This is part of a series — Five Things to Do When Your Business is Failing
- Grow the Top Line With Quick Sales
- Aggressively Triage and Cut to Focus on the Core Business
- Don’t Let Your Business Fail Alone-Ask for Help
- Think About the Worst Case Situation and Prepare for It
- Keep Your Personal Core Protected So You Can Do It Again
When you are running out of cash and credit, one of the fastest ways to break the cycle is to get some new business in the door. Look at everything that you are doing for the sales cycle and see what is working, and what is not. Look for opportunities with your existing customers and prospects within the core business that you already do to see if you can get more. And look at how you are trying to close those deals to see if you can do things differently.
There should be a decent pipeline of new business that you can focus on bringing in and closing. And there is usually business that you can get quickly — it might not be very profitable, the work might be tough, and it could be risky, but at this point those are niceties that have to go by the wayside.
For any opportunities that you currently have in the pipeline, treat them like the proverbial Golden Goose. Watch them close and nurture them, because they are very valuable. I use the maxim of “Don’t Fail Alone” with my salespeople. When they are working on a big deal, there are a lot of things that have to happen to win it, and many specific milestones that have to be reached to be successful.
There has to be someone at the customer who champions it, there has to be a good reason for the purchase, we usually have to have a financial conversation with someone who has budget and the authority to spend it, and there has to be an impending event. At any stage during this process, a competitor could step in and take the opportunity away, or someone at the customer can torpedo it. When the customer stops communicating and goes quiet, my salesperson has to take immediate action and ask for help to get things back on track. Any decent size opportunity in the pipeline I go visit the customer myself. Having the owner of the company give his or her personal commitment to doing an exceptional job for the customer can make the difference between winning or losing a deal. You need to be winning deals at this point.
The beginning of the calendar year is always a slow time for us, but one year we had taken on additional investment and set some big goals. In the first calendar quarter I wanted more sales and I wanted them right away. In looking at everything that was available to us, we decided to take action to get more business as quickly as possible by answering bids that we would normally have ignored because we thought the margin was too low for the effort required.
Our normal mode of operation had been to work with customers to develop solutions, then either avoid a bid process or give them information that would assist them in writing bids that would favor our solution. In addition to working our time proven methodology, we also started working nights and weekend to answer all the bids that were out there. If we won the business at low margin or breakeven, it would still keep all our employees working and keep the flow of receivables coming in and our flooring lines and lines of credit active.
That worked. The upsurge in business more than made up for lower margins, and even though the technical staff had to work hard to deliver everything that was promised over the next year, it bought us some breathing room that allowed us to turn the corner and become profitable again.
Author: Rolf Versluis
Published at Priority Queue