Home » Articles, Blogs, & News » Insight CXO Blog

Category: Insight CXO Blog

Scale Your Sales

 

Scale Your Sales

norway-772991_960_720One of the most amazing aspects of being a Business Coach working with growth companies is seeing patterns and issues that most companies face. For companies in the $5M to $15M revenue range, the major thing holding the company back is the inability to Scale Sales. As I have said before, the strength of the entrepreneur or founding team is generally the weakness of the organization. So are YOU the bottleneck?

Scaling Sales can be a complex topic for sure. And company leaders today are tasked with having to sort out all of the advice, sales channels, strategy, etc., on their own. There is not much coordination going on, and everything is a test to see what might stick.

Here are 9 questions to ask yourself and your leadership team to begin Scaling Your Sales:

  1. Is your strength in sales holding the company back in developing its own sales muscle?
  1. Do you have your Core Customer’s buyer persona clearly identified? (If you’re not sure, request our free Breakaway Move toolkit – Part 2 of the two-part series will help you with this critical task.)
  1. Is your company Referable? (This means you’re doing great work!)
  1. How does your Core Customer buy? How do they learn? How would they find you?
  1. Do you realize it takes more than just a website to Scale Sales?
  1. Does your company have clear differentiators? Are you easy to find in a crowded field?
  1. Do you have (or are you prepared to hire) more than one sales person? This reduces the risk of starting over if your sole sales person leaves.
  1. Can you outline the difference between Marketing and Sales? (Hint: marketing sets the stage for a sale.)
  1. Have you created a buyers journey? How are your prospects going to participate in the sales cycle?

(Image: Theplatypus / Pixabay)

Create A Personal Race Plan To Win

Create A Personal Race Plan To Win

It’s hard to win a race without a plan. This is pretty much true whether you are lining up in a mountain bike race with a bunch of hammers or trying to grow your business.

A personal “Race Plan” drives each employee’s priorities within their job function AND drives the priorities of the overall business.

If you’re not sure whether your team members are operating with personal Race Plans, here are the questions you need to think about:

  • race-695303_960_720Do each of your employees, or at least your key employees, have a personal Race Plan?
  • Do they have a Race Plan for each quarter?
  • Has their plan been shared with the team?
  • Are they tracking their plan, publicly leveraging peer accountability?
  • Is your team helping each other when things fall behind?
  • Do you (the owner/leader) know when plans are going off track early so you can implement easy fixes vs big cleanups?

On Your Mark…

Here are some steps or ideas to create and implement strong Race Plans:

  1. Recognize Race Plans are usually the last thing to get done during a quarterly or annual planning session. Everyone is mentally tired. Create a nice break, have some snacks, get up and move around, and create extra time to get Race Plans completed. Creating personal priorities is one of the most difficult functions the brain does, and you are asking it to work full throttle during a low-fuel time.
  1. Have your employees think about their personal quarterly priorities BEFORE the planning session. They may change during the session based in new input, but having a head start will pay dividends.
  1. Have each person spend 15-20 minutes quietly and individually working on their plan. Next have them meet in groups of three to discuss their plan, challenge it, and make sure it looks right.
  1. Have each person tell the full team their #1 goal and #1 priority for the next year or quarter. Does what they shared drive their Role or Function AND the overall priorities of the company?
  1. Create a display and a meeting rhythm to keep the Race Plans alive. If you are using a Green-Yellow-Red methodology to identify task status, just discuss the Yellows and Reds (the things that are due or overdue).
  1. Use the Race Plans as a mechanism to create team building and collaboration. Someone offering to step in and help move a Red task to Green is a beautiful thing.
  1. Encourage people to code Red things early. Don’t be caught off guard if a priority is in trouble. And really brag on people who are willing to help move priorities out of the Red. Make them look like superstars!

Race Plans win races. Help your team drive performance at the personal level and up and out, all through the organization!

(Image: Skeeze / Pixabay)

Become a Lead-Generating Machine

Become a Lead-Generating Machine

The sales process starts with the ability to generate leads, aka people who have an interest in learning more about your business. It’s the inability to create sufficient lead flow that prevents most companies from substantial growth.
6881485010_da66a9b933_zIf you can get lead flow right, hang on and enjoy the ride! Or, let this continue to be your sales constraint and get left behind – or “dropped,” as we call it in the mountain bike racing world. Getting dropped sucks!

One you have identified your Core Customer and have clarity on the Buyer Persona, create a multi-channel plan to connect and generate leads. Buyers are not one-dimensional – they take in information from multiple sources, so you need to think about where they regularly find information, then hit them with information there.

12 Places Your Leads Might Find You

Here is a list of lead-generation channels to explore. Pick what is right for you based on your Core Customer’s Buyer Persona.

  1. Content marketing
  2. SEO and AdWords
  3. Create events – you are the subject-matter expert
  4. Outside sales teams
  5. Inside sales teams
  6. Outsourced door openers
  7. Group affiliations or sponsorships
  8. Partnerships – Channel Sales
  9. Trade shows or industry events
  10. Social media
  11. Traditional PR
  12. Write a book or do speaking engagements
  13. What else makes sense for your industry or your Core Customer?

Look for the 3-5 channels you can focus on. You might ask, “Why not just focus on one channel and go deep?” The answer is that things can change that are out of your control. I see many companies going all-in with an inbound marketing strategy tied to the Web hoping to make the phone ring. Great idea, but what happens when Google changes the content-ranking algorithm? Your 1st page rank is now number 4, and it will take money and time to get it back on top.

Instead, start by working with your team to create a list of 3-5 channels to focus on, and create 3-year, 1-year and 90-day targets and goals. Then create a 90-day action plan to put your multi-channel strategy into motion.

(Image: TaxCredits.net / Flickr)

Stop Reviewing Your Employees

Stop Reviewing Your Employees

employees-936804_1280Performance reviews suck for so many reasons. Entrepreneurs avoid them, because there are way too many other things to do. Managers rarely do them right, and if they do, they don’t prepare properly. Employees hate them because they usually are tied to negative things and money. They usually happen only once a year … if they happen.

Yet, if performed correctly, they are one of the most powerful things a company can do. I speak from experience, having won “Best Places to Work” awards more than 20 times at companies I have founded or coached.

What you need to do instead of a review:

Rather than a typical review, what’s really needed is a formal Alignment Meeting. The overarching purpose is for the manager and employee to walk away with complete clarity and actions that drive the job role: the accountabilities, the goal numbers, etc. Reviewing all the company’s Core Values is a powerful method to make sure the employee is doing the work the right way from a behavioral perspective. For example, do you have a sales superstar who drives your customer service team to tears? This is a great way to address the issue in a collaborative and non-threatening way.

Also missing from most reviews is spending some time discussing the Core Processes and Activities that drive the job function – the ones that have the most impact. Ask what is the most important thing to do and is it on the calendar weekly as a priority item? What processes support the core activities? And what things create busyness but do not really drive results? Simple process with powerful outcomes.

Here are 8 tips to pull off a powerful Alignment Meeting:

  1. Be prepared. Treat this as the number one thing you’ll do as a manager. This is your A-Race. Set an example of preparedness. This is how your employees will do their Alignment Meetings with their employees down the line.
  1. Create a great experience with your employee. This is not a beat-down session. It’s about getting alignment around what is important and agreement on what can be worked on in the next 90 days.
  1. Use the word Together. Work on action plans Together. You’ll be surprised at how many times you’ll walk away from leading an Alignment Meeting with stuff to work on and improve on as well.
  1. Create a safe environment for candor. Not making this a review tied to money is the trick to this.
  1. Tell them why this is important. I’ll say something like, “I care about you and your health and happiness, I care about our relationship and our willingness to work Together, and I care about doing the right things to move our company forward. This conversation is about these three things.”
  1. Pick 2-3 things to work on each 90 days. Look for themes or “red threads” throughout the conversation. Don’t nitpick each line item. Ask what can we work on that would drive the most improvement … create the biggest impact?
  1. Be vulnerable as the manager. This will help you get to the real issues your employee is dealing with at work. You can’t help fix what you don’t know about. Put your ego aside.
  1. Have fun! You both should walk out totally energized! Don’t be surprised if you get an unexpected hug, handshake or even some happy tears.

Never do another review. Stop, please!!! Instead, start Alignment Meetings now!

(Image: Marlon Malabanan / Flickr)

Know Your Competition

Know Your Competition

As a professional mountain bike racer, I always know what my BreakAway Move™ is going to be before I start a race. This begins by knowing the course, things like: Where are the blind turns? How long and steep are the climbs? What are the technical sections like? Where are the good places to hydrate?
Next, I have to Know My Competition and think about what each racer’s strengths and weaknesses are. Who is in peak form? Who can really crush hill climbs? Who is wicked fast in the technical sections? Who is just really fast on this course?

Based on my data, I craft my BreakAway Move before the race and decide WHEN I’m going to drop the hammer and Crush the Competition! This is a HUGE mechanism for conserving energy andbike-race-446104_960_720 winning a race.

Your business works the exact same way. You need two to three BreakAway Moves you are always working on and it’s imperative that you Know Your Competition, whether you’re preparing for a race or a business deal. Here are 12.5 steps to start mapping out your competition to plan and execute your BreakAway Move.

How to map your competition

To get started, open a new spreadsheet on your computer and fill it out with the following 12.5 steps.

1. On the vertical axis (rows) write down all of your competitors and the companies that could be your competitors in the future.

Then fill in the horizontal axis (columns) for each competitor with the rest of these steps.

2. Write down as many attributes as you can think of that can describe your competition.

3. What core businesses are they in? Just your line of work, multiple lines of work? If multiple, what are they?

4. Who are their suppliers?

5. Who is their target market? Their Core Customer?

6. How are they funded?

7. What is their Brand Promise? Their differentiating activities in the market?

8. What space are they trying to own? Their geography?

9. Where are they stronger than you?

10. Where are they weaker than you?

11. Add links to their website(s) for quick reference.

12. What words or phrases are they trying to own?

12.5. What are THEIR BreakAway Moves??!!

Creating a great strategy to win begins by knowing your competition, and these 12.5 steps should get you started. You may think of other things to add to your spreadsheet — please let me know what you come up with.

Now create your plan and go after your Epic Win™!!!

(Image: jp26jp/ Pixabay)

The Most Powerful Word: TOGETHER

The Most Powerful Word: TOGETHER

By Robert Fish

“The Best Team Wins.” It’s a common mantra everyone believes — for good reasons. Whether in business or in sports, the organization with the best team, and not necessarily the best players, wins the most.4431896656_56d2908af7_z

But in business today, what does TEAM really mean? In our roles, how do we really work together? Side by side, virtually, not at all? The answer is … the traditional definition of team and how we work may not be what you think.

In “Managers Can Motivate Employees with One Word,” an article published by the Harvard Business Review, author Heidi Grant Halvorson explored the concepts of teams in the workplace. It’s really the FEELING of working together that has been shown to predict motivation — and the highly coveted employee engagement that brings high performance and results.

Research by Priyanka Carr and Greg Walton of Stanford University has proven that when people FEEL LIKE they are working together on a task, (even when in fact they may not be) they worked 48% longer, solved more problems correctly, and had better recall for what they had seen. They also had more energy after the task. … More fuel left over for other things.

Together It Is

Simply saying the word “TOGETHER” could be the new most powerful word a company leader or team leader can say to create a high-performance work environment. More than team, this one powerful word instantly reminds employees that they are connected, not alone and disconnected.

I’ve put this concept into action. As a coach, I have changed my vocabulary on this. I used to say, “Team, let’s work on the annual goals.” Now I say, “Let’s work on creating our annual goals TOGETHER.”

How can you use this powerful social cue to the brain? Take a moment and envision when and where you can integrate this into your daily habits.

(Image: YassIn Hasan / Flickr)

Be A Surgeon

Be A Surgeon

By Robert Fish

I was in a planning session with an Insight CXO member and friend, Jonathan Ross, two years ago, and we were talking about organizational development and getting the mindset right around key roles in his business.

One of my favorite things about Jonathan is his ability to create great analogies. He said to be most effective in your business, you have to Be a Surgeon.

This is an especially important concept for entrepreneurs to get their heads around when thinking about in their own roles inside the business, especially if they are founders or co-founders of their firm.

Be a Surgeon means imagining yourself as a Brain Surgeon, and it’s surgery day. Think about the end-to-end process and all that happens in the Operating Room:surgery-590536_960_720

  • The O.R. is prepped with the right tools and implements.
  • The patient is wheeled in and is prepped by nurses.
  • The anesthesiologist administers the drugs and intubates the patient.
  • The surgeon washes her hands, and nurses put on her gloves and prep her for the surgery.
  • The surgeon performs the surgery (successfully!) and exits the room.
  • Staff cleans up the room and prepares for the next patient.

If you are an Entrepreneur and have an active role in the business, you must Be a Surgeon! Leverage your staff to handle the things that do not fit within your Unique Ability, or the things that are not High Impact and give you Energy. Create systems and processes and roles to handle the rest. This will also give you more time to work ON the business and not IN it, creating more opportunities for you to grow your business.

This concept can be applied across your staff, and especially among your leadership team. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and to run a business most effectively, you need to leverage each individual’s strengths and help them avoid their weaknesses. Just as you wouldn’t want a nurse doing your brain surgery (or vice versa, really), you don’t want your A-player CFO running warehouse logistics (or your A-player logistics guru handling the financials).

In a less-extreme example, maybe your marketing head is a creative genius, but isn’t so great at providing documentation to accounting; maybe there’s someone on her staff who can keep track of all those details so nothing slips through the cracks. Being a Surgeon means the whole team is playing to their strengths — and avoiding things that increase the risk of inefficiency, errors and dissatisfaction.

If you’re serious about growing your business, Be A Surgeon — and make sure everyone on your team is positioned to do the same.

(Image: Skeeze / Pixabay)

Win With A Coach

Win With A Coach

By Robert Fish and Jeanne Clary

board-784363_1280When I talk to someone about Insight CXO and Gazelles, they often want to know what makes us better than the many other business growth coaches and methodologies out there. Even if they are familiar with Verne Harnish’s books, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up, or the Rockefeller Habits in general, they’re curious about why I, as a successful serial entrepreneur, have fully bought in to the Gazelles approach to growing a business — and why it works.

About a year ago, the owners of Kernersville, N.C., based EFI hired me to help them grow their business. Sometimes when a business owner brings me on as a business coach, the employees get anxious to know what that means for their jobs. Change is tough and the fear of unknown change can be even harder.

That’s one reason why I think the referral letter below from EFI employee Jeanne Clary is so powerful. She didn’t choose me or Insight CXO to come into her office and change their business, and she recognizes that the work to change isn’t easy — but it’s totally worthwhile. Please read what she has to say (below the picture of EFI’s team), and please let me know if you have any comments or questions.

— Robert

We contacted Gazelles and were introduced to Robert as one of their “best.” They provided us a couple of names to contact and interview. We started with Robert, as he was in N.C. He came to our office just about a year ago and spent a few hours with our team, and the rest is history, we never felt the need to interview anyone else. He is now a part of the family. It took us, EFI, several months to get our ducks in a row, prayerfully decide that we were truly ready to make changes, and then clear our calendars, as it would require a lifestyle change for our entire team.

On January 9, 2015, we met with Robert off campus for our very first planning team meeting. To say this was easy would be a fallacy. This meeting was hard, as we truly had to look at ourselves and say “wow, we don’t have real focus and direction, we are not on the same page, nor have we really defined who we are and where do we want to go.” OUCH! Do not get me wrong, Robert did not crack a whip, he just helped open our eyes. The meeting itself was educational, team building and fun, but with a big dose of reality too.

Since those initial meetings, we have meet daily as a team, monthly with Robert, have learned the Gazelle “lingo” (Rocks and BHAG were not part of our daily vocabulary), drawn a clear picture that the entire team looks at and sees the same thing, met opposition and worked through, launched a corporate-wide core values program, hired a quality manager (in less than three months reduced our scrap rate by 25+%), improved productivity and employee involvement considerably … the list goes on.

To say, “this is all a result of “Robert,” you would probably say “that seems like a far stretch,” and I would have to agree with you. BUT it IS a result of Robert coming alongside us, our talents, our values, our experience, etc., and guiding us, encouraging us, holding us accountable, reprimanding us (in his very gentle way when necessary), and being available to talk us through situations, push us back on track when necessary, etc., that we can truly say that is the value we have experienced through hiring Robert as a coach.

EFI is moving on the right path, we are growing with direction and focus, we are changing our lifestyle and way of doing business. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Robert as we continue to grow and take the next steps in increasing the value of our growing company through the Gazelle teachings.

— Jeanne Clary, EFI

How To Stabilize Your Executive Team’s Ship

How To Stabilize Your Executive Team’s Ship

By Robert Fish

Recently, Gazelles founder Verne Harnish highlighted a Fortune magazine article on the CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky. When the author, Leigh Gallagher, asked the CEO about his leadership style, Chesky drew a ship. “As CEO I’m the captain of the ship,” he said, and his primary job is to look for things below the waterline that might sink the ship. Above the waterline, he focuses on two or three things that he’s really passionate about and feels that “they can truly transform the company if they go well.”regatta

Most companies don’t maximize growth due to internal problems – the below-the-waterline issues that are hard to see. I help my clients focus on one Internal risk and one External risk, and the most common thing I see is a dysfunctional Team #1. So, I think the No. 1 concern for a CEO should be the Health of Team #1.

Team #1 is the executive team. As humans, we are all imperfect. We can all communicate poorly, be passive-aggressive, seem agreeable on the outside but non-committal on the inside … and even just a little weird at times. So by default, all teams are dysfunctional. It’s really a question of how dysfunctional.

As Team #1 goes, so goes the rest of the company. If Team #1 can’t synchronize and work together cross-functionally, the teams below them will not work well, either. Is sales not working well with IT at the functional level? Trace it back to leadership.

I think that continuously working to make Team #1 healthier is a sustainable competitive advantage. Is your competition looking below the waterline like you are? Are their teams (especially Team #1) as healthy as yours? Are they working together cross-functionally and getting tons of stuff done drama-free?

How to Get Team #1 Sailing Together 

Here is a starting point to get Team #1 sailing together.

First, have your team read The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. After reading the leadership fable, ask your team if they can identify with any of the characters in the book.

Then do a Team Effectiveness Exercise. Gather your executive team around the table and have each person share two things that the CEO does that ADD to the effectiveness of the team. The CEO can ask clarifying questions, but should otherwise not respond. After all team members have spoken, the CEO can share insights into what he or she heard and learned.

Then, repeat this process for each team member. At the end of this part of the exercise, each member of the executive team will have shared two things each team member does that make the team more effective.

Next, go around the table, again starting with the CEO, and have each person share two behaviors that DETRACT from the team. Personal attacks are off-limits, and the moderator must be watching for potential attacks against a person versus talking about the behavior.

After everyone has shared two ADDITIONS and DETRACTORS for each person, have each person identify and share ONE THING they are going to commit to improving over the next 90 days to increase team health. Write the commitments down, and in 90 days, ask the team how each team member is doing. This drives accountability and action.

Sound scary? For some it is. Don’t cave. You’ll be surprised how many behavioral epiphanies people have. It’s hard to fix what you don’t know about.

A Success Story

A great example of this method in action is an accounting manager at a fast-growing Insight CXO client. She was new to the company and still getting acclimated when we went through this exercise. The Addition feedback was that she was highly trusted and the books were in great hands. This surprised and pleased her – she had put tons of pressure on herself and thought she was not doing a good enough job. But a Detractor theme was that she was not approachable. People were not comfortable walking into her office. This mortified her – she had no idea this was what people thought, and she committed to being more open and inviting. It was a very easy change once she knew what people were thinking.

The below the waterline example here shows an A-player who thought she was performing at a C-level, so she was unintentionally behaving in a way that limited communication.

Remember, the best team wins. Commit and take action to build a healthy Team #1 and unlock your company’s growth potential.

Image: William Cho 

5 Ways to Increase Profit This Year

5 Ways To Increase Profit This Year

By Robert Fish

Your company is growing, your team is adding clients and your net income is growing in terms of total dollars – but not in terms of net-income percentage. Companies that are growing and really focused on client acquisition usually see negative pressure on net-income percentage – much to the CEO’s frustration.

Get Busy

Here are some things you can do RIGHT NOW to grow revenue AND grow net-income percentage.6551520247_ae0315efb8_z

1. Look at your client mix. List all of your clients on a spreadsheet, then ask the following questions:

  • Which clients produce the most revenue? The most gross profit?
  • Which ones require the most management time? The most staff time?
  • Which ones have the most growth potential?
  • Which clients are absolute pleasures to work with? Which ones just drive you and your team nuts?

2. Look at your data objectively and figure out your Top 20% clients. This will help you create your “Top 20% client profile” -– the types of clients that you want more of.

3. Identify the decision makers at the Top 20% clients and begin to create a Buyer Persona. Think about: What are their habits? How do they buy? Where do they look for information? What groups do they belong to? What are their needs and their biggest problems to solve?

4. Focus your sales and marketing efforts on prospects that fit your Top 20% profile, and leverage their typical Buyer Persona into your sales process and messaging.

5. Stop lowering prices to get a deal and stop giving away margin!!! Your targeted group appreciates you and your firm and is willing to pay optimal profit for your products or services. You have already proven it with the spreadsheet you developed. This is also a great time to raise prices.

At the end of the day, without making any additional investment in operations, product delivery, etc., just by getting more focus on WHO you are selling to, you are automatically increasing the value of WHAT you are selling because this group VALUES what you are selling more than others who are willing to buy, but only at a discounted price.

Another net-income percentage benefit is that this targeted group is easier to service. Your core product or service is already exactly what they need. This saves huge amounts of time, but that does not show up easily on any of the P&L statement line items … just net income.

Ask The Question

Get your team together at your next Quarterly Planning session and ask the question:

“How can we get our net-income percentage from X% to Y% by the end of 2015?”

Don’t shoot for the moon. The objective is getting your team aligned around some key priorities and focused on execution. Results drive engagement.

(Image: 401calculator.org / Flickr)