If you’re like most of the companies I work with, you’ve got two key focuses at the moment: finishing the current year in the strongest possible position, and ensuring that you’ve laid the essential groundwork for success in 2012. I’d like to suggest 5 simple strategies that could help you to accelerate revenue growth in 2012…
1: Learn from every significant sales success in 2011
Even if you’ve already been in the habit of preparing win-loss reports for every important deal, I’m going to suggest that you review every significant sales success in the past year and look for the patterns that could help you identify and close more high-quality sales opportunities in 2012.
I’ve been through this exercise with many of my clients recently, and in every case we’ve recognised a number of common characteristics in their most valuable existing and potential customers. These often point to similar organisational, environmental, and behavioural traits that turn out to have tremendous predictive value in the qualification process.
Perhaps most important, we’ve been able to identify the handful of common trigger events (such as a change in management, or a new corporate initiative) that have caused these prospect to recognise that the status quo isn’t good enough anymore - and which lead them to start searching for a fresh approach. I use a simple template that you can download here.
2: Ruthlessly prune your pipeline
Like many garden shrubs, most sales pipelines benefit from a ruthless pruning in order to cut out the dead wood and encourage fresh growth. With the best will in the world, it’s easy for pipelines to gradually fill up with deals that were either (with the benefit of hindsight) never real in the first place or which have lost all forward momentum with little hope of recovery.
If you allow these “Voodoo Deals” to continue to clog up your sales pipeline in 2012, you’ll end up diverting valuable resources and energy from progressing the remaining opportunities - and may distract you from the need to continue to fill the top of the funnel with well-qualified new opportunities.
I suggest that you evaluate every deal in the pipeline and ask
- Is the opportunity real - and are they likely to buy anything?
- Can we compete - and what are our key advantages?
- Can we win - and what exactly is our winning strategy?
- Is it worth winning - and are they likely to become a great customer?
Don’t rely on the sales person’s opinion. Ask to see the evidence of prospect behaviour to back up each of these judgements. And carefully scrutinise, investigate and eliminate any apparent opportunity where the answers to these questions are not crystal clear.
3: Develop a distinctive and provocative point of view
What can you learn from your analysis of your most significant sales successes about the key issues and trends facing your target markets, and about the trigger events that cause them to search for better solutions? How can you showcase your expertise to differentiate your company and your message from what every other competitor is saying?
In a world where so many sales and marketing messages blur into a cloudy soup of technobabble, unfathomable acronyms and unprovable claims, it’s critical that you leverage your expertise in order to identify and articulate simple insights that tell your prospective customer something valuable that they did not already know - and make them want to learn more.
Without a distinctive and provocative point of view, your marketing messages and sales conversations will struggle to stand out from the crowd. I identified 5 ways to address this issue in a recent blog.
4: Revitalise your corporate presentation
Take a careful look at your current corporate presentation. Does it follow the same tired formula as most of the other companies in your sector? If you were to cover up the vendor logos, would it be easy to tell you apart? Are you focusing on the issues that matter to your prospects, and introducing insights that challenge their current thinking - or telling them about you?
Is the presentation structured to encourage comment and conversation, or is it typically given in “broadcast” mode to an increasingly fidgety and disengaged audience? Do your sales people have a rich pool of anecdotes and stories to support the points they are making? If not, it’s time to conduct an urgent refresh of your corporate presentation - and to review how you coach your sales people to deliver it.
5: Establish shared goals for sales and marketing
It’s fairly easy to establish clear metrics and goals for sales people. They have a quota, a sales pipeline, and you can track their progress towards their revenue targets. But are you still measuring marketing largely using metrics like number of leads generated, or website page views? Are they focusing more on quantity than quality?
I strongly suggest that you measure marketing and sales through the same lens - on the basis of their impact on revenue. What contribution have marketing made in terms of the value of sales opportunities that enter the pipeline - or the value of closed sales that were initiated or influenced by a marketing action?
If you can’t work out how to measure marketing’s impact on revenue, it’s time to look very carefully at whether you have a clearly enough defined and tightly integrated marketing and sales process in which the contributions of all parties are clear. If not, get the teams together to agree on critical stages in the process and to have absolute clarity about what everybody means by terms like “marketing qualified lead”, “sales ready lead” and “sales qualified opportunity”.
In addition to the links above, I’d like to offer a handful of additional resources. I recommend that you invest 10 minutes in completing our sales and marketing benchmark audit. It will allow you to see clearly how you compare against the best-in-class across 12 key marketing and sales initiatives.
You might also like to consider holding a facilitated workshop to help your sales and marketing teams get fully aligned around a shared understanding of who their most valuable prospective customers are, how and why they choose to buy, and what you can do to help facilitate the process. You can learn more here.
I hope that you find these suggestions helpful. I look forward to hearing what other strategies you’re planning to adopt to accelerate revenue growth in the coming year - and to helping you celebrate a successful 2012.