For all the newer challenges business leaders face in 2018 – cybersecurity, talent management, work/life balance – some things are ever present. Sales, for instance. Whatever your product or service, the sales function is not just key to business success, but business survival.
Brand equity, workplace culture and talent pools are all important, but ultimately sales are the lifeblood of a business. That steady flow of products, services and funds through the business is what keeps it alive - if the flow is blocked, misdirected or intermittent, the business sickens and ultimately dies.
What is a brand?
It’s a simple enough question, but now and then we meet someone who has to ask it; someone who isn’t sure if their business has a brand, or whether it should have one at all.
Just as every person has a personality, the fact is every business has a brand – whether it accepts the fact or not. The practical question for owners and managers is “what is my brand, and how do I manage it?”
Getting a new customer might feel more glamorous than retaining one, but your chance of making a new sale with an existing customer is 60-70%. That same statistic for a new prospect is just 5-20%. And yet, the never-ceasing search for the secret that will see your marketing connect to an ever increasing group of new customers is the ultimate goal for some.
What is the right way to prioritise?
Your existing customers have already bought into you to some degree, marketing to them is not only more likely to succeed, but you’re also increasing buy-in and trust: building fans. Too often, companies either assume that the new business marketing is enough for existing customers or just ignore them completely.
Last week, in the first part of this series, we started to look at the barriers a lot of business leaders encounter when faced with the challenge of real growth.
The first barrier we identified was that of being able to look objectively at your company and ask “what do we have to do differently to reach the next barrier?”, and assuming you manage to answer than question, things will undoubtedly need to change. A CEO might have had nine people reporting to them directly when they started up and functioned perfectly well, but it’s impossible to cope with 45, 50, even 75 direct reports.
If you want to grow your company, you’re going to need to recruit leadership talent.
It’s pointless hiring new leaders if you don’t change your own leadership style. What’s appropriate for a start-up company doesn’t work nearly as well for an established business looking to grow. You can micromanage a small team, but if you continue to do that once you have a leadership team in place, at best, you’ll demotivate some of your leaders. At worst, you’ll micromanage your new leaders right out of the company.
You hired your leaders to do a job. Let them get on with it.
Believe it or not, not all businesses want to grow. Some people just want a lifestyle business, have it stay about the same, not grow and just keep ticking over.
If that’s your vision for your business, then this blog post is not for you. While it’s a perfectly valid strategy to want your business to stay exactly the same, the reality is that the world of business is constantly changing, which has an impact on your company, whether you like it or not.
When a child plays a video game for the first time, they quickly discover is that the character that stands still gets killed first. It’s the same in business. Usually, you’re going to either grow or shrink your business, but if you’re standing still, you’re really going backwards. Your competitors will be overtaking you if you’re staying in the same place. While staying the same is certainly a type of strategy, you may well decide that it’s not a good one or the right one for your business.
Marketing is a gamble. Possibly not what you’d expect to hear from a marketing company, but bear with us.
Your marketing budget is your stake, the tables and slots at the casino are your marketing channels, and new customers - falling into your lap like golden coins from a slot machine – are your prize. A professional gambler will not be seduced by the flashing lights, the big headline numbers and the dealer’s spiel, because professional gambling is not glamour, it is mathematics – it is less about unknown risk and more about predictable return. Professional marketing is no different.
“What do you believe it takes to be a great salesperson?” Speak to anyone who has ‘made it’ in their respective field and the underlying reason is the same. Different words may be used, but it has an uncanny resemblance to the principles that were drilled into me when I first entered the sales arena: ‘Set High Goals’, ‘Have Great Self-Talk’ and ‘Hold Yourself Accountable’. I soon became aware of how essential these habits were to guide me through the rollercoaster that is a career in sales.
These success principles are often referred to as the ‘soft skills’ compared to the many other areas that sales people need training in. As a result, they are often taken for granted and not cultivated. In addition, decisions regarding which training programmes to initiate are constricted by the lack of time available and by reduced or small budgets. Much training is therefore based around essential product knowledge and regulatory/legislation understanding. While these are vital areas for salespeople to be well-informed in, ask the top performers what enables them to excel and more often than not they will point to their attitudes, their mindset, and their habits rather than the technical knowledge of product or process. Thus companies’ sales training programmes should offer more exposure to principles and mind sets to achieve the success they need.
There have been about 2,000 studies carried out over the past 30 years in almost every industry to see whether the top sales people are born, i.e. they have an innate personality type that makes them ideal for sales, or made, i.e. they have excellent product knowledge, trained in active listening and have great processes supporting them.
A meta-analysis of these studies came to the conclusion that the reality is that it’s about 50/50 between a born salesperson and one who’s learned their trade.
There’s an element of variation according to industry. In really technical industries, such as petroleum engineering, it’s more like 40% born and 60% made, while in businesses that rely on relationships, such as the fashion industry, it’s more like 60% born and 40% made.
Ashmei is changing the game of sportswear. The small Aylesbury-based company, with an interesting Chinese name, designs sportswear, assembled from the most innovative suppliers across 4 continents, to create products that its many fans will pay twice as much for.
Raspberry Pi, the Cambridge manufacturer of computers for £30, is the best friend of young digital entrepreneurs, and has become a global network by setting up Raspberry Pi Clubs in 150 cities worldwide. Nearby start-up, Azuri Tech, has transformed the lives of millions of Africans by giving them £1/week pay-as-you-go solar panels that provide enough energy to light their homes, cook food and charge their mobile phones.
Three examples of small UK companies who are 'changing the game' in their respective markets, with influence and growth across the world.
Gamechangers think and act differently. They fuse digital and physical, global and local, ideas and networks. They win by being smart, fast and connected – rather than through scale and efficiency. They capture their higher purpose in more inspiring brands that resonate with their target audiences at the right time and place, enabled by data and technology, but more through empathetic design and rich human experiences.