Tag Archives: Effort

How Do You Build in a Declining Market? Five Solutions

Situation: Revenue for a product and craft business has been slipping. At the same time, their competition has been disappearing. It is clear to the CEO that demand is and will continue to be present because of the market that the company serves. The question is how to maintain the profitability to survive long-term. How do you build in a declining market?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The keys to recovery in a business like this will be in two areas: improving sales and increasing margins.
  • To increase sales the choices are more aggressive marketing and selling to existing customers or creating new markets like previous generations did when they started the business. Consider services that you could bundle with your products to augment the ways that customers use them. It will be the responsibility of your sales and marketing teams to demonstrate these product/service bundles to increase sales both to new and existing customers. This will help to solve the revenue slippage.
  • The other side is ongoing efforts to reduce cost which will, in turn, improve your margins. Costs can be reduced in creative ways that are not obvious. These include improvements in purchasing, reduction of waste, recycling of component materials, and inventory controls. It will be the responsibility of your production, purchasing and inventory management teams to develop these solutions. Assure that these teams are recognized and rewarded for their solutions.
  • Look at the segments of your product offering. Are they declining at the same rate or are there differences? This will help you to focus your efforts, as a company, to grow market share even if the overall market is declining.
  • Other suggestions for increasing sales:
    • Take advantage of the craft trends. Do this with NEW talent – not tired talent.
    • Consider partnerships and collaborations.
    • Set up contests and craft classes.
    • Look at how other industries promote to the craft industry and follow their lead.
    • Consider kitted craft products.

How Do You Manage Residual Commissions? Three Thoughts

Situation: A CEO is renegotiating the company’s agreement with a sales person. The sales person wants a declining residual commission on sales from past customers, regardless of who is servicing the account. A consultant who knows the industry advises the CEO to focus on new sales. What are the implications of each choice? How do you manage residual commissions?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • There are two types of salespeople: Hunters and Farmers.
    • Hunters focus on new business and generally get paid first year, then in later years only on sales that come specifically through their efforts.
    • Farmers focus on ongoing relationships with existing customers and are the service people for those customers. If they are paid commissions, they get paid on the ongoing sales that result directly from their efforts.
  • It is rare to find a salesperson who can manage both of these roles well, so companies often divide responsibilities, and any commissions paid, according to responsibility.
  • Decide what behavior you want from your sales person and pay for this – make the distinction between hunting and farming. Then ask the sales person which they want to be. If they say “both,” challenge this and let them know that they need to make a choice.

How Do You Optimize Quality Improvement? Six Suggestions

Situation: A company’s reputation is based on quality of work. The CEO notes that occasionally they have mishaps due to suboptimal documentation. They are considering a concerted quality effort.  Based on your experience, would you do this whether or not you were bound by ISO requirements? If so, would you hire an outside consultant to guide your efforts? How do you optimize quality improvement?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Some companies have successfully used ISO to force documentation. ISO provides a structure to enforce keeping the company and employees diligent and honest.
  • Other companies have used standard operating procedures (SOPs) for field as well as internal functions to speed completion of documentation and accelerate invoicing. These companies may or may not have ISO requirements.
  • One company tried to go cheap – implementing process improvement without a qualified consultant. While the effort was eventually successful, it took way too much time and money. From this experience, they recommend hiring someone who is experienced and who already has a template to guide the process.
  • To test the experience of an outside consultant, start with a small project to get the company accustomed to the process and to evaluate the consultant’s efficacy.
  • If the choice is to work on this yourself with your employees, start by documenting what happens correctly. Once you have done this, work on improvements to address problem areas.
  • This is not a simple exercise – plan for it and use the right inside or outside person to guide the process.

 

How Do You Optimize Your Buy/Sell Funnels? Three Strategies

Situation: A CEO is concerned that his company’s sales and marketing efforts are not effective. Too often the sales team finds a good prospect, but fails to convert them to the company’s offering. How can the company improve its sales conversion rate? How do you optimize your buy/sell funnels?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • To improve both your marketing and sales functions, it is essential to move the company’s perspective from the Sales side of the Seller’s Funnel to the Marketing side of the Buyer’s Funnel. Only by understanding your customers can you:
    • Create awareness of their needs,
    • Acknowledge interest in a solution to their needs,
    • Consider options and develop preferences among the possible solutions, and
    • Determine how to effectively communicate with them through your marketing and sales efforts.
  • In today’s world, a quality web site is essential to your business. The objective of the web site is to convince the customer that they want to talk to or do business with you. Your web site must tell them:
    • Who you are.
    • What your values are.
    • Why you are special.
    • And it must include a “call to action” – a convincing reason for them to call you.
  • To better qualify your prospective clients:
    • Develop a scripted telephone interview that can be conducted by your sales people or less expensive inside sales/marketing people to qualify prospects before you spend the time and effort for an in-person sales call.
    • Use targeted marketing programs to leverage references to prospective customers.
    • Have lots of conversations with potential customers to understand their needs. Tailor your value creation process to address these needs.

Special Thanks to Craig Olson of MXL Partners for his contribution to this discussion.

How Do You Evaluate A New Business Opportunity? Six Questions

Situation: A company has been presented with a new business opportunity. The opportunity is compatible with the company’s current business, but also involves skills and markets with which the company is not familiar. How do you evaluate a new business opportunity?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • There are at least four critical questions to assess as you evaluate any new businesses opportunity:
    • What is the total available market, and what is the immediately convertible market for the product or service?
    • Can you acquire expertise in the new markets that this will open to you?
    • Do you have a track record starting and nurturing new business within your company?
    • Is there sufficient seed money available – through company funds or outside investment – to keep the effort going for at least a couple of years as you develop the core team that will operate this business and gain traction?
  • If there is an offer of outside investment, consider how many months this funding will support the salaries of the team that will build this business, plus operating and overhead costs. You want to be sure to give yourself an adequate runway.
  • New business development opportunities typically require huge energy, creativity and focus for the first few years. Key management will have to devote all of their effort during the start-up period. Can the company afford to lose the services of key personnel for the time that you estimate this effort will take?
  • Before deciding to pursue this opportunity, take the time to investigate the market for this opportunity.
    • In particular, look for other companies that have tried to enter this market, and learn from their experience.
    • Develop a network of advisors who understand this market and can help you understand both the workings of the market and why companies may have struggled trying to enter the market.