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Archive for November, 2015

Sandbox “Hunters” Game Plan: What We Do and How We Do It

November 30th, 2015 // Dan Doescher //
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Dan Doescher photo & Sandbox Partners logo

For years, my big brother Tom and I have been intrigued by businesses we’ve encountered whose leadership is convinced their company is unique in certain ways — and then, upon further research, we find the contrary to be true.

Successfully attracting new customers/clients requires a clear understanding of what you do and how you do it. That seems simple enough, right? But is your mission, your purpose, in writing? Does your team understand it enough to explain it? Even more importantly, do they embrace it?

Some call the process of aligning these aspects of your business strategic planning. Others consider it SWOT analysis documentation:

  • Strengths: aspects of your business that provide advantage over others.
  • Weaknesses: aspects of your business that put you at a disadvantage compared to others.
  • Opportunities: aspects of your business that could be leveraged for further advantage.
  • Threats: aspects outside your business that could cause you difficulty.

Regardless of what it’s called, it’s a necessary process. Engage your team in such an effort.

Be careful, however, because this is a process that can take on a not-so-helpful life of its own and backfire unless you’ve given it plenty of thought and preparation. Here are a few things worth considering:

  1. Include the appropriate people – the approvers and/or those who will be responsible for implementing plans.
  2. Don’t include so many people that you stifle input and candor.
  3. Plan the timing for the entire process, from beginning to end. Include lock-down dates, and get a firm commitment from participants.
  4. An offsite meeting location is advisable, to avoid daily distractions. Perhaps one of your company advisers can provide a conference room in their offices.
  5. An outside facilitator can sometimes be useful.
  6. Warn participants that “homework” before and/or between sessions may be necessary.
  7. Commitment by all, backed up by accountability, is key to getting this task accomplished.

Ultimately, you’re trying to come out of this process with action plans – to-do lists – that focus your team’s efforts on bringing in more new customers/clients.

Some practical, useful outcomes might include:

  1. Can your potential customers/clients clearly understand who you are and what you do?
  2. How can features of what you do create benefits?
  3. Remember that relatable success stories are powerful.
  4. Describe how you serve customers/clients — including who, their roles, communication lines and where “the buck stops.”
  5. Demonstrate any synergies within your company that will benefit customers/clients.

Once you’ve engaged in this process, you will be:

  1. Encouraged by an increased confidence and recommitment to leveraging your strengths to seize untapped opportunities.
  2. Aware of areas to either shore up or avoid altogether.
  3. More informed about your competition and the related implications (which we’ll talk about next time).

Is what you do and how you do it really different?

Next post: But We’re Different

Tom’s editorial comment: If, while you’re reading this series, you believe Dan could be helpful to your company, please contact him directly at dan.doescher@sandboxpartnersint.com, or 248-701-8787.

Sandbox “Hunters” Game Plan: Who We Are and Why We’re Here

November 23rd, 2015 // Dan Doescher //
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Dan Doescher photo & Sandbox Partners logo

Assuming growth is a priority and you understand why you want to grow, it’s critical to ensure that your most important resource, your team, is on board with you. Inherent in “on board” is reaching a clear understanding and alignment of “why” (see my November 16, 2015, “Let’s Get Growing” post).

Call it whatever you like — mission, purpose, vision — but define it. If you already have one, review it for reconfirmation and redouble your commitment. It should be very specific, brief — preferably a dozen words or less — and easy to remember. Ideally, its creation is a team effort that will result in shared alignment and passion. Ultimately, it drives a “way of life” in your business.

Be disciplined in this process. Some team members will have laser-like focus, while others can take you into the weeds. Consider capturing your core values first. Whether you’ve ever considered core values or not, you have them — you believe them, you operate by them — so simply reduce them to writing. Keep the list reasonably brief, three to six ideals, and make sure they’re a reflection of what really matters to your organization — how you want potential customers/clients to see you.

Why is the “why” so important? The alignment of your company’s efforts begins with an alignment of thoughts. Developing tactical efforts requires making decisions about resource allocation, and a clearly defined consensus of thought becomes your compass for decision-making. This enables you to make the tough choices when developing your action plans.

James Dibler, an owner and CEO of BlueRock Technologies, has taken this effort to a whole new level. As team members join the firm, they are required to read Jim Collins’ books Great by Choice and Good to Great, and Tony Hseih’s book Delivering Happiness.  Then the new members are asked to give management a summary of what stood out to them. James is trying to help reinforce his company’s values and purpose, as well as benefit from new ideas reading the books may trigger.

Can you state your core mission, purpose, or vision? If not, it’s likely your team can’t, either. If you can clearly verbalize your mission, purpose, and vision, do you know if your top leaders can? Regardless, it may be time to step back and capture them in writing or reconfirm your collective commitment to them.

With a clearly aligned view of where you and your team are headed, you’ll be ready to proceed to the next planning stage.

Next post: What We Do and How We Do It

Tom’s editorial comment: If, while reading this series, you believe Dan could be helpful to your company, please contact him directly at dan.doescher@sandboxpartnersint.com, or 248-701-8787.

Sandbox “Hunters” Game Plan: Let’s Get Growing

November 16th, 2015 // Dan Doescher //
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Dan Doescher photo & Sandbox Partners logo

Maintaining status quo as a sustainable option is a risky strategy. Compared to your competitors, you’re either growing or you’re declining. Knowing why you want to grow is a critical first step in developing your plan — just be aware that growth for growth’s sake isn’t a recommended strategy. In this series, my focus is new customer/client attraction.

Thinking that growth automatically results in higher profitability is tempting, but it’s not necessarily true (think GM). While increasing profits is a great reason — and often a driver – for growth, there are other reasons to consider growing. Some of them might include:

  1. Building a stronger base and critical market mass for entity continuation.
  2. Increasing specialization to better meet customer/client needs.
  3. Expanding product/service offerings to become a full-service solution.
  4. Entering new geographic markets to build/expand competitive advantage.
  5. Increasing your opportunity to acquire competitors or as an exit strategy.
  6. Increasing opportunities for current and future staff.
  7. Increasing pay to help attract best talent.

As noted, increasing profits is a worthy pursuit. Even so, a balanced approach is advisable. Be mindful of Arthur Andersen’s infamous demise, which was set up by the company’s unreasonable focus on growth for the purpose of increasing profits.

When properly approached, strategic planning will define the “why” you want to grow, provide alignment for how to allocate resources, and focus your team’s efforts. However, this doesn’t mean you’re ready to engage in growth-oriented efforts. There are several fundamental questions you should consider before proceeding, such as:

  1. Are you scoring better than average, or perhaps even in the upper quartile, with existing customer/client satisfaction and profitability? The worst thing you can do is put your current customer/client base at risk due to the potential distraction of chasing new business.
  1. Who will lead the new business development? Are they truly empowered to make things happen, and do they have the time to devote to such an effort? This isn’t easy stuff to begin with, so not having the right team properly equipped is likely a doomed effort. (See my November 9, 2015, “What is a Hunter?” blog.)
  1. Are your systems (operations and administration) sufficient to respond to new business?
  1. Are you prepared to invest the additional money needed to ensure the effort has a sustainable opportunity for success? On this point, budgets/plans are always recommended to help define success, to set expectations (both your own and those of others), to provide a compass showing your current position, and to give you the opportunity to change directions when needed — which is inevitable.

If your responses to these questions aren’t clearly affirmative, it’s likely more work is needed in these areas, and proceeding without additional thought and planning could result in more harm than good.

Next post: Who We Are and Why We’re Here

Tom’s editorial comment: If, while you’re reading this series, you believe Dan could be helpful to your company, please contact him directly at dan.doescher@sandboxpartnersint.com, or 248-701-8787.

Sandbox “Hunters” Game Plan: What is a Hunter?

November 9th, 2015 // Dan Doescher // 1 Comment
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Dan Doescher photo & Sandbox Partners logo

What’s in a word — or, rather, what the heck do I call myself?

“Salesman” remains an uncomfortable label. To me, that focus has a “self-interest-first” feel. Initially, “hunter” didn’t feel quite right, either. I believe it, too, connotes high self-interest — which is generally a win/lose proposition. Merriam-Webster finally got my attention. It defines “hunter” this way: “A person who searches for something.” So in this series, consider that a “hunter” is someone focused on searching for unmet needs. The emphasis shifts from “making a sale” to finding the place I believe the most successful business developers spend their time — meeting the needs of others first.

Hunters can be both inside employees and outside independent contractors/representatives. Regardless, what do the best hunters look like? Thoughts on this vary, but given the definition above, consider the following:

  1. Hunters are effective at developing relationships with and helping people — they’re able to gain trust.
  1. Hunters are great communicators who place a strong emphasis on listening (do the math; we have two ears and one mouth).
  1. Hunters are smart, with an ability to think strategically and out of the box.
  1. Hunters are inquisitive when it comes to identifying unmet/unsatisfied needs — they’re able to create “pull” scenarios to meet needs, versus “pushing”/selling.
  1. Hunters are calculated risk-takers.
  1. Hunters are disciplined, persistent and competitive.
  1. A hunter believes in and is passionate about what they do.
  1. A hunter is able to balance the short- and long-term; they realize sometimes it’s better to back off. Pushing may destroy an opportunity permanently.

Finding the right person is important. Equally important is how you treat them once they join your team. A few considerations:

  1. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the hunter’s role in pricing. It helps avoid miscommunication, unmet expectations and lost opportunities.
  1. Do your homework when it comes to compensation. Treat these individuals commensurate with the value they bring. If you want better candidates, think upper quartile in the marketplace.
  1. Beware of making the best hunter the manager. The skills that are required for each role are very different, and not necessarily interchangeable.

Next post: Let’s Get Growing

Tom’s editorial comment: If, while you’re reading this series, you believe Dan could be helpful to your company, please contact him directly at dan.doescher@sandboxpartnersint.com, or 248-701-8787.

 

Announcing the “Sandbox ‘Hunters’ Game Plan” Blog Series

November 2nd, 2015 // Tom Doescher //
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In my work with clients, especially industrial B2B clients, I often find that we wind up discussing one particular problem: the lack of business from “new” customers/clients. Several months ago, I began capturing my thoughts and ideas on the subject. As I reflected on what I wanted to say and how I wanted to share my thoughts, a new idea surfaced — why don’t I invite a guest blogger to assist me?

For the next several weeks, you’re in for a very special treat. Our guest blogger is someone I have known his entire life. I have observed him in many different situations and environments, and his relationship-building skills are extraordinary. In case you haven’t already guessed his identity from those clues, I am referring to “Uncle” Dan. Many of you know him as Dan Doescher — who, after an exceptionally successful and rewarding career, left Plante Moran and launched Sandbox Partners International. Sandbox is a firm that represents companies and gives them this promise: “Bringing partners the lifeblood of new business.” While at Plante Moran, Dan was often pointed to as the poster child for a new business development/rainmaker partner. Among a vast variety of different industries, he was successful in attracting new clients representing government, manufacturing, distribution, automotive and service businesses to Plante Moran.

In preparing for this “Hunter” series, I have read a number of great books and articles (including some recommended by several of my readers) describing the “best” salespeople. Dan and I have our thoughts on this topic, and we like to say, “The most successful business developers are professionals who meet the needs of others first.” As I have studied this subject, I have thought of a number of you whom I believe excel in this area. But when I benchmark Uncle Dan against the criteria of the experts, he is a bull’s eye.

I hope you have as much fun reading the Hunter series as Dan and I have had writing it. Enjoy!

If, while you’re reading this series, you believe Dan could be helpful to your company, please contact him directly at dan.doescher@sandboxpartnersint.com, or 248-701-8787.

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Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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