Are You Following A Sales Process?

Are you following a sales process? If not, you are not only wasting your time, but you are also losing sales because of it. You think you are in control but in reality you are out of control.

Have you ever been rejected? If your answer is yes, you have just proven that you are not in control of the sales process; however, the buyer is in control.

Isn’t it your job and responsibility as a sales professional to qualify the prospects and to reject them if they are not qualified?

Who is really qualifying? Who is really in control? The buyer!

Do you want to know why and how the buyer is in control? The answer is simple; buyers follow a buyers’ sales process, just like you do when meeting with a sales person. Sales people assume they are in control by answering all the questions, but in reality it is the buyer who is in control. They actually carry out the rejection, not you.

Allow me to share the buyer’s sales process with you. As a buyer, let’s pretend you know you want to buy a white shirt and your budget is $40.00. You walk into a retail outlet and

a30a0f3749011854534c778fc27d7977

A salesperson approaches you and says “Hello, can I help you?”How do you usually respond? The common answer is “No thank you, I’m just looking”.

  1. The standard Step One in the buyer’s sales process is to mislead the salesperson. You essentially lie to them.Why do you do that? Is it because they have not earned your trust yet, or because you know they will lie to you and you are just trying to stay one step ahead of them.
  2. Step Two in the buyer’s sales process. You find what you are looking for and call over the sales person and begin to ask relative questions. The sales person falls into your trap and you receive free consulting because they are willing to share all they know. What do you say once you have gained all the necessary information?
  3. Step Three in the buyer’s sales process. “Leave it with me to think it over and I will get back to you?” Standard buyer’s line in the sales process is to lie to the sales person again. Most sales people fall into this trap every time. As a sales person, has this happened to you?
  4. Step Four in the buyer’s sales process comes into play when the salesperson makes a follow up call and leaves a voice mail or sends an e-mail. After all, the prospect did say he would think it over and get back to them. Buyers never get back to a sales person, nor do they answer their calls or reply to voice or e-mail. Buyers simply hide.

Your job as a professional sales person is not to get trapped by the buyer’s sales process, but to have a sales process which puts you in control. You want a sales process which will allow you to quickly build rapport and to gain necessary trust.

You must set parameters in order to eliminate surprises and to establish a clear and concise process which will allow you to move forward. At the same time, you must qualify the prospect with respect to buying motivators, financial ability and decision making.

When this process is complete and everything is summarized, you will be in a position to determine if the prospect is qualified or not to allow for your time, products or services. Then and only then, you can decide to proceed with a prescription or simply walk away from the sale.

Originally written by Bob Urichuck

The Sales Funnel

If you ever watch an episode of Shark Tank you know the number one asked question is what are your revenues? So ask yourself ‘what are the revenues’ of your current business. If you don’t know, a good idea would be to start measuring the revenues. If you do know, are they at a level that you are comfortable with, or would you prefer them to be greater?

Generating revenue is the direct function and based on the ability to build a sales process utilizing a sales funnel. A sales funnel involves the steps necessary to identify a customer lead, engage with that lead, end the conversation and the communication required to convert that lead into a customer. A customer who purchases the product and becomes the ultimate consumer who uses the product and shares it with others.

Awareness

The first step in building a successful sales funnel is the ability to create awareness for your target audience, assuming you have identified your ultimate consumer – the person who uses your product and your ultimate customer – the person who buys the product. Once you understand this identity, you can focus on using marketing communication to get in front of them and create awareness. A key aspect to this first step is the ability to be disruptive, as the average customer is bombarded with marketing.

Consideration

Once you have your Target customer’s attention it will be critically important to provide them with the necessary information so that they may understand how your product or service solves their problem. The ability to educate them around why your product assist and what it does will assist in educating them, and hence allowing them to properly consider you a leading solution in your industry’s competitive set.

Engagement

People purchase from brands they know, like, and trust. By focusing on relationship-based selling in creating an engagement with your ultimate customer, you could focus on building rapport. Utilize your content and exponential marketing to position your brand and its communication as part of their regular activities. As you utilize marketing strategies, specifically digital marketing, the ability to increase open rates, click-throughs and social media shares are all great measurements to the success of your engagement.

Purchase

One of the key performance indicators (KPI) for any sales funnel is the conversion rate from prospecting to purchases. The ability to influence the customer into making a purchase and becoming committed to your brand in that transaction is a huge step in the sales process.t this point, you can begin to determine acquisition cost and resources for the consumer as you will know what it took to secure this purchase.

Loyalty

Once the purchase has been made the question becomes what is the lifetime value of that customer? How often will they use your product or service? If your product ultimately provides the solution they expected, which led to the purchase, then the chances of loyalty increases. Ultimately, the ability to provide value on an ongoing basis will be the key to establishing this loyalty.

Advocate

The ultimate testament of the product or service comes long after the purchase. The ability to have a customer become an ambassador of your brand is the most important key to new growth and success for your business. Word of Mouth marketing and peer-to-peer recommendations are crucial to the expansion of any brand. This personal influence from your customer base will have impact and should be behind any internal marketing efforts that could be created.

As you look to drive revenue for your organization it is critical you take time to dissect your sales funnel and understand each step of the process. Your ability to build a sales funnel and most importantly measure the results will be the key to your growth and success.

Originally written by Michael S Melfi

Define your best customers and target them relentlessly

“How do I find great customers?” This is one of the most common questions asked in our poll, and it’s one that I hear often in my discussions with people during the sales training sessions I conduct. Indeed, there are steps you can take here, but first you really need to stop and ask yourself “who would I consider to be a great customer?” This is important. It’s too easy to pin all the blame on your customers for not behaving the way you want them to, when really it ought to come down to matters of choice and expectations on your part. Rather than wasting your time complaining that too many of your clients are needlessly cheap or are hard to sell to, ask yourself why you keep going back to these same people again and again, somehow expecting a different result than what you’d experienced before.

Develop a profile of what you would consider an ideal customer. That’s the first step. Next, focus your efforts on attracting the attention of that kind of customer. There’s no rule that says everybody has a right to buy from you equally. Granted, there are times when you need new revenue no matter what, and often tends to be when you wind up taking on customers who are entirely opposite to the ones that fit your definition of ideal…simply because, well, they’re easier to find.

When that temptation arises, remember this: it pays to be choosy. Closing is faster and easier when you’re only trying to sell a round peg to a round hole. When your target market is well-focused, you spend far less time struggling. You’re no longer devoting large chunks of your time, talking to customers who don’t want to listen. Instead, leapfrog over the competition by focusing on people you enjoy selling to. You’ll reduce the amount of objections you encounter, and you’ll gain more repeat sales because you’ll be dealing with people who want to have a long-term engagement with you.

Once you have a profile of your ideal customer, the next step is to look at who you sell to and determine how many of them meet that profile. Go through your customer database, and once you have a list of the best—it could be a dozen or it could be in the hundreds of customers—ask yourself what they all have in common. Are they privately held businesses or are they couple of publicly traded? Are they government organizations or are they consulting companies? Are they international or they domestic? Are they all run by women? Are they all small businesses or they large corporations business? Once you’ve found the common thread that weaves together this “best of the best” customer list, use the same criteria when reviewing those who are in your prospect database.

 

Targeting isn’t just effective for smaller-sized companies. It can also have a positive effect on larger-sized firm as well. At our most recent Sales Mastery Workshop, I spoke with three participants from a Fortune-500 sized company. We talked about how they could each apply a tighter focus on targeting. The outcome was: “I’m only going to focus on chemical companies…I’m only going to focus on produce companies…and I’m going to focus on consumer package goods.” Each of these sales reps had a different product and a different market, but all three were able to find ways to become specialists in one area.

So how do you attract the attention of your ideal customers? In essence, find out where they hurt, or what keeps them awake at night. For example, let’s look at one of my favorite brands, Harley Davidson. This is a company that knows exactly who their target customer is. What’s implicit in their unique selling proposition is this: “To hell with it all, let’s ride.” They don’t care whether their value proposition appeals to people outside of that target range. They deliver something that matters to a well-defined demographic.

Find what works best for you. Whether it’s focusing on a specific geographic area, product specialty, service offering…the possibilities are endless. They key is find customers you enjoy working with and vice versa, determine their needs, and concentrate on selling to them in a manner that fulfills those needs.

Originally written by Colleen Francis

Skyrocket Your CRM User Adoption with These 5 Tips

You want to send your CRM user adoption rates through the roof even if that means paying for a new roof. Today we’ll take a look at how to make that a reality.

There are quite a few ways to go about improving CRM user adoption rates and we’ll help you out with some tips for bumping up your numbers and establishing a successful CRM system at your business.

Find yourself a CRM “Superhero”

Find someone on your team who really loves CRM and who knows it inside and out. This person is your CRM “superhero.” This person is the go-to for when someone has questions about CRM. Having a leader will help with your team getting used to CRM and will aid in integration. Not only will a CRM superhero be useful for the team, it will also be helpful for management to be able to identify one person who they know they can answer their CRM related questions.

Keep an eye out for developments and improvements.

The CRM platform world is constantly changing. New updates and tools are introduced every day. Many of these developments can make your life and your work easier, but the only way you’re going to know that they exist is by keeping your ear to the ground, and always on the lookout for CRM improvements. The newer and fresher your CRM system is, the easier it will be to use and the higher the user adoption rates will be.

Train people well and frequently

Training is a vital component of introducing a CRM system and keeping your user adoption rates high. They’re not the most simple of systems and your employees should know them inside and out. By training your employees early and often, you’ll ensure that they’re on the same page that you are. A potential idea is to involve your CRM “Superhero” in the training process. Who better to do it than the person who is most familiar with it?

Keep your CRM user adoption rates up by involving team members in implementation

Don’t implement a CRM system without keeping your team in the loop. Your team will be vital in the adoption of the system. Let them know a few weeks in advance of your plan and then keep them notified as you move through the processes of implementing the CRM system. Making sure that everyone is on the same page is vital in establishing a new CRM system.

Focus on the reports

Luckily, CRM systems provide users with detailed reports. These reports should be studied and analyzed in order to establish how to proceed in the future. As tempting as it may be, do not toss them aside, or throw them into the recycling bins. Instead, pay attention to them because they will help you improve both your CRM usage and how you interact with your customers.

Carry out these tips and you will be reaching for the trowel and nail gun in no time. Don’t give me that confused look. Its to prepare the roof we blew up in the first paragraph. You have to bring your metaphors full circle. We hope that this article provided you with some ideas of how to best bump your CRM user adoption rates. It’s important that everyone on the team know how these systems work and the better they understand it the more your company will thrive.

Originally written by Michael Taylor

How Leaders Create Sales Action Plans to Improve the Bottom Line

Whether it’s a new year or a new sales cycle, everyone wants the next reporting period to be better than the last. Unfortunately, most organizations operate on hope; and they have dreams instead of goals. What’s the difference between a dream and a goal? An action plan. And as a leader, do you know the secret to crafting a goal-focused, bottom-line-boosting action plan for your sales organization? It’s simpler than you might think…

Confident Planning is Based on Answering the Right Questions

Man holding blueprintTo develop plans of action that can truly help you and your sales team achieve your goals, you have to ask the right questions about your sales organization, your customers, strategy and processes. As a sales leader, here are some of the key questions you’ll need to ask yourself:

How many clients/transactions do I need during the next sales period to achieve our goals?

Of that number, how many do I believe we have already signed up? It’s simple math at this point (number of clients or transactions needed minus the number in hand equals the number needed). Next, break this into attainable numbers by month or quarter, and by salesperson, product line, etc. The more detail the better. If you do not have specific targets for your sales team to drive toward, you will not have any gauge to measure whether you are on track. At the end of the sales period, if you fall short, you will have no idea why.

What do our “ideal clients” look like?

Do you know who your best and most lucrative clients are? Do you know which products or services yield the best sales margins and most profit? If not, take a little time and figure out these essential elements. I am not suggesting that you turn away profitable customers who don’t exactly fit the “ideal client” profile, but you will, indeed, find more “ideal clients” if you know what they look like.

What can you do for these clients better than our competitors can?

Ask yourself why an ideal client should choose you and your organization and your product or service. What sets you apart? What is your unique selling proposition (USP), your substantial competitive advantage, your value proposition for prospects? If you can’t clearly, concisely and quickly answer these questions, you are setting your salespeople up for failure. By the way, claiming to provide good service or telling prospective clients that you will care about them isn’t enough to differentiate your organization; everyone makes those claims. Be bold. Be unique. Be better than your competition.

What is our tactical plan to achieve our goals?

To reach your goals and boost your bottom line, how many phone calls must your team make? How many meetings must they attend? How many proposals must be presented, tradeshows attended, referrals given? Answers to questions like these make your plan actionable and your goal attainable.

How many salespeople and other employees do we need to generate the desired sales volume?

There are many ways to staff a team. With answers to the questions above, you’ll have a better sense of how to assemble the best team to reach your goals. Do you already have the right staff members in place? Great! If not, how long will it take you to hire the “right” employees? How much will it cost you in lost sales and growth opportunities if you don’t get them on your team?

Do my current employees produce at the right level of productivity (based on the last 90 days)?

If your current sales team members aren’t as productive as you need, what makes you think they are going to perform better in the next 90 days? Or in the quarter after that or the year after that? If they are not performing up to your expectations and requirements, you’ll have to find ways to improve their output or replace them with better performers. It’s a tough call, but it’s necessary.

Do our current compensation programs motivate my sales force adequately?

How can you find out if your current compensation plans motivate your team to produce more? Ask your sales team! Does your program truly inspire your team to close the clients you want, the products or services you want and at the level of profitability you want? If not, the start of a new year or a new sales reporting period can be a good time to make necessary sales compensation program changes.

What distractions must I eliminate to make sure my sales team can be as productive as possible?

Again, ask your team! Chances are that they already know the obstacles that stand in the way of maximum output. Armed with these insights, you can institute changes to enhance your processes and move opportunities through the sales cycle more efficiently. You might discover, too, that your frontline sales professionals or sales closers are spending too much time on activities that less costly sales support personnel should handle. Free up your sales performers to do their job and bring in more sales!

The Bottom Line:

When it comes to maximizing sales, don’t rely on dreams, hope and positive thinking. Instead, set realistic goals and ask the right questions to create your best and most actionable sales plan.

If you need help defining or organizing the sales process using a CRM, contact a Maple CRM representative today.

Originally written by Mark Thacker

CRM in the Cloud: What you need to know

The art of selling has fundamentally changed. No longer are there simple buyer and seller relationships. We live in a world in which consumers are increasingly in control of how products are designed, marketed and sold. And they are fully aware of the power they wield.

If you have just a handful of customers, providing personalized service is a snap. But for those with a larger customer base, things aren’t as easy. Today’s customer relationship management solutions (CRM) aim to help these companies mimic that personalized attention on a larger scale by providing customer insight and helping companies understand their customers as individuals, not just market segments.

Larger enterprises have long invested in CRM solutions that compile customer data and turn that into actionable intelligence, because they have the budgets and manpower to do so. However, for resource-constrained smaller companies, investing in expensive, long-term CRM implementations often isn’t a realistic option.

While big budget CRM implementations may be out of reach for some, CRM on the cloud is decidedly not. In our interconnected world, engaging with customers is critical for success but can come at a high cost. Cloud computing aims to alleviate that cost and makes CRM accessible for everyone.

CRM on the cloud allows companies to learn and gain value from the experience because the cloud offers a productive working system with little upfront cost in terms of acquiring infrastructure and skilled resources.

Less expensive and faster to implement

Cloud computing is often held up as a great way for businesses to save money. As companies become increasingly price conscious and space conscious, the cloud allows organizations to use only the applications and hardware capacity they need without paying for idle computing resources.

As businesses have increasingly recognized the immediate benefits associated with CRM on the cloud, there has been a significant uptick in companies using it. In fact, some companies are using CRM on the cloud as a fast, cost-effective first step toward an on-premise CRM solution, a larger project which can take up to two years to implement.

Graham Hall, IBM SmartCloud for SAP European Sales Leader, explains, “These companies can get a CRM on the cloud up and running in weeks. For many of those companies that want to dip their toe in the water and eventually implement a full CRM system, CRM on the cloud allows them to learn and gain value from the experience because the cloud offers a productive working system with little upfront cost in terms of acquiring infrastructure and skilled resources.”

Public versus private clouds

While the popularity of cloud is growing rapidly, marketplace concerns around cloud security and reliability remain. In spite of the many benefits associated with cloud, some companies are still hesitant to entrust something as valuable as customer data to something they perceive as out of their control.

And recent headlines haven’t helped alleviate their concerns either. In the past year alone, the media has highlighted several availability issues with some of the more high profile public clouds. “The main question we get from companies considering hosting in a cloud is about security and integrity,” says Thompson.

Rather than highlighting the differences between public and private cloud environments, these cloud incidents have sown confusion about cloud computing in the marketplace. According to Hall, companies need to understand the differences between public clouds, which store resources at an off-site cloud provider’s facilities, and private clouds, which hold capacity solely on a virtual private network. While each flavor of cloud has it benefits and challenges, private clouds provide a much higher level of security and control than public clouds offer – an environment which may be more suited for maintaining sensitive information like customer data.

In addition, some vendors offer internal security tools to bolster the security of the cloud. Thompson recommends, “When considering providers, look at whether they have the depth of understanding in the security space to ensure that the cloud solutions are well managed and secure, not just in terms of being here in 12 months but also in terms of being able to resolve the security concerns and constraints we have in the moment. When thinking ahead, do they have the skills in security software that will enable them to ensure that their cloud solutions are capable in 12 months’ time?”

Originally published here

Building Your Inside Track to Accelerated Sales

Improving the revenue-generating capacity of your business hinges on accelerated sales. The more you sell in less time, the faster you grow.

The secret to achieving this: build your own inside track for sales. Create your own advantages, working within the budget you have in front of you.

Here are the 6 key steps to achieving this success…

1. Be shrewd in identifying best opportunities

Golden opportunities take discipline to recognize and act on. It’s not luck. Organizations that fail to meet growth targets do so because they waste time chasing the wrong prospects and the wrong deals. That comes from having a mindset limited to just solving present-day problems.

Your best opportunities are future focused. Companies that are agile enough to identify and map out future opportunities grow faster, because they’re able to seize market share before the competition realizes it’s even there.

2. Apply the right route to market

Decide what your structure needs to be to serve the future opportunities that you’re going to pursue. Companies who overlook this step get stuck because they try to make their current structure perform differently to meet those future goals and opportunities.

Instead, plan the channels you’re going to use on the road ahead. Will it be a direct field team? Inside sales? A reseller channel? Choose now. It will determine the marketing support you’ll provide and the profitability you can expect from each channel.

3. Assess whether you have the right people in the right role

I see companies struggle with this step all the time. They want me to help them grow, but they’re entrenched in keeping the status quo intact as far as staffing is concerned. They don’t have growth-minded people in growth roles, and they get frustrated rather than make changes to get better results.

Those who do say yes to a growth mindset embrace the three Rs of staffing: retrain, replace or reassign. This is crucial. When you do this, you create roles for your future needs—not the present. You assess people based on the requirements you’ll need moving forward—not what you needed last quarter.

Therefore, get the structure right and match it with the right talent. Pick the right structure and choose the right people.

Originally written by Colleen Francis

Your Sales Pipeline is NOT Your Sales Forecast

Understanding that no two sales pipelines are exactly the same, there’s a general flow that most follow.

Typically, pipeline models start with discovery, prequalification and qualification, before they move on to stages like solution design, customer evaluation and proposal delivery. Lastly, there’s a stage (or stages) for negotiation and closing.

Yours might follow that format exactly or it might have more (or fewer) steps but what is standard is that leads go in the top as opportunities and come out the end as wins or losses. In between, they’re nurtured and developed to improve their chances of progressing through the pipeline.

But you knew that already, didn’t you. So why am I attempting to bore you with an elementary-level sales refresher?

Because many organizations confuse their pipeline with their forecast – or don’t recognize the difference between the two at all. That’s a big problem. Because to create true sales predictability it’s critical to consider both independently and to have your pipeline numbers influence your forecast output.

A sales pipeline is a view of all of your opportunities. As such, it must show everything – from a newly identified opportunity through to opportunities ready to close.

A forecast, on the other hand, is only that smaller segment of your pipeline used to forecast expected revenue in a specific time period.

The mistake most sellers make is that they think only about the middle and latter stages (proposal delivery and negotiation, for instance) of their pipelines and ignore the top end of unqualified leads.

The reason? Salespeople don’t like to put unqualified opportunities into the top end of their pipeline because they think those opportunities must become part of their forecast and they fear committing to deals they aren’t certain about. As such, they only want to put deals in their pipeline when they’re sure that they will close.

The problem with this behavior is that it makes gauging pipeline health impossible for sales leaders and prevents you from:

  • Accurately predicting future revenue
  • Understanding lead conversion ratios
  • Objectively coaching your team and analyzing its strengths and weaknesses
  • Implementing strategies to improve your team and your pipeline.

Putting opportunities in the top end of the pipeline has nothing to do with those opportunities being certain to close. It has everything to do with revealing the true quantity of opportunities in the marketplace, and measuring your true conversion ratios between every stage in the pipeline.

Ultimately, this discipline will allow you to create accurate forecasts which are true reflections of your revenue potential from well-qualified opportunities.

One Simple Change to Make to Your Pipeline

Now that you understand why it’s critical to put all opportunities in the top-end of your pipeline (even if you’re not confident they will eventually close), here is the nuance that will help you make a meaningful change to your pipeline management process this year:

Stop talking about probability of close at each stage and start talking about percentage complete in the sales cycle.

As you move through your pipeline, every stage represents a step that’s been completed and a new step that’s beginning. As a sales leader you want to see that your team is moving deals through the pipeline, completing each stage properly, and gradually moving towards a win.

When an opportunity moves to the next stage, their percentage complete increases. And when opportunities reach the stage that you define as your “fully qualified” stage, it’s probably safe to assume that one-third of them will close.

That calculation will yield your forecast.

By arriving at your forecast number through an objective measurement of percentage of pipeline stages complete (rather than the subjectivity of “probability to close”), your forecasts will be significantly more accurate, and you’ll have an objective coaching tool to use in sales meetings and reviews.

Best of all, this pipeline model will mitigate your chances of suffering from the highs and lows that inflict most sales organizations – what I call Sales Whiplash.

If you’re using a 33 percent closing ratio on qualified leads to calculate your forecasts, you will be accurate within 5% of your forecast each reporting period and it’s certain you’re your team will never under deliver. As a plus, if you happen to have a month or quarter in which your team closes 50 percent of its highly qualified opportunities, you’ll significantly overachieve.

As a sales leader, creating revenue transparency, consistency and predictability is critical for numerous reasons, not the least of which is your – or your boss’s – sanity and stress level.

Originally written by Colleen Francis

Startup Business Planning: To Plan or Not to Plan, That is the Question

When it comes to starting your own company, nothing is more controversial than the preparation of a business plan. Mixed reviews abound on whether to spend time writing a business plan rather than just starting the business. Like many business decisions, it depends.

Do you need funding? Are you even experienced enough to obtain funding? These and other questions will help to determine whether or not valuable time and money should be spent writing a business plan or if resources could be better utilized chasing opportunities.

When to Write a Business Plan
Certain scenarios absolutely require a written business plan.

If you are seeking funding from venture capitalists, private equity firms, angel investors or even SBA lenders a polished business plan is an absolute must. Such a plan will include everything from finance and marketing to business operations and everything in between.

Unfortunately for the young would-be and budding entrepreneur, obtaining millions in venture funding at an early age is the exception rather than the rule.

In most cases, venture funds are seeking out proven entrepreneurs with a previous, successful track-record. However, that doesn’t leave out friends, family, angels or other creative funding options which don’t necessarily require planning.

It also doesn’t mean you can circumnavigate writing your plan. In fact, it may mean the opposite. If wealthy Uncle Jack is going to be footing the bill for your chain of smoothie stores, he’ll probably want to see some financials as well. If you are a proven manager with a long-reputed track-record, you’ll most likely still need a plan, unless you know the fund manager directly.

I know of several rare cases where experienced entrepreneurs were given little more than a handshake to obtain $2 million+ in venture funding. The terms were ironed-out later.

Again, never treat the exception like the rule.

If you want funding, you’ll need a plan. If you want a plan and have little experience writing one, you may need some outside assistance.

When to (Not) Write a Business Plan
The bootstrapped entrepreneur is perhaps the most awe-inspiring. He or she lives off of saltines and ketchup for five years before breaking into something big.

Are you willing to make the sacrifice?

If you are, perhaps the best route to go is start running without a business plan. I can think of a few very successful entrepreneurs who started without a structured plan. Does the name Bill Gates ring a bell?

If you think a plan is going to help you at the beginning stages, you’re most likely dead wrong, especially if you are going after anything technical. Most entrepreneurs shift strategy, tactics and overall plans at least once.

When I first started my own business, I was confident in exactly what the business would do. Before I sold the business, it looked nothing like what I had originally anticipated or dreamed.

A plan may help you get a rough idea, but throwing up hockey-stick financial projections on a slide deck is waste of everyone’s time.

Whenever you plan on forgoing the strenuous process of crafting a business plan for your company, you miss some great opportunities. For instance, you will automatically fail to learn more about the industry you will be entering.

Thinking about competitive forces surrounding the market, the financial implications and the threats you may face could have you running for the door before you begin.

It also may help to effectively paint a picture of where the opportunities may lie. That said, there are also virtues to starting and starting now. It was Goethe who said, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

If you need a business plan, prepare today and start tomorrow. Otherwise, start your business and start it now. It’s that simple.

startup-business

Originally published by Jon Castano

7 Reasons Most Companies Fail to Adopt a Customer-First Strategy

12C-Your-company-e1496839233854-630x315

By now, every CEO knows that a stronger customer focus is the answer to many of their business challenges. Why therefore do so many companies still struggle to adopt a customer-first strategy and culture?

1. The CEO has stated it as a company objective but has not detailed what and how the organisation will change

While it is essential that a customer-first strategy has a board-level sponsor, it is important that every employee understands their role in making it happen. It should not be treated as just another project but as a long-term company top 3 objective.

2. The organisation has not fully embraced the strategy

Everyone has a role to play in satisfying and delighting the customer. It is not the job of marketing, sales or market research alone. It is vital that each employee thinks customer first and ensures that every action and decision they make is customer centric.

3. The project is treated just like any other

As with every well-defined objective, it is important that there is a leader supported by a team, to make progress while also adapting and adjusting as challenges arise in its execution. The same is true for a customer-first strategy.

However, unlike most other projects, this one will not have an end date! It should have a timeline to identify milestones, of course. But as the customer will continue to change, the actions needed will need constant adaptation. Can say that “customer-centricity is a journey, not a destination.”

4. The initiative does not have a visible leader

The initiative must have an executive sponsor and a passionate and charismatic leader, to excite and drive the whole organisation towards a more customer-centric approach to business.

Once the board has endorsed the initiative, the every-day leadership should be handled by someone who exemplifies customer-centricity and has a passion for customer delight.

5. No-one understands how to move the initiative forward.

When you don’t know where you’re going, most people are afraid to take the first step. But that’s the only one you need to know. It’s easier to course-correct when you are moving than when you’re standing still. As already mentioned, customer centricity is a journey, not a destination.

That’s why many organisations now work with a business catalyst to help them take those all important first few steps. Once the project is up and running, occasional sessions are then sufficient to keep the internal excitement for the customer growing.

6. Everyone in the organisation is not clear about their role in satisfying and delighting the customer.

Ideally, every employee should get the chance to watch, listen and interact with customers regularly. The best organisations have such connections on every employee’s annual objectives, specifying such exchanges on a monthly basis as a minimum.

7. They think it costs too much

While this may be the perception, in reality, it costs a lot more NOT to adopt a customer-first strategy. It makes both business sense AND customer sense.

These numbers should be sufficient to convince every CEO that a customer-first strategy is worth investing in. In fact, it is an essential strategy every CEO would be wise to adopt, no matter what industry they are in.

originally published by