“Make no mistake, one thing and only one thing is what’s happened recently: a major shift in mindset.”
For 5 seconds, the virtual meeting room went silent. Thirty percent growth from quarter to quarter, our best quarter of the year, the most significant contract we’ve ever signed, shares soaring… “What’s going on?” What are we doing correctly? What did we change? “Our CEO asked for it 5 minutes ago. Now Alex had taken over our Zoom meeting’s sound waves to respond, and his speech was about to go down as one of the year’s best. He followed.
A conviction that, by radically shifting our approach to the sales process, we can not only sell more but also sell for more money. There are many lessons learned from this past quarter, but 99% of it all comes down to the shift in attitude we had internally.
Was that all that it had been cracked to be? A turn of mindset? Around six months ago, our sales team and the business as a whole began to consistently over-perform on 90% of their targets. It started with the company being reshuffled a year ago, amid the biggest pandemic in a century. We were then purchased six months ago for 30 million dollars. Since then, we have done nothing but crush it. Is all that all about a turn in mindset?
I found five fascinating and relevant points in Alex’s response to that Tuesday morning meeting, which I will build here. I hope they will encourage you to reconsider how you see your business and maybe start working on your mindset change.
- Have a Playbook
“Before we have spoken to potential customers, do not start arguing internally about our pricing plan.”
That’s just one of the rules in our company sales playbook we now have. Marketing and sales had a habit of competing against the market’s realities over the pricing strategy we were advertising online. The day we understood that what mattered was heading to a well-prepared meeting and leaving nothing on the table, the cash began to follow. You don’t have to argue about selling it for a premium anymore when you concentrate on the product’s heart. Already, consumers are persuaded.
For every department in a company, the playbook approach goes. There is also one on our customer service team, and so does our engineering team. You’ll reduce a lot of tension within the company by setting out a straightforward set of guidelines to always obey (and maybe a few exceptions to these rules). By missing all the meetings that would have taken place behind a decision-making process that can be kept straightforward, people can save a lot of time and energy.
It’s not that “for a playbook, no process is too complex.” It takes time to do certain things and can’t be boiled down to a few bullet points. But there is so much that it is possible to simplify and bring CAN into a stable structure. Look for and put the certainty on paper.
- Emphasis as much on sales as sales
If we can concentrate all of our energies on selling more to the same customers instead of always trying to market to more people, that’s when the money begins to roll in. And that’s exactly what we were doing there.
Often, lying right in front of you, in plain sight, is what you’ve been waiting for. More revenue from more customers does not always happen. You will use your current portfolio to sell more. Coming up with a segmented pricing strategy will help, no matter the product. “It will include incentives for your clients to upgrade their “membership.” If you sell single licenses or bundled offerings, a classic Standard-Premium-Business strategy works.
We prefer to sell user seats at our business, meaning the more users our clients choose to have under their license, the more they will have to pay. But we’ve got license forms as well. A standard charge is cheaper than a business license with the same number of customers. This gives the sales guys plenty of options inside our current portfolio to discuss upsales.
An existing customer may be interested in rolling out a new branch or a new country with our solution. Or they may want to get a Premium license for only a few of their places and remain elsewhere on a normal one. Pricing versatility also implies a lot of scope for upsells.
- Preventing the Churn
Too many businesses concentrate on selling without holding back. Usually, this means two things:
You’re selling continuously but not nurturing company relationships.
You’re still under pressure because you know that the client doesn’t renew the next time one of the licenses you sold expires.
At our business, we used to have a significant churn problem. We would gain as much as we would lose in expiring licenses in signed agreements (usually a one or 2-year license) every year. Less than half of our customers have had their licenses renewed.
You are preventing signed clients from running away by showing them that you care means, in the long term, money in your pocket. It may feel like the effect is less fantastic, just like sales, because nothing feels like a sound, brand new signature, and a brand new check the month after that. But the bigger you get, the more individuals will start paying attention to what you are doing. You will not be in the game for the long term if you develop a bad name for your business (which happens when customers run away as soon as their contract with you expires).
- Create great internal relationships: make individuals want to work together
This morning, I received a text from Tom about how happy he was that the client was back on board, and he’s looking forward to continuing the great work they’ve done together. And that’s what makes me so happy.’
Alex said that, too, at that meeting on Tuesday morning. At some point, he even used the word “family,” but I do not remember exactly when. Customers can sense it when the mood within the organization is healthy.
Part of the transformation that we underwent a year ago was to address internal communication and management issues. Within their department, not everyone felt fantastic, and this reflected while talking to clients. This can very quickly get nasty. One day, our CEO took the stage (before Corona times) and got straight to the point:
In this business, my number one goal is to make you guys happy. If I don’t see that you have a blast, you feel amazing, inspired, and driven by what you do, then I’m not doing the right job. And we’re going to take the steps required to fix what’s been going wrong, and we’re going to check in frequently together. The shift is going to happen.’
A year later, we never did so well.
Note: click here for more about how my CEO developed his business from 0 to $30 million.
- Externally, create great relationships: make people want to work with you
; of course, we salespeople will be great at placing the brand in front of potential buyers, selling them on various case studies. But the facts in the pudding comes from the work that the customer service team does for our customers after we sign them. The other day, I got a client telling me they WANT to work with Matt.
Matt is one of our best experts in the customer service squad. Almost every customer assigned to his desk loves him, and it got to the point where he earned a little self-reputation. His name is brought up when a potential client has been referred to us by an existing one or when Matt takes part in online webinars and training sessions. He’s THE guy with whom to work.
- When it comes to publicity, several businesses concentrate on PR, their CEO profile, and billboards. They believe that more prominent individuals develop greater credibility, but they think backward. The smallest gears are the most important ones in the largest engines and the hardest to repair.
Your company’s credibility will shine ten times more than with a decent keynote or a brilliant magazine cover featuring one of your top managers if the people who communicate directly with your customers do a stellar job at the heart of your organization.
Alex’s speech that day went on for no more than five minutes, and at the end of our meeting, he just answered a short question from our CEO. It wasn’t something major, but it was full of unique insights, and everybody applauded his success that day on the zoom call. Three points he concluded with:
Across all our divisions, we have a high degree of excellence.
To make better choices, we built our commercial playbook, which makes us stronger, more audacious, more successful.
We’ve sold more than ever, thanks to those three key points, and most importantly, we’ve evolved as an organization. We have learned a lot (sometimes the hard way), and as we go, we will continue to learn. There’s no “business as usual,” and running a business is still an ongoing adventure.
If one key lesson from all of this is to be remembered, it’s this: it’s all about people. You’ve probably heard it 100 times, but the most comfortable lessons are the best. Your company will run as smoothly as ever when you concentrate on making your employees happy, and the money will generally follow.
Enjoy the ride, and also try to be thankful.