 

When sales are scary you must leverage what you have and get creative to; “create sales velocity”.

 

 

I plan to circle back with this Paddock store and hopefully their manager will share with me the sales this year compared to last year as a % as my guess is their seasonal Halloween merchandise sales will see an increase AND their other products will as well.

 

Great Job to those at Paddock Pools who built this display in the store on Shea near the 101 freeway,… if you live nearby , bring the kids and check it out!

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices; #1 “More” Sales or “Create Sales Velocity” ?

For the past 25 years I have helped entrepreneurs realize what I refer to as Explosive Sales Growth, or said another way;

I help organizations Create sales velocity.

 

Sales velocity occurs when you connect your product or service to a market need, and create messages that clearly tells them how you solve those needs for your buyers.

Sales Velocity is Sales Acceleration, with Direction and creates Momentum.

 

Creating Sales Velocity is one common need every business has, particularly in 2009.

A few nights ago I attended the local TIE event here in Phoenix. As I mingled with entrepreneurs before our guest speaker I heard a constant need;

I have an amazing product (service) but we need “more” sales…now!

 

I met with a number of entrepreneurs and their passion for creating something bigger than themselves seemed dampened by the immediate need for sales. I shared some “quick win” techniques that always work for me, but I went on to explain that what they really want is to create Sales Velocity.

Sales Acceleration

I have helped entrepreneurs and their teams grow businesses and what they often need first is sales acceleration. What I mean by this is a number of quick wins in new accounts or new products placed in existing accounts. A big part of sales acceleration is intentionally driving the sales you want to grow. When entrepreneurs mistakenly say they want “more” sales, by default they are saying “any sale will do”.

Not all sales are good sales if they strain your team to “slightly” change your product or service.

 

These “slight “changes slowly pull you form the core of your business and distract focus.

I have served a variety of industries and the best way to create intentional sales acceleration is always they same; talk to your customers and others in your market. In doing so you must determine “current truths” because your gut and intuition alone will not drive the growth you desire.

Direction

 

I think we have all seen the monthly sales charts that resemble a heart rate versus a market leading organization. Sales are up, and then off, up, plateau, then drop.

As an entrepreneur you need sustainable, repeatable sales or your personal heart rate will fluctuate as you try to plan cash flow.

When you implement a ; creation of sales velocity mind set, you have specific targets that support your overall vision, road map and serve market needs.

Momentum

 

One of my favorite classes in high school was Math and Physics. (odd for a sales guy huh?) The concept of momentum always fascinated me. How a body of mass moving with direction creates an energy of its own, and that energy can be transferred to other things that the mass bumps into.

Sales momentum occurs when your sales pick up in a positive, intentional direction with velocity.

 

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Now the fun part, if you have two particles ( sales) , with masses clip_image002and clip_image003and velocities clip_image004and clip_image005, the total momentum of these particles , clip_image006is

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However, if you have one particle (sale) going to the right, the other to the left they cancel each other out. ( how sales and marketing often act) Once you pay commission you have a net negative effect on your bottom line for the energy produced. If you sum the two momenta together, you get a total momentum of zero. ( this is what often occurs when sales teams are asked to …”hit your numbers and make it happen” …because that is what we “sales guys” are wired to do. However if not directionally focused and aligned with your road map the net result over time is zero added value to your bottom line( and often reduces the value of your business).

The real fun begins when you have a number of particles (sales) bouncing around in the right direction. The equation gets a little sophisticated and the total momentum of N particles (sales), of masses clip_image008and velocities clip_image009as

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The net result is increased sales and the valuation of your business increases if done correctly.

(Thanks to Joshua Deutsch for the above equations.)

 

As an entrepreneur and future market leader you do not want “more “sales you want “sales velocity”. When you realize sales velocity you experience sales acceleration with direction that builds a sustainable momentum over time.

 

Sustainable momentum provides predictable cash flows and helps you find willing investors for future expansion.

 

How about your team?      heart rate 2

 

Do your sales look more like a heart rate monitor?

 

Do you have salespeople “making it happen” but the way they are making it happens seems to cancel each other out?

 

Are you or your salespeople running in many directions, getting your organization exhausted …without building momentum?

 

 

Over my next series of posts I will be discussing entrepreneurial best practices. I will be sharing personal experiences of what worked as well as did not produce in hopes of helping entrepreneurs shorten their sales cycle and accelerate their revenues and profits, and most importantly the value of their business. I am always looking for thought leaders to contribute as it is my goal to add value to the entrepreneur community.

If you have thought leadership for entrepreneurs, please contact me.

Mentor Moment #5: Brand with Intention or the Market will “Brand you by Default”

 

The reason I wrote my first book in 2007 was to solve a problem a number of businesses had; they did not intentionally brand their product or service in the minds of those in their market(s) and the net result was the market” branded them by default”.Branding_Backwards_-_thumb

After I workout in the morning I like to relax in the steam room. Today I entered the misty dim lit room to wind down after my workout and noticed someone else sitting in the far corner. We exchanged pleasantries and very quickly he asked the common question; “So what do you do for a living?” I answered as I have done for years and then it was my turn…”what do you do?” His answer was symptomatic of why I wrote my first book titled: Branding Backwards; a Brand’s Odyssey Toward Self-Discovery. He stated … “I am in real-estate” and he stopped there. I try not to engage in what could be long conversations in the steam room, particularly days like today when someone had jimmied the thermostat and it was excessively hot.

Do I tell him that what he just said really does not help me understand the problems he solves? Ah …what the heck (I did bring my water bottle)…. So I asked some additional questions and found he was not someone who helped homeowners sell their personal property, but someone who owned a real-estate development company that develops commercial real-estate throughout North America in a very specific niche.

This quick conversation reminded me how critical it is for businesses to clearly articulate their brand, and the problems they solve for their market. (Even more so in this economic climate) Fail to do so and the market will “brand you by default”, and there is a high probability they will get it wrong.

As in this example, very quickly when he said he was in real-estate, I mentally branded him as someone who helps consumers sell their personal property. I mentally logged his name in my referral database in the event someone I know may need that service. It was not until after my additional questions I understood what his company does.

I offer 10 tips to avoid Branding Backwards in my book,  the first is;

“If you do not state who you are, others in the marketplace will create a mental image of how you may or may not be able to meet their needs”

If you would like to download a free copy of my book you can do so here.

(I want to warn you, I wrote it in the form of a story. I find stories seem to stick with people much more than just stating facts.)

How about your company? Can your targeted new customers and or existing customers clearly articulate the problems your product or service can solve for them, or are you branding by default? Over the years I have found it disturbing when I engage with a new sales team how quickly and concisely the salespeople can explain what problems their competitors products solve and do not solve, and yet when asked to describe the products that fill their own commission rice bowls each week they ramble on and on with features, benefits, and how their company is the market leader…and better than….that is not what I asked!

Is your company Branding with intention, or by default?

If I were to ask one of your customers what problems you solve, would they get it right? Would they clearly understand all you solve?

Ask your one of your salespeople today; “What problem does our competitor ________’s product solve for our customers? “

Now ask them “what problem do our products solve?”

Ask people in your market you have never sold to tell you what problems they think you solve…what did they say?

Can you afford for your market to get what problems your company or its specific products and or services solve for them?

Gym Socks and the importance of listening to customer concerns

 

My wife and I went for a walk the other evening after work. Although the sun was setting here in Arizona the temperature was still just over 100 degrees. When you walk in the dessert the heat radiates up from the ground. By the time our walk was over I could not wait to get my tennis shoes off. I took off my shoes and then my socks and my wife said “why do you do that?” Not to be too insensitive a husband my response was “do what?” She said that as someone family pics 054who does the laundry it really irritates her when socks are turned inside out. She explained (as she has done before) how as a child her grandmother would not wash socks turned inside out. I quickly moved into my “overcome objections mode”; I do not care if my socks are washed inside out… they will still get clean…I do not care what I look like at the gym so I will probably wear them inside out…this is not a big deal… However this was not listening nor taking my wife’s feedback seriously.

This discussion reminded me how customers often share little things that annoy them and we quickly move to justifying what we do, or “defending the fortress “instead of listening and making necessary changes. It is my desire to serve my family.to listen to their needs. So although my wife has mentioned her concerns a number of times over the past 24 years, I quickly mentally rationalized the feedback and did not listen and I did not change my behavior. I failed to be intentional about something that obviously concerned someone I cared about. It would take little effort to accommodate her requested change in my behavior. However it would require a change of habit.

Businesses must also be constantly sensing, listening, and observing the needs of the customers you serve. Listening to customer feedback and responding to their needs solidifies your relationship. Your competitors will keep selling. They will keep rationalizing customer concerns and not make changes. Why not be the partner that listens and makes the necessary changes to eliminate frustrations in dealing with you?

 

How about you, what small complaints have your client partners expressed?

 

Is your first reaction to listen or dismiss?

 

Are you turning any customer gym socks inside out?

 

(I need to turn the sock on the left right side out before I put it in the close hamper!)

Are interruptions “transforming “your customers into shoppers again?

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I am a big fan of action movies and the more Sci-Fi the better. I really enjoyed the first Transformers movie and I was anxiously awaiting the second: Revenge of the Fallen…how will they top the first? New villains, maybe 3-D special effects, and so on? I was convinced, based on the first movie I would be captivated again. They helped me establish a brand for the Transformer experience from the cartoons I would watch with my son years ago to their recent special effects of their last release. They set an expectation of a story line that flowed. I expected a great deal of action and special effects and some humor to give me a chance to catch my breath.

However what I experienced was a painful interruption. Unlike the first movie, this one threw in characters that did not support the story line and were actually a painful interruption for me. Interruptions are those elements thrown in to cause a response that add no value other than shock. They create a momentary interruption to grab your attention like a bikini clad model in an ad for spark plugs. Yes, your attention is momentarily grabbed, but for the wrong reason. At one point when one of the transformers were “humping” Megan Fox’s leg they lost me. They lost me because they did not live up to the brand they so carefully established in their cartoons and the first movie when I became a customer, and a fan. They lost me when they tried to get too cute, too funny,” because they could and not because they should”. They lost me when they added adult humor in a movie theater full of young children holding their favorite transformer toys.

 

How about your company…has the desperation to make your numbers caused you to compromise who you are?

 

Can you think of other examples of companies that strayed and could make a comeback?…not made a comeback?

 

What brand broke its promise to you?

 

What are the best ways to find out if you are transforming your loyal customers now shopping for another partner?

 

If you find out your interruptions are transforming your customer base to shoppers, what can you do, if anything to bounce back?

Five questions a radio preacher asks to see if your business is heading in the wrong direction

 

Each day I listen to a Christian radio station as I drive to lunch. It’s not unusual that a preacher is sharing and often I find myself parking my car and taking notes. Yesterday was no exception as Chuck Swindoll was sharing five questions to know if we as believers are headed in the wrong direction.

 

As I quickly grabbed some take out and returned to the office I thought how the wisdom he shared could help businesses who may be headed in the wrong direction. Below are his five questions shaped to apply to you and your business.

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1. Do you find yourself fighting greater battles within than without?

 

 

2. Is there more attention on one versus the team? (kingdom building)

 

 

 

3. Do you feel you don’t need the Lord’s help in your business?

 

 

4. Are criticisms of your leadership and your business quickly dismissed versus taken seriously and respected?

 

 

 

5. Are consequences of sin are no longer feared? ( as a reminder, the definition of sin is “missing the mark”)

 

 

For a preacher who jokingly said he has a “face for radio” I find myself feeling very thankful for his sharing the wisdom found in the Bible. I find the Bible is an amazing resource of wisdom that can be applied instantly to circumstances we face as leaders in our business.

 

So how did you answer the above the above?

 

How is your team reacting to the challenges of today? Do they need to just STOP or are they “blame-storming?”

 

Do you find team members (you?) worried about how an individual may look versus the performance of your team?

 

Are you your own God? Is your ego preventing you from asking for the lord to bless you, your business, and your customers? (After all, EGO does stand for: Edging God Out) Are you counting on your gut and intuition?

 

How well does your senior leaders accept criticism and new ideas? How about you? Do you need to hire a Heretic?

 

Are you allowing bad behaviors that are not consistent with your team’s values? Are you allowing an “end justify the means” mentality?

 

All of this free business advice from the Bible and radio preacher? You bet!

You may want to check out his web site at Insight for Living, …who knows you too may find yourself parked in your car and taking notes at lunch time.