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Scale Your Sales

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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.

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

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.

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

  • Do 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)
Stable Team

How To Stabilize Your Executive Team’s Ship

Stable Team

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.”

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.

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)

6 Questions To Crush The Competition

In today’s globally connected and competitive business climate, it’s no longer enough to look at strategy on an annual basis. Nowadays, every single month executive teams need to integrate strategy development within the business planning rhythm.

The key to unlocking strategy is answering a powerful question that gets the team thinking in unique ways. But a common “stuck” in strategy development is figuring out the right question to achieve your Breakaway Move to crush your competition. Answers are easy; getting the question right can be harder. Here are 6 questions to ask your team during strategy brainstorming sessions that can unlock hidden value inside your business.

1. Where is the next battle going to be in your business?racing-car-373757_960_720

A good example is Facebook’s massive focus on mobile after they went public. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg’s daily question, “how are we going to leverage mobile,” became his, and his company’s, daily question. Clearly, it’s working.

2. What has been tried before, either by your company or by your competitors, but did not work?
There are so many variables that can make an initiative really stick vs. flat-out fail. Failure does not always mean the idea was not good. For example, it could have been the wrong person leading the charge, market conditions might be different, technology could streamline the process, global platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook could accelerate growth.

3. What two or three existing things in your business, things you are already doing, can you combine?
This is one of my favorites. Take two existing things and create something original. What product and service can you combine and create a unique new product, service or program?

4. When your company wins, what other companies are impacted in a positive way?
Think about what relationships you can create – or what product offerings could you integrate with – to expand your market faster by leveraging other people’s trust relationships? I looked at office space this week to handle our expansion. I could not help but think about all the other things signing a lease would trigger, things like construction, IT, phones, furniture, etc. Building relationships with those companies can result in more referrals to your business.

5. What is fragmented in your market, and how could you coordinate it?
Think about what Uber did for taxi services and what Airbnb did for housing rentals. What is messy, hard to do, clunky, expensive or frustrating in your market, and how could you fix it? What product, service or platform could you create?

6. What can you be the only option for in your space?
Think about what parts of your business operations are hard for someone else to reproduce or copy. For example, there are several business coaches in the Charlotte metro area. But only Insight CXO has a team in place that can help execute the business plan in three areas. The Promise – what makes your firm unique and what is the sales engine to generate revenue? The People – is your team healthy and aligned and do you have systems in place to hire and keep A Players? The Process – do you have core processes documented and measured to make them better, faster and cheaper… with less drama?

Remember that your competition is not asleep behind the wheel, so your team has to be looking through the windshield and down the road as far as possible. Try asking these 6 questions in your next monthly executive planning meeting, and see if you can figure out the strategy – the one that will give your business the boost to crush the competition.

Image: Jingoba / Pixabay

Real Leaders Find A Way

Getting Core Values right in a business is the #1 way to build a strong and enduring Culture and is the foundation upon which an enterprise is built. Having a list of cool Core Values on a website – and really integrating them into the daily life of the organization based on intentional actions – are two different things.

EFI, an Insight CXO member with 80+ employees, finally nailed their Core Values and actions plans this week during their Q3 Quarterly Planning Session. We started the process in January, and I thought it would be helpful to share what a process can look like in reality. Month 5 is where this gets powerful.

Month 1 – Learn what a Core Value is and use sticky notes to generate a list of potential values.14485059353_8d009d4eb3_z

Month 2 – Review the list and test it against the following questions.

  • Are the Core Values alive in the company today?
  • Would you fire an offender for repeated violations?
  • Would you take an economic hit to defend them?

Some values are great attributes, but don’t make the Core Values cut.

Month 3 – Finalize the 3-5 final Core Values. We know the right values are identified, but the wording is not perfect.

Month 4 – Get the wording right for the Core Values, and get clarity on the specific behaviors and actions that support or violate each one. Begin thinking about how the values will be integrated into the company.

Month 5 – Roadblock!!! EFI’s planning team was supposed to start implementing the Core Values, but even though the values LOOKED right, they did not FEEL right to the team. The team was concerned the employees would not embrace the values and might even reject them. This is a common FEAR in rolling out Core Values that nobody talks about.

Here’s where EFI knocked it out of the park. Admittedly, the team was a bit discouraged, so they really dug and – with great focus – re-worded the values. They did not change the values, just the labels. Here’s what they came up with:

MAKE A DIFFERENCE – This is their overarching, one-phrase Core Value.

Respect every Individual

Lead with Humility

Focus on the Improvement Process

Assure Quality at the Source

Winning Attitude

To help everyone remember, they turned the first letter of the Core Values into this mnemonic: Real Leaders Find A Way.

Month 6 – Create a list and an action plan to integrate the Core Values into the company with real excitement. I will report back in a follow-up blog post on the cool and innovative ways they implement the Core Values.

EFI’s Core Purpose is To Inspire Through Innovation … I can’t wait to see what they do next!

My “One Word Close” at the end of our Q3 Quarterly meeting was GRATEFUL. I’m grateful to be EFI’s coach and get to witness a team who really cares about their employees and was unwilling to move forward with Core Values that did not 100% meet their standards.

Sometimes as a coach I learn more from my members than they learn from me. And I’m very grateful for that.

Image: Flickr

Stop Gambling On Hiring Decisions

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Hiring the right person can seem like one of the most risky things you do. On the most basic level, you’re looking for someone who has the skills for the job, but – especially in a growing company – that person must be motivated, share your Core Values and work well with the other members of your team.

When you hire someone, you’re making a financial, organizational and emotional investment in them and your business. And when you take the risk to invest in a person, you need the best possible likelihood of that investment paying off for your company.

Although building a team of A-players is one of the most important things you do for your business, the typical interview process isn’t the best way to determine whether the person who looks great on paper and shines in a face-to-face will pay off. This is why Behavioral Assessments are an important part of top Talent Management and Organizational Development programs.

Behavioral Assessments allow us to look deeper into what criteria will make a role successful, and which candidates have the highest likelihood of filling that role well. The assessments look at three key areas of a person:

  • their behavior,
  • their motivators and
  • the core skills/competencies they can bring to the job.

Add Power To Your HR Program

Here’s how this can add power to your human resources program. In a typical job interview, you get just one or two hours to get to know someone. By adding Behavioral Assessments, you get an inside view of the whole person. It may also make that 1-2 hour interview even more meaningful, because you can ask questions that will better help determine whether the person is the right fit, particularly whether his or her personality and internal drive is the right fit for the role and your organization.

Behavioral Assessments are also a valuable tool to help current employees thrive in your company. They can help show where a person has opportunity for growth within the position, as well as whether changes can be made to better adapt to their behavioral style and make them better performers.

The information we can gather from Behavioral Assessments can be used in many ways, including increasing personal awareness, determining fit in a role, building development/coaching plans, defining what is needed for a particular role, and identifying the right candidate – someone who will fit the needs of the role and be happy in it over the long term.

Benefits of Behavioral Assessments

Some of the ways Behavioral Assessments can change how you look at hiring and performance planning include:

  • You will be more equipped to make informed decisions that will be best for the company and the candidate.
  • You’ll be able to more easily weed out ineffective candidates.
  • You’ll be better able to find the right person who can hit the road running and be more effective faster.
  • You’ll help your employees understand what is expected of them and enable them to perform at a higher level.
  • You’ll be able to target performance incentives on the things that most motivate individual members of your team.

Behavioral Assessments are an extremely valuable part of your overall Talent Management and Organizational Development strategy. Whether you’re looking at hiring or staff development, consider whether adding Behavioral Assessments might be a Breakaway Move that makes your staff happier, more effective and more valuable to your business.

Growth-Related Chaos? Take A Step Back

chaos-485493_1280-geralt-960x720Rapid growth is exciting … and chaotic. When your growth strategies start paying off, the processes that worked well when you were smaller can break down as you add clients, revenue and employees to your business. As you get more decision makers, with differing opinions on how to do things, your processes can become so cumbersome that they threaten to slow your business and increase your risk.

This was the situation faced by one of our clients, a global pharmaceutical services company that saw an enviable 880% organic growth rate over the last four years. Its employee headcount and active customer list were growing beyond capacity, and they had a serious case of growing pains. They knew their processes weren’t working anymore, and they asked us to help them retool to both absorb growth and continue doing what produced their steep growth in the first place.

Take a Step Back

Anytime you’re looking for new, better ways of doing things, you must first define how you’re currently operating to figure out what’s really causing your problems. This process of defining your core processes – a group of related activities that transform various inputs into an output that adds value to the customer – is the best way to ensure that the solution you adopt is a Breakaway Move that supports your overall strategy.

To get there, step back and 1) look at processes to see how things are currently done; 2) determine if new systems would improve efficiency; and 3) challenge your processes and see where there might be opportunities to make them leaner.

Here’s what that looked like with the pharmaceutical services company we’re working with.

First, we had to get clear direction on what problems needed to be solved. We had to get the team laser-focused on the outcome and make sure we didn’t try to “boil the ocean”– to try to do more than was realistic or necessary.

Next, we defined the cost of poor quality – the things that could be negatively impacted by not making changes (for example, customer satisfaction, employee effectiveness, compliance).

Then we recorded all of the existing processes. When we began, the team thought they had 10 processes, but once we really dug in and challenged the team and each process, we found there were over 20 different processes in place, with multiple touch points and people involved. We got there by breaking each process down by the following components:

  • Define the process: What 1-2 sentences does the process owner use to describe it?
  • Inputs to the process: What steps, actions, templates or tools are needed for the process to start?
  • Process steps: What is the activity and/or transformation that takes place?
  • Outputs: What is the result of the activity and/or transformation taking place?
  • Controls: What manual or system controls are in place? What’s on your wish list for the future?
  • Risks: What risks are in the existing process?
  • Regulatory requirements: Are there any U.S./international regulatory or compliance requirements that must be considered?

Finally, we took the team through a “wish list” exercise to capture all areas of potential opportunity the client didn’t have capability for, but hoped to see after they made changes.

Potential solutions were weighed against a cost-benefit analysis to ensure that what they chose to adopt (and their priorities for adoption) would provide the biggest payoff in terms of alleviating problems and making processes better, faster and cheaper.

When your processes are causing a lot of business pain, it may seem like a lot of time and trouble to take a step back to define your core processes, but it’s the most effective way to implement processes that are more than a Band-Aid, but fix your problems for the long run.

Image: Geralt / Pixabay

FUEL UP Your Growth Engine

General Electric’s GE90 class jet engine is powerful enough to power a Boeing 777 airplane in flight for over 5 hours … on just ONE engine. GE is relentless in its engineering efforts to continuously create more powerful, safe, fuel efficient and light engines. But as powerful as this engine is, it cannot produce any thrust without fuel. It won’t even start.

Every company has a growth engine. But, in reality, leaders rarely take the time to inspect and tune it up for maximum efficiency. In a business, fuel is CASH. And the number one way to increase cash is to increase PROFIT.

There are 7 Levers that influence your Profit and Cash Flow, the fuel required to rev up your growth engine to maximum thrust.

Lever #1 – PriceGE-90_Engine,_Unknown_JP337557

Lever #2 – Volume

Lever #3 – Cost of goods sold (COGS) and direct costs

Lever #4 – Operating expenses

Lever #5 – Accounts receivable

Lever #6 – Inventory or work in progress

Lever #7 – Accounts payable

It’s easier than you think to take actions on these levers and increase your Profit and Cash Flow. The Power of One is a concept that shows how doing something to move those levers either 1% (on levers 1-4) or 1 day (on levers 5-7) in a few critical areas can lead to a significant increase in Profit.

Move The Levers

The Power of One One-Page Tool allows you to calculate the effect on your profit if you can move those levers either 1% or 1 day.

Lever #1 – Price: What’s the value of increasing prices by just 1%?

Lever #2 – Volume: What’s the value of selling just 1% more units at the same price?

Lever #3 – COGS: What’s the value of decreasing raw material and direct labor costs by just 1%?

Lever #4 – Operations: What’s the value of reducing overhead by just 1%?

Lever #5 – Accounts receivable: What’s the value of collecting from debtors just 1 day sooner?

Lever #6 – Inventory: What’s the value of keeping 1 day’s less stock/inventory on hand?

Lever #7 – Accounts payable: What’s the value of paying creditors 1 day slower?

I know what you are thinking. You already know all of this!

But the reality is, most companies don’t take the time to actually measure the impact these small changes can make. You can easily add 3% to your bottom line just by tuning your engine, making small and painless adjustments.

Put the Power of One into action with a simple spreadsheet that you and your team can use to measure the impact of the changes in each Lever. Assign a person to each lever, and create SMART goals and action plans to generate more profit to FUEL UP Your Growth Engine!

(Image: Dale Coleman / Wikimedia Commons)

6 Roadblocks to Growing Your Business

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Companies often encounter barriers as they mature. Here are six big ones and how to break through them.

1. Not knowing your ideal customer

Customers aren’t all equally valuable; some can even be unprofitable. So CEO Scot Lowry of digital marketing firm Fathom, in Valley View, Ohio, had his CFO draft a profit and loss statement for each. That helped him phase out the costly customers — and identify the ideal ones, such as health care and financial services firms that need very customized service. “Our strategy is based on deep customer intimacy,” he explains. “We have to focus on select clients to deliver on this.”

2. Failing to scale systems

Many companies don’t want to invest in brand-new software for accounting, customer-relations management, and other operating systems as they grow because they’re pricey. But procrastinating will lead to chaos and mistakes when you need to tackle tasks that should be easy to do instantly, like updating customers’ addresses in all your records at once. If your company has hit 50 to 150 employees without upgrading its systems, don’t delay any more. It’s an emergency.

3. Using an old org chart

It’s tempting just to stuff this important document in a drawer and forget it. Don’t. With his now nearly 150-person team squabbling over priorities and resources, Lowry shredded his org chart and reorganized everyone into teams dedicated to specific accounts. He is listed at the bottom, with the role of helping employees serve clients at the firm, which expects $20 million in sales this year. “I stopped talking about my ‘direct reports’ and switched to calling them my ‘direct supports,’” he says.

4. Trusting your gut

In the startup phase, you’ve got to rely on your instincts because there’s no historical data to guide you. But intuition often deceives CEOs as their businesses become more complex, says Sunny Vanderbeck, managing partner at Satori Capital, a Dallas-based firm that invests in growing, profitable companies. If you’re not letting data drive decisions, such as what products to develop or which customers are worth pitching, he says, “you’re missing out.”

5. Letting your skills flatline

Companies often outgrow the founders’ ability to lead them because the CEOs don’t sharpen their management skills. “If your company is growing 30% a year, you have to be 30% better by this time next year,” says Vanderbeck. Learn from other CEOs by joining a peer group like Entrepreneurs’ Organization or Young Presidents’ Organization. “If you aren’t a learner, you are the reason the company isn’t as big as it could be,” Vanderbeck says.

6. Not investing in team training.  

Out-learning the competition is a powerful and sustainable growth strategy. To get everyone playing the same music, CEOs must focus training where the company needs it most. Studies have proven over and over again that training has the highest ROI compared to any other investment a firm can make. Jeff Frushtick, CEO of industrial equipment maker Leonard Automatics, found this to be true: Training employees on Lean production resulted in a five-fold increase in profits in a single year at the 35-employee, Denver, N.C., firm. Look into training that can boost your firm’s profits similarly.

 

Verne Harnish is the CEO of Gazelles Inc., an executive education firm. Robert Fish is founder and CEO of Insight CXO.

This blog is adapted from a story in the May 19, 2014 issue of Fortune.

Image: Nicholas Canup / Flickr