Use combined experience and brainpower to renew momentum or execute business turnaround strategy.
It’s always someone else’s job to fix what’s wrong. Things that can be easily improved in a business are often so rooted in habit that they become tolerated and even ignored. Business turnaround strategy and improvement ideas spring from collective thinking.
A periodic review meeting to solve sales problems, generate sales improvement momentum, or develop business turnaround strategy, has a significant impact on business success.
Use the ‘Get to Great system designed by Chris Whyatt with the following steps:
Start with a series of headings that describe critical success factors associated with the sales or marketing operation or the problems being experienced. For example, “Lead Generation”.
Next, for each heading, describe the ideal lead generation capability of the organisation. Any organisation that conformed to this statement could be considered to be the best they could possibly be, for instance: “Marketing generates more qualified leads and enquiries than are needed for sales targets to be met.”
In the ‘Get to Great’ system this would be known as the 100% answer and represents perfection.
Since what is meant by ‘qualified lead’ and what is considered by sales to be ‘enough’ may not be defined, this statement alone might generate a lot of healthy debate amongst sales and marketing managers.
If a management team could agree that this statement was true for their operation, then it could be said that the business was as good as it could possibly be in this respect. Perfection is hard to attain. This is likely to be a rare circumstance.
If we were to define a merely ‘good performance’ the compliance statement might read: “Marketing generates enough qualified leads and enquiries to make a worthwhile contribution to sales success”.
In the ‘Get to Great’ system this would be known as the 75% answer and represents top quartile performance.
Once again we have a resolvable difficulty with definition of terms. Ideally, the terms ‘qualified’ and ‘worthwhile’ need defining for a management team to reach compliance consensus.
The most common reality might be represented by this statement: “Marketing generates some useful leads and enquiries on a sporadic basis. Consequently sales cannot rely on marketing generated interest to ensure a steady flow of sales opportunities.”
In the ‘Get to Great’ system this would be known as the 50% answer. It represents the average or most commonly found circumstances for the heading. The statement should more or less reflect the norm.
A less acceptable description of circumstances could be: “Marketing occasionally generates useful leads or enquiries. These are considered lucky occurrences by the sales team.”
In the ‘Get to Great’ system this would be known as the 25% answer. This acknowledges inferior performance. Or worse still: “No one can remember the last time a marketing generated lead or enquiry was turned into a sale.” In the ‘Get to Great’ system this is known as the 0% answer. The potential for improvement is total.
Try presenting these classifications in the next management meeting and ask everyone to select the statement that they believe to be the most accurate. Then try to get consensus on the answer. If you can’t get consensus, make sure that everyone has had a chance to express their opinion and then accept the majority rating to keep things moving forward.
Next pose the question, “As an organisation, is this conclusion acceptable or should we commit to address the sales problems it exposes?”
If necessary, allow some more debate. If the conclusion is that it must be improved, harness the combined thought power of the team to identify the necessary actions.
Take care to ensure that the resulting actions don’t all land on the same plate, unless it is deserved.
Once the actions and responsibilities are defined, have the team agree time scales and add a review to the agenda of appropriate future meetings.
If the process is facilitated well, the outcome should be a very satisfying set of agreed, time tabled, and committed actions for improvement.
If you do this in a routine meeting, you may find it takes up too much time. This will be especially true if you attempt to review five to ten critical performance headings related to business performance of the organisation. It is very worthwhile to set aside a two day offsite meeting to to make use of this process for generating business turnaround or improvement strategies.
The same process can be conducted at a department or team level providing that the headings are kept within the bounds of each teams collective ability to act.
It may be that you can use this process to improve any function in your organisation without outside support; however, there are a few pit falls and obstacles that often defeat the best intentions.
- Someone has to craft the statements. When this is a member of the team or the team leader, that person often feels he or she must defend the statements. When an someone feels threatened by a statement, and this is often the case, whoever wrote it comes under fire. For this reason alone, it is worth having an outsider conduct a consultation with appropriate managers, construct the assessment statements, and then facilitate the meeting.
- The team leader needs to be free to fully participate in the discussion and depending on judgement and perspective, influence proceedings. As a consequence is it impossible for him or her to be seen as neutral. For the process to realise its full potential, a neutral professional facilitator is necessary.
- In the ‘Action Identification’ phase, an independent facilitator can introduce ‘best practice’ ideas and share the experiences of others without provoking the same degree of competitive reaction between members of the team.
So you see, having a consultant (professional facilitator) read your watch and tell you the time, might be a good idea after all.
Article by Clive Miller
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