So far this year, I’ve held workshops with 32 different companies from almost as many sectors. Without exception, every single business is worried – even those that are doing well.
And who can blame them? There’s a media feeding frenzy around the negatives of business life, with governments, banks and international corporations offering up a daily menu from which to gorge.
And it won’t be these major players who’ll get us out of this mess – it’s the small and medium-sized businesses, the real businesses, that will be the drivers and leaders of the recovery. But it won’t be easy and there are no quick fixes.
Now is the time to roll up our sleeves even higher and focus on our short-term (or, rather, immediate-term) sales and customers service needs. Right now, I’m advising clients to all but abandon annual targets, even quarterly ones. Even monthly goals are too long for some businesses.
My advice for these times is to have weekly and daily objectives and to break down the sales process into bite-sized chunks. The things to measure will vary from one business to another, but might include: visits to your website; time spent on each visit; telephone enquiries; outgoing calls; visits to your outlets; new business calls; meetings with existing customers; proposals written; offers; or tenders submitted.
My view is to identify the key components of your business and focus all your efforts and team incentives on these.
I advise changing the emphasis of each day to create variety and maintain interest from the team. Offer cash or other incentives of value for the highest achievers – even the most battle-hardened salesman can be motivated by a daily target and prize. It’s also great for a company to see improvements, even small ones, such as an increased number of website visitors or phone calls – winning is about a series of small victories rather than one big one.
To survive this, you need your team to keep faith that you will pull through. They must continue to deliver an excellent service – ideally with a smile on their face. It’s up to you to give them something to smile about.
In order to maintain the focus and concentration, I’m asking every member of my senior team the same question at the start of each day: “What are you going to get done today?” And then, in the evening, I ask them: “What did you achieve today?” I encourage them to ask the same of their teams and, while some might think this is excessive, my sense is that creating daily opportunities for positive feedback is hugely rewarding in this climate.
It also makes people realise that there is no magic wand – positive change will come as a consequence of focused, hard work.
My biggest worry at the moment is how many businesses I’m seeing holding out for something or someone to come along and magically resolve everything.
Bad news for them: hope is not a strategy.
You need to do things for your business to survive and battening down the hatches is just not enough. This storm is going to last too long for people to be able to ride it out without taking positive action.
If you’ve spent the past few months below decks, made all the cuts possible and you’re still finding your results aren’t good enough, then you need to get your team focused on immediate actions that will yield immediate results.
And that’s when the real magic will happen. Your team will be better placed than ever before to take advantage when the economy improves and starts its next cycle.
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