Leaders, Help your Team Bust Through Sales Roadblocks by Becoming a “Reductionist”

 

 

I don’t care what business you are in or plan to launch there will be unforeseen roadblocks. There is a direct correlation to the effectiveness and thoroughness of your marketing prior to launch and the number of roadblocks your team will face after launch. If you intimately understand your market prior to launch your roadblocks will be few and often easy to overcome. If you launched on brash Hubris and gut…well get ready for a number of roadblocks and possible detours. While your team is plowing ahead, you as the leader can add the most value by becoming a “Reductionist”.

So you have launched your new product or service and your team is marching, attempting to execute the strategic plan and yet they keep facing roadblocks, unforeseen obstacles that are inhibiting sales. As the leader you have the ability to see, from 45,000 feet what is occurring and help shape and even change the plan. You see roadblocks that may feel unique to one salesman across your entire team and you can prioritize them based on impact to your bottom line.

I had a wise mentor named Hugh tell me once…” ya know Mark there are three kinds of information; Good, Bad, and none, leaders understand the difference and quickly gather what they need to make decisions that have the most impact” In one of my very first posts, I put it another way as well;

Market Leaders Know what they know and they know what they don’t know.”

One of the steps in my last post about trying to “manage fruit ripe” was; “Help your team identify common roadblocks and help create sales tools to help them break through them.” I am a big advocate of focusing on your gifts as apposed to your personal short comings. Too much time is wasted trying to make people gifted at selling also become “strategic market planners”. Luckily entrepreneurs by nature are gifted at creative problem solving so use your gift to help your team.

I often hear entrepreneurial leaders comment in frustration…” why can’t Bill see that the real road block is……and not …..?” Here’s why…

Your salesman Bill is focused on goal achievement (what you pay him to do). To Bill his market is defined by his last sales call. You however have the ability to review data from all your salespeople, customers, non customers, and potential customers to better shape a strategy that will add value to your bottom line.

You must look at the current sales process and seek out roadblocks, places where the process of the sale stalls, or what I often call…” goes dark”.

 Once you identify these common stalls or sale loss points you must prioritize them and build sales tools to help your team keep the sales conversation flowing. This will do two things at a minimum;

First, it will improve your inquiry to lead to sale ratio.

Second, by understanding how your buyers buy and providing them the perfect tool at the perfect time, you show you know them.

Buyers like to buy from people who listen and understand their problems.

Help your sales team break through the common roadblocks and you are on your way to improved results and overall morale.

If you chose to instead say things like;

 You need to overcome that objection

Or

“I can’t believe you could not sell through that…”

Or every salesperson’s favorite…

I don’t pay you to bring me problems I pay you to bring me orders…just make it happen”

If this is your leadership, then you are not positioning your team or your company to be the dominant leader in your market.

Find out quickly what you know and gather what you need to know.

Take that information and boil it down, become a reductionist for your team.

Create strategies and tactics based on market truth.

Constantly assess, test, and modify until you consistently overcome the roadblocks in the way of achieving your sales objectives.

So how about your organization…does you have leaders good at being reductionists?

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Attention Entrepreneurs; You Can’t “Manage Fruit Ripe”

 

 

 

They say that which makes us strong can also be our biggest weakness. Entrepreneurs are no exception to this rule as our driven, confident, and focused nature can often inhibit new product success. Entrepreneurs often have such confidence in their personal abilities based on past success they take shortcuts in launching new products and when sales fail to meet plan they believe they can “manage fruit ripe.”

“When it comes to new product sales; you can not manage fruit ripe”

 

After my last post I had a number of people reach out to me saying: “ Ok we get it, we should do research prior to launch …but what should we do if we are in a launch that is not hitting plan?” As I have shared in past posts…I have made a number of mistakes over the years.I have kicked off new products and then had to figure out how to make it work; “make it happen ” on the fly.  So I thought I would do a follow-up post and share what I said to those who contacted me directly.

Entrepreneurs who launch on gut and not market truth often start trying to “manage fruit ripe”. They are so tied to their  plan their failure to achieve goals has to be a sales problem. Based on my experience, over 90% of new product sales falling short of plan are not the result of “poor sales execution” but the result of not having good current data  and or understanding of your market, and is actually a marketing problem. Without current accurate market data one if not all of your four P’s of markting are probably wrong. Entreprenuers are smart people. If given good information they make decisions that grow businesses profitably. If given old or wrong market data one or more of your four P’s will be wrong.

As the owner, leader,you are the boss… so if you want to try to manage the fruit (sales) of your new products ripe… go for it. I have seen many try ( heck, I have tried) and I have yet to see this approach correct new product sales below plan and create sales velocity. 

If you find yourself in a launch based on gut and old or poor data, what should you do?

 

  1. Assess what you have learned ( experienced) during launch so far
  2. Conduct win loss interviews
  3. Identify common roadblocks to sales and bust through them with new sales tools
  4. List what you still need to know and assign priority and timelines
  5. Adjust your strategy based on the current market data you gather
  6. Test new strategies before you scale them
  7. Repeat what works
  8. keep asking questions, determine why customers are buying and not buying
  9. Challenge your four P’s of Marketing ( at least one is off)

 

( or put another way; get the data to answer the four yes’s …as quick as possible)

 

 

So how about you…have you launched a product without having four yes’s first?

 

What did you experience ?

 

What corrective action did your team take?

 

Does it take longer to do research on the front end? Or fix roadblocks during launch?

Is Sales an Art or a Science….it Depends on Your Marketing

 

 

Is Sales an “Art” or a “Science”?

 

There is no general answer that applies to all organizations as it depends…..it depends on your team’s demonstrated competency in marketing. (Believe it or not)

An “Art “implies creativity as well as varietability and” science“is about process, method and constantly assessing and experimenting with process, and managing  the process.

A number of clients over the years have stated their needs as; “I need you to create a repeatable sales process for our team”. However, in most cases they lacked a clear understanding of their market, buyers, buyer needs, probelms, and the buying process. They wanted me to study their “sales super star” and replicate them throughout their team. However sales processes built from the inside out produce marginal sales increases and often increase the gap between your team’s “sales speak” and “the buying process”. What you need to do  is create Sales Velocity.

So what sould  teams desiring  to be market leaders to do?

I was asked to speak at a conference recently for business owners and their senior teams. Prior to my presentation, I reached out to the organization’s members and asked;

“In the areas of marketing and sales what topic would you like me to discuss?”

I could have discussed a number of topics, but I wanted to provide their members the maximum return based on their needs.  I was interested to see if the recent and current economic environment in any way changed what I typically here when I ask this question.

The responses varied from;

How do we get our salespeople to sell new products?

 

How do we motivate our salespeople to focus on opening new accounts?

 

What is the best way to measure the ROI of marketing?

 

How do we align sales and marketing to reduce waste and increase productivity?

 

What is the best marketing vehicle to drive sales now? Quickly?

What is my take on “social media” and it’s ROI?

 

How can I be assured my next investment in a new product launch meets goal ?

 

I felt I could speak for a week and not do justice to all the  questions independently,  so I grouped the responses into two buckets;

What is marketing and how can it impact sales in a way that produces the greatest overall return?

 

How do we create a repeatable sales process that works, has an immediate and long term impact?

 

I shared my findings with the event coordinator to insure the direction I was taking would serve his association and his goals. He shared that the two topics I chose were like thorns in the side of his membership as they keep bubbling to the top of discussions. So I asked questions to better understand past discussions and he shared two comments his owners and senior leaders shared in private;

“Our salespeople are just not working hard enough, I know times are tough, but for what I pay them they need to sell through those objections”

 

“I think a large % of our overall marketing spend is a waste, fluff, and does not provide the return any other expenditure would be required to produce.”

 

Interesting…..

So I decided to open this presentation with a question for the room;

Is Sales an Art or a science?

 

Before I share where this discussion went….

What do you think?

Is sales in your organization an Art or Science? Why?

 

If you could pick Art or Science, what would you prefer sales to be in your organization? Why?

 

I will share in my next post the results I observed and any feedback and comments on this post. I will also share the desired state and my answer to this question.

Top 20 Entrepreneurial Best Practices to Make Sure 2010 is a Profitable Year

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When I wrote my EBook: 50 Ugly Truths About Owning and Running Your Own Business…and 5 reasons why you should do it anyway I was responding to a number of misperceptions I was hearing from entrepreneurs.

Historically, at any given time six out of ten US adults is thinking about starting their own business. A number of new entrepreneurs are emerging that  I refer to as “necessity-preneurs “who were downsized and can not find new employment, are deciding to launch their own businesses as they want a much more active role in the security of their careers. The last group are cashing in their 401k and or borrowing from friends or family to buy an existing business and in a short amount of time realize they really just bought a job and they are quickly running out of cash.

One thing I have learned over the past 25 years of identifying roadblocks impeding businesses profitable growth is there really is not any new creations in terms of problems and strategies to grow a profitable business. Peter Drucker simplified it even further; there are only two considerations; innovation or marketing.

Just as I shared 12 mentor moments that I have used personally over the years to help businesses grow profitably, I have the Top 20 entrepreneur best practices that I have observed and lived over the years.

#1 “More” Sales or “Create Sales Velocity”?

#2 Dismiss or Distribute “Yafo’s” quickly …

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

#4 Remember “The Law of the Locker Room”… it truly is a small world after all

#5 Tailor Questions for your buyers that Illustrate your Expertise and Prepare you to Serve their Needs

#6 Learn To Cut Bait …early

#7 You are Not Your Market

# 8 When Sales Get Rough…Look for Diamonds

#9 Don’t Let the Two Most Important Plates Drop

#10 “How” you “CHASE” New Business Matters….Do you want pepperoni with that new checking account?

#11 Follow the leader is a dangerous game, particularly when you follow Hippos…

#12 An “Idea” is not a product…and it’s definitely not a business

#13 Hire Strategic Partners… Not “Marketing Tools”

#14 Customers will Stiff you…But Don’t Let Them Burn you…

#15 Beware of “Smores”…Social Media Whores

#16 “Make a Wish” come true with Focused Passion

#17 intentionally reward the customer behaviors you desire …

#18 You will Receive Your Best Tips To Grow Your Company From Prospects Who Do Not Buy From You…

#19 Interview those who Exit and identify Roadblocks to Achieving Your Strategic Objectives…

#20 Exercise Your Power of Choice in Choosing Your Role on the Team…If Your Gift is Being a Duck….Be a Duck!

 

 

The above are by no means an all inclusive list of every entrepreneur best practice but they are some of my favorites. The post that seemed to resonate the most and create the greatest number of discussions was the difference between creating “more” sales versus “creating sales velocity” ( entrepreneur best practice #1).

 

 

How about you….do you have an Entrepreneurial Best Practice you use regularly and would like to share?

 

 

Of the above which best practice(s) resonate most with you?

 

 

Which of the above do most entrepreneurs struggle the most with based on your observations?

 

 

Is there a Key best practice not identified? (If so please add to the discussion)

 

 

As we move into 2010 which of the above Best practices do you feel will resonate most? Why?

 

 

Thanks for hanging with me  in this series of posts and I want to particularly thank those who have reached out to me personally to discuss this series of posts. As I have discussed, I enjoy helping entrepreneurs realize profitable growth and the strategies discussed are not new. One of my goals in blogging is to help business owners who may not be able to afford outside help at this time and I hope this blog adds value.

If you are wired to take on the 50 Ugly truths of starting and owning your own business and you have intentionally chosen to do it anyway I hope the above best practices were of value to you and your team.

Entrepreneurs will lead our country to economic recovery and I am proud to serve this innovative group of passionate problem solvers along with my other clients.

Entrepreneur best practices: #12 An “Idea” is not a product…and it’s definitely not a business

idea

 

 

At any given time 6 out of 10 US adults are thinking about starting their own business. Half of those will attempt to launch their own business. As I discuss in my eBook; 50 Ugly truths about starting your own business …and why you should do it anyway, they often enter into their own business with a false set of expectations. One of these false expectations is their “idea” is a product and even more disturbing is when they start investing to support their idea as a business. Recognizing the majority of those who launch a new business will fail within 18 months, one of the common contributors to their demise is not asking the right questions.

 

Before you ask friends and family for start up money, before you tap into your home equity and 401k, and definitely before you quit your day job…you need to play “20 questions”.

 

You must verify your “idea” can be monetized into a viable business before you launch.

 

20 questions to ask before you invest;

 

#1 what problem does your product or service solve?

 

#2 how big of a market is there for this problem? This pain and or need?

 

#3 how are those who have this problem solving it now?

 

#4 clearly articulates your secret sauce, other words what is your unique selling proposition?

 

#5 is there replacement products in existence that could solve the problem?

 

#6 who is the market leader in the space you plan to enter?

 

#7 how many other competitors are there in this space?

 

#8 what is your level of understanding of this market?

 

#9 is your idea a product or IP that can be patented?

 

#10 what stage is this market in terms of its lifecycle? Infancy, growth, mature..?

 

#11 what level of support will be required to serve this market? Do you personally have expertise in running a business?

 

#12 what are the distribution channels of this market?

 

#13 what is the buying cycle?

 

#14 what is the common payment terms for this market?

 

#15 Do the potential buyers of your new product have the ability to pay for it?

 

#16 is there any legal and or compliance issues this product must pass prior to launch?

 

#17 what do you estimate is the total costs per unit of sale, transaction

 

#18 what is the anticipated number of units sold in year one? What % of the market opportunity does this represent?

 

#19 what is the number of units needed to break even with your upfront investment?

 

#20 How much cash will you need, based on the buying cycle, the costs, payment terms and distribution channels to launch this product or service?

 

 

Once you have answers to the above we can start to have a good discussion about your new idea and how you may be able to monetize it. Unfortunately however far too often entrepreneurs get that rush, that “buck fever” and they stop asking rational , needed , questions and they attach their focus on the days when…

 

 

When they become millionaires…

 

When they are recognized in their community…

 

When they sell their business for millions and retire without a care in the world

 

 

All of these When’s can become a reality if you spend the time upfront understanding the market, its buyers and their needs.

 

Entrepreneurs must understand: You are not your market.

 

Although this idea you have may be so obvious to you, you can not assume nor extrapolate that assumption across the market without real market data.

 

If you have an idea, that may be the next iPod, do yourself a favor and play 20 questions before you invest one dime in making your idea a product or service.

 

How about your organization….

 

Do you launch new products or services because one of your Hippo’s says so, without market data?

 

Have you launched products that failed to meet ROI targets?

 

If you are in sales, how did it make you feel when you were given a goal, and told to make it happen …only to find out your marketing needed to “create a need for it”?

 

If you are the president or CEO, what processes and procedures do you have in place to insure your teams are asking at least 20 questions?

 

Market leaders understand the importance of building new products and services from the market need up, versus the ivory tower down.

 

Market losers have a; ready – fire – aim launch process.

 

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #7 You are Not Your Market

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Entrepreneurs often make a common mistake …they assume, and then they extrapolate.

They assume because they are a member of a market and they have a problem others too want to pay to have this problem solved. Secondly they fail to do research (after all it’s expensive right?) so they extrapolate.

When Entrepreneurs assume and extrapolate they lose.

When leaders rely on their personal experience, their gut and intuition they become one of the 90% of small businesses launched each year that fail within 18 months. When leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit in large organizations launch without current market data, their products are discontinued and removed from the shelf within 12 months…(and sometimes the leader joins their products in the recycle bin.)

Keep in mind: YOU ARE NOT YOUR MARKET!

 

How about your organization…

 

 

 

Do you have entrepreneurial leaders who shoot from the hip based on their past experience, their gut and intuition?

 

 

 

Have you ever launched something you, your wife, and all your golf buddies thought was brilliant only to sell 1/10 of what you forecasted in the ROI to justify production?

 

 

 

How do entrepreneurial leaders build their discernment muscles to rely more on market data and less on their gut?

 

 

 

Every once in a while someone will get lucky and hit the market with a product that solves a pain they had, and luckily many others have. However I would prefer to mitigate my risk by doing more homework upfront…

 

 

 

How about you?

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices; #4 Remember “The Law of the Locker Room”… it truly is a small world after all

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“The Law of the Locker room”: after your work (out) is done, there is a high probability others too have seen this pain point the buyers in your market have that you set out to solve and will want to share that space. It does not mean you should quit, it just means; As an Entrepreneur never assume you are the only one who saw the problem and set out to make the pain go away.

As I have mentioned before, I like to work out first thing in the morning. If I wake up before the alarm as if often the case I can workout at my gym Mountainside Fitness at 4:30 am. What I like about working out so early is you pretty much have the gym to yourself. There are a few other crazy people there, but unlike Friday nights at 6:00 pm you can get your work done, without waiting on machines, and you are off to start your day.

What never ceases to amaze me is; “The Law of the Locker room”. Simply stated it goes something like this; no matter what time of day, or how little the number of the cars in the parking lot, nor how many lockers they have in the locker room, when your workout is done and you return to your locker…someone will have the locker right next to you, and you will have to share your space.

So what’s the relevance to entrepreneurs you might say? Well just last week I had lunch with two partners of a start up venture who asked for my help. They shared (an awesome product I plan to blog about after we launch) and I put a bit of a damper on their enthusiasm when I asked one simple question;

“Have you researched to see if others have seen the problem you are setting out to solve, and if so does any of them have patents that your new product violates?”

Entrepreneurs who see problems and set out to solve them must never assume they are the only one who sees this problem.

Entrepreneurs must never assume they are the only one who sees the market problem and they are the only one setting out to solve it.

Like the Disney ride my daughter loved when she was young that’s song still echo’s in my mind “it’s a small world after all…it’s a small, small, world.”

 

disney small world

I recommend my clients: assume others are trying to solve this problem, have solved this pain, and ask yourself why a buyer should choose you over the others?

How do you know if others have or are setting out to solve this problem?

Google

Google your product as if it already was in the market. Google the problem you are setting out to solve. You definitely want to Google the name you plan to call your product. For example I will be launching a seminar to help entrepreneurs late this year. When I Goggled what I had planned to call “my” seminar there were 989,000 entries in Google. As I reviewed them further I found one person pretty much owns what I had planned to call my seminar. I could boldly launch as like most entrepreneurs as I am convinced the other content out there can’t be as good as mine…or I need a new name for my seminar that I can own.

The Market

If the need, the pain, you are trying to solve is big enough, ask people in the market how they make the pain go away today. Find out if what others in the space are doing completely solves your market’s pain, or is a just an incremental solution. What you will often find is most people, if presented with something can poke holes in it. If you are an entrepreneur you have learned what most people can not do it create solutions…that is your gift. So listen to your market, let them share their gifts and apply yours.

Patent Search

This part scares most start ups and seasoned pro’s alike but it is a must if you feel you have a unique product or service. What scares most are the perceived fees, and yes this can get expensive. But let me ask you a question;

What is more expensive in the long run, a Patent search before you launch…or finding out after you launch (and you invest your 401k, loans from family and friends, and use your home equity) that you violate someone else’s patent?

Remember “The Law of the Locker room”: after your work (out) is done, there is a high probability others too have seen this pain point the buyers in your market have. It does not mean you should quit, it just means;

As an Entrepreneur never assume you are the only one who saw the problem and set out to make the pain go away.

How about your organization…..

Has your team launched something only to find many others in that space…after you launched?

How did that make your sales guys feel?

How do you think it made you look in the eyes of your current customers and the market that you did not know?

Have you ever designed-built-launched a perfect solution to your buyer’s pain only to be shut down by a patent violation? (I have, when I did not have grey hair and it sucked!)

The good news is you have the “Entrepreneurial DNA Gene”; you too have a spider sense to see and want to solve pains your buyers have.

They say “reasonable people if given accurate information make reasonable decisions” so please take a few extra steps before you invest and launch your product or service.

And if you do, you can thank me by forwarding a link of this post to your other 9 entrepreneur buddies who may not know the law of the locker room…it’s a small small world after all