One challenge of the new economy is that common business principles and practices that were sufficient on which to build a business just a few years ago, today are not.
Take the case of one of my clients who told me recently, “I’ve been in business for seventeen years. And we’ve done well. But now, it seems like everything is changing, and I don’t know what to do.”
He went on to explain that he had built his formerly thriving tool and die business on certain core principles: Quality workmanship, competitive prices, and good service. Those principles had brought him word-of-mouth business consistently over the years. But they were no longer working, and his business was floundering.
In the past you could distinguish your business from others on the basis of such principles and practices as good service, quality and word-of-mouth, but today the bar has risen. Because there is so much churn in the market and competition is so fierce, what was sufficient a few years ago is still necessary today, but it is no longer enough.
Expecting customers to recognize your superior quality and service, and passively relying on them to tell others about you won’t keep you in business anymore. Your job is to create an attractive operation that will pull customers to you and then keep them coming back.
Here are four of the most common of these no longer sufficient practices. See if any apply to you.
# 1: Creating sales by relying totally on outside salespeople
In the past, it was OK to hire a number of salespeople, give them some basic training, and charge them to, “Go forth and sell a lot." Sales territories were geographically based and each salesperson was a clone of the other. Accountability was a nasty word that no one repeated.
Today this practice is a prescription for failure. The better approach is a variety of sales methodologies, based on the potential and dynamics of the customer.
# 2: Managing the sales force by pay plan
In other words, pay them straight commission and everything will take care of itself. There was a generation for whom this worked.
Unfortunately, today’s work force is rarely motivated by just money.
# 3: Relying on "on-the-job" training
The old thought was that anyone can learn how to be an effective salesperson. Just put them out there in a sales territory, and sooner or later they will figure out how to do the job well.
When the job of the salesperson was simpler, and the customer less sophisticated, this was OK. Today, of course, it positions your sales force as the less educated, less competent one in the market.
# 4: Hiring by “feel”
When it comes time to hire a new salesperson, find someone who has some experience in the industry and about whom you “feel” good.
This is prescription for a group of clones who please the boss but are rarely what the job demands. Today there are far more sophisticated and effective hiring criteria and practices than this.
This list could go on and on but these are the most common. If they apply to you, it is time to rethink your position so you can succeed in the new economy.
Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople, sales managers and business owners to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He's authored eight books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries. To access Dave's training, insights and tools online, visit The Sales Resource Center.