Imagine Growth

Are you flying a B-52 bomber? Or are you flying by the seat of your pants?

Posted by: Mike Nathan | Posted on: May 24th, 2013 | 0 Comments

As a part of Next Stage Growth Partners investment criteria, we look for companies that grow quickly and exponentially.  Often times when I am evaluating a business for acquisition or potential investment I look to the sales organization for some hints.  I will look for sales reports, review customer lists, marketing materials, etc.  The two pieces I am most looking for are 1. Customer profile and 2. Target Accounts.  My thinking is if this company does not have these two pieces, I wonder how successful they could be if they knew who their customers really are and who their BEST customers could be.

If you are flying a B-52 bomber, before you take off you have your target list.  This target list pre-identifies the best locations to destroy for the maxim impact to enemy forces, highest priority, high probability of success/survival, and so on.  The reason you have multiple targets is to ensure your bomb run effort is not wasted as resources are scarce.  If a bomber got to the #1 target ahead of you, you move onto #2 and so on.  If you were assigned the #14 target, and noticed the bomber assigned to #1 target was shot down and your bomber happened to be flying over the #1 target.  The adjustment can be made to re-assign your target from #14 to #1 based on pre-flight preparation.  Additionally, a target list will let HQ know what is being bombed and intelligence can measure the impact to the overall war effort.

If you are flying by the seat of your pants with no target list…good luck.  The first big building you see you will bomb.  That could be a huge missed opportunity if that big building is a teddy bear manufacturing plant.  The armored tank manufacturing plant was just down the road a few more miles.  You will have some success without a target list, but it will be hit or miss (pun intended).

If you are in or leading a sales and marketing department, your work needs the same approach.  Which accounts will have the biggest impact to the bottom/top lines of your organization?  Have you identified them?  Have a plan of attack for each?  The work of researching your ideal customer and creating a profile according seems unproductive by itself.  However, that information is critical to executing an efficient sales and marketing plan.  You should identify your Top Targets, the largest/most profitable/easiest to service/best (however you define best) 100 accounts where if even 5-10 of those accounts were won, the impact would be huge on the organization in terms of growth.

Once identified, prepare, research, and train your sales team on how to execute the plan of winning those accounts. Get specific, detailed, and obsessive with what it will take to win these accounts.  Make winning these accounts a high priority and reward those who do so.   Without targets your sales organization will be wasting too much time/money/effort on the wrong accounts.  No business can afford to do that.

The take away: Get focused. Identify your targets accounts that will have the most positive impact to your business.  Prepare, research, and train on how to win those accounts.  Reward those who do.

Mike Nathan, MBA

Managing Partner

Next Stage Growth Partners

(651) 214-7473

The ‘talent’ needs to train too…

Posted by: Mike Nathan | Posted on: May 17th, 2013 | 0 Comments

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”   -Aristotle

The only way you will grow is through your efforts and your people.  Your strategy is very important.  However, as any successful business owner will tell you, you people are more important though.  Thus culture of will set the tone of you, your people, and ultimately your company’s success.  Your leadership sets the culture, but your people make it up.  Be sure you are hiring the right people…more specifically, the right kinds of people.

There are two types of people you want in your sales organization: Skilled or talented.  Both would be awesome.  To be clear let’s get some definition on what each of these ideas are.  A skill is something learned, practiced, teachable, and repeatable.  Skill diminishes without practice.  Shooting free throws in basketball is a skill.  Talent is a natural ability or aptitude to see opportunities or execute in business with people.  Talent is not learned or teachable.  Talent requires attention.  Charisma is talent.

Your sales organization’s culture grows with training, both formal and informal.  Training your sales team takes time, money, consistency, and effort.  It is truly an investment.  And like investments, you reap a Return On Investment (ROI) if done properly.

What to train on: Your why (see Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle), Company history, client history, differentiators, industry, product/service knowledge, competition, salesmanship, public speaking, presentations, overcoming objections, frequently asked questions, and of course ROLE PLAY, ROLE PLAY, ROLE PLAY.

How: Obviously with technology and some of the subject matter a conference call or webinar would be just fine.  Although to truly amp your culture, group meetings that are conducted face to face clearly is the best delivery for training.  Keep it fun, competitive, and consistent.

How often: Weekly.  Yes, weekly.  Would you practice free throws once a month or once a quarter if you are a professional basketball player?  No.  Well, you are a professional business development executive so you ought to be practicing often.  Increased frequency of training will allow knowledge to be retained at a higher rate, but also builds a culture of professionalism.  However, you can’t hold practices everyday…you have to play at some point.

Measure: Test and evaluate your sales and marketing people on what your training on.  It can be an old school quiz to a formal role play for an internal sales certification process a part of quarterly reviews.  Don’t train on a subject and never discuss it again only to expect your people to remember it 6 months later.  People will respond to what you measure.  So measure the results of the retention of knowledge, but also to increased sales.

A lot of times, failures and successes come down to the “will or skill” factors.  If your people are failing, is it because of lack of desire/motivation (will)?  Is it because of they just don’t know what to do or say (skill)?  When you (owner/manager/executive) take responsibility for the “skill” questions and place the “will” on your people, the result is culture creation.  A culture of professional accountability.

The take away: Your culture must be one of professionals who are well trained regardless of talent. You must train in several areas, not just company history or product knowledge. Train early and often.  Measure the result of your training through topic specific tests and evaluations and of course through sales results.  Training builds a positive, professional culture.

Mike Nathan, MBA

Managing Partner

Next Stage Growth Partners

(651) 214-7473

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