I get to see behind-the-scenes of many companies each year. In almost every circumstance, I see the good, the bad, and the ugly. And the latter almost always has to do with poor planning. Have you failed to plan?
Throughout the onslaught of fires that need put out each week, struggling CEO’s shove aside planning as something they’ll “get to later.” Prioritizing “urgent, more-important” tasks over planning. But what could be more important than ensuring you’re not one of the 55% of all businesses that fail within the first 5 years? 71% in the first 10.
And when you do get around to planning, most CEO’s make these 6 crucial mistakes. Therefore, I’ve taken all that I’ve learned from experience on the front lines and identified these top 6 painful planning mistakes so that you can avoid them.
1. Not Understanding Your Lead Generation and Sales Processes
As CEO, your hand is in every pot. Trying to juggle all that flies across your desk while keeping an eye on each department. Just hoping nothing falls through the cracks.
Since sales and marketing fuels the growth of your company, it’s a critical piece to ensure you thoroughly understand the processes, tools, and goals. As CEO, you should provide the vision of what direction you want sales and marketing to go. It’s your senior leadership’s role to reach that vision. However, you shouldn’t just hand the Sales VP your brain dump and expect to see results next quarter. Nor should you babysit and micromanage the process at every turn.
To get your finger on this pulse, have your Sales VP present to you their plan and thoroughly walk you through the process of what the plan entails. You don’t need to know every minor detail, but you should be able to understand and translate the process. For example, if your Sales VP recommends offering an educational webinar to your prospect list with a sales offer at the end, you must know what the process will look like and the expected results.
Schedule a meeting this week with your Sales VP to give them your vision and set up your expectation of their detailed plan for the following quarter.
2. Thinking Sales Should Prospect
Lack of sales and consistent revenue growth is almost always tied to having quota-carrying sales reps actively pursuing cold accounts. It’s important to split your sales roles into cold prospecting and quota-carrying closers.
To do this, split lower performing sales reps into only prospecting cold accounts via emailing and calling. Then move higher converting sales reps into closing-only roles. This will instantly double the efficiency of your sales team and you’ll see the results of positive profitability.
3. Assuming Affiliates and Partners Will do the Selling for You
Say you just signed a new affiliate relationship with a great new partner. The meetings went well, they’re excited. You’re excited. You walk away calculating the numbers of their list thinking you’re going to add 20% instantly to your bottom line.
The reality is, this almost never works out as planned. At least not at first. Assuming partners will sell efficiently for you is a mistake. Understandably, partners look after their own interests first. Selling and servicing their product. Then perhaps mentioning your product as an afterthought. When they do present your product, they usually regurgitate in 5 minutes what you’ve spent hours teaching them.
To avoid this, offer monthly training to their sales reps as part of your agreement. Make it short and fun. Get the sales reps on your side and incentivize them with bonuses, gifts, or trips along the way. They’ll be happy and excited to push your product faster and more often.
4. Training By Fire
A big mistake CEO’s make is a sink-or-swim training policy. Expecting sales reps to jump in the cockpit, fly behind enemy lines, and come home victorious. All by the end of week 1. This just doesn’t happen.
Consider for in-house sales, 1 – 3 month ramp up stage. For enterprise sales 6 – 18 months. To speed the process up consider implementing a comprehensive listening strategy into your training process.
Think of your listening strategy as an episode of the TV show, Undercover Boss. In it, a CEO puts on a goofy disguise and goes into their own business as an entry level employee. In every episode the CEO is awakened to what actually goes on within their business and what their customers are really saying about them. The CEO then always makes dramatic changes to improve. You should implement a comprehensive listening strategy for everyone in your company, especially as part of the onboarding process.
Have new reps sit with different levels in the entire company. Listening and learning to what customers say, prospects desire, and how product is implemented. This gives them background knowledge that will greatly influence how their new position affects the customer within the scope of your organization.
5. Sloppy tracking
You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Not setting up a dashboard where you can see the vitals of your sales process is a major mistake. You’ll want to measure the following areas…
Number of leads that came in
How many of those leads are sales leads versus marketing leads
How many of the sales leads turned to sales presentations
How many sales presentations turned to closed deals
Work with your CRM to ensure these are reported to you daily. Be sure you’re visiting these numbers weekly and with your senior leadership team monthly.
6. Not Treating Customers as Assets
The most important asset in your company is not your capital, not your employees, and not even the patent to your product. Your greatest asset is your customer base. And if you have no plan to treat your current customers like they’re your greatest asset, this is a monumental mistake.
Existing clients represent repeat buyers, new lead generators (leads that close at 70% might I add), and references to tip those over who are considering you versus your competitor.
Therefore, you must treat them as the most valuable asset you have. Prioritize their well-being above all. Create raving fans via consistent contact through engaging customer newsletters, personal messages via email and direct mail, and simply provide value and service at every turn.
The old adage of fail to plan, plan to fail rings true. But avoiding the above mistakes will lead to efficient planning that will completely shift your business on to a new path. Allowing you to focus on building new pipeline to make this next year your most profitable yet.