There’s no doubt about it – these are some of the leanest times ever for small businesses trying to grow or even just survive. Frustration with the lack of sales can lead some businesses to leap at every new idea for generating sales that they come across. Here’s why that won’t work and a tip for what can.
Years of economic muddle!
That was the title on a seminar brochure I received recently. As I survey some of the forces flowing through our economy, and witness the way in which they impact my clients, I have to agree.
Unfortunately, these forces have brought a cloud of confusion to CEOs and sales executives trying to grow their businesses.
One common response to this confusion is what I call “Popcorn.” Imagine kernels of popcorn simmering in hot oil in the bottom of an old-fashioned popcorn popper. As the heat rises, one of the kernels explodes rocketing against the side of the popper. Moments later, another kernel explodes and shoots off in another direction. Before long, the canister is full of careening kernels bouncing in every direction.
That’s how many businesses attempt to increase sales when they start feeling economic pressure. As the heat of the situation rises, they know they have to do something. Along comes a good idea and, pop, like a kernel of exploding popcorn, they lunge at the idea.
The idea can be anything. Maybe a media representative suggests a new advertisement. So, “pop” off they go with new advertising. Or a salesperson suggests that a computer program will solve their problems. That sounds good, so off they go after that idea. Then an advertising agency suggests a new brochure and off they go again.
Desperately hoping that one of these ideas can solve their problems, they frantically chase each one. Unfortunately, these ideas rarely have any relationship to one another. Worse, they often present only superficial solutions to deeper problems and divert time and energy away from real solutions. The result is often more pressure, more confusion, and more energy expended in the wrong areas.
A far more effective response is to create a sales and marketing system that provides an interconnected, measurable set of processes and tools that ultimately result in increased sales. Where would McDonald’s be today without a system to consistently produce hot hamburgers? Where would Toyota be if they had no system to design and build new automobiles? The key to success for these businesses has been their ability to create and manage effective systems to accomplish their goals.
Sales and marketing can be treated in exactly the same way. The process of acquiring customers and then expanding the business with them can be systematized. As a system is created, so are the means to produce predictable, regular sales results.
Any system should start with a thorough understanding of prospect’s needs and interests. Add to that an honest assessment of the unique value the company brings to the market. Focus on the highest potential market segments, and develop segment-specific processes and tools to help you reach the market in the most cost-effective way.
A well-designed system also provides a set of criteria that can be used to assess the potential in new ideas thereby eliminating the desperate reactive “Popcorn” effect. The system is the solution.