This article was co-authored with my good friend Randy Byrne, a very experienced Sales and Marketing Executive.This article was co-authored with my good friend Randy Byrne, a very experienced Sales and Marketing Executive.

Introduction

  • Does your business suffer from any of these symptoms?
  • Sluggish (or no) sales or revenue growth?
  • Products increasingly being commoditized and harder to differentiate from competition?
  • Sales in China no longer the growth engine for your company?
  • Increased competition?
  • Margins under pressure?
  • Headcount pressures making it more difficult to add service people to drive growth?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these symptoms, you are not alone…but there may not be “comfort in numbers.”  On the other hand, you probably already realize that maintaining the status quo and hoping the economy improves is not a sustainable – or responsible – way forward if you are a manager and/or leader in the business.

Since most executives or managers are not the decision makers with respect to controlling mergers and acquisitions, we will focus on ways to accelerate growth organically (i.e. NOT by acquisition).  Also, we focus on profit growth NOT strictly through cost reduction but through customer-facing activities i.e. sales, marketing and customer support even though many companies consider this approach Plan A.To match the way that responsibilities are currently held in most companies, we will list these “13 Ways” by commercial functions of marketing, sales, and support.

Marketing

Understand the implications of the change in customer buying processes on your marketing efforts.  That is, 57-70% of a prospective customer’s buying process is completed before the customer is willing to engage with a vendor (according to B2B consultancies such as Sirius Decisions).  In addition, typically only ~2% of the visitor’s to your web site actually register and provide you their contact details.  Many of the visitor’s to your web site have plans to buy, are researching their purchase, but they are not telling you – and you don’t have their contact details.

  1. Web optimization tools of many different types exist so that you can still get messages to them or more relevant, targeted information – and influence their thinking – even without having their contact details.
  2. Use email marketing or marketing automation to continue to “nurture” medium term leads to cost effectively keep your name in front of those prospects who may be in the “consideration” stages of the buying process.
  3. If your products are in an established market, focus on inbound marketing tactics to drive more people to top of the funnel; if your products are revolutionary but not well known in the market, or provide a better solution to something that is already well accepted in the market, consider “targeted prospecting” via phone and email with the help of technology tools such as social selling tools.

To do this, you need to have a solid understanding of who your target market is – developing “personas” can be a big help to your marketing – and sales – efforts

Sales

Free up sales people’s time to focus on their highest value added activities.  How?  Perform a time analysis to understand where their time is currently spent – for most B2B field sales people it is around 33% on the highest value selling activities, and this is just not good enough.

  1. Consider a lower cost sales function (e.g. Business Development Reps) for internal qualification of leads so that field sales people can focus on higher-level activities.
  2. Use relevant KPIs and metrics that properly reflect sales effectiveness.  For example, measure forecast accuracy on a monthly basis.  Measure conversion of leads (or, preferably qualified leads) to orders.  Measure average deal size for all your reps. Measure what % of forecasted deals are won, lost or go dead. Discuss performance individually every month and understand the “why” behind the numbers, and to understand differences in results between sales people.
  3. Ensure sales people are spending “quality time” with prospects by receiving proactive sales coaching and thorough pre-call planning with their manager, and also receive positive reinforcement and post call debriefing.  Periodically survey customers that did not buy from you to find out how to improve both the sales people’s performance and their adherence to your sales process.  Consider the need for more training, based on what customers want and expect from a field sales person (most B2B companies focus heavily on product training, but focusing on typical customer problems that your products solve can be very effective in improving sales performance).
  4. Consider using relevant sales intelligence tools to enhance your sales team’s productivity.  For example, since so many prospects can avoid telephone calls or ignore emails, use email-tracking software that can provide your sales people with “behavioral” information or “digital body language” of the prospect to understand the prospect’s engagement with you.

Customer Support

  1. Train your customer facing support people to become a lead generation team for both products and services.  Service and support technicians are “trusted advisers” and frequently are asked their opinions about product and service acquisition plans. Don’t try to convert them to sales people but incent them to share customer insight.
  2. Review and update your service offerings and pricing.  Understand how each product adds value to the customer and, if the messaging is not clear, then update it and communicate to all customers.  Make sure the customer’s cost reflects the value delivered – make sure you are not leaving money on the table.
  3. Review your service contract selling process.  This is an inside sales effort that should closely mirror the product inside sales effort.  Use similar tools, processes and, most importantly, KPI’s.  Measure the contract renewal rate and booking time in days before contract expiration.  Likewise, measure the warranty to contract conversion rate, by product, territory, and customer segment, and how far in advance of warranty expiration the contract is booked.

Combined Sales, Marketing, and Customer Support Activities

If necessity is the mother of invention then now is a good opportunity to put the most creative thinkers from the three customer-facing parts of the business into a room together and challenge them to creating new business models, solutions, value propositions and/or plans to generate growth.  Things to look at include:

  1. Combining products and services into high value-add solutionsLaunching PaaS (product or platform as a service), data as a service or any of the XaaS possibilities.
  2. Identifying obstacles to sales selling more services than they do today.  Look at the contract attachment rate by product, sales person, geography, and market.  Quantify opportunities and find ways to make them happen.
  3. Brainstorming ways to use the combined resources of the three areas to create new interest to upsell or cross-sell existing customers and raise the average order value.

Conclusion

You can’t cost reduce your business to greatness and you can’t be sure that a merger or acquisition will produce the desired long-term results.  So, use some of these ideas to create long-term, organic, revenue and profit growth.