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Over the past 5 years the importance of the “High Growth Business” and how this relatively small group of businesses disproportionally impa...

Thursday 21 October 2010

How to Build a Sustainable Sales Process—without a Rock Star

Occasionally I have guest blogs on this site when I think the article is interesting and more importantly relevant to owner managed businesses. I have been recently running articles on structuring sales processes and building effective sales pipeline reporting tools. I read this article from Barbara Weaver Smith on her mission to help small businesses sell to big companies - "to" as they say "land whales"

Laurence Ainsworth


Elvis mugshot2Image via WikipediaPundits  are calling it “sales 2.0” or “the new world of sales.”  Whatever you call it, the story line is the same—Elvis is dead.  If you are going to make bigger sales to bigger customers, a rock star salesperson is not the way to go.
Chances are you built your company selling to companies with which you had some things in common—same region, shared friendships and associations,  maybe even similar size and years in business.  Almost like friends and family.
But to take your company to the next level, you need to venture out into new, unfamiliar territory, where you will meet tougher customers and much tougher competition.  To do that, you need a sustainable sales process  that rests on the performance of a cross-functional team, not a rock star.
Here’s why.
  • ·     Big companies (we call them “whales”) are afraid to do business with small companies.  They are afraid you can’t deliver, that you will run out of capital, that you don’t understand how big companies work, and that your operations and customer service teams are just not sophisticated enough.  No matter how much they want your innovative solution, they won’t buy it unless you alleviate all of those fears.  And your sales person can’t do that!  It will require participation of key subject matter experts, deeply involved in the sales process.

  • ·     The buyers in big companies (end users or purchasing agents) will never lose their jobs over a conventional choice of vendor.  But they can definitely lose their jobs if they award a big contract to an unknown provider and the project tanks.  You will have to win them over with the strength—breadth and depth—of your team.

  • ·     The corporate environment is getting much more stringent about the nature of relationships between their buyers and all sellers.  They want to increase the distance between buyers and sellers and  reduce familiarity.  They want to avoid even the appearance of collusion or any improper value exchange.  Your rock star salesperson, charismatic hail-fellow-well-met, is likely to have serious difficulty in making this transition.

So, what is the alternative?  Go from a solo act to an orchestra.  You need to develop a  disciplined, systematic sales process, overseen by senior management, in which each pursuit of a large sale is directed by a skilled sales person who is not a rock star but a conductor guiding the performance of a cross-functional team.  
The Whale Hunters Process™ advocates a plan of three stages—Scouting, Hunting, and Harvesting.  The plan is designed to get your company positioned to sell deals at 10 to 20 times your current average account
The “scout” stage involves creating a Target Filter—a profile of your ideal customer—r researching the most promising companies, watching their behavior over time, and calling on them when they may have a propensity to buy.
In the “hunt” stage, train key subject matter experts to participate in the sale and develop a systematic process of discovery and disclosure that becomes your core sales process.
The “harvest” stage becomes important after you land a big account, but you can’t wait until them to implement best practices for bringing a new account on board.  Be sure your team is as ready to deliver the services as it is to make the sale.
By following these steps, you will develop a disciplined process for marketing,  sales, and delivery that will give you a considerable competitive advantage.  It will not accommodate a rock star but will elevate the performance of ordinary people, well trained and seriously committed to the growth of your company.
You will have a process that you can measure, replicate, improve, scale, and teach to a stream of new hires.

Barbara Weaver Smith
October 2010

The Whale Hunters is a strategic sales coaching company that helps small businesses achieve explosive growth by landing bigger deals with bigger customers.   The question is how can small businesses grow at a rate that will show results sooner rather than later?  That’s where The Whale Hunters comes in – and we invite you to register for a free account which gives you access to the wealth of information on the new expanded Whale Hunters website– http://www.thewhalehunters.com - Barbara Weaver Smith founder The Whale Hunters

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Taking Your Business to the Gym – Recognising Decision Overload

The activity that most business owners find the most difficult is managing staff in particular delegating responsibility.  Firstly owners need to understand that the most if not all their staff see working for a living as a way of earning a living at not as most business owners see it as a calling. They are not going to work long hours of overtime for nothing or commit wholly to a business in which they don’t have a stake; nonetheless they have skills which are often overlooked by Owners. It is also fair to say at this point that most independent businesses owners are not professional managers and have no experience of managing people.
A typical scenario is asking your staff to undertake a task and then deciding that they’re not doing the way you’d do it and either take it back entirely or get so involved with it that the staff member feels like you now own it.  If this happens regularly then you the business owner are making the situation work by inadvertently training his staff to recognise that he is the solution to any problem. After all why make a decision on something that the boss may disagree with – better, don’t make a decision at all and pass it back to the boss. The result, the business owner gets more overloaded and ends up making decisions on all sorts of matters in which the business owner shouldn’t be involved. The result is increasing frustration on behalf of the owner who’s under pressure and now on a shorter fuse leading to more reinforcement to the staff that their best course of action is to leave it to the boss diverting yet more decisions and creating a paralysis in the business. This is what I call the decision overload condition, where simply the business owner becomes so swamped by the amount of decisions and tasks he has to complete that it stops the business in its tracks.  
This condition is surprisingly common in owner managed businesses, and is often allowed to develop because owners are interested in progressing the business, well naturally and that because when they started they did everything they lose the understanding of the relationship between the job or activity and the market price for a person doing that job. By way of an example I was with a company owner who insisted on doing the route planning for his collection vehicles, his argument was that his staff couldn’t do it as well as he did.   My response was to ask him would he pay somebody a salary similar to his (it was high five figures) to run route planning.
 “Don’t be silly” he said “of course not I’d only pay about £25,000.”
“Then why” I asked “are you insisting on doing that job when you pay yourself almost 4 times the going rate. Doesn’t that mean your expectations are based on someone massively over qualified for the job at hand? Its no wonder you’re so overworked, what other jobs do you do that your over-qualified for?
You know I could almost hear the clank as the penny dropped.
Like an addiction, acceptance is the first step to a cure, but this is the subject of another article.

Exigent Consulting specialises in providing Business Turnaround, Sales, Marketing and Mentoring to the Small and Medium Business. We help Business Owners improve the profit performance of their business.