When things aren’t right in a relationship, you know what to do, right? First, there’s a trip to the bookstore where you get lost in self help books for a couple hours, binge read every relationship blog on the internet and call a few friends over (and ask them to bring wine. Lots of it). Ultimately, when the self help route doesn’t work you turn to the professionals. You make an appointment with a therapist where you share your faults, dreams and deepest secrets so they, in turn, can help you find the clarity needed to move forward.
This happens in business too. Things don’t seem right. Marketing tactics that worked last year, don’t produce results any more. Leads have dried up. Emails aren’t clicked on. Crickets are the only thing you hear in social channels. And worst of all: deals aren’t closing. People aren’t buying.
That is a bad place to be. When you see your business struggling, just like a relationship, it’s natural to immediately reach and grasp for help, often reacting to the problem rather than strategically planning for success. You look for short-term fixes instead of long-term solutions.
Sometimes that is fine. Here’s a better idea: approach your challenges strategically.
Here’s how to take a deep breath, gain some clarity and plan to turn things around.
Find the problem
Many times you can easily identify where the problem is occurring. There’s a leak somewhere and the water isn’t flowing beyond it. There are a few common places to look: are you generating awareness? Do you have a steady stream of quality leads that are moving through the sales funnel at the same rate they used to? Is the sales cycle suddenly taking longer than it really should? Are renewals or repeat business shrinking?
Through an audit, you evaluate the different activities your business engages in to identify where things are breaking down. Your website analytics, marketing dashboard and other KPIs that you track are great first stops in this journey.
Define the problem
Once you find the leak, define the underlying issues contributing to the problem. Give it a name. Perhaps your market has shifted or there’s a new competitor that is doing a better job of demonstrating value and connecting with your audience. Sometimes a significant number of new salespeople on a team can lead to a temporary dip in closed deals. Did a new lead generation tactic focus on quantity over quality of leads? Maybe your messaging is just old and stale.
A deep analysis into the problem can typically reveal the issues that led you here. I highly recommend talking to people. Conduct casual interviews with your sales team, account development reps, customers and people who chose your competitor to better understand the situation.
Develop your turnaround strategy
This isn’t one step but potentially ten or twenty, and they’re different for each company. Depending on the situation and problems that you’re facing, you need to assess different paths to take. Some of my clients are able to accept that this is a temporary situation (like significant growth in the sales team) and we build a plan to get them through the next 90 days with minimal hurdles. Most want a strategy that will turn their business around, quickly, which is completely possible once you’ve identified and defined your problems.
Here’s an example of a turnaround strategy from a real client:
Many years ago a new client was facing significant year over year sales declines for three continuous years. Their potential audience was very aware of them, but there was a lot of negative noise around their brand. Unfortunately, they had a passionate and loud audience that didn’t want their business to succeed. And we had no idea why. Something had to change or this business would shut it’s doors.
Have you ever heard that phrase about asking “why” six times to really get to the root of things? Well, that’s what we did. Through interviews and focus groups, we asked “why” a number of times until we could fully understand the motivations of this audience. We listened to their beliefs and perceptions. We heard their desires. And then we developed a plan.
This plan was built around one goal: change perceptions. That’s it. We knew, with confidence, that sales would follow because we identified this as our single problem and were completely focused on that in our solution. The plan was a significant effort that led to significant results for my client. Sales turned around. We even won a few awards for the campaign.
Ready to turn around your sales and marketing results?
Before you give up, change direction or throw the baby out with the bath water, conduct an internal audit (or hire a 3rd party to do so) to fully understand the problem before you develop the solution.