You are ambitious for your business and want it to grow. You are spending money on sales and marketing but the new business is not coming in. Something isn’t working, so it has to change – you need a new approach and structure and often that means someone has to go. But who?
This is the obvious route since if they can’t sell then they must be weak, lazy or incompetent. Right?
Well one or all of these may well be the root of the problem, but it is worth considering a few alternatives before making that assumption. Are you expecting them to do things that are outside of the core capability that they were hired for?
A senior salesperson typically has good negotiation skills, industry expertise and the ability to develop solutions and build relationships. If they spend all their time cold-calling to try to generate leads rather than developing real opportunities, then it shouldn’t be a surprise they are ineffective.
A junior sales person probably won’t win business if they don’t have the experience and insight to create a proposal that addresses the specific needs of a customer.
Marketing need to generate the leads that sales people can close. They also need to be building brand awareness in your target audience and positioning you as an expert in the field.
Marketing might have limited ability to do their job without a budget to invest though. Without appropriate tools and technology, they can’t be efficient or effective. Many marketing channels where potential customers might engage with you will cost money to penetrate – whether that is paid advertising (online or offline), events, or social media. Marketers need content material to engage and inform your potential buyers so that they will explore their needs with you in more detail.
Because of the broad range of channels, it is unlikely that you can penetrate all of them effectively so prioritising the most important and cost-effective routes and building your internal and external mixture of skills to match it (in the right proportions) will make a big difference.
Fire your Agency
Agencies can cover everything from purely creative and design to lead generation, content, PR or SEO. If you are serious about growth it is likely that you will need some agency support as it doesn’t make sense to build internal expertise where your needs are quite limited.
Agencies will happily soak up significant budgets though, so it is important they are delivering value against your growth plan – and that this is carefully managed. The agencies that you choose must have the right mixture of specialist skills that you need to address the internal resource gaps you have.
Fire the MD
The buck stops here. The business has to be focused around a clear value proposition in order to build both operational capability that delights customers, and the sales and marketing capability that clearly articulates this to prospects.
The MD should be setting the structure and have oversight of the plan for growth. They should be prepared to invest in it, to challenge it and to monitor the performance of it even when it is not their area of expertise.
A finance focused MD often struggles to accept the intangible nature of marketing investments. ‘How many new customers will I get for investing in new website compared to the existing one?’ is a difficult question to answer with any confidence!
A sales focused MD who built their career phoning people up and taking them out to lunch often questions why that approach may not work as well now.
Often in Business to business markets there are long sales cycles and a complex evaluation of suppliers by multiple stakeholders. A new customer may not start to generate revenue until months or years after the first discussion with your sales team – and the original research may have taken some time prior to that!
If this is the case, then it is important to give enough time to measure the outcomes after you have put a plan into action. By measuring success all the way along (how many leads created, how many leads turn into proposals, how many proposals turn into customers) you can get some idea of how your plan is progressing and adjust it over time.
Few businesses stay static for very long – they will typically grow or decline over time. The last reason to consider that you can’t get growth to happen is just that no-one is very interested in buying what you sell. It might be that technology, business practises or the competing alternatives have moved on – and you haven’t.
If that is the case, then it is time to seriously take a step back and look at your value proposition and target market. If you can’t find a way to change things then everyone’s days might be numbered!
Find out how to implement effective Lead Generation in our comprehensive guide.