The Top Question For Business Leaders: What Business Are We In?

The Top Question For Business Leaders: What Business Are We In?

Harvard Business School professor and the father of modern marketing, Theodore Levitt, asks a powerful question that every business leader, sales representative and marketing manager must answer: What business are you in?

The answer to this question will determine the future of your company. At this critical moment when the needs of your customers are changing, this question needs to be answered correctly.

The reality is that what you sell and what people buy are different. As I say in my book Revenue Growth Engine, “Buyers don’t buy products, they buy the outcomes the products deliver.”

Theodore Levitt would famously walk into his marketing class holding up an electric drill bit. He would tell the class that no one has ever purchased a drill bit, but what they bought was the hole. Some take it a step further and say that they aren’t buying the hole, they are buying the ability to hang a picture on the wall so they can look good to their friends. Others takes it even further, observing that the reason we want a picture on the wall is because of a primitive need to be part of a community, which will help ensure our very survival.

The point is, the buyer only bought the drill bit because they wanted the outcome the drill bit provided: a hole, a picture on the wall, the admiration of their friends, the ability to survive or some combination of the above.

What business are you in? When industries answer this question incorrectly, they set themselves up for failure.

Theodore Levitt also used the railroad industry as a case in point. The companies thought that they were in the railroad business when what customers were really buying was transportation. Had they seen this, they might not have lost business to transport trucks, buses, cars and airplanes. Instead, they would have seen the railroad as a means to deliver the outcomes their buyers wanted: getting conveniently and cost-effectively from point A to point B.

Gasoline stations can also be used as an example. Many think they are in the gasoline business. The reality is that nobody wants to buy gasoline. It is expensive, smelly and damaging to the environment. What they want is the outcome of being able to get to work, drive the kids to soccer practice or go on vacation. Gasoline is just a means to deliver that outcome. As soon as someone comes up with a better way to get the outcome, gasoline stations that don’t adapt are dead.

Dell thought it was in the computer business. As a result, it focused on creating an amazing supply chain that could deliver a cheap computer. Apple realized that it was in the business of helping people create ideas and share them. Computers (and iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, Apple TV and the related services) are just a means to deliver the outcome its buyers want. As a result, Dell is struggling while Apple dominates the stock market.

Most businesses think they are in the business of delivering a product or providing a service. For example, if your business sells copiers, you may think that you are in the copy machine business. If you are an accounting firm, you may think that you sell tax preparation services. If you are an IT company, you may think you sell technical service.

The way to get the correct answer to this question is to consider the outcomes that our customers want. If you sell copiers, the outcome your customer wants may be an efficient office and professional documents so they can grow their business. This type of business might ask the question: What else could we deliver to help our customers get these outcomes?

If you sell tax preparation, the outcomes your clients want are to reduce their tax burden, get a faster return and reduce the risk of an audit. Rather than market the tax service, what if the agency’s message led with the outcomes they deliver.

If you sell IT services, your buyers probably don’t understand what you do. The outcomes they are buying are uptime so they don’t face the cost and frustration of downtime stopping their business. They are buying security so they don’t face the cost and embarrassment of a data breach.

What business are you in? What outcomes are your customers actually buying from you?

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis, these questions will be especially important because the outcomes that your buyers want may have shifted. Recent Gartner research gave insight into the shift in outcomes buyers want. Before the crisis, 2019 research showed that “55% of organizational redesigns were focused on streamlining roles, supply chains and workflows to increase efficiency.” After the crisis, the desired outcomes have shifted to things like agility, flexibility and resilience.

Avoid being short-sighted. Focus on the outcomes your clients want and you have a much greater chance of earning their attention and their business. In the process, the shift of perspective might also allow you to see new ways to deliver the outcomes your clients want, creating new business opportunities.

Originally published on Revenue Growth Engine.

What We Can Learn From T-Mobile About How To Keep Customers and Grow Revenue Following an Acquisition

What We Can Learn From T-Mobile About How To Keep Customers and Grow Revenue Following an Acquisition

The reason to buy a company is to take what you purchased and grow it. Unfortunately, what often happens is that companies let the customers of the companies they acquired slowly get picked off by the competition. Instead of growing the new base of customers, the new base dwindles away.

You can buy a business but you cannot acquire customers. Keeping customers requires trust. After an acquisition, that trust must be built.

When we buy something big, we all experience buyer’s remorse. It’s that moment of time where we are nervous that we made a bad decision. (You may have some buyer’s remorse on the company you bought!) At that moment, the sale is very vulnerable to cancelation.

The same thing happens to customers after an acquisition. The customers of the acquired company get acquisition remorse. They are nervous. The customers of the company you acquired are vulnerable.

Sprint has provided my cellular service for over 10 years. Recently, T-Mobile acquired Sprint. Personally, I identified with the Sprint brand, seeing it as a maverick against the giants, AT&T and Verizon. I enjoyed the benefits of unlimited data and good pricing. 

Following the acquisition, I’m nervous about T-Mobile. I don’t know much about their brand. Right or wrong, I see T-Mobile as a discount carrier. I’m concerned about losing my unlimited data and favorable pricing.

Several months into the new relationship, I’m impressed with how T-Mobile is handling the transition. In this article, here are a few things I’ve noticed that we can learn from T-Mobile.

Explain the Main Benefit

The first thing T-Mobile did was explain the benefits of the acquisition. I received several emails and letters explaining that the combined resources of the companies will allow me to not only keep my unlimited data, but also get access to a more robust 5G network. They have backed this up by carpet-bombing TV commercials to reinforce that the new company has more 5G coverage than AT&T and Verizon combined. 

I’ll admit, as a customer I was nervous that Sprint was falling behind in the race to the fast internet that I want. The primary message of the acquisition is that we are not vaulting ahead of the established players. As a trailblazer, I like this.

What is the main benefit that your acquisition offers your customers? T-Mobile buying Sprint gives me more 5G meaning I get to stay ahead of the tech curve. This helps alleviate my nervousness. What benefit could you offer?

Offer Perks

The week that T-Mobile announced the acquisition to Sprint customers they rolled out T-Mobile Tuesdays. The very first perk was free access to the MLB Network for the rest of the season. Now, as I watch the Blue Jays, I feel goodwill towards T-Mobile. Since then, they have given me magazine subscriptions, 10 cents of gasoline, a T-Mobile face mask, and even a free Whopper. Every Tuesday, I look forward to the notification on my phone that tells me I have a new perk.

Another perk is Scam Protection. This handy app automatically screens out scam calls. I like that! 

What perks could you offer to your customers? How could you build goodwill and make the relationship fun?  

This may sound like unnecessary fluff. However, when you buy a business, the customers are nervous and afraid. These are negative emotions. If they are not overcome with positive feelings of goodwill, your newly acquired base is at risk of slipping away.

Build the Relationship

I hope you have a consistent cadence of meetings and touchpoints with your current clients where you stay in tune with their business goals and challenges. (If not, starting Periodic Business Reviews is low-hanging fruit you should go after right away!) Build the relationship with your new customers. Don’t just send them a letter. Learn about their business goals. Get to know their people. Offer Periodic Business Reviews as one of your perks. 

Building relationships into your new customers does two things. First, it protects the accounts. Second, it sets the stage for cross-selling additional products and services into the account. That’s where things get good. Not only do you keep the customers from the acquisition, you grow them! 

Make a Plan

Are you planning to acquire a company? If so, I recommend that you make a customer retention plan before you do the acquisition. It is probably a good idea for every company to do this proactively so that when they do make a purchase, the plan is ready to roll.


Now Is Not the Time To Shut Down Your Growth Engine

Now Is Not the Time To Shut Down Your Growth Engine

Now, more than ever, we need to keep our growth engines running. Sales must maintain activity levels. Marketing must keep the digital lights on. This is not the time to slow down or stop.

This past week I’ve talked with many leaders that are facing hard choices. I’ve seen some companies make the first cuts in sales and marketing. I understand there are hard choices to be made in this season. There may be some fat you can trim that should have been done months ago. But overall, I want to challenge businesses leaders: keep your growth engines running.

Fortunately, it seems like the Small Business Administration is committed to keeping the American economic engine running. Low interest loans with favorable terms are available for leaders that have the guts to keep moving forward.

We have to keep the growth engines running.

This crisis will pass. When it does, companies that kept their growth engines running will be ready to help. Companies that shut down their engines will scramble to get going again. Many of them will not have the resources to get restarted.

Your Revenue Growth Engine is the sum total of your sales and marketing efforts. Together, these activities drive the lifeblood of your business: revenue.

Three Reasons To Keep Your Growth Engine Running

1. You Don’t Know When The Rebound Will Happen

Have you ever tried to time the stock market? That never works well for anyone. And even if you could time the market and get back in at the bottom, sales doesn’t work like that. In order to be there at the bottom, you have to be there. If you don’t have a sales team, you won’t be there and you’ll miss out on the rebound.

2. It’s Easier To Sustain Momentum Than Start Again From Zero

Your growth engine is more like a freight train than a race car. You can’t just go from a dead stop to 80 miles per hour. Revenue comes from relationships. Relationships are built and sustained over time. If you sideline your sales team, you can’t sustain relationships. If you turn off your digital marketing, you erode trust. Right now, we need to maintain momentum.

You might think you can restart when everyone comes out of their bunkers. The problem is that your revenue engine is like a freight train. It might take more resources to restart from a dead stop than it will to keep the train in motion. If you are able to restart from a dead stop, you might not be able to get in motion as fast as your competitors who kept their engines running.

3. It’s Our Patriotic Duty

Our government leadership have said that they prefer to help businesses keep people employed rather than pay out unemployment. It appears they are willing to help us weather this storm so we can come out strong. Why are they willing to help? If every businesses shutters their sales team and closed their digital doors, our economy will be in even worse shape, causing even more misery. We need to keep the engine running.

The Mindset of a Farmer

In sales, we talk about hunters and farmers. Hunting is fun because you see immediate results. If you have an opportunity to help someone right now, bag the deal.

Guess what? For the most part, we are farmers in this season.

What do farmers do? They cultivate the soil, plant seeds, and maintain their equipment.

Plant Seeds

Right now we are planting seeds. No farmer would expect a harvest immediately. This comes in time. Any farmer that doesn’t plan seeds right now is living in fantasy land if they think they can harvest a crop in six months. Sales and marketing plant seeds by being present, communicating consistently, and sharing helpful ideas.

Cultivate The Ground

Farmers till the soil. It’s hard, unrewarding work. However, for seeds to grow and bear fruit, this work needs to be done. Sales cultivates relationships by staying in touch with prospects and clients, empathizing, and offering to help. Marketing cultivates the ground by sharing helpful ideas that build trust.

Maintain Your Equipment

Farmers use the winter to maintain their equipment. Tractors are serviced and cleaned. Implements are prepared for the rigors of the next season. Sales needs to take this time to sharpen their sales skills. Marketing needs to take this time to maintain the online presence. Harvest will come and the companies that take this season to maintain their equipment will be ready.

What Should We Do?

Here are some ideas to keep your growth engine running.

Sales: Maintain Activity Levels

Sales must remain active. While things were going well, you may have managed yourself or your sales team based on hunting metrics: sales results. During this season of planting and cultivating, you may need to grow manage and reward your team based on top-of-funnel activity. You might adjust your comp plan temporarily to reward reps based on calls, social touches, sequences launched, and periodic business reviews.

Train your reps. Invest in your team during the off season so they can hit field ready to win.

Marketing: Keep The Digital Lights On

Marketing must keep communicating. When you stop communicating, you cease to engage in the digital world. Right now while we are working from home, we are undeniably in a digital world. For years, marketing experts have been urging us to build and maintain a vibrant online presence because our buyers are digitally-enabled and socially-empowered. How true is this now?

Does you message need to change in the short term? Yes. (Some ideas here: Outcomes Clients Want During a Crisis: How To Shift Your Sales and Marketing Message In the Short Term.) But you must keep communicating and stay digitally engaged.

This season for marketing to plant, cultivate, and maintain the equipment. Keep communicating by sharing ideas on your blog and social media. Take this down time to improve the website and refresh you sales collateral. Have you put off investment in marketing automation and sales enablement? Now is a good time to get this infrastructure in place.

Keep Your Growth Engine Running

Some companies will stop their engines right now. Sales people will be laid off. Marketing will come to a grinding halt. This will be done in the attempt to survive and preserve salaries for core employees. Here’s the challenge with this mindset: if you don’t have a growth engine you won’t have a company.

I implore you: find a way to keep your growth engine running. I realize hard choices need to be made in this season. However, the companies that shut down their growth engine will have a really hard time in the aftermath.

Companies that dig in, plant seeds, cultivate the ground, and maintain their equipment will be there to reap the harvest.

Article originally published by Darrell Amy on LinkedIn Pulse.

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What I’ve Learned About Working From Home a Home Office

What I’ve Learned About Working From Home a Home Office

Last week I was reminiscing about my first home-office job with my former boss, Cary Butler. Back in 1997 when I accepted a position as a district manager for Toshiba, the first step was to set up a home office. I remember when the UPS driver rang my doorbell to deliver a fax machine. That same day, the local phone company dropped in to add three more phone lines to my house—one line to share between my fax and computer modem and the second line for my desk phone.

That began my journey of working at home, along with various hotels and airports!

Over the years, my friends have asked me if I like working at home. As an introvert (INTJ, Enneagram 5) my answer is always a hearty, “Yes!” I get so much more done without the noise and distraction of an office. I think my introvert friends will agree that working from home is a gift.

My friends who are more extraverted usually feel differently. “I could never work at home,” is a common response.

Well, guess what? It appears that most of us will be working from home for the near future. My guess is that after the pandemonium about the pandemic ends, many companies will realize how much money they could save with a remote workforce. The drawbacks of virtual workers will fade into the background and more of us will find ourselves working at home.

Today, I work with a team at Convergo spread across six time zones. All of us work from home offices. Most of this was by necessity as the type of talent we needed didn’t exist in one zip code. So, we built our team based on the best talent, not location. As a result, we spend most of our days using collaboration tools like #Slack and communication tools like Zoom. 

What have I learned? Here are a few things:

1. Make It Feel Like Work

For me, it was important to set up a place in my home that felt like work. This meant dedicating a room to work. However, this room needs to be more than a spare bedroom. I removed the bed and chest of drawers. Then I went down to the office supply store and bought a real desk. Ten years ago, I purchased a full office suite. Today, my office has a huge wrap around desk, conference table, and filing cabinets. While it is a room in my house, it functions as an office.

2. Get Dressed

Home office workers often brag about the ability to work in their PJ’s or gym clothes. While this is sometimes OK, as a habit I make a point to shower, shave, and put on the same type of clothes I’d wear to the office. The ritual of getting dressed tells your mind, “It’s time to go to work.” These days with video conferencing, we must look our best. Just because you’re not physically in someone’s office doesn’t mean you don’t need to dress appropriately.

3. Schedule Your Day

I love productivity hacks. Years ago as a new sales professional I learned the power of blocking time on my calendar for important things like prospecting. 27 years later, I still use time blocking. This is critical for home office workers. My family also knows my schedule. I’m in my office during working hours. It’s great to step out for a break and see my wife, kids, or grandkids. However, they know that when I’m working, I’m to be left alone unless it’s an emergency.

4. Take Breaks

In the office, a common ritual is to grab a cup of coffee or go to lunch. When you work at home, it’s easy to just plow through. The reality is that the human mind works best in bursts of effort followed by a time of recovery. Some of my most productive days are ones where I schedule lunch with someone. Alternatively, as we all try to stay home, you could go for a walk around your neighborhood or spend some time working outside. These breaks are critical.

5. Shut It Down

When I’m done working at the end of the day, I clean up my desk, turn off the lights, and shut the door to my office. Unless I’m working, I don’t go into this room. My home is a place for relaxation, family, and friends. It’s important to me to keep a bit of a firewall between my office and my family. In my previous house, my office was upstairs. My new home has the offices at one end of the house, separate from the rest of the family activity. I realize this isn’t possible for everyone, however, as much as possible, set your office up so you can leave it at the end of the day.

Working from home can be a challenge. However, by taking the steps above, I’ve created an environment that helps maximize my productivity while not interfering with my family.

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Five Critical Sales and Marketing Processes For Driving Revenue Growth

Five Critical Sales and Marketing Processes For Driving Revenue Growth

Ask any management consultant and they will tell you that processes are the key to an efficient business. We find processes in departments throughout a business like finance, H.R., service, production, and fulfillment.

Why is it that when it comes to revenue growth, sales and marketing teams typically have few, if any, documented processes?

In the Entrepreneurial Operating SystemGino Wickman asserts that process is a core part of an organization’s success:

“This is the secret ingredient in your organization. This means systemizing your business by identifying and documenting the core processes that define the way to run your business. You’ll need to get everyone on the same page with what the essential procedural steps are, and then get everyone to follow them to create consistency and scalability in your organization.”

While most departments have well thought out processes in place, sales and marketing teams are often left to wing it. “Go sell something.” “Manage our social media.”

The challenge is that when you have unpredictable processes, you get unpredictable results.

Because of this, many companies experience either inconsistent or flat revenue growth. This is a shame since revenue is the lifeblood of any business.

What are your processes when it comes to revenue growth? The Revenue Growth Engine™ itemizes the core sets of sales and marketing processes you need to drive net-new revenue and cross-sell current clients. Let’s consider these four process areas.

Revenue Growth Engine

The Revenue Growth Engine™ Model

Net-New Business Processes

To drive net-new business you need defined processes for the two types of buyers: those who are actively looking and those who are not.

Process 1: Inbound Marketing

These processes ensure your company gets found by buyers looking online. It defines processes for converting visitors to leads, mining data for leads, qualifying those leads, and handing them off to sales.

Process 2: Outbound Selling

For every buyer that is actively looking for what you sell there are many more who are not actively looking but could benefit from your value proposition. Documented sales processes define who is the ideal client, how data will be managed, how reps prospect, and how they influence the buying team throughout the sales cycle.

Cross-Selling Processes

What additional products, services, or solutions could you provide to your current clients? Most companies could quickly double their revenue if they got this right. Without defined processes in place, most companies experience anemic growth in cross-sell revenue. Both sales and marketing have a role to play here.

Process 3: Client Management

What happens after the prospect says yes to your offer? This is where most businesses drop the ball. Processes should be defined for onboarding a new client, conducting periodic business reviews, and renewing contracts. Without process, balls get dropped and cross-selling does not happen.

Process 4: Client Communication

Survey most clients and you’ll hear, “You never write, you never call, until it’s time for me to renew my contract.” Client communication processes ensure your clients feel valued. Documented processes need to exist for segmenting clients, managing data, communicating consistently with relevant messages, and delivering client loyalty programs.

Process 5: Update Your Message

In addition to sales and marketing processes to drive net-new and cross-sell, you also need processes in place to continually update your message. Your message is the fuel for your Revenue Growth Engine™. Make sure to have documented processes to refresh your website, sales collateral, advertising, and social presence.

How Are Your Sales and Marketing Processes? Do you have any? Are they documented?

Are you unhappy with your flat or inconsistent revenue growth? Maybe you should look at your sales and marketing processes!

If you’d like to take a deeper dive, consider inviting the team at Convergo to conduct a Revenue Growth Workshop with your team. Our team will help you diagnose your current Revenue Growth Engine™ and develop a plan to create and document processes to help ensure consistent results.

Originally published on Revenue Growth Engine.

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