All businesses have times when throughput isn’t as it was or prospects simply aren’t as receptive to their calls as they had been in the past. Increasing sales figures and profits can often be followed by falls unless there is a constant focus on what is expected by customers and offered by competitors and a business modifies what it does accordingly. The difficulty for smaller businesses is that despite being agile and responsive to market trends they can equally become reluctant to change a ‘winning formula’. This can be the case if there has been success for a period of time but the figures are starting to point to problems.
The following 10 tips are aimed at business owners who, when they look objectively at their business, and it might just be one part of their operations, they know that things aren’t as they have been or should be. The first thing they must do though is recognise the fact that there is an issue and be willing to do something about it. It’s at these times that their emotional connection with the business needs to be put to one side because they must see what’s really happening.
- Recognise and Accept It
Recognising and accepting that there is a problem are the precursors to doing something about it. You may have noticed reducing sales figure or other measures and have put them down to a blip but continued blips are a downturn. Feedback from customers, colleagues, suppliers or anyone else must be accepted at face value even if it is hard to hear. What you will be picking up on are trends and if they point in the wrong direction you will have to Accept It at some point. Once you’ve recognised and accepted it you are in a position to do something about it.
- Take A Time-Out
Odd then that the first thing to do is take a time out. Bizarrely, it’s surprising just how much can be achieved when you don’t do anything. I know this sounds like a contradiction but what’s happening is that your sub-conscious continues thinking about all those things that have been troubling you. Time away, perhaps a short break, really does allow that regeneration of energies and ideas but it really only works if you are completely cut off and not constantly on the end of a phone. Keep a note-book handy at all times and jot down ideas and thoughts, however strange they may seem at the time.
- Plan Your Next Week In Detail
When I say in detail here I mean planning out each day down to the hour, or if you think you can be more accurate to 15 or 30 minute slots. Now, this isn’t all about creating a fantastic looking multi-coloured spreadsheet it’s simply a plan that you will stick to so make sure it makes sense and includes all those necessary business activities that you don’t like but have to get done. Be realistic too about your own ‘working hours’ as they will have to fit in around the rest of your life. What you are doing here is starting to build in time for some of those new areas you have thought about but also putting in place time to do the business development activities that were perhaps squeezed out by more routine activities when things were going better for you.
- Make 5 Calls a Day
So maybe five phone calls a day doesn’t really sound too much especially if you’ve come from a sales or marketing background. But think about it, five calls to new prospects or new network contacts means preparing what you want to get out of that conversation which, in turn requires some background research. Five well prepared for calls a day for that week you planned out in detail gives you twenty-five routes in to businesses and people you haven’t contacted before who may or may not be aware of what you and your business offer. Providing you avoid the pushy sales stuff there’s a very good possibility that a few of those calls will turn into an appointment and that’s moving you back in the right direction.
- Get 5 Appointments in the Next 2 Weeks
Five appointments in the next two weeks from your 25 phone calls and other networking doesn’t sound much but if it was just from your calls to new contacts it would represent a very healthy 20% success rate. Of course those appointments are just the next stage in getting to know your new contacts and them getting to know you but again, it’s moving your business in a positive direction.
- Reflect On What You Did That Worked
Things may have got worse recently but there will have been occasions in the not so distant past when what you did and how you went about it were more successful. Take time reflecting individually and/or with colleagues or a coach to consider just what it was that was successful in the past and start thinking about why this hasn’t continued. There can be many reasons including the fact that you stopped doing what worked for some reason or your customers no longer needed what you offered. Be methodical about this, list what you discover, list everything even if it might point to a mistake you made – honesty with yourself is critical. Whatever the reasons are that you uncover this is invaluable information that can determine how you approach your business future.
- How Did You Get Your Best Ever Piece of Business
Each company has their favourite piece of business. For smaller companies it might be their first large order and for more established ones it might be the major breakthrough that put them on the map and is part of the company history. Similar to the previous point then, look at that ‘Best Ever’ piece of work and consider the following. How long ago was it? Is that what we still do? Does the market still want that? How did we land that business? Was it part of what we did or was it an exception to the norm? Answering all these questions and thinking more deeply about what made it so special can be incredibly informative. If that business was good for you it was probably equally good for your customer(s). You may have the opportunity for some press coverage, referrals and repeat business.
- Network Afresh
By this I mean start looking at those networking opportunities that in the past you have avoided because you were either ‘too busy’ or you just didn’t think there would be any benefit in them. Remember though that networking of its own doesn’t provide you business it gets you and your business known to a wider group of people and you never know who else those people know. Yes, there are lots of paid for networking groups available but I would argue that there many more opportunities to network for free if you just look and think a little creatively.
- Get Writing
Whatever your line of business there will be people around your locality, region, country and internationally that will be interested in it. The internet has provided us with more tools than we know what to do with it seems but there are obvious candidates for becoming known as a knowledgeable individual within your field. No-one is suggesting you start giving away your trade secrets or intellectual property but writing short articles on a blog can be straight-forward and achievable by most people. Twitter helps you to tune in to others with similar views, again allowing you to become associated with particular subject areas. There are varying views on how effective writing blog posts or tweeting on your particular theme can be but there is no doubt it will get you noticed which is what you want for your business.
- Put In A Speculative Proposal
The process of putting together a proposal for something that in the past you may not have considered will help you think differently and consider different options and that may well be the greatest benefit of all. Speculative proposals are notoriously unsuccessful from a simple numbers standpoint but they do offer a way of moving into a new market segment for businesses. Don’t spend weeks and weeks on such a proposal but do put in the requisite amount of time and effort to ensure it will be read. You will have learnt a great deal in putting it together but will get even more in the feedback you receive from an area you haven’t moved into previously.
Each business has its good times and less good times but the really successful ones are those that recognise early when things aren’t going well and consciously go about making things better. The above 10 tips are just some of the ways businesses can help themselves to get back on track.