There is no business without sales. It sounds like a pretty easy concept to embrace, but I can’t tell you how often I regularly see leaders focus on everything else but selling. It’s almost as if it is an afterthought as they tinker under the hood trying to build the perfect internal product/service delivery engine. In addition, when it comes to making discretionary investments in sales staff or marketing/advertising activities, they are often “penny wise and pound foolish.” Sure, we would all like to have a business where customers line up to buy from us because of how wonderful we are, however, business just doesn’t work that way. The best product or service almost never wins on those merits alone.
One of the most frustrating and disheartening things that someone in my position has to deal with are leaders who have a tendency to ignore reality and follow a flawed strategy or other key decision off a cliff. Pride almost always gets in the way as he/she thinks that changing course would represent failure or unnecessary pain. Usually there is a difficult decision that has to be made about people, finances or the current business model (sometimes all three). The inability to make these types of decisions tends to lead to one outcome – failure. A reasonably competent leader may delay the timing but the end result is inevitable.
Every business leader should be able to make the case clearly and succinctly why their company is the preferred choice. You won’t always have alot of time to communicate your position. In fact, the more words you use, the less likely your audience will be able to remember your message. I’ve seen many talented executives and business owners stumble on this point. Sometimes the answer to a very simple question gets lost in muddled thinking or a genuine lack of understanding. A critical step in leadership success is to figure out why you should be in business in the first place.
I wish I could tell my clients and colleagues that the best company always wins but that isn’t the case. Over the years I’ve met quite a few leaders who think that doing a good job should be sufficient for success and that money spent on adverstising and marketing is purely discretionary. However, it’s not enough be good at something. People need to know you exist and have to be reminded why you are the preferable option. Sure, you can try to grow your business through word of mouth referrals but this strategy only has a chance if you have low growth objectives and/or your prospective client base is relatively small and/or there is minimal competitive pressure.
Targeting the right prospects requires thought and effort. Every business needs to know when to say no. It’s easy to say yes (or at least we think it is). Bad or mediocre clients lead to bad or medicore outcomes – it is that simple. The math doesn’t get better on its own. You need to have the expectation of a reasonable return on investment and manage to certain margin thresholds. There should also be some sense of operational synergy and a belief that you can deliver what’s expected within the expected time frame.
There is no such thing as one size fits all product/service solution. People are individuals and buy similar products/service for different reasons.