One 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.
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Here are 9 questions to ask yourself and your leadership team to begin Scaling Your Sales:
- Is your strength in sales holding the company back in developing its own sales muscle?
- 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.)
- Is your company Referable? (This means you’re doing great work!)
- How does your Core Customer buy? How do they learn? How would they find you?
- Do you realize it takes more than just a website to Scale Sales?
- Does your company have clear differentiators? Are you easy to find in a crowded field?
- 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.
- Can you outline the difference between Marketing and Sales? (Hint: marketing sets the stage for a sale.)
- Have you created a buyers journey? How are your prospects going to participate in the sales cycle?
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.
If 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.
- Content marketing
- SEO and AdWords
- Create events – you are the subject-matter expert
- Outside sales teams
- Inside sales teams
- Outsourced door openers
- Group affiliations or sponsorships
- Partnerships – Channel Sales
- Trade shows or industry events
- Social media
- Traditional PR
- Write a book or do speaking engagements
- 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.
I facilitate planning retreats every week and I’m always fascinated by the concept of the CASH CONVERSION CYCLE and how it engages every person in the room. Typically, the concept of cash is left to the business owner and the Controller and/or CFO. Cash is like oxygen for the business. Without it, the business simply dies. So the question is “how can we generate as much cash as possible to fuel growth and reduce the need for outside financing?” There are four parts of the CASH CONVERSION CYCLE and all four need to be analyzed and shortened as much as possible:
1) Sales Cycle
Shortening the sales cycle has an impact on cash! What are the ways the sales team can get to the market faster and less time between steps? How long does it take to bring a new product to the market? What is the R&D process like? How can we speed it up? The sales team is never asked to think about sales in the context of cash conversion. And you’ll be surprised what they come up with when asked. For them it’s really commission conversion cycle and they will become great advocates for the initiatives.
2) Make / Production Cycle
Shortening the make / production cycle has an impact on cash! What are the ways to speed up inventory turns and reduce inventory? How can the sales team get better orders so things get made right the first time? How can operations be organized to increase flow and capacity? How can LEAN techniques be used to eliminate waste of material and time?
3) Delivery Cycle
Shortening the delivery cycle has an impact on cash! We see so many easy to correct mistakes happen at this stage. And until delivery happens billing usually cannot be completed. How long does it take to complete the delivery of the product or service? Was the customer ready? Did they get exactly what they expected? Did the finished product have to be shipped back for re-work due to miscommunication or improper order taking? Did the product work like it was supposed to? Did Quality Control do their job right?
4) Billing Cycle
Shortening the billing cycle has an impact on cash! Most companies think they are stuck in a billing format due to their industry norms. The reality is most clients are willing to pay faster or are willing to change when billing happens. The trick is you have to ask! For example, instead of billing everything at once after the service is completed, consider X% up front and progress billing. If you typically bill monthly, start billing bi-weekly. If you bill bi-weekly, start billing weekly. If you are a service based business and usually bill for work after it was performed, start billing for work before it is performed.
Look for 100 hundred ways to shorten cycle times and never stop looking. Make it a point, each quarter, to find an area the company will focus on and improve. I guarantee when you look at your business through the lens of cash you’ll realize when you make cash improvements you are also making significant process improvements.