What Does Your Business System Look Like?

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Saturday, 5.35am

Sheffield, U.K.

You are not getting because you are not giving. For example, you can get sales orders only after you give attention, admiration or information first. – Meir Ezra

In the last few posts, as I continue this Getting Started book project, I looked at how what you can do is limited by your resources and how you should then do what you can do in a way that creates value for your prospective customer.

You’re doing all this to get a customer, and so the earlier you start thinking about that customer acquisition process the better.

What does the basic cycle look like?

First you need a way to get new leads – and this is the first element of the venerable marketing model AIDA, which stands for attention, interest, desire and action.

How do you get the attention of the kind of people who will be interested in what you do?

It’s easy to start by saying that everyone will be, or should be interested.

That kind of approach always leads to a vague, general message that rarely gets any one person’s attention.

The more specific you are, the more you limit your market but it is also more likely that the people who will eventually become your customers will notice what you’re doing.

The next thing you need to do is develop that initial interest into a contract for services – and this is where being innovative helps.

All that thinking you did previously about what makes you different will help you here.

But innovation isn’t just about what you do – it’s actually more about what the customer needs.

And the way you have that conversation is going to make the difference between getting to a signed proposal or losing the customer.

Once you’ve gotten a customer you have to do what you said you would do – deliver value through operations and make sure they get a lot more from you than they’re paying for.

When you do that you’ll start to build a base of happy, satisfied customers who come back to you and give you repeat business – and these old leads will turn into the long tail, the bulk of the value you create over time.

This is a very simple cycle and most business get every stage badly wrong much of the time.

Why do we fail at doing these simple things?

The main reason we struggle to make what looks like a simple system work is that just because something is simple to understand that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.

Unless you’ve lived through a startup, the chances are that your own expertise sits in only one of these spaces.

You may be very comfortable doing marketing, or good at selling, or great at crafting proposals or an amazing operator.

But that’s the role you play.

Imagine a scene on the Starship Enterprise, with all the characters doing their assigned roles and the Captain orchestrating and making sure that every one does what they should do.

That kind of smooth operation is only possible when you know what you need to do – travel there, escape that attack, fix that problem.

That entire system of people and machinery actually does quite a simple thing.

Your business, however small, actually has a much more complex task overall – to acquire and delight customers.

And it’s not surprising that people with expertise in a role fail to see what needs to happen as a whole.

People tend to believe that because they are smart at one thing that means they are smart at everything.

That leads to a number of mistakes.

First, people tend to optimise locally without making any difference globally.

What that means is that you could spend a huge amount of money building the best marketing system but your sales conversion could be useless, or your operations less than perfect.

Those leaks in your system will cause customers to flow away, often faster than you can bring in new ones.

So then you have people blaming each other and most of the time goes in infighting and turf wars.

In such situations the only way to make decisions is through the use of power – whoever has the power makes the call regardless of their competence in that area.

These dynamics are invisible to most people and even those who are a part of the business will only see a part of this.

The most visible parts of a business are the marketing and sales content and the operational delivery.

But all around you, hanging in the air, are the effects of culture and politics – and although they are as real as the things you make few people acknowledge they exist or take them into account when making decisions.

How can you change that?

Most people don’t – they work harder and struggle and get stressed.

That’s why most business people and most managers are increasingly tired and exhausted as they grow their business and operations.

But there are a few simple ways to make things easier.

They are, however, counter-intuitive and you will struggle to implement them in most organisations.

But that’s ok – it gives you an edge when you’re getting started.

The first is to do less – just stop doing a whole bunch of things.

After all, you can’t get something wrong that you don’t do at all.

Most people believe that the way to fix a problem is do implement a correction – do something to make everything better.

Few people ask whether they need to do the thing that cause the problem at all.

The way to decide what to do and what not to do is to focus on things that add value to the customer.

Throw away anything that does not directly result in improved quality and value to your customer.

That means things like internal reports, busywork, pointless analysis.

But, you argue, surely it’s important to be prepared, to have all the facts, to do your research.

I’d argue that it’s much more important to spend that time with your prospect, giving them your attention.

If you do that well they will tell you all you need to know about what they need – and then you can give them that.

And that reduces what you have to do.

Once I got better at doing this I went from writing 20 page proposals about how good I was to writing a one page proposal about what I could do for them.

I spent less time writing, they spent less time reading and the conversion rates went way way up.

What next?

So far, we’ve covered resources you have, the edge they give you and briefly considered the sales process.

In the next post we’ll look at how you can supercharge that sales conversion bit before we take a deeper look at the problems you will face and what to do about them.

Nearly 25,000 words on over 21 posts and we’re about a sixth of the way through the book plan – and there’s a fair amount of editing to do eventually.

Apologies to those of you that are getting these long posts in your email – hopefully there is still something of value in there, even if it’s buried in the rubble of a first draft.

I do plan to start the draft of the next book as soon as I finish the rough drafts here though, while editing happens on the side – so this may be the new normal for a while.

The next thirty years or so…

Cheers, Karthik Suresh

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