1. I'm not focused on the right things
It is human nature to do things you enjoy and avoid things you don't. The most successful owners and executives learn how to do things that grow the business and delegate things that don't. Think through the things you did over the past week and count up how much time was spent on tasks that didn't help your business grow. If you spent time on things like organizing the supply shelves but you didn't spend any time reviewing your sales pipeline, it is time to make some changes.
3. I don't have a clear value proposition
Regardless of whether you are selling a product or a service, you need to define your value proposition (why your customers should buy from you). ...and no, it isn't a discount or special offer. If you as the founder/owner can't articulate your value proposition, no one else in your company will be able to either.
5. I’m not outsourcing or delegating the right tasks
It is common for you to have a hand in everything when you are getting started but as you grow, you have to learn to let go. That means finding someone else to take over ordering the office supplies. Delegating tasks is one of the toughest and most important skills for business owners and executives. If you are saying to yourself: "yeah, but if I want it done right I have to do it myself." then you might need to move on to #6.
7. I haven’t defined what differentiates my business from competitors
Your value proposition tells me why I should buy from you. Your competitive differentiators tell me why I should choose you over your competitors. Vet-owned, woman-owned, 1% for the planet, white-glove service, best in class warranty, money-back guarantee, no hidden fees... You need to understand what differentiates you from your competitors and give your prospective customers compelling reasons to choose your company over all others. Like your value proposition, these should be clearly and consistently communicated through your sales and marketing.
9. My incentives are not aligned with my business goals
If your sales reps need an abacus to figure out how much they can earn or you continually write large checks when your barely covering expenses, you have the wrong incentive plan. Getting an incentive plan right isn't easy but here are three tips that will set you on the correct path:
1. Focus on creating a simple plan that is easy to understand and you are excited to pay because it means your business is thriving.
2. Rather than guess, talk to your sales team to understand what motivates them (and what doesn't).
3. Resist the urge to continually change it. No, really. Just don't.
11. My marketing hasn’t kept up with current trends
Have you been placing the same ads in the same places for the past five years because that's what you've always done? When a new advertising opportunity is presented, is "I can afford it, let's try it!" the extent of your analysis? If so, you are likely being out-marketed by your competitors or leaving yourself open to new innovators and disruptors. A comprehensive marketing strategy that utilizes data for targeting and personalization as well as ongoing measurement and optimization are the new table stakes.
2. My team isn't focused on the right things.
Just because you have great employees doesn't mean that you should assume everyone is always working on the most critical tasks. Even your best employees can get off track. Do you really need four employees collaborating for an hour on the wording of an email? It is easy to lose sight of the big picture and be focused on things that won't help you grow. Try implementing a Monday morning "stand-up" meeting to review priorities and set expectations for the week.
4. My team doesn’t communicate our value proposition correctly and consistently
You now have a clear value proposition. That's great! But just because you have one doesn't mean everyone else knows it and is communicating it correctly or consistently. Remember that old telephone game where the message continues to deteriorate as it is passed from person to another? You have to write it down, train your staff, and continually verify that every person in the company knows what it is and is using it correctly across your sales & marketing communications.
6. I don’t have the right people
Feel good Fred is the person that isn't very good at their job but everyone loves him and he's good for morale. Irreplaceable Irma is your top sales performer but is universally hated by the rest of the organization for being a prima donna. I know it is scary but neither have a place in your business. Regardless of the potential good they bring (positive morale or revenue), keeping the wrong people is one of the fastest ways to kill your company culture and send your best people walking out the door. If you are serious about growth and overall business success, don't settle for sub-par talent.
8. I don’t have a proven sales playbook
If you are reading this and asking yourself "What is a sales playbook?!?" then you are missing one of the most fundamental sales tools to help your business grow. Simply hiring experienced and proven sales professionals aren't enough. Your business is unique and you now have value propositions and competitive differentiators that need to be incorporated into your sales presentations. A sales playbook incorporates the most effective techniques and provides a clear sales process that can be replicated by the entire sales team. Consistently executing the most successful techniques and processes not only increases sales, it also ensures that everyone is representing your company and brand correctly.
10. My customers are costing me money
If a customer is willing to buy, most businesses will take the sale. However, revenue doesn't equal profitability and some customers may actually be costing you money. You know that customer that calls at least once a week, demanding the sun and the moon? They are costing you money and using roshambo to determine who takes the call isn't the solution. The most successful (read profitable) businesses analyze the costs to deliver and support what they've sold to ensure the sales you are making are profitable. More importantly, they know when to pass on sales that won't generate a profit.
Well, that was sobering. Now what?
If one or more of these describe your business, not to worry. Everything is solvable. Here are a few tips to get started:
1. Resist the urge to try and tackle all of these at once.
2. Prioritize the issues that are having the greatest negative impact on your business and profitability.
3. Next, score each for the level of effort or difficulty. 1 being easiest, and 5 being hardest.
4. Look at your top 3-5 and start with the one that requires the lowest level of effort to fix. These are the quick wins that will have a positive impact on your business and motivate you to tackle the tougher issues.
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