The Sin I committed when I started my first business in 2004 was that I wore every hat in the business. There was no alternative option back then.
After some time the business grew and each hat became heavier. How was I to excel at managing suppliers, staff training and HR, pricing, overseeing the financials, sales and marketing and you know, being the main firefighter as well? I capitulated under the strain and decided to employ my first salesperson. That made logical sense, right?
Strategically, this was a big mistake. Why? Have you committed the same or, are you about to? Ideally, I would prefer that you go and make yourself a cup of tea so that you have time to ponder that question.
Some of the best business leaders in the world, many of them specialists in company turnarounds, have achieved this through their empathetic listening skills. Skills that they have developed because they have recognized the value of truly listening to what their team and their customers have to say. If you are a business owner and you are not at THE COAL FACE of your business, then you are on the back foot. My definition of the Coal Face is: forward, customer facing.
Unless someone parts with some cash for your widget, you have no business. The most productive method to achieve this as a business owner is to retain yourself as the key sales person for as long as possible. When the time comes to employ additional staff for a sales role, then NEVER completely abandon this role. Maintain your position on the front line. Having lived through this experience myself, and being repeated by countless others, I created a simple model to illustrate the concept. Use this model to drive your focus.
Two crucial roles you have as a business owner is setting the Culture and striving for Continuous Improvement. I believe you should be doing this through a Sales orientated habit.
- Customer First – this is not at the expense of sacrificing your team: as you know, customers are not always right. What this habit creates is empathetic listening to the needs and aspirations of the customer.
- Consultative Sales Process – every business must have a formal sales process that is based on an insightful dialogue and deep understanding of if you firstly have a solution for your customer and secondly what is the value of this to them.
- Celebrate Wins – creating on-going success in your business requires that you celebrate wins in those areas of the business that you would like to further grow. Celebrate both your internal sale successes as well as the wins that your customers experience by using your widget or service.
- On a monthly basis formerly review your understanding of your customer’s challenges. Are you adequately addressing them, do they provide you opportunities for improvement or market development, or are you being pulled out of your profitable niche to solve challenges in areas that you should not be?
- What is the problem that your offering is actually creating? How often have you heard a customer complaining about your competitor or you doing the same about a supplier? What are others saying about you?
- What is your real value proposition? If your customer buys your product or service, what return will they really get from it? Think broadly about this. This could be financial, peace of mind, ego or career-boosting, good for the environment or humanity, what else? This value is what your customer is really buying, even though the words out of their mouth and the monkey voice in your head may be saying otherwise.
- “Just the way it is” is exactly why just a small percentage of businesses come up with some incredible innovations. When Henry Ford invested in motorized cars the need at the time was really just for better horses. In your industry what is the challenge that no one sees anymore because they are either so familiar with it or they no longer believe it can be improved on?
Head of Sales in SME businesses should be the business owner, even the head salesperson. If this is not possible then the message is: the business owner should be taking a key role in the entire sales process and the framework outlined in Business Owner Sales Model is what should be pinned up on the wall to remind you of where your focus should be. Effectively implementing this model, does require more than just this abridged report. If you would like to double the sales results in your business, to gain some Clarity on how to effectively implement such a strategy in your business then reach out to me.
Yours in Clarity, Sean