Nine Steps to a Business Growth Engine

Business Law Number One: every commercial business has to grow its top line revenues over time unless it has found the paradise of declining costs year on year.  This is the only way to maintain a profit margin.  Therefore, it should follow that every business has a very clear idea how to grow its top line, surprisingly many don’t.  Many think rising demand for their offer (rising, why?), and putting up prices every year will do the trick (in our supply-led, low-inflation economy this is very difficult to do).  Just putting a budget up every year doesn’t bring in extra sales.

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This type of organisation is easy to identify.  Sales growth in the doldrums; characterised by flat year-on-year comparisons, or miniscule growth increases, or a good year followed by a bad one.  Profits have been supported (as well as possible) by changes to the business model, reductions in the cost base or other remedial activities.  In worse cases, the business relies on its (dwindling) cash pile or other balance sheet ‘tweaks’ to prolong the torture, waiting for the market to pick up.

What Does a Business Growth Competence Look Like? 

A  summary checklist:

1. The first thing is to be clear what your customer values proposition is. What are you selling, and why is it a more compelling offer than competitors? You can then think about……
2. How you choose to compete? On price, value, quality, novelty, service etc.
Important note: The more of these variables you say yes to, and give equal weighting, the less distinctive your offer will be.
3. Make sure your resources are in balance. Can you effectively supply what you are selling? If demand increased by 20%, could the business support it? Don’t ignore working capital requirements as part of this analysis.
4. Have you locked in your current customer base? If new business is simply replacing what’s being lost, you have a very expensive way of operating. You need firstly to retain your customers (define retention parameters) and then penetrate their potential for additional sales (again define the parameters).
5. Next, how to increase demand for your offer? It maybe distinctive, but do enough people know about it? Set targets for new/new business, i.e. new business from new customers.
6. To cover points 4 and 5 build a business pipeline methodology that captures the key ‘trigger points’ that move a potential sale from one phase to the next. Focus sales management activity on optimising the processes within the business pipeline, both for speed and quality of conversion.
7. Makes sure your sales organisation knows how to take business from competitors, deepen customer relationships and identify new opportunities.
8. Focus on the people. It’s a chicken and egg question. Does a well motivated, high morale workforce drive revenue growth or is it the other way round? One thing’s for sure, if you don’t quickly get your people motivated behind the growth strategy it won’t last very long. Look at the organisations bringing services back from India, or heavily reinvesting in their service provision because their growth plans are running out of steam.
9. Makes sure the big stuff is aligned. Your organisational and brand values inform a well understood vision, supported by a clear strategy.

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The Difference Between Those In Sales Management Positions That Can Add Value And Those That Can’t

This year has shown that in interesting times some approaches are more effective than others, some sales leaders really do shown a navigable path through to improved performance, whilst other less able managers add no value at all through their visible anxiety and single dimensional approach.

We have captured the main difference in a table below:

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Old Fashioned, Non Value Adding Sales Managers/Sales Director New World, Value Adding Sales Managers/Sales Director
Origins of Credibility Needs to stay selling, wheeled out for the difficult deals Builds high performing sales teams
Mind-Set Believes their role is primarily about keeping sales people ‘honest’ and focused on what they should be doing. Parent/Child Creates an environment for sales people to excel in. Works with the team to achieve higher performance levels. Adult/Adult
Sales Focus Benefits and Closing Adding Value and Building Business
Marketing View Sales promotions and ‘giveaways’ Value propositions and brand building
Planning Orientation Short term and plate spinning Longer term and pro-active
Change Capabilities Problem driven and reactive Opportunity driven and planned
Stress Response SHOUTS and transfers their problems onto others Thinks, listens and acts to improve things

What’s interesting is how many sales managers and directors, who behave in the left hand column, believe they are doing the right thing. They also tell us that morale is low, performance is flat and pressure from above unceasing. What they don’t see is any connection between behaving in the old fashioned, left hand style, and the way the team is (not) performing.

This blind spot can be so bad that when we talk about the right hand column and what the benefits are, the response is one of ‘we haven’t got time for any of that, we’ve just got to SELL!’

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The value-adding approach delivers a sustainable management style, a more engaged sales team and a much greater chance of consistently improved performance.

Is Didactic Sales Development Relevant In The 21st Century?

Use Our 10-Point Checklist To Determine Your Sales Orientation

In our fast-changing age of diversity, technology and talent management, can a sales organisation continue with traditional didactic sales development “this is how you do it” style of training and gain any competitive advantage? As sales people increasingly aspire to be seen as business professionals, does the didactic approach have any relevance today?

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Key Challenges

Hierarchical, Rigid silos

Sales Structures

Flatter, flexible networks

Position / Role

Status Attachment

Contribution

Command and Control

Management Style

Transformational, Empowerment

Focus on Outputs
Results and KPIs

Work Style

Focus on Inputs,
Value-adding activities

Transactional
‘how many do you want?’

Selling Style

Consultative
‘my advice would be’

Tactical focus on next period’s target

Planning Time Horizon

Strategic focus on long-term improvement

Supplier of products and services

Sales Orientation

Business Partner

Waits to be told what to do and
how to do it

Learning Style

Open, Questioning, Challenging

Shoving in

Training Style

Drawing out

Adversarial
Us and Them

View of Customer

Collaborative
We’re in it together

Which side of the table is your sales organisation on?

In case you haven’t spotted the obvious; we believe that the traits described on the left-hand side of the table belong to the sort of organisation that favours the ‘didactic’ school of training and development for its sales people. The biggest problem with the didactic approach is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – the more of it you do – the more of it you need to do.

The characteristics in the right, we believe, are exactly those which will enable sales organisations to position themselves for the challenges of the 21st Century and lead the way in defining what a successful sales team can look like in a rapidly-evolving, increasingly competitive world.

What Kind of President Would You Be?

The United States of America has a new and unconventional President, and plenty of column inches will be going into analysing his personality.  We suspect you wouldn’t be a President like Donald Trump (although we could be wrong).

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If you know your Myers Briggs Type Indicator then take a look at this chart and see which previous US President your type fits closest to:

It is an approximation of course, but a fun one.  If you don’t know your Myers Briggs Type Indicator and would like to run a session for your team talk to Structured Training, who will be happy to help.

How Would Joe Biden’s Memo Play In Your Management Team?

Today is Joe Biden’s last full day as Vice President.  Whilst most of the internet will be mourning the loss of some great meme worthy photos, others will be reflecting on what his contribution to American life has been over the last 44 years.  For many employees and mangers the recent publication of his November 2014 memo to staff will be the action they’ll be thinking of.

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Here’s the text of what Joe Biden Said in that memo:

To my wonderful staff,

I would like to take a moment and make something clear to everyone.  I do not expect nor do I want any of you to miss or sacrifice important family obligations for work.  Family obligations include but are not limited to family birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, any religious ceremonies such as first communions and bar mitzvahs, graduations, and times of need such as an illness or a loss in the family.  This is very important to me.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that if I find out that you are working with me while missing important family responsibilities, it will disappoint me greatly.  This has been an unwritten rule since my days in the Senate.

Thank you for all the hard work.

Have you seen a similar memo or email from your boss?  How would such a memo be received in your workplace?

It’s worth thinking about the memo in the context of the differing working environment between the US and UK.

Here in the UK employees have far more holiday time to book out for family responsibilities,  parents get maternity and paternity leave to care for babies and themselves, and the right to request flexible working to manage family commitments, none of which are common in the US.  Europeans are generally horrified when they learn that in the USA there is no legal right to paid holiday, only Sri Lanka (in countries with a population over 150,000) has the same rule, and even there retail and office workers have a 14 day minimum.

On the map below the darker the colour, the more paid leave employees are entitled to (except white, where no data exists). Click the map for more.

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Here’s Joe Biden talking about why he sent the memo, and how his experience of single fatherhood shaped his view on how to manage his work life balance and help his employees manage theirs…

The Benefits Of An Effective Performance Management System

Performance Management executed professionally can transform an organisations’ ability to drive sales growth:

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The Benefits
It stimulates a success orientated culture that constantly reinforces itself = high standards and desire for ‘stretch’ performance
It aligns the individual’s performance to organisational goals = greater energy around goals and targets
It supports the building of individuals’ strengths and potential = increases peoples self-esteem
The clarity around success / failure stimulates deeper engagement between the individual and the organisation = improves morale and ’emotional’ stakeholding in the business
It aligns and reinforces the individuals expectations with the organisations expectations = performance counts because there are positive and negative consequences
It creates awareness of the progress that everyone is making toward established goals = higher ownership stimulates personal ‘stretch’ performance
It identifies performance problems early, to allow for the generation of possible solutions and a plan to improve performance = because performance matters more, people get passionate about their own (and others) performance
It can provide effective data for feeding into other people related issues like; resource planning, new role requirements, training, management development and succession planning = significantly improves organisatoinal capabilities and shows the organisation to be serious about supporting people’s career development

The Causes of Change

 To deal effectively with increasing rates of change it is important to understand its underlying causes.  Organisational changes are frequently driven by causes external to the organisation.

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Political/Legal

  • Competition Law
  • Environmental Protection
  • Taxation
  • Import and Export restrictions
  • Health and Safety Legislation
  • Employment Law
  • Government Stability

Socio-cultural

  • Population demographics
  • Income Distribution
  • Social mobility
  • Lifestyle Patterns
  • Attitudes to work and leisure
  • Consumerism
  • Education

Economic/Environmental

  • Business Cycles
  • Cost of Capital
  • Money Supply
  • Inflation
  • Growth rate of the Economy
  • Unemployment
  • Disposable Income
  • Energy availability and cost

Technology

  • Government Research and Spending
  • Focus of Research Effort
  • New Developments
  • Speed of Technology Transfer
  • Rates of Obsolescence

Change also occurs at different speeds, but broadly divides into gradual and radical forms.

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Analysing change

Both gradual and radical change may be either reactive or proactive, according to whether you make the change voluntarily or in response to other pressures.

Gradual change

A gradual change is a change that occurs slowly over a prolonged period, at a steady rate, or with minor fluctuations in intensity.  It can involve many people, or just a few and is frequently linked to continuous improvement programmes.

Radical change

A radical change is a sudden and dramatic change with marked effects.  Often radical change is on a large scale.  Organisations and individuals often stand to gain most from a radical change.  However the risks can appear to rise in direct proportion.

Learning to change may, in many cases, constitute a major change in itself.  One of the best ways to establish a new adaptable way of thinking is to develop a ‘learning organisation’.  This is an organisation in which change-oriented thinking becomes a habit for everyone, and so change is always under way, with all systems and processes constantly under review.