We know that to grow organically requires a business strategy that increases sales through selling to more customers in existing markets, finding new markets or launching new products.
In the current economic climate, this hunt for growth is likely to be affected by one or more of these issues:
- Delayed engagement and more scrutiny by your customers.
- Coping with shifting technologies, and emerging disruptive business models driven by the internet and smartphones.
- More price-sensitive, informed and educated customers.
- Your customers wanting improved services and being less tolerant of poor quality in delivery.
You will need to rethink how you source leads, manage pipelines, and harness your scarce resources to grow your business more effectively. Understanding your industry and competitive advantage enables you to develop an enduring business strategy.
So how do you overcome the complexity it takes to generate growth? You will need a growth plan.
Why plan for growth?
Strategic planning for revenue growth is one of the most critical components in today’s business world. After all, organic growth is the one viable method available to create new revenue in a systematic and sustainable manner. It is also one of the least understood. We all know our costs to the 4th decimal place. In contrast, revenue generation seems like a black box.
So you want a growth plan. What can go wrong? Here are seven common mistakes that we regularly observe when companies develop and execute a growth plan.
1. Not concentrating resources
Avoid the scatter gun approach. A good sales strategy looks at all available resources and concentrates them on a few carefully chosen options to move the chosen target markets in your favour.
2. Failure to understand the customer
Even the largest companies cannot effectively compete in every market. By now, most leaders understand that segmenting the customers is vital. Why then do we still see broad market segment labels such as “women” still crop up. Women make up 52% of the whole market. Don’t our mothers have different needs to our daughters?
For optimum results, you will need to overcome the fear of specialisation; instead we suggest that you target a few narrow, well-defined customer segments based on the problems that your solutions can potentially solve for these customers. You also need to understand changing customer behaviours. What customers wanted a few years ago is not necessarily what they want and need now.
3. Over-estimation of business development capabilities
In golf, knowing that we need to hit the fairway and hitting it are two vastly different scenarios. Similarly, it is easy to not fully grasp what it takes to execute the sales strategy once you have identified and secured access to the correct customers. Invest in the business development skills of your front-line to convert the leads from the launch of your next new offering to obtain real results from executing your strategy. After all, your staff are your greatest assets. Early success is also a terrific motivation tool – share this success with your team, at every opportunity.
4. Failure to get buy-in from the team for the sales strategy
Leaders embrace change readily, employees often fear it or fight it. True leadership requires getting buy-in from those you lead. It will make your job easier when executing the sales strategy if you have engaged your team before you finalise your sales strategy. Imposing a new strategy top-down is easy, but does not work unless you have engaged staff who buy-in to your business purpose and vision.
5. Over-estimation of the time requirements to make the changes
Change is key for any business to remain relevant and grow. Change always takes time. Ensure that you allow adequate time for the full impact of the sales strategy to be understood and executed by your front-line.
6. Failure to orchestrate the plan for growth
World class companies create a culture for growth based on the long-game. They focus on the pivot role – first-line managers. They make business development a key priority. They look beyond individual skills to develop organisational capabilities, enhancing customer-centric execution. They invest more time in the field with customers. They look beyond the short-term profit by creating the correct tempo for executing the sales strategy. This requires you to orchestrate your plan in many dimensions, with multiple stakeholders. The growth plan is only a starting point.
7. Not measuring the success of the growth plan
Once you have the growth plan in place and the new strategy has been launched, it is inevitable that conversations start to fade away after an initial burst of excitement and curiosity. A few months down the road and you have no idea if things are on track. This is a big gotcha moment that derails many transformation programs in the quest for growth.
Both quantitative and qualitative factors need to be used when measuring sales strategy execution – along with a clear focus on what defines success. This work has to be done at the outset, before launching the new strategy. Clearly defined KPIs will keep you on track and focused.
How many of these seven bullets can you dodge? How will your company manage the growth plan to fulfil the potential, as desired and planned?
If you plan your growth – and manage your growth deliberately – you’ll find it easier to ride the wave of change and execute your plan to realise the full potential of your business. Business owners and leaders spend too much time fire-fighting the day-to-day issues. We encourage you to invest more time planning and executing the correct growth strategy that targets the correct customers.
Shehan Wijetilaka is the co-founder and chief executive of GROW-STRATEGY.com. Jasia Fabig heads up practice development for MLC Advice Partnerships at NAB Wealth.