Where are you heading?

Wherever you are, remember, your best thinking got you here! Success in business can be boiled down, in a large part, to understanding models that work. The better the models, the better the result.

The fundamental business model is very simple: create a product or service, define a customer, establish a price, close the sale, deliver the order, collect the money and realize a profit.

Sometimes it is that easy but usually the reality of business is not that simple.

I have written hundreds of business plans. My perspective is that the most challenging aspect of any business plan is not the financials, production or where to source the various inputs – these are the science of business. The most challenging and critical aspect of any business is determining the sales strategy – this is the art of business.

The sales strategy is the meat of the business; it is where the rubber hits the road.  Get this right and you’ve got a business, get it wrong and you will struggle until you do get it right. We have the product but who will buy it, how much will they pay and how must we frame the message in order to compel them to act – this is the sales strategy!

What is your sales strategy? Answer these following questions accurately and you will have your strategy.

1) What business are you really in?

2) Where is the profit made?

3) What value do you deliver and to whom?

4) Define exactly who your are prospects (hint: phone book is not an answer)

5) Define exactly how you will reach out to your prospects.

6) Exactly what benefits do your prospects really want?

7) What will your prospects pay for your service or product?

8) Is there sufficient profit to support the business?

9) What is the compelling message your prospects want and need to hear to decide to buy?

10) Does your compelling message consistently represent your brand across every client touch-point?

11) What level of service is required?

12) What payment terms will your prospects demand and can your cash flow support this?

Does your current business model have a clear sales strategy? Without a clear and definitive sales strategy your sales results will be a fraction of what they could or should be.  Without a clear sales strategy your company culture will lack clarity and direction – your team won’t know where their business is going!

Define your sales strategy and get focus and direction in your business! If you’re struggling to define your sales strategy, remember that your current thinking got you here – you’re the problem but you’re not necessarily the answer – to find the answer you need to think differently, find a new perspective and look outside of your current experience. Often an outside consultant can help a great deal here! Solve the questions above and define your sales strategy and your business will thrive!

Taking strategy to the street and making it work requires understanding of your particular sales cycle. A cycle is defined as any complete round or series of occurrences that repeats or is repeated. A cycle is like a wheel spinning round and round.

A sales & marketing cycle is a series of actions and events that are continuously repeated to generate a sales result.  The more often the series of actions and events are repeated the faster the sales cycle and the greater the success of the sales organization. Over time if the cycle is maintained and the quality and strength of the actions and events are improved, then the organization will grow and prosper.

Sales & marketing needs to be a cycle and not a process. What I mean by this is that effective sales and marketing is not a process that requires a set number of steps to be completed in order to achieve a goal. Sales & marketing is a cycle that needs to be repeated over and over and over for as long as you are in business. Companies such as Coca-Cola have been in business for more than one hundred years but still need to advertise to keep their products foremost in the minds of customers.

Another important reason for keeping the cycle going is because getting our sales and marketing efforts moving is like getting a rocket off the ground. Enormous energy is needed to get things moving but once we have achieved some level of inertia, a more modest amount of effort is required to keep things in motion.

Many business start-ups however miss this point and budget little or no money for marketing. Owners will say that they can’t spend money on marketing when they are not making money, but this is like saying that you’ll get into shape after you run a marathon – things just don’t work that way.

The good news is that marketing and sales efforts do not necessarily require a great deal of money. There are many strategies that can boost sales without you spending a cent.  Sales and marketing is not necessarily about money (although face it, money helps). It is about activity.

Brand is a word frequently tossed around.  Think of “brand” name products.  The reason we purchase a “brand” over a similar non-branded product is that a brand provides a recognized level of quality. A brand gives us confidence in our purchase and we are usually prepared to pay a premium for that extra level of confidence. An established brand also represents an enormous investment that the owner of the brand has made in quality, packaging and in name recognition. Brand recognition can also go beyond the brand product and represent the company or brand owner. Whether the brand is Coca-Cola or a well-known local dry cleaner, brand represents value!

Brand is important because it represents the value of a business. Why choose one bank over another? Why choose one soft drink over another soft drink?

We regularly pay more for brand name products and services because of the confidence they provide, and that is why branding is important! Building brand recognition creates value in our business.  The greater the value of our brand, the more recognizable our business becomes and the easier it is to sell our products and services.

I have sold products that had the number one market position and have also sold the number two, three and lower-rated brands. I can assure you that selling number one is much easier. Buyers take your call and the sales process gets to “yes” faster.

Defining your brand is about deciding who you are and what you stand for.  A well-defined brand is clearly understood and easily remembered and most importantly, must be true.  There may be a fool born every minute but that is not a market I would personally target. Consumers may or not be smart or well informed but most people can sense when they are being lied to. As humans, we sense when things we are being told are inconsistent with what we see or experience.  In other words, calling ourselves “the best” or saying that we are the company “that cares” will not get us far unless those claims are true.

To determine what our brand should be look at our brand “DNA”.   Our human DNA, or biological code, determines our height, hair colour and almost every aspect of our physical development. Brand DNA represents every aspect of our business that influences our resulting service or product. Quality, design, hiring practices, employee and customer relations, history and location all affect our brand DNA. It is important that our brand positioning is consistent with our brand DNA. It is not so important whether we are a discounter or premium or luxury or innovative business but that we are completely true to that image.

Once we have determined that our brand is consistent with our brand DNA then we are in a position to take the steps to build our brand in the eyes of our market.

This process is not automatic! Just because we have a business does not mean our services and products are brands. Branding is a process that consistently presents and positions our company, products and services in a way that makes them memorable. A memorable, recognizable brand has value.

Without a brand, selling our services and products never gets easier. When we have a brand selling gets easier and easier. When your brand is consistent with every aspect of your business then brand integrity will support your branding efforts. Solid brands support solid business growth.

Brand integrity is about walking the talk.  Just as with people, if our actions match our words we build credibility over time. Each time our actions don’t match our words we lose credibility. The same is true with companies and brands.

Whether your company manufactures concrete or provides accounting services start building your brand today!

Take Away – The greatest strength you can give to your businesss, or career, is to know where you’re going and to develop a strategy to get there. Plans have power in them and the greater thought, effort, focus and energy put into your plans the greater your success! Don’t ignore this point!

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