Did You Get the Sales Results You Expected in 2018?

Well, did you? To improve results in 2019 start with evaluating what went right and where you fell short this year. Here are some questions to help guide that review.

As you enter the final weeks of 2018, it is a great opportunity to conduct a positive and honest evaluation of your sales successes and failures. It can be educational and fun to relive the victories and successes from the last 12 months.

And there is some valuable gold to be mined when evaluating where you came up short.

Conduct a general review

An annual sales and business review is an opportunity to study how you achieved the revenue growth you desire. A balanced and realistic review is most effective when you are willing to acknowledge the opportunities to improve as you celebrate the victories. The review should focus on the decisions you and your team made and the decisions you need to make in 2019. It is not about looking to place blame; it is about looking to get better as a business.

There are many areas to evaluate when it comes to assessing your success. Consider asking the following questions of your business.

Question No. 1: What went well? What were your wins in 2018? Did your results in 2018 keep the business on the desired growth trajectory? What challenges and obstacles did you overcome? Are there enough opportunities in the sales pipeline for 2019? Are these opportunities enough for you to achieve both your growth and profit goals in 2019?

Question No. 2: What did not go well? What were the losses in 2018? Where did you struggle with customers? Did you have product or service issues? Did any new competitors enter the market? Do you have enough growth opportunities in the pipeline?

Take a closer look at sales and marketing tactics

A sales team does not function as individuals or in isolation. A sales team is the beginning of a broader business system.

Each individual sales person can positively, or negatively, impact the broader business system. The business review can help improve performance in a chaotic and uncertain future by prioritizing opportunities, repositioning resources, learning new skills and making better and faster decisions.

Consider asking the following questions of your sales and marketing processes.

Question No. 3: Does your sales process support your growth and profit goals? A sales process is a series of repeatable tasks, steps, activities and metrics covering targeting and contacting prospects continuing to the conversion, close and retention.

Process- and systems-based thinking help build repeatable and consistent systems that lead to a scalable and more valuable company. People-based systems can have numerous weaknesses and failure points that increases the cost of managing.

An effective sales process should:

  • Align with the customer’s buying process;
  • help your business operate effectively (when operations are smooth, there is solid teamwork across departments and goals are being met, there is likely a high level of accountability for results); and
  • Be automated, which facilitates continuous improvement.

Question No. 4: Does your marketing and lead generation help you attract, create and retain enough of the target customers you need? Is your sales team complaining about working on too many qualified leads?

Question No. 5: Are you effectively communicating and differentiating your value for customers? Professional relationship building based on skills, knowledge and solutions are compelling and valued by the customers.

Question No. 6: Do you know the value of your customers? Are you targeting, attracting and retaining the best customers for your business? Do you know your customer acquisition cost? Are they looking for ways to lower cost of acquisition? Do you measure Customer Lifetime Value and are you working to make them more valuable?

Question No. 7: Who on your sales team needs help and where?

Success in sales is based on individuals holding themselves accountable for delivering results in the assigned roles. Each role has a set of expectations and accountability for results. Are you satisfied with the results of each member of your team?

A deeper dive into assessing performance

Here are some areas and questions to consider when it comes to taking a closer look into the status of your sales team, and what is needed to improve it.

  • Are your performance and results aligned with company goals and values? Are you aligned, top to bottom, on the activities and processes that produce the growth and profit results? Everyone needs to be rowing in the right direction.
  • When it comes to capacity, quality, quantity and productivity of sales activities, are you delivering the best possible results for the resources assigned? Are you using assigned resources productively to achieve financial goals? Can your individual output be measured and how can it be improved?
  • How effective are you? Are you focusing on what you know works? How is time invested in prospecting, selling/conversion, closing and non-sales activities/junk activities? Are your sales resources going to the right growth and profit opportunities?
  • How efficient are you? How accurately are activities in the sales and operations process getting done? How fast are opportunities progressing through the stages of your sales process?  

And, as you continue to assess performance, consider some of the several reasons why members of sales team may not be performing at the desired level. Here are some examples of things that can inhibit performance.

  • Employees are not clear on what to do when it comes to their job description, sales process, technology, training, etc.
  • Employees are novices or do not know how to do the sales job. They do not have the sales or business skills, product/industry knowledge and tools to be successful.
  • Employees are not motivated and have a lack of drive, ambition, passion and desire to succeed and win.
  • Employees consistently run out of time—whether it’s because they waste time or there just isn’t enough time to get the job done.
  • Employees have a high level of fear in several areas keeping them from engaging.

So, what have you learned with your 2018 review? Are you on a good growth trajectory? Are you hitting your profit goals? What needs to be improved? Who needs help?

By working backward from the results, you get a chance to look at your process, the key activities and the key players implementing the activities.

After completing your review, you should have a solid list of areas to improve upon and an action plan for the next quarter.  

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” Vince Lombardi

Wayne Bergman is a business and executive coach and founder of Consistent Business Growth. Questions or comments about this piece? Email him directly at wayne@cbgrowth-gfm.com.

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  • Next up: Digital Marketing: 3 Takeaways

    Digital Marketing: 3 Takeaways

    Jason Therrien of thunder::tech lists the top three takeaways from his recent COSE Business Growth Boot Camp.

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  • Next up: Digital Marketing: Focus and Set Realistic Goals for Your Campaign

    Digital Marketing: Focus and Set Realistic Goals for Your Campaign

    In the lead up to a special COSE Business Growth Boot Camp Series that launches this month, we sat down with Boot Camp presenter Marisa Pisani of Adcom to get a sense of what attendees are going to take away from the events.

    Thirty years ago, the potential marketing channels available to businesses were limited. Phone. Billboards. Direct mail. TV. Print. That covered the bulk of a company’s choices.

    The marketing world is much different today. The number of channels open to businesses is seemingly endless, especially as it relates to digital marketing. So, how do you focus on which of these avenues makes the most sense for you? And just as importantly, how do you set realistic goals you can use to gauge the success of your campaign?

    Those are going to be two of the questions addressed by Adcom’s Marisa Pisani during a unique two-part COSE Boot Camp Series. In the first workshop to be held from 7:30 to 10 a.m. on Feb. 22, “Business Growth Boot Camp Part 1: Understanding Digital Marketing & Creating Measurable Results for Your Brand,” Pisani will explain what options are available to you today and which of these, given the limited time and resources small businesses have available, make the most sense to become a priority for your business.

    RELATED: Learn more and register for the Business Growth Boot Camp.

    And there’s a lot to consider. Among the topics Pisani will cover include:

    Build a strategy: Every company is unique. How does your company’s strategy intersect with the options that are out there?

    Know the options: Will paid search be a good use of your limited funds? Or should you focus on increasing traffic to your site organically? Pisani will lay out the pros and cons of the options that are out there and what will yield the most conversions.

    Learn from the best: How can you apply the blueprints other companies have used to find great success in their digital marketing campaigns?

    Pisani will follow up this presentation with a more granular discussion on March 22 from 7:30 to 10 a.m. during “Business Growth Boot Camp Part 2: Think Outside the Box.”

    Related: Learn more about Part 2 of this Business Growth Boot Camp series.

    This session will build on the lessons learned during Part 1. Now that you know where to spend your time and money, how do you scale it and make it more automated? The points addressed during this follow-up session will include:

    Measurable results: Launching your campaign is only half the battle. What are you doing that’s measurable? And what are you learning about your audience?

    Refine your campaign: And using the data you’ve gathered, how do you focus your campaign to make it as successful as possible? What’s the best way to stay in front of your customers to keep your brand top of mind?

    At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that you are not marketing to machines. You’re marketing to human beings. This Business Growth Boot Camp is a unique, fun way to learn how to reach these humans using proven, realistic methods that give you the best chance to grow your business.

    Secure your spot for this unique Business Growth Boot Camp experience today. You can register for Part 1 by clicking here. And learn more and register for Part 2 by clicking here.

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  • Next up: Digital Marketing: What Is It and What Does It Mean for Small Business?

    Digital Marketing: What Is It and What Does It Mean for Small Business?

    The New Year offers a perfect time to tackle fresh challenges for your business. You’ve prepared a game plan for the year ahead, made projections, mapped your budget, and identified new investments you intend to make. You’re ready to go. Time to accomplish everything on your list, one by one.

    The New Year offers a perfect time to tackle fresh challenges for your business. You’ve prepared a game plan for the year ahead, made projections, mapped your budget, and identified new investments you intend to make. You’re ready to go. Time to accomplish everything on your list, one by one.

    After so many years, you’ve developed a process, and established a working formula that could be described as semi-effective. The low hanging fruit—the practical stuff that’s easy to tackle, easy to measure—always makes it to the top of the list, while the more organic, harder to quantify stuff such as your marketing strategy, get relegated to the back burner.

    The promise of a new marketing strategy in the new year and the challenge of stepping up your marketing game is challenging indeed, and formidable by nature. Every year you endeavor to get a handle on it, and every year it slips through your fingers. Before you know it, it’s July, the THIRD QUARTER has started, and you’re still struggling to get your foot in the game. Eventually you give up altogether, put your marketing priorities on autopilot and hope for the best, or at least for a better shot at it next year.

    The results of your marketing efforts are not always easy to measure, because traditional forms of marketing haven’t always lent themselves well to the assurances of instant gratification. The natural response is to put your marketing strategy on the shelf, and hope it takes care of itself.

    Thankfully, we live in a time where traditional forms of marketing are being replaced by the use of new information channels and new methods that enable small businesses to analyze what works and what doesn’t, in real time. This is the age of digital marketing: No more wondering whether a particular marketing campaign is paying off. Now you can manage and track quantifiable results in real time.

    You’ve effectively run a business for many years. Your reputation is sound, and your client base is solid. But lately you’ve noticed the same faces walking through the door. How do you break with tradition and make the most use out of the ever-allusive digital space, crack the code and bring in new business?

    The good news is you already understand the basics of digital marketing, in a purely intuitive sense. After all, you engage in the digital space every day as a person, a consumer, and, of course, as a small business owner. It’s everywhere, embedded, coded, for your convenience whether you’re conscious of it or not. In fact, the very ubiquitous-ness of digital marketing might explain why it can be both easy to utilize and hard to grasp at the same time. The biggest challenge is often knowing where to dive in.

    Fortunately, you’ve been in business long enough to have gathered a lot of the basic tools needed to survive in this new territory: company website, Facebook page, client list (with important data like email addresses and names), even your own Twitter feed.

    Trouble is:

    1. Your website is out-of-date and unresponsive (i.e., it doesn’t translate well on mobile and other handheld devices).
    2. Your client list is stuck on a local network somewhere in your office and has never been imported into an email Marketing service such as MailChimp or an online marketing resource like Constant Contact.
    3. Your Facebook page hasn’t been updated since Labor Day Weekend, 2013.
    4. Your Twitter account is so dormant that, even if you wanted to tweet about your latest promotion, you couldn’t remember your login credentials to do so.

    These factors amount to a tremendous disconnect between your business and the purchasing habits of today’s consumer, and the trends of the marketplace in 2017. Consider these seven useful tips to help get a handle on this new wave in marketing communications.

    1. You need an upgrade. To bridge the gap, temper the divide, and build a global client base, start by rebuilding your website on a content management system, such as WordPress that lends itself well to the demands of the new marketplace. This is enormously important. Most consumers today are searching and making purchasing choices with a mobile device. If your site was built before 2012, chances are it doesn’t translate well in today’s mobile environment. Upgrading to a more contemporary, responsive website that clearly lists your products and services, and allows consumers to contact you on the go, and make buying decisions with you from their phones, is tremendous.

    2. Re-write, remove, edit, and update old content to improve the search rankings of your website. You’re essentially killing two birds with one stone here. On one hand, you’re giving your content a much-needed upgrade. On the other hand—by re-crafting the content on your website with a focus on keywords—you’re essentially optimizing your site in the process. It’s not enough to tell your clients who you are and what you do these days. You’ve got to strategically craft the content on your site (through the use of code optimization, link building, and other methods) in order for it to register with the search engines of the world. This ups your online profile, and ultimately leads to new business.

    3. Start using that old blog page if you’ve got one. One of the simplest, most effective ways to ensure your site continues to rate well with the search engines of the world is to keep it stocked with fresh content. Having an active blog is a great way to accomplish this. Try posting regular content once a month or every couple weeks about certain aspects of your business. Make it educational. Fill it with keywords (or terminology central to your business), and soon you’ll see your rankings improve. You don’t need to re-write War and Peace here. No one’s going to read that anyway. Regular, easy to read, bite-sized content on your blog (unique to your business) goes a long way. So, delete that old post from 10 years ago, the one with all the cobwebs growing around it, and start fresh!

    4. Stay connected with your client base by utilizing your contact email list. Ensure it’s up to date and use it to create regular eblasts, promotions, and newsletters to communicate with your clients. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. Keep your promos simple. Re-purpose content from your blog and, with it, craft the occasional newsletter. Another great advantage to using e-marketing tools is many of them offer you the ability to manage and monitor the effectiveness of each marketing campaign in real time. Each app provides built in metrics that allow you to monitor the click rate and conversion rate (i.e., those customers who did more than just window shop or browse) of your latest marketing campaigns, and ultimately the purchasing habits of your customers. Strong stuff.

    5. Utilize social media. Here’s where that old Facebook page of yours (the one that hasn’t been updated in years) comes into play. Take the content from your Blog, or the promos from your latest newsletter and send them out on social. Re-post to your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages. But don’t just regurgitate the content. Tweak it, and edit it for context. This is where you can have a bit of fun with your marketing strategy. Slice, dice, and customize your marketing efforts. Tailor your message to fit the medium.

    6. Do the time. The biggest commitment you need to make when it comes to digital marketing is time. And it’s not always as simple as carving out an hour in your day, at the same time every day. This is ephemeral stuff. Keeping your digital marketing efforts up to date requires stealing time when you can get it. The digital flow of information fluctuates too much to settle for anything less. Being there with something fresh, oftentimes at the spur of the moment, is key. The tools used for your digital marketing efforts are ultimately perishable products. The relevance of information continually ebbs and flows. Your digital marketing strategy will dry up unless you care for it on the regular. Shooting from the hip, and keeping the lines of communication open are key. You already have the tools in place to reach your clients when you get the urge. A stolen moment goes a long way in the digital space, and you never know what posts will resonate with your customers. Sometimes it’s the simplest stuff.

    7. Get buzzed by association! This is an effective and perfectly legitimate strategy in digital marketing. Consider sponsoring a popular event in your area. Well attended, buzz worthy events (and the people and organizations involved with them) often promote themselves organically. Reposting, sharing, hashtagging, you name it. Making room in your yearly marketing budget to support and sponsor these types of events will insert your company name and logo into the digital market stream by proxy. Ride the wave.

    There you have it. The democratization of business right at your fingertips. You have the potential to grow your business, expand your sphere of influence, and multiply your client base with the touch of a button, from the comforts of your office. Knowing which channels to focus on and prioritize is the challenge. It’s OK to pick and choose. The New Year is here. Don’t water down your to-do list with other seemingly more manageable priorities. Keep your marketing strategy front and center, up-to-date, and off the back burner.

    Michael J. Miller is a part of the Go Media team.To learn more about building the right digital marketing strategy for your business, contact Go Media, your Cleveland Digital Marketing Specialists.

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  • Next up: Does Your Marketing Suck?

    Does Your Marketing Suck?

    Spoiler alert: It probably does, but our columnist is too nice to say it.

    I thought of calling this rant ‘Your Marketing Sucks,’ but that declarative statement sounded too in-your-face and presumptuous, even for me. So, I changed the statement into a question to let you decide if your marketing sucks, and how much.

    Many small business owners and entrepreneurs play around with marketing plans and tools, but few of them meet expectations and even fewer exceed them. So, let’s consider three critical questions that will help you position your marketing on the positive side of the ‘Sucks Continuum,’ which ranges from ‘Doesn’t suck at all, thank you very much,’ all the way to ‘Sucks so bad, I’m really embarrassed!’  

    •          RELATED: The four biggest marketing mistakes you’re making as a business owner.

    Question No. 1: How well does your marketing program meet defined objectives?

    In order to answer this first question, you might need to consider some follow-up questions: Did your current plan or specific tools meet the metrics you set up for them at the onset? How did they relate to your definition of success? Did you get a positive ROI?

    Tip: You know your marketing sucks if it didn’t produce a positive ROI, it and sucks really bad if you didn’t have any metrics to measure and evaluate success to begin with.

    To help improve your marketing, you need to clearly redefine SMART goals going forward. They need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. So, think in terms of numbers:

    •          How many initial inquiries or site visits do you want to achieve?

    •          How many actual phone, in-person or email conversations should result?

    •          How many proposals or serious buying discussions?

    •          How many actual sales?

    •          What’s your ROI—ratio of new business revenue and profit generated (yes, they’re different numbers) to marketing program costs?

    •          Did you get any survey or anecdotal customer feedback about the campaign?

    Question No. 2: How well do your marketing messages communicate in a customer-centric manner?

    And again, the follow-up questions: Did you communicate with prospects and customers the way they like to be communicated with? Did you use their language, not yours? Did you sound like a real person who has value and cares about their needs? Were you customer-centric?

    Tip: You know your marketing sucks if you weren’t communicating in a customer-centric manner, and it really sucks if you have no clue what that means.

    So, go where they are. Here’s how.

    •          Don’t baffle them with acronyms or buzz words.

    •          Use words they understand in a syntax that makes you sound authentic.

    •          Don’t try to impress them with your lofty vocabulary. Impress them with your clarity.

    •          Use the Q&A format—sound like you’re responding to questions they have, or should have, about their needs and your products or services. That’s where ‘FAQs’ came from.

    •          Regularly let them know when you achieve a milestone, earn an award or are featured in the local—or national—media. Make it sound like you assume they all really care about you and your business. Some of them actually do. More will when you give them good reasons to care.

    Question No. 3:  How well does your marketing program reward customer loyalty?

    Follow-up: Do you constantly seek new customers, but make existing ones still feel special? Once you ‘get them in the tent,’ what do you do to keep them there? How much time, effort and money do you spend trying to get new business from existing customers rather than trying to get new customers? Do your customer loyalty and referral programs create positive results?


    •          RELATED: The easy way to earn repeat and referral business.

    Tip: You know your marketing sucks if you spend more time, effort and money trying to get new customers than maximizing value from existing customers, and it really sucks if you don’t have a customer loyalty or referral program.

    So, embrace the time-honored marketing concept that it’s 10 times easier, faster and cheaper to get new business from existing customers than it is to get new customers. Here’s how.

    •          Create simple customer loyalty programs with quick rewards that give them a reason to buy from you again and again rather than from the competition.

    •          Find ways to reward customers for referring their friends or colleagues. Depending on your industry, consider tangible gifts, coupons for money off, freebies and even donations to non-profits.

    •          Analyze your customer base to determine VIPs to be rewarded differently. Think frequent flyer programs with their various tiers of rewards.

    •          Periodically talk to your existing customers about ways to improve your products or services. With small customer bases, call them. With larger groups, try targeted emails or a percentage each week or month.

    •          Consider invitation-only customer appreciation sales or events.

    •          You may give away cool logo SWAG at trade shows to get new customers, so why not periodically send cool stuff to your customers, especially your VIPs?

    These questions should help you assess how much your marketing sucks. That’s the easy part. Putting the best practices referenced in the answers to work for your business is the hard part. So, start small and simple. Try a few strategies and evaluate the results. Network with colleagues to learn what they do. Regularly incorporate new strategies with proven worth. Keep striving to move your overall marketing as far to the positive side on the ‘Sucks Continuum’ as you can. Your bottom line will tell you how well you’re doing.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440-449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. 

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  • Next up: Dont be the Next Unicorn Frappuccino

    Dont be the Next Unicorn Frappuccino

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