Developing Business and Managing Sales: It is a Nightmare

Developing Business and Managing Sales: It is a Nightmare

The vexing question of every Sales Manager and Business Development Manager who is newly appointed is this: “What am I supposed to do and not do”?

Managing sales and developing business at the same time can be a nightmare for a large organization. Each role is a humungous task in itself. Combining the both together and expecting one person to handle both is not only practically difficult but also inefficient. Small business owners may not agree to this as more often than not they have just one person who wears both these hats, and they find it cost-efficient too. That may work out initially for a start-up or a mom and pop store, but in the long run, when the business grows to attain maximum scalability the firm must segregate the two tasks and appoint a Sales Manager as well as a Business Development Manager to perform two different kinds of jobs. Often the difficulty in doing so arises because of the ambiguity in the roles played by both employees who hold different titles. Business owners and managers themselves are confused as to what they are supposed to do.

The roles that are unique to a Business Development Manager are the following:

  • Building the right product-market mix
  • Determining whether the product meets the need of the client
  • Expanding the reach of the goods to increase revenue
  • Recommending timely adjustments to products
  • Improving products to fill customer requirements
  • Informing clients about new developments in the products
  • Dealing with prospects unsatisfied with the products
  • Responding to negative press about the products
  • Pitching goods and services in new market segments
  • Studying the competitive landscape in the industry
  • Forming strategic partnerships with other businesses
  • Segmenting the target customer market
  • Prioritizing market segments or key accounts
  • Identifying various routes to market
  • Creating strategies to expand company’s current markets
  • Researching markets to find new ones
  • Planning and overseeing new market initiatives
  • Attending conferences, meetings, and industry events
  • Researching companies to hunt leads
  • Exploring, prospecting, and qualifying leads
  • Researching who makes decisions about purchasing
  • Determining whether a lead is ready to buy
  • Bringing in enough qualified leads to generate business
  • Attracting customers to the front door of the building
  • Maintaining fruitful relationships with existing customers
  • Contacting potential customers to establish rapport
  • Investigating if the price matches the ideal buyer’s affordability
  • Negotiating prices with manufacturers and distributors
  • Developing quotes and proposals to new partners
  • Identifying new opportunities and methods for sales campaigns
  • Generating demand and maximizing sales
  • Writing reports and providing feedback to upper management
  • Creating high-level vision and developing relevant strategies
  • Understanding the fundamental drivers of the business
  • Making wise decisions in pursuit of long-term value
  • Determining when and where to scale the business
  • Gathering data to validate paths to achieve business goals
  • Identifying and executing new areas of business
  • Weighing how changes affect the entire company
  • Identifying signals that promise greater opportunity
  • Assessing trade-offs between opportunities vs. risks
  • Generating new channels to reach customers
  • Producing long-term growth and profitability
  • Planning operations and strategic marketing with top executives
  • Coordinating with departments for new account setups

The roles that are explicit to a Sales Manager are the following:

  • Demonstrating the product features
  • Overseeing the distribution of products
  • Maintaining appropriate inventory levels
  • Gauging customer’s product preferences
  • Monitoring market trends to tweak sales efforts
  • Weighing how changes affect sales territories
  • Taking deals across the finish lines
  • Selling the product to the identified customer
  • Convincing customer to go from the door to cash register
  • Up-selling and cross-selling to existing clients
  • Offering post-purchase service and support
  • Resolving customer complaints regarding sales and service
  • Optimizing existing channel to reach more customers
  • Selling to customers in new territories
  • Explaining price breakdowns to prospective customers
  • Informing payment terms to end-users
  • Developing pricing schedules and rates
  • Developing promotional ideas and materials
  • Determining discounts and special pricing plans
  • Tracking sales team metrics and reporting to leadership
  • Implementing sales plans based on company policies
  • Developing sales strategy to achieve organizational goals
  • Preparing and approving budgets and expenditures
  • Coordinating and monitoring online sales activities
  • Meeting business revenue targets
  • Focusing exclusively on driving revenue
  • Following up on business leads on a regular basis
  • Investigating lost sales and customer accounts
  • Tracking, interpreting and collating sales figures
  • Maintaining data and records for future reference
  • Formulating sales policies and procedures
  • Executing and measuring sales plan
  • Hiring, training and leading sales professionals
  • Managing team of sales staff and assign territories
  • Developing field sales action plans
  • Collaborating with IT to improve the sales technology
  • Developing direct sales techniques for the sales force
  • Creating incentives for representatives
  • Generating ideas for sales motivational initiatives
  • Executing measures when performance deviates
  • Advising representatives on ways to improve performance
  • Demonstrating excellent team-building skills
  • Transforming sales team into a high-performing one
  • Determining ways to streamline and improve the sales process
  • Keeping up to date with products and competitors

Business Development Manager is responsible for creating long-term value for the business while a Sales Manager is supposed to maximize sales. A good analogy is thus: A Business Development Manager gets the customer to the door, and a Sales Manager takes the customer from the door to the cash register. A Business Development Manager who is busy looking over the competitive landscape to spot trends and opportunities does not have time to service the clients. It is the job of the Sales Manager to take care of the prospect. Hence the separation between the two roles.
Photo Credit: Olu Eletu

BENEFITS, NOT FEATURES: 30 QUOTES FROM FAMOUS PEOPLE

BENEFITS, NOT FEATURES: 30 QUOTES FROM FAMOUS PEOPLE

BENEFITS, NOT FEATURES: 30 QUOTES

  • Reid Hoffman: Founder, LinkedIn

If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.

  • Tim Cook

A great product isn’t just a collection of features. It’s how it all works together.

  • Marco Arment: Founder, Instapaper

Making a product better often requires removing features.

  • Kathy Sierra

The secret to building great products is not creating awesome features, it’s to make users awesome.

  • Jay Abraham

Sell the benefits, not your company or the product. People buy results, not features.

  • Dave McClure: Founder, 500 Startups

Features are like having sex. You make one mistake and you have to support it for life.

  • Paul Buchheit

Pick three key attributes or features, get those things very, very right, and then forget about everything else … By focusing on only a few core features in the first version, you are forced to find the true essence and value of the product.

  • John Wesley

Our old system was just not able to accommodate our newest product features. Our goal was to get a stable, scalable, system that would help us speed new products to market.

  • Kevin Systrom

The best feature is less featureless.

  • Douglas Crockford

We see a lot of feature-driven product design in which the cost of features is not properly accounted. Features can have a negative value to customers because they make the products more difficult to understand and use. We are finding that people like products that just work. It turns out that designs that just work are much harder to produce that designs that assemble long list of features.

  • Eric Ries

I would say, as an entrepreneur everything you do – every action you take in product development, marketing, every conversation you have, everything you do – is an experiment. If you can conceptualize your work not as building features, not as launching campaigns, but as running experiments, you can get radically more done with less effort.

  • Steve Blank

We now know that something between 85 and 90 percent of most software product features are unwanted and unneeded by customers. That is an enormous amount of waste of time and money that ends up on the floor.

  • Sergey Brin

We are focused on features, not products. We eliminated future products that would have made the complexity problem worse. We don’t want to have 20 different products that work in 20 different ways. I was getting lost at our site keeping track of everything. I would rather have a smaller set of products that have a shared set of features.

  • Jakob Nielsen

Even the best designers produce successful products only if their designs solve the right problems. A wonderful interface to the wrong features will fail.

  • Cindy Alvarez

What features your customers as for is never as interesting as why they want them.

  • Alan Cooper

Reducing a product’s definition to a list of features and functions ignores the real opportunity – orchestrating technological capability to serve human needs and goals.

  • Jefferson Han

If you watched companies such as Sony and Samsung grow, they focused first on features and then on industrial design, which made their products look and feel better.

  • Tony Fadell

No amount of data will tell you if a feature should be in the product, because it doesn’t exist. You need to have a very clear leader with a clear point of view…otherwise, you get a mishmash of features and stuff that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  • Ram Shriram

You want to do a few things really well because you want to come out with a product that is fully baked, even though it may be lacking in a few features or whatever, rather than the one that’s all-achieving but not doing anything too well.

  • Gregory Benford

It turns out that if you optimize the performance of a car and of an airplane, they are very far away in terms of mechanical features. So you can make a flying car. But they are not very good planes, and they are not very good planes.

  • Scott Adams

Normal people…believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features yet.

  • James Surowiecki

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, allowing us to do things more quickly and efficiently. But too often it seems to make things harder, leaving us with fifty-button remote controls, digital cameras with hundreds of mysterious features and book-length manuals, and cars with dashboard systems worthy of the space shuttle.

  • John Carmack

The cost of adding a feature isn’t just the time it takes to code it. The cost also includes the addition of an obstacle to future expansion. The trick is to pick the features that don’t fight each other.

  • Jeffrey Gitomer

I don’t want features, I want value. I don’t want benefits, I want value.

  • David Karp

Every feature has some maintenance cost, and having fewer features lets us focus on the ones we care about and make sure they work very well.

  • Stephen Baker

Prices are coming down. And they have the features and benefits people want.

  • Tim Locke

Hardwood floors are very popular features in new homes. Many individuals are also installing hardwood floors when they renovate their residences. Consumers realize that this feature adds value to their investment.

  • Emmett Shear

This is true for most new products. The majority of people you’re competing with are non-users. They are people who have never used your service before. And what they say is actually the most important. What they say is the thing that blocks you from expanding the size of your market with your features.

  • Carl Sagan

The fossil record implies trial and error, the inability to anticipate the future, features inconsistent with a Great Designer.

  • Leah Culver

Learn not to add too many features right away, and get the core idea built and tested.

Image: Imani Clovis

Asset-light business model is the key to success for start-ups

Asset-light business model is the key to success for start-ups

Asset-light business model is the key to success for start-ups

Asset-light business model is the ket to success for most start-ups. Around eighty percent of new businesses fail not because of a bad idea but because of choosing the wrong business model. They start with high fixed costs and no revenue. At the core of this bad implementation lies the ill-conceived notion that a heavily invested business would generate high revenues. Some have flourished, but most have floundered. People give too much concentration on acquiring operational resources for the company. But not enough gets done on generating at least break-even revenue. This has resulted in a majority of start-up flops.

Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. There is still hope for entrepreneurs. Seasoned business people have extolled the virtue of starting small with zero assets and leveraging the enormous power of technology. Put it another way, it means adopting an asset-light business model at the very early stage of the company.

At the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting held in April 2016, Warren Buffett commented that asset-light businesses are the ideal investment opportunities. They generated significant cash flow by investing in some asset-light businesses in the early years of the company. At the heart of today’s most successful start-ups lies the emergence of asset-light business model empowered by deep-pocket private investors who are disappointed by the returns from other investments. The business model helps companies exploit new revenue opportunities faster than more mature and established firms. On closer inspection, it is not hard to find some common traits and features of several new generation businesses.

Uber

The disruptive trend towards asset-light business model has bolstered the bullishness of Uber’s investors. The model has enabled its strategy of growth over the pursuit of profits because of the lower cost of expansion. Uber does not own or maintain any vehicles because it uses the gig economy for its survival.

Zalando

What started off as a simple online business in 2008 selling flip-flops from a Berlin flat has developed into large e-commerce selling goods to 15 countries. Zalando sales revenue is rising by around 15% a year. Guess their business. Selling other brands through the Internet. Surely, the asset-light approach is nimble and sustainable.

Wendy’s

One of the ways to adopt an asset-light business model is through outsourcing as Wendy’s has done. It has reduced capital and the amount of real estate they own and managed through franchising their American outlets. Many fast food giants have followed suit and have taken advantage of such scalability.

Capital equipment OEMs

Most OEMs have transferred the task of designing and manufacturing the systems and subsystems to suppliers as new parts sold by vendors are replacing certain obsolete ones thereby passing on the operational complexities and costs associated with producing them using the capital-intensive equipment.

OYO Rooms

An innovative business model whereby partnering with existing hotels and getting a percentage of commission from them has made OYO Rooms a huge success. The brand owns hotels without having to build them from scratch thus resulting in huge savings, less risk, and exponential growth path.

Snapdeal

From homegrown online start-up to an e-commerce giant Snapdeal has managed to garner a huge customer base just by leveraging technology. The Internet has made it possible to reach a wider range of market than ever before with lower asset requirements. In just over five years it has managed to achieve a valuation of USD 5 billion making it attractive to future investors.

Hotels

Accor group of chain hotels and InterContinental hotel franchises some outlets to other hotel operators. They manage but not own some others. Only a minority of the outfits is owned or leased by the companies. Here the bricks-and-mortar is the property of someone else. Similarly, Marriott owns only a tiny fraction of the hotels that bear its brands.

Airlines

Utilization and not the acquisition of aircraft is key to stellar returns in the aviation industry. Lan flights use their aircraft to service both passengers and cargo. Likewise, DHL and Cathay Pacific share aircraft for their cargo and passenger routes respectively enjoying the advantages of increased utilization of their capital intensive wide-bodied aircraft.

Types of asset-light business models

Boston Consulting Group points out the most common types of asset-light business models based on the sources of differentiation.  They are outsourcing, asset-sharing, licensing in, and licensing out. Inherently these models help companies to keep costs low, diversify risks, and to branch out into new markets. Companies outsource the supporting systems so that they can free up their resources and concentrate on their core business. Similarly, asset-sharing helps in lowering operational and labor costs. Licensing in and licensing out has helped companies to foster valuable strategic alliances in a cost-effective manner.

Lessons for start-ups

It is only natural for a wide-eyed entrepreneur to get overwhelmed and intimidated by the sheer enormity of all these successful businesses. But they all started off with zero capital. All they had was the founder’s drive. Their success lay in adopting an asset-light business model that had virtually no cost and was easy to exit in case the business failed. An asset-light business model start-up company to be successful and to have the edge over others in the market should have the following essential qualities:

  • Start with the potential for future growth by paying attention to the market demands
  • Do strive for a wider and deeper reach of the target market to achieve quick scalability
  • Follow the trends consistently and continuously for long-term business sustainability
  • Invest in cutting-edge technology such as software, systems, and subsystems
  • Take fewer risks i.e. less capital-intensive investment, equipment, and real assets
  • Explore cost-effective measures such as sharing resources with other entrepreneurs

The growth path of traditional old businesses was linear which implies that it took a considerable amount of time to expand the business sometimes even took the founding entrepreneur’s lifetime to achieve the desired scalability and financial success. An asset-light business start-up, on the other hand, can grow exponentially bypassing many of the life cycles of a traditional business by adopting an asset-light model enabled by modern technology. Today advanced e-commerce software has made it possible for companies to find success with a mere fraction of the cost and time.

Photo Credit: Suhyeon Choi

6 Ways to Communicate New Campaigns to the Salesforce

6 Ways to Communicate New Campaigns to the Salesforce

What is the best way to communicate new campaigns to the salesforce? Traditionally there has been a constant tension between sales and marketing. The tension escalates when the marketing department designs a campaign to increase the sales of a particular product or a season without the input of the sales staff. Often the person in charge of marketing campaigns senses a disconnect between the marketing team and Sales team. Successful marketing cannot happen in a silo. It has to happen with the buy-in from the Sales team. Happy salespeople build lasting customer connections. Today, there is an urgent need to converge both the sales and marketing teams together to accomplish the desired results. The Marketing leader can adopt some proven methods to get the group to own the campaign.

Engage Sales early

If the Sales team is accountable for the success of a particular project or campaign, gain their buy-in early. Not after the campaign launch. The sales team are constantly in touch with the customers on a regular basis. Hence they can be a valuable source of strategic as well as tactical input. They can also drive creative thinking. Bring the sales force early on. It can be the most efficient strategy to find out how the target market will respond to the marketing campaign. Perfect the campaign at the initial stage itself with advice from the sales department. Then during the campaign, not much tweaking would be required.

Demystify the clutter

As a marketer, it is important to explain to the sales representatives the mechanics involved in the campaigns. Avoid using jargon as far as possible as it would only add to the confusion. Make it easy for them to implement the campaign. Telling a compelling story, pointing the team to an important thought leader in the field, and illustrating it with a diagram are all tactics that can help the team better understand the objectives that the campaign is meant to achieve. A better-informed sales rep does a better job in supporting the marketing team in their campaigns.

Address the pain points promptly

Before launching a new campaign, the sales team goes through a learning curve. The duration of the learning time differs from one person to another depending on their learning propensity. Marketers should work hand in hand with the sales team to identify the pain points involved and address them in real time. Sometimes the team has a good understanding of the process. However, they waste an enormous amount of time during each step of the process that would ideally take a far lesser amount of time. This wastage of time should also be addressed using automated workflows, educational slide decks, and if needed by installing an internal CRM software.

Show them what’s in it for them

Each team member in the sales department is different. So are the personal aims.  Meet with each to find out what they are and relate the corporate goals to each person’s goals. Show them how the management can help them achieve these aims by accomplishing the company goals. After that, let them know that the communication lines are open to deal with any concerns, complaints, and ideas they may have as they go along. Give them the necessary training and tools required to roll out the campaign successfully. The sales team will then start feeling encouraged and motivated to be on the side of marketing.

Personalize tasks

Make sure the campaign tasks assigned to each member of the team play to their strengths. There is nothing more inefficient than putting people in mismatching tasks. People love to do those tasks that they are good at doing. It motivates them and keeps them productive. Then set measurable goals consensually and hold them accountable as agreed. Allow them to have a say in the improvisation process going forward. Paint the bigger picture and remind them why it matters to the company as a whole and how their personal goals and career advancement fit into the grand scheme of things.

Keep the team informed with regular updates

Keep the sales members regularly informed about the progress of the campaign through daily briefings, staff meetings, newsletters, etc. the staff will then start to see results as and when they happen and will feel valued by the management for their contribution. If there are any areas of the campaign that needs catching up, this will help the team come up with ways to bring the campaign back on the trail and forward. The methods thus suggested can also make their jobs much easier while enabling them to spend their valuable time on closing deals with qualified leads.

In larger corporations, it is a common practice to find task force teams set up around projects. Each of them would consist of 5 to7 members whose mandate it is to recommend ideas around an issue. The entire team agrees that they would strictly adhere to the recommendations thus made. In most cases, this arrangement has produced phenomenal results.

Companies launch marketing campaigns and promotions in response to varying market trends and consumer tastes. It is often the key responsibility area of a high-level Marketing Director or Business Development Manager who have a say in designing the campaign. Doing so without the input or feedback of the salespeople is doomed to failure. It is imperative to get the buy-in of the people who sell the products to the end-users. The success of the campaign, thus, to a large extent depends on including the salespeople in the decision-making process.

Photo Credit: Olu Eletu

Three Fs for Writing a Business Plan

Three Fs for Writing a Business Plan

Three Fs for Writing a Business Plan

Writing a real business plan comes innately only to a few. And that too after much skill. Those few may have chosen it as a career. Sometimes people in the academe write them for firms to earn a living. While the task is a chore to many for beginners it is a complete riddle. Start-ups find themselves compelled to write one for various reasons. The most common reason among them is to raise funds. People also write such plans for private investors. The aim then to get them to invest money in the firm. Another motive is to raise the stake in the firm. Also, entrepreneurs write them while seeking for new business. Even to sell the firm. Not knowing how to write one can be a nightmare. Here we give you a practical approach. We hope it can serve as a basic guideline.

Writing a Business Plan

Writing a real business plan comes innately only to a few. And that too after much skill. Those few may have chosen it as a career. Sometimes people in the academe write them for firms to earn a living. Even to sell the firm. Here we give you a practical approach.

Framing

Many people fail in their attempts to sit down and write a business plan. Because they face starting problems. An outline can help in overcoming the problem. Outlining involves jotting down what to write. Bear in mind the purpose of drafting the plan. Write as if you are talking to the target reader. In addition, think about who would be reading it. And draft an outline of what kind of info or data to include in it. Start writing the business plan section by section. This way provides a unified and logical flow to the rest of the content. It then becomes easier to arrange facts. Then start compiling them in a clear manner. Such a framework would appeal to the right audience.

Writing a business plan

Many people fail in their attempts to sit down and write a business plan. Because they face starting problems. An outline can help in overcoming the problem.

Filling

This stage is known as mapping scheme because it involves forming the exact order of sections. Delve deeper and write each area concisely for greater clarity. Planning stage is the muscles and flesh. It makes the content rich. Well, the target reader should find solid evidence of the business plan here. It would also enforce the standing of the plan. A few writing skills are needed here to make the concepts and ideas compelling.

Writing a Business Plan

This stage is known as mapping scheme because it involves forming the exact order of sections. Also called planning stage. Planning stage is the muscles and flesh. It makes the content rich. Well, the target reader should find solid evidence of the business plan here.

Finalizing

The draft is still rough at this stage as it needs some final touches. The next step is to edit it from top to bottom. Editing gives coherence and a smooth flow to the arguments expressed in the business plan. People write business plans to make a case. Hence it needs winning power. Repeat the main points throughout the document. For more emphasis furnish it with facts and figures. Make sure to use logic. Reasoning backed by information that was stated earlier in the plan can make arguments clearer. Edit the business plan further by paying attention to the smallest details. Fine-tuning the business plan in a detail oriented manner increases the readability of the document. If possible, let a third person review it for further refinement.

Writing a Business Plan

People write business plans to make a case. Hence it needs winning power.

A universally accepted and a regular business plan template is as follows:

  • Executive Summary: Executive summary is the most important part of a business plan. Ideally it highlights the strengths of the company. This part briefs the reader the competitive advantage of the business. Briefly summarize why you have the best business idea. It is a snapshot statement of the program of activities as a whole. It touches on the company profile and typically runs from 3 to 4 pages in length.
  • Company Overview: It should start by providing a brief history of the group ownership. It then goes on to describe the organization of the enterprise. A timeline as to when the business was founded is equally important. Information such as locations and facilities should also be included. Add the names of the key members of the management team. Profiling their backgrounds is an indicator of a well-thought-out business plan too.
  • Industry Analysis: This section requires substantial research. It gives an understanding of the external factors of the playing field and how the company responds to them. Explain what the cyclical changes are, profit opportunities, and how the company fits into the industry.
  • Market Analysis: The objective of market analysis is to provide a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the market. Such facts as demographics, segmentation, and market need are highly sought out by savvy investors. Market value, size, and regulation shows the investors that the business is lucrative enough.
  • Competitive Analysis: Identify the competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. A distinct advantage of the firm over the competition is a prerequisite for a business plan. The unique competitive strategies will set the company apart from others. Discuss here, if any, any barriers to entry and exit into the market.
  • Customer Analysis: This is a critical section that defines the characteristics of the target customer. Usually the characteristics are explained through their buying criteria and how the product typically satisfies their needs. Include also an in-depth analysis of the growth of the customer base, their average revenues, and service delivery model.
  • Marketing Agenda: Emphasize the unique selling proposition of the business in this section. Along with that the pricing and positioning strategy and distribution plan should also be included. A marketing plan that outlines the steps taken to retain existing customers or gain new customers will add credibility.
  • Strategy and Implementation: Insert in this segment a detailed plan of the marketing strategy and its implementation. It typically articulates how the company’s management intends to reach the products to the market. It includes the sales strategy, personnel hire, promotions and advertisement, distribution outlets, pricing, service delivery, guarantee policies and the like. Emphasis would be on past sales and a sales forecast.
  • Organization and Management: Highlight who does what and their added value to the company. It is a simple but effective way to portray an organizational chart with a narrative. This section would reassure the investor that the people onboard are more than names on the organizational diagram.
  • Financial Plan: Most investors are visuals. So, set up a spreadsheet with the past sales, sales forecast, and expense budget. It is also a good idea to incorporate a cash flow statement, assets, and liabilities. Some investors may require a breakeven analysis and the cost of doing business. A business planning software can be an invaluable help here.
  • Appendix: In general, this section holds the entire supporting documents. All that information that was too large to be included in the main body should go in here. Any figures, statistics, charts, graphs and illustrations that augment the main points in the body must be in this section.

3F plan provides a systematic and practical approach to preparing a business plan. It has been proven to bring success to budding entrepreneurs. Bear in mind to also study the target readers. And finally tweak the plan. Stress those areas that would appeal to them. Good luck!

Title Photo Credit: Helloquence