With the great economic storm over the last year, many businesses wisely pulled back into safe harbors for a period of time. In fact, those that failed to make adjustments and continued their course were likely wiped out or at least seriously damaged. Unwise use of credit and perhaps a bit of bad luck has taken its toll on many. However, perhaps you are one of those businesses that made the proper course corrections by making the difficult and sometime painful choices. By reducing overhead, limiting loses and maintaining profitability you may have survived 2009, but there now is a new question: is it time to set sail again? For most businesses, the painful lessons of the past year will not be easily forgotten, but is it time to move from safe harbors and again set your sights on growth and increased profits? While we are by no means safe, we certainly see the signs of economic growth all around. The seas are still choppy and the way is not certain, but many small and mid-size businesses are actively moving to take advantage of new opportunities. We see this mostly in the large volume of new investment in marketing and sales efforts. While the economic recovery is largely "jobless" according to national reports, this is certainly NOT true when it comes to sales positions. Many companies are actively recruiting and hiring salespeople at a torrid pace. In the last four months alone we have seen a substantial increase in companies hiring new salespeople.. and most of these are not replacements of lost positions, but rather actual additions to headcounts. So who are they hiring, and what is their logic? For these companies and many others the number one challenge is the need to grow sales and improve margins. Training current sales people is often much more cost effective than hiring additional people, and using the latest customer relationship management (CRM) tools is essential to remain competitive in the future. Chances are that your competition cut back on their marketing, sales and customer service, so those who are willing to set sail by spending on these resources can give them a distinct advantage. Hiring professional salespeople who are capable of prospecting for new business, qualifying and closing profitable deals can be money well spent. Technology companies in particular tend to rely on developing the next greatest product to gain competitive advantage, but an effective sales and marketing effort must be a part of any long-term effort since no company can have the absolute best products all the time. Additionally, spending money on marketing from websites and search engine optimization to traditional broadcast and print media is worthwhile, and most of those willing to do so find that great deals abound for the moment. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you set sail in this new economy: 1.Are your marketing efforts generating sufficient results? Perhaps it's time to look for a new marketing agency, but maybe it's simply time to listen to the one you do have and spend more in this area. 2.Is your current sales team capable of executing on the sales strategy required in these challenging times? If not, do they need additional training and support or should they be replaced? Many senior salespeople have really been account managers and are now struggling because they lack the skills (and in some cases desire) to prospect and find new business. 3.Do you have enough outbound sales efforts? Plenty of salespeople are good at taking orders, but does your team consistently prospect for new business by calling on decision-makers in your target accounts? 4.Do you simply need to hire more sales resources? If lack of sales is the number one challenge in your company, is your senior management team as focused on new business development as they need to be? Like anything in life, a half-hearted effort will yield poor results. 5.Have you identified the key performance indicators (KPIs) for your business, particularly in the marketing and sales areas? Identifying and measuring appropriate sales activities is now relatively easy with modern CRM tools. Developing a sales "dashboard" will help manage and monitor the status of the sales effort. Waiting for calm economic seas may allow your business to survive, but many have decided that now is the time to set sail again by investing in their sales and marketing efforts. If you have decided sailing is better than sitting, then we look forward to seeing you on the high seas of business. Good Selling!
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