Ciao amici. Let me introduce myself. My name is Don Lazzari. Those in the know call me The Godfather of Growth. Over the last 25 years, I’ve risen up through the ranks of the technology sales family by whacking the competition who got in my way. It didn’t matter what the operation was – new technology, healthcare, services, supply chain or manufacturing. We moved in, identified the influential people, then made them offers they couldn’t refuse. That allowed my organization to expand quickly and dominate the high-growth opportunities where we could make money and continue to expand our base of operations.
Each month, we’re going to get together to talk business – how to grow sales, manage your people and take your business from a small operation into one that the other capos will look at with envy. So grab a quick espresso and listen up.
This month we’ll focus on the path to rapid sales. Are you on it? How do you know? What can you do to fix it?
Let’s start with a quote: “I have a great idea that has become a great product. I have a good team around me and I’ve been successful in securing investment. Now what I really need is sales.”
These words could be from practically any emerging technology business leader. The question of how to get more customers to buy what you offer so that you have the fuel to grow your business is something that every “organization” wants.
So what do you do about? Well, I’m glad you asked. Just like any other “improvement” program, the first thing you have to do is admit you have a problem. This can be difficult because the true picture of how effective your company is at selling is often found beneath layers of veneer and while these layers might appear to be transparent, they can be surprisingly – even alarmingly – opaque.
Here are five things you need to consider to see if you are on the path to sales growth.
- Are you focusing on selling a product or helping your customers solve a problem? People don’t buy products, they buy solutions to their problems. In his tremendous book “The Chasm Companion”, Paul Wiefels sums this up beautifully: “Don’t confuse your compelling reason to sell with the customer’s compelling reason to buy.” Most technology companies focus on selling their product not on showing how their product fulfills the needs of their customers. Sell impact not features.
- Are you clearly articulating the value gained by solving the customer’s problem? When I ask my clients this question, practically all of them say, “Yes”. The problem is they are stopping short of what the real value to the customer is and are selling benefits but not value. Take a long, hard look at yourself and how your company sells. Can you tell me honestly that you’re not doing this? Most companies truly believe that they are not. The problem is – most are. The emerging companies who are growing rapidly are clearly articulating the value gained by solving a customer’s problem.
- Are you investing in sales as wisely as you are in technical resources? This is a common issue with technology companies. It is not uncommon for emerging tech companies to view sales as an expense and not an investment in the cash flow life blood of the company. Don’t underestimate the impact that killer sales professionals can have and don’t hesitate to pay competitively – even if it is at the expense of other investments in the short-term. Plus, when you’re ready to do this, don’t do it without calling in a seasoned sales professional to help. Everyone will tell you they are sharpshooters but few are really able to hit their mark with the efficiency of an assassin.
- Are you managing sales opportunities as effectively as you are managing other parts of your business? Like tending a garden, growing sales takes careful management and consistent care. To make sure your sales machine is pumping to the growth cadence your business plan requires an objective funnel and pipeline management process and a consistent sales process that supports it. Way too often funnel, pipeline and forecasting is based on arbitrary, subjective estimates and the end result is a lack of predictability that impacts cash flow and the ability to execute. Like hiring, this can also be more difficult than it appears.
- Do you have the courage to let go of the reins? Many entrepreneurs are reluctant to step back and as a result sales efforts can suffer. Getting rapid sales growth can often mean that you need to admit that sales is not your area of primary strength and that it is time to allow those who have more highly developed selling skills to take the lead. It is easy to think that the same skills required to develop a successful product and secure funding translate to the sales acumen required to drive rapid growth. Avoid falling into this trap. Many entrepreneurs don’t and waste valuable market-window time crawling out of it.
Now that we all know what we need to do, I’ll have Rocco pick up the tab. The next time we meet, we are going to talk about what you are saying when you sell. Are you getting the action you should in your turf? If you’re not, I can help you. If you think you are, I can help you get even more. You can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org You can also call me at 412-973-8909 but be careful what you say because you never know who’s listening.
Ciao for now my friends.
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