The honest truth if to grow sales

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Sales people

Arguably sales are important growing a business. Read more on sales hear. However, there are several reasons why you shall spend substantial time nursing the entire business if you would like to grow sales. Not only the sales team or key customer relationships:

Two examples on situations when the entire company needs to be in top shape:

Believe me, these are the examinations you will like to pass. Most likely you don’t even know that your business is being examined. At least not exactly when. And if you fail these tests you only noticed it in a subtly way when you never ever land your sales pitch or request for an extended credit line.

  • New customers make due diligences on all their important suppliers. Not least during the initial contacts of a new relationship. There is always someone that needs a saying once the engineering or purchasing team have got your attention. Those distant people are the people you will most likely never meet or even hear about. They are senior executives or, at larger customers, internal credit (scrutiny) departments. They look at your business for stability, predictability and quality, and they are the potential naysayers.
  • Your banking relationship manager must make internal annual argumentations on the relationship with your business. It’s called (credit) prolongation. You will never hear from those control functions either, unless you get into trouble with creditworthiness.

They look at your brand. And they do it before you even come to the negotiation table. Your potential customers, partners, bankers or investors do this to decide if you are relevant.

So, what are these naysayers looking for?

Operating a business is about vision, about positioning with customers, sales, making relationships and about product development. But also, making sure that your business is stable, predictable (yes, to a certain degree), flexible and deemed a quality business. You need an indisputable reputation to become and to stay relevant. Customers look for those qualities. Your bank look for those qualities:

  • Stability and predictability are important because no one likes a supplier or partner with a volatile business. Stability and predictability is achieved with a strong financial position and sufficient working capital to finance contracts. Your annual report is one key source of information. Stability and predictability is also achieved with sub-contractors that do not delay deliveries. Beware, reference controls happen. Stability and predictability is also achieved with a slick operation with documented processes and quality control procedures. Questions on these areas will likely come to you directly. And finally, registers, LinkedIn and your web pages will also be checked to find out more about your facilities, your business, your management team and your board of directors.
  • Although not necessarily expressed, flexibility is also desired to be able to accomplish all sorts of customer specific adjustments. These “tests” will come during negotiations and is something you can partly prepare for, but partly shall say no to.
  • A quality business signals stability and predictability, but it’s not only content over form. Those naysayers that you will never meet do not know you either. They browse your web-pages, your social media posts and profiles and they do general searches on the internet. To a degree, they look at form over substance. And if there are no form they get suspicious. Keep those areas in top shape, and keep them updated at all time. It may seem basic and truly marginal compared to the relationships that you are building, or the specifications you are offering against. But you do not like to send any wrong signals if avoidable, giving those naysayers a reason to get in your way.

The obvious task you can do to show qualities like above is to manage the entire company. Not only the sales or the product development. Get a complementary management team in place to help you. Get roles, responsibilities and expectations sorted. Get a professional board of directors to guide you.

Visible things that are easily fixed and that are generally deemed as quality indicators include:

  • The Annual Accounts, closed and finalized maximum 2-3 months after fiscal year-end. Not delaying the publishing of the Year-End Report more than 1-2 month and the filing of the Annual Report not more than 2-3 month after fiscal year. Doing so indicates quality processes and a focus on business and operations.
  • Appropriate ISO Certification/-s and possible environmental initiatives that you are aligned with. And make sure those are visible and described on your web pages. This indicates that your business is on an equal level playing field with your large, multinational customers. You are not one of those small and unpredictable (read unreliable) partners or subcontractors that the naysayers like their companies to stay away from.
  • An appealing web-page that indicate industry relevance and leadership. Content marketing is the name of the game to achieve such status. You shall keep your web pages and your social media appearance at least relatively up to date, posting industry insights, reports on important new contracts, etc.

Growing and nursing a business is not only about sales. To get those new attractive contracts, or a supportive banking relationship, you will need to have your business in good shape. At all times and certainly well before you enter any final negotiations with those new business relationships.

Your industry relevance and your industry leadership shall be indisputable for the people who are yet to know about you. Including the potential naysayers that you will never meet. Doing so will support sales and growth of the company.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to like, comment, share, tweet, email, etc. Hopefully the Pareto principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, will apply. I.e. 80% agree and 20% will give a constructive challenge.

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