Tag Archives: Position

How Do You Develop Current Managers to Support Growth? Six Suggestions

Situation: A CEO is concerned that the current management team is not mature enough to support planned growth. Sales skills are necessary to start an office, but there is a wide range of business acumen and people skills among the managers. How do you develop current managers to support growth?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Company policy requires manager candidates to demonstrate competence in at least three of five areas: sales, technical skills, customer management, customer management, and business acumen. A coaching or mentoring process from senior management would be beneficial.
  • A minimum number of clients is required to start an office. There are important differences in the skills needed to grow and sustain an office. More evaluation of the managerial skills of manager candidates will help.
  • Another CEO shared story of a regional office with a manager who was technically competent but had poor business development skills. This created a growth issue. Clear, mutually agreed upon, written goals helped. Office growth requires good administrative performance as well as technical or sales skills.
  • Frequent group meetings with managers and a deliberate agenda help. There is merit in allowing the field people to contribute to the agenda, having a “round table” type of review, and peer dialogue. In addition to current individual weekly telephone conversations and quarterly operations reviews, there is an opportunity to modify the format.
  • Sometimes there is a double loss in taking a good individual contributor and making them a poor manager. For example, of a good salesperson may turn out to be a bad sales manager. The transition may not play to the person’s strength. A more rigorous selection process will help.
  • Another CEO shared a story of one of his plant managers who reached the limits of his competency and could not continue to grow the plant. He was moved to a support position and a new plant manager was hired. The former manager found new satisfaction in the support role and was successful sharing his knowledge and skill with the new manager and a broader audience within the company.

How Do You Mitigate Temporary Loss of Personnel? Five Points

Situation: The CEO of a small company is concerned that the loss of a key individual could seriously impact operations. Alternatives include adding an assistant to the affected department or cross training another individual who could serve as a short-term back-up in case of an absence of 2 weeks or more. How do you mitigate temporary loss of personnel?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • In cases like the current pandemic, planning for multi-week personnel absences is essential. Though systems are documented, subtleties of key jobs may not be documented. This is where cross-training becomes an important alternative.
  • Train another employee as a backup for the person in question and refresh the training every 2-3 months. If the company runs into an emergency due to short or longer-term loss of an individual, hire a replacement for the individual and have the individual who is cross-trained train the replacement.
  • Have the key individual and the individual who is cross training refine the ISO 9000 documentation as the key employee trains the back-up individual. This will assure that ISO 9000 documentation is being updated regularly.
  • Establish a plan with appropriate procedures that all positions must have a back-up. Include this within the company’s personnel procedures.
  • Rewarding the key individual with a bonus for selecting and training his or her back-up is the wrong thing to do. It’s both the wrong incentive and the wrong reward. Training a back-up is an essential part of each key employee’s job, not a special task that deserves separate recognition or reward.

Do You Move or Negotiate a Lower Rent? Five Suggestions

Situation: A company has been looking at alternatives for expansion but would be willing to stay in their present site if the landlord is willing to lower their rent without requiring more time on the current lease. Another option would be to purchase a building and lease out extra space until they need to expand. The CEO seeks advice on how to move forward. Do you more or negotiate a lower rent?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Much has to do with the current real estate market. If the market is slack, there are more options whether the decision is to move or renegotiate the rent with the current landlord. However, if demand for space is high then landlords and sellers have the upper hand. This is a classic demand-supply situation.
  • Investigate lease buy-out options if the decision is to move. Better yet, if the decision is to move ask the new landlord to pay off the old lease.
  • For the money required to move an operation of substantial size, why not buy? In this case, the decision is balancing the size of the down payment with the company’s current cash position.
  • If the decision is to buy, consider creating an LLC to purchase the property and fund the purchase through a Small Business Administration loan.
  • The Devil’s Advocate Perspective while you make the decision: don’t worry about the least until it runs out. Instead focus on making as much money as possible and prepare for a move closer to the end of the lease. Renegotiating a lease and looking for a building at this time can consume a lot of time.

How Do You Expand the Sales Funnel? Six Solutions

Situation: A company has strong technology and good top customers. However, the CEO is concerned that the company is too dependent on a few large clients. She wants to increase business among mid-tier clients. How do you expand the sales funnel?

Advice from the CEOs:

  •  Get very crisp in identifying who your core customer is and focus on them near term. Look at what you offer that your competition can’t match and create appealing offers for new clients.
  • Simplify and clearly define your market position.
    • Here’s an example: First to market with the best, smallest, fastest solution.
    • This clearly defines who you are. Focus the company on delivering this.
  •  In each high potential market find one company to whom you can offer a significant advantage.
    • Their current market position might be number 2, 3 or 4. Offer them a solution to gain an advantage on #1 and shift the playing field. This is a win-win for both you and them.
  • Horizontal business expansion could be the best near-term strategy. This lets each vertical market solve their own problems of technology direction, logistics, etc. Seek customers who have the resources to manage this in their respective market places.
  • Tailor contract minimums and pricing according to customer order commitments. Be willing to sacrifice price and some margin for committed purchases that match your timelines and resources.
    • Buyers often overstate their anticipated needs because they don’t want to be caught with short supply.
    • You can meet and promise lower prices for higher volumes because they rarely order them. However, combine this commitment with higher prices for the lower volumes that they are more likely to order.
  • Look across markets and focus on promising targets.
    • Use a call center to queue up prospecting telephone calls.
    • Have sales people conduct scripted qualification calls with prospects by telephone.
    • Only send sales people out to talk to qualified prospects. This saves travel expense and increases the productivity of in-person sales calls.

How Do You Expand Your Customer Base? Five Strategies

Situation: A web-based software solution company wants to expand their customer base. They have several large clients, and want to expand their presence both geographically and to additional sectors. How do you position the offering to appeal to a larger audience? How do you expand your customer base?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • In customer presentations, talk about out-tasking versus out-sourcing. This is less threatening to the customer’s existing IT and analyst infrastructure. It allows you to focus on your strength and to build a pitch that augments the customer’s current capabilities.
  • Is there a trade-off between customer depth and breadth of adoption?
    • Test doing both on a limited scale. Go deeper in four accounts, and simultaneously focus on one application that you can rapidly sell to 20 accounts.
    • This exercise will help you to find the right balance.
  • Look at customers with whom you have had early success. Those customers are proof cases. Look for similar prospects who will respect the experience of the early adopters.
    • Take a current client who has had success with your applications. Go to similar state and regional companies who will respect the first company’s experience. This will help you to create a national presence in a sector or industry.
  • Build strategic alliance partnerships.
    • For example, take a potential customer that wants to be an application service provider.
    • Look for other companies serving that customer who could benefit from an alliance with your company. Build an alliance to offer bundled services to the potential customer.
    • If you do not have someone in this important business development role, you need it.
    • The Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals is a great place to start strategic alliances.
  • Work more deeply with your current clients. Offer additional applications, subscriptions and offer combinations of services.

What is the CEO’s Role in Sales? Three Answers

Situation:  A company has customers scattered around world. When the company was small, the CEO was very involved at all levels of sales and customer relations. Now that the company is larger, the CEO is more strategic but misses client contact, particularly for gathering market intelligence and understanding. The CEO does go on regular sales calls with reps but is getting push-back from the Sales VP. What is the CEO’s role in sales?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Make an effort to understand the push-back coming from the Sales VP. Probe – where is the resistance coming from? What is the basis of the resistance? Is it personal or functional? Keep probing until the roots of resistance are clear, and then deal with these.
  • As CEO, insist on continuing customer contact. This is essential to your role and your understanding of your market.
    • Sit down and discuss this with the Executive Team. Go over your travel schedule and your objective in meeting with customers. Where appropriate meeting opportunities exist, let them know that you want to be included. Follow-up and repeat the message if they do not schedule you for calls.
    • How does the sales rep position this with a client? Let the customer know that the CEO will be visiting the area and would like to meet you. Here are the broad objectives and the benefit to you. Knowing that the CEO is interested in meeting with the client can be a powerful way to deepen the relationship with the client.
  • Having the CEO accompany the local representative on the first meeting with a customer sends the wrong message. Let the representative establish the relationship first. Then bring in the CEO to deepen and strengthen the relationship when the opportunity is right.

How Do You Introduce a Product to New Customers? 7 Thoughts

Situation: A company produces a high performance product which is priced modestly higher than competing products. They are finding customers resistant to cost increases, even when they acknowledge the advantages of the higher cost product. The company needs to develop a new way to position their product. How do you introduce a product to new customers?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Don’t compete directly with existing technology. Position yourself distinctly, as a new solution to address unmet needs.
  • Sell your solution “for those times when you need to save time.” Once they start to use your product, they will find it simpler and easier to use than the old product and will convert themselves to your product.
  • Use the pitch: Book an extra client today because this will save you this much time. This plays to customers’ incremental revenue opportunities to justify the cost.
  • At conventions, conduct contests among attendees – try our product versus your old product. Those who can use it fastest, or below a set time have their business card placed in a jar for an iPad drawing several times a day.
  • Sell a lower priced “starter” kit – or provide a free sample with easy to follow directions. Once the customer is sold on the product’s advantages they will be less resistant to the modest cost increase.
  • Conduct seminars:
    • Local gatherings
    • Regional meetings
    • Larger companies
  • Focus on specialty functions within larger target clients – the functions that will benefit the most from your product’s advantages.

How Do You Expand Your Business Model? Seven Recommendations

Situation: To date, a company has performed a single set of services focused on collection and delivery of a stream of raw data to its clients. The CEO wants to add a consulting service based on the expertise that the company has developed over the years. The CEO seeks input on both how to position this new service, and how to organize it, either within or separately from the current business. How do you expand your business model?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Consulting services can be offered at a premium to current services because the company will be offering analysis and recommendations for a solution, instead of just raw data. Intelligence is more valuable than raw data.
  • Offer the consulting service on a project rather than an hourly basis. For example, price a project at $10k for the consulting package instead of $200/hour for data collection and reporting.
  • To add weight to the consulting offering, provide final reports and recommendations as a professional, written document supplemented by a presentation.
  • Test the concept and early options for the consulting service with existing clients.
  • Create a new division for the consulting service so the customer sees it as an additional option and value that the company provides. This will change both the branding and image of the business.
  • To increase the opportunity for success, develop a full business plan for the consulting model.
  • Focus on the new consulting business with the same discipline as the current data business.