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Critical to growth: The repeatable sales process
Arguably the most critical barrier to growth is also one of the most difficult to overcome: nailing down your repeatable sales process. In order to grow, you will need others to sell your product or service – either sales people or distributors. In either case, the seller must be successful or the relationship will not work and you will lose valuable time and money. Before you engage a salesperson, let alone a sales force, you need to understand and document the steps that are proven to consistently produce results: from finding good prospects to selling your product or service to customers. And, to be repeatable, the process must be successful without having to rely on the unique personality, knowledge and skills of the CEO.

Here are a couple of useful articles:

Developing your repeatable sales process is an iterative exercise. Start now and track your results – all results, not only the positive ones. Begin to understand your success/failure rate and establish some desired performance metrics for each step in the process – metrics that are aligned with your strategic (growth) plan. Continuously refine your repeatable sales process to achieve the desired performance level. It is harder than it sounds, but worth it and necessary in order to grow. And Hancock + Associates can help.

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CEOs must let go in order to grow... Easier said than done.
These quotes come from a couple of articles, from BusinessWeek and NewTechDev, on the changing needs of companies – including what they need from their CEOs – in order for them to grow out of the successful start-up stage:

  • "[CEOs] have to start working on their business instead of in their business," (BusinessWeek)
  • “…Some key signals that should tell companies they need to change: when many workers don't know what others are doing, for example, or when sales rise but profits stay flat.” (BusinessWeek)
  • “Perhaps the most difficult transitions in the Adolescent stage are for people to assume the different roles needed at this stage and for the founder to truly share power.” (NewTechDev.com)
  • “…80% of founding entrepreneurs are not able to delegate enough authority so their company can grow through this stage.” (NewTechDev.com)
  • “The core lesson is that CEOs should create entities that don't depend on them.” (BusinessWeek)
In my experience – both in growing my own business and helping others grow theirs – these statements are right on the money. The challenge in all cases was finding someone who had the right skills and experience to run the business, while the CEO focused on growing it. Especially since the companies were in transition, so they could not afford for their CEOs to let go of the day-to-day responsibilities all at once. They also did not have the need nor enough revenue (yet) to pay a qualified person full-time to help run the business. Part-time would have been perfect for about a year, to see them through the transition. And finally, perhaps most important, the CEOs did not necessarily know where to best direct their attention to grow their companies to the next level.

Good luck finding someone to who will fill this need, right?

Well, it may be a novel concept, but that is what we strive to do and precisely why we do it.

First Post

BNET Feature: Find the Upside in a Downturn…
“Don’t let the recession get you down. Lean times are a great opportunity to get more competitive and position your business for future growth.” (BNET)

This
BNET article made me think... What did I do to help my company survive two back-to-back recessions, with a largely U.S. customer base? We definitely cut expenses wherever we could. And I shifted resources from new product initiatives to keeping in contact with our customers. (We’re all affected by a loss of confidence in the economy. No one knows who is surviving and who isn’t. So, it’s essential to keep in touch with key customers – ask how they’re doing and let them know you’re hanging in.) Some customers will be in a buying position, just not as many. So you need to make lots of calls.

But a call isn’t enough. We needed something to offer existing customers (who probably weren’t going to buy upgrades from us for up to a year) as well as prospective customers looking for savings. Our strategy was to develop new materials that would make implementation of our system faster and easier for our customers to use – something that customers had been asking about for a few months, so we knew it would be valued. This enabled us to put our existing resources to work, focused on the customer, with virtually no capital outlay. While we improved the product, we made customer calls and promised the new materials would be ready in a couple of months (and we ensured that they were).

We sent the new materials to existing customers at no charge. The marginal cost to us was manageable. But the customer loyalty it built was significant. In hindsight, I believe our gesture of offering free product improvement materials would have had far less impact on customer loyalty if we’d offered it in better economic times. But at the time, it just seemed like the right thing to do. And it was a product improvement that saved new customers time and money in implementation costs, which definitely tipped new sales in our favour.

Coming out of the recession, our product met customer needs better – which therefore resulted in more sales – and, even more important, many of our loyal customers kept us in mind when making new purchases once their budgets were released and gave favourable reviews of our product to the media and to their counterparts in other organizations.

~ Rachel Hancock

(P.S. We did also continue working on our major product upgrade, but extended the release date by roughly nine months. While it was being slow-tracked, we paid close attention to changes in the market and customer needs, as these changes required us to modify what we released in the end.)