CEO beliefs and behaviors either contribute to revenue growth or work against it. The questions is, are you helping or hindering your agency generate new business?
Here’s an article by Michael Braun of Pivotal Advisors, a national sales improvement firm, which I’ve adapted for agency CEOs.
Ineffective sales growth strategies
When CEOs say they need to increase revenue, the first question to ask is: “What are you doing to drive new business now?” Responses range from interesting to shocking. Here are some typical comments:
- “We’re going to just ride it out. When the economy comes back we’ll get our share.”
- “I’m not happy about it, but it’s up to our VP of new business. If he doesn’t get it going soon I’ll have to replace him.”
- “We’re trimming our new business team. If we can’t win enough at least we’ll spend less and weed out low performers.”
- “We brought everyone in for a three-day training workshop to improve their skills.”
- “We invested in a CRM system so we can see what they are working on and get more accurate forecasts.”
- “I’m personally getting a lot more involved in pitches to make sure we win.”
These responses usually foretell that the strategy employed is not working well. If you’ve been using one of these strategies to little effect, you might consider becoming more personally involved in your agency’s new business effort.
New business involvement quiz
To gauge your current level of involvement, try answering these 9 questions. Answer each with a YES, SOMEWHAT or NO.
1. Do you foster a culture (policies, recognition, stories) that enables the entire agency to support the new business team?
2. Have you invested enough in your new business team to give them a competitive advantage?
3. Have you worked with your new business team to understand the critical steps your prospects take in evaluating your services? Have you documented the best approaches for all to use?
4. Have you determined your most probable customer or growth segment and communicated it to the entire organization?
5. Have you encouraged your new business leader to understand what behaviors and activities lead to wins and then supported the development the team needs?
6. Do you continually invest in your new business leader to be sure he or she has the best education, tools, and practices to drive continual improvement?
7. Do you routinely make new business accomplishments visible to the entire organization, recognizing those who win and those who support the effort?
8. Do you believe that new business is a process that can be taught versus a skill that’s inherent in certain people?
9. Do you look at new business as an investment in the business verses a cost to be managed?
If the majority of your answers were YES, you’re most likely helping your team succeed.
If the majority of your answers were SOMEWHAT, you’re doing some things right, but you need to take a closer look at ways you can improve.
If the majority of your answers were NO, here’s an opportunity to make changes that can make a big impact toward improving your new business results.
CEO actions that lead to results
To drive revenue growth and become more involved in helping your new business team succeed, try taking these actions:
- Publish a growth strategy. Explain to everyone what type of client you want to work with, and then show them how to get those leads to the new business team. Follow-up with routine communication that shows how their efforts are generating new revenue. You’d be surprised how many employees are connected to people who could become clients.
- Invest in your new business leader. Sales is a discipline like any other function in the organization, and it’s driven by the boss. Salespeople do best with a clear set of expectations regarding what they’re supposed to do, how they should behave, how frequently and what results they should be getting. Most managers learned their job from their former manager who never learned to do it well. Be clear their job is not to sell, but rather develop a team of people that can sell your services. Then, provide them the education and support they need to do it well.
- Create a step-by-step method for engaging your prospects. Create a methodology that clearly outlines what activities help your prospects make effective decisions. Document which steps, tools, and resources advance the sale, and reinforce them over time. If you want the new approach to stick, think of it as the beginning of several months of teaching or re-teaching skills to resistant adults. It takes time and it’s up to the manager to teach and coach until a new habit is formed.
- Stop making your manager the score keeper. Managers often spend 50 percent of their time forecasting, sitting in meetings to communicate the latest projection, working with the CRM team on the latest upgrade, or helping marketing. Studies show that when managers spend time coaching their team, revenue goes up significantly. Reduce administrative time wherever you can and help your new business leader focus where they’re needed most, teaching their team to be better.
- Take pride in your new business team. The best hunters want to work for agencies that believe in, invest in, and continually develop their new business skills. If you’re not doing this, they know it and it shows up when they talk to your prospects. You can show your pride by offering learning events for the new business team and sending announcements to the entire company recognizing key new business wins.
The exciting part is that this is all within your control and it works. And, it works in every economy. Your prospects and clients are always looking for the best value. New business teams that help their prospects make good business decisions by understanding their needs, concerns, and risks, will always have a competitive advantage.