There are lots of lists about how business owners can prepare for a new year. What they skip, more often than not, are the fundamentals of building a solid foundation and achieving the bottom line results critical to the ongoing life of a business. That’s not to say that other aspects aren’t equally important—should you consider mobile marketing (yes), is an HR audit appropriate (maybe), are staffing and compensation plans adequate (potentially), but to me the key question is this: how much are you going to sell next year and where will that business come from?
More often than not, I see what I call victim-selling: companies cast a wide net and scramble to do all kinds of things hoping it will generate sales, and they take what falls their way. But that doesn’t provide a consistent way of generating sales and revenue. That requires a solid sales plan with sales projections—what are you going to sell, when, and where will that business come from. (That’s the short version.) These elements are critical to your company’s growth, and yet they are the most frequently overlooked because they are hard to build and even harder to maintain, especially if you haven’t done it before. But if you build them and manage the execution, you’re sure to hit your numbers in 2013 and beyond.
Here are a few other things I consider fundamental to a healthy bottom line:
- Sales drives marketing, not the other way around. In my experience, you can build all the fancy marketing programs you wish, but in the end, somebody has to sell your product or service. Build your sales projections then develop the marketing plan to support it. For example, if the majority of your sales come at year end, then enhance the months prior with a kick ass marketing program that will prime the market and generate more sales coming into your busy time. If you don’t sell anything at year end, then don’t spend your marketing dollars there. And don’t waste your money on low hanging fruit, or shiny new objects in the form of a good story told by an experienced marketing sales rep. There are no slam dunk, one size fits all marketing plans, no matter what you hear or read. There are only well thought out, custom plans that are built and managed week in and week out to ensure they hit the mark. So be critical, be judicious and be stingy until you can be reasonably sure that the money you spend will generate the results you want.
- Build a good sales team. The best teams have high quality people who are developed consistently and driven to produce the numbers. But your reps need a playable hand, including these seven cards—the right marketplace, a competitive offering, adequate territory, a good compensation plan, good management, realistic goals and enough time to hit them. If you don’t hold all seven cards, get them.
- Target, target, target. Unless you have money to burn in the form of wasted sales and marketing dollars, build your sales plan with a specific market in mind. Is the bulk of your business this year going to come primarily from new business, from existing customers or some combination of both? Think in terms of shooting through crosshairs with a rifle vs. a shotgun. Think about what you want to accomplish, be realistic, and build your sales and marketing plans accordingly.
- Streamline processes. Be fanatical about evaluating how you do things and making improvements on the spot whenever possible. “Because that’s how we’ve always done it,” and “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” just don’t cut it in these competitive times. There’s always room for improvement, and you’ll never survive if you aren’t flexible enough to change with the market and constantly develop as a company. The key to success is to make it about developing a company culture around the idea that you’re always looking for the best, most efficient, most productive approach—regardless of how long you’ve been doing things the same way.
- Invest in one new customer touch-point. New methodologies are popping up all the time. Find out how your current customers came to know or prefer to connect with you and be where they are. Whether it’s a blog, Facebook, Twitter (or other), mobile coupons or QR codes, or networking, spend time in making that happen. And don’t overlook your website. It should be attractive, easy to navigate, SEO optimized, with quality content that moves customers along a conversion path. Your social media efforts have to drive traffic somewhere, and that most logical place is your website, so evaluate it with a critical eye—if it lacks visibility in search or doesn’t capture and convert leads, it’s time for an update.
Have a healthy, productive and lucrative New Year!
So which one of these are you going to try? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.