One of the true marks of a professional is your desire for ongoing development because you never know it all. And with the speed of innovation and increasing consumer demand, it’s the only way to stay ahead of the business curve. Product and service companies must always be forward thinking and improving their current offerings.
This was a topic at a women’s business mastermind group I co-host every month. An attendee posed the question,
“How do I continue to iterate and evolve my services to remain relevant in the ever-changing business landscape?”
I realized when she asked that question that I hadn’t consciously thought of that myself as a small business service provider. I observed that what I did was intuitive – I just kind of knew when it was time to offer something new to differentiate myself and drive new business. And it seemed to work every time. Sometimes the new service took longer than others to attract new clients; sometimes it caught on like wildfire.
This led me to another observation; although my intuition was right about when to offer a new service, my execution was haphazard and un-strategic. I call it the spaghetti-against-the-wall approach. It’s certainly a strategy, but not a great one. In fact, I caught myself violating my very own coaching topic by not being strategic! I had gotten lazy and was not eating my own dog food.
I’m totally going to own right here my excuse: I was coming off a pretty difficult year of being very ill and losing my best little buddy Rocky to cancer. Not only was my body and brain ravaged from a bacterial infection and the ensuing treatment, my heart was broken and my mind sunk into a deep, dark place. Sickness and death are a bitch. #AmIRight?
Once I emerged from the fog and discovered how far off track I’d gotten, I recommitted to the foundations of my Gateway to Success coaching program. Namely, I had to re-focus on my long-term business vision and the strategic initiatives to get there. Instead of experimenting with new service ideas, I paid close attention to conversations I was having with my network. I listened intently to what they heard was needed in the marketplace, and matched up my skill set to solve the problem.
Then, I invested in professional development to understand how to create a new service that was needed, wanted, and I would be hired for.
Strategic planning works.
Armed with a solid foundation for the new service and a cohesive story to deliver, when I got in front of the right people I had three new opportunities materialize almost instantly. As the words tumbled out of my mouth, potential new clients were practically salivating at the chance to hire me.
The very first client who hired me for the new service offering is a perfect example of how an aimless experiment can go wrong. A distributor of spirits in Dallas opened six years ago with only one competitor in the market. Now, there are nearly 50 other distributors in the market. In 2017, the founder did what other’s in the industry did; he hired a sales rep and put him in the market to cold call and gain market share.
The founder’s strategy failed miserably for several reasons: the founder had no sales experience, and neither did anyone else in the company; and the sales rep hired was released into the market with no sales strategy, process, or support. In short, it was a randomly implemented strategy [spaghetti-against-the-wall approach] that cost the company time they’ll never get back, lost opportunities due to a lack of strategy and planning, and money wasted paying someone who didn’t demonstrably improve the business. The founder kept the rep on for a year before deciding to cut his losses. For the first time in six years, the company didn’t realize the double-digit growth to which it had grown accustomed.
The founder decided to hire a professional and invest in the development of a sales infrastructure to set up the company and the subsequent sales rep for success. I was hired to establish an initial sales strategy to regain lost market share, and teed up the future strategy to expand into new markets once sales have stabilized. I identified additional projects to continue to support the company in their growth, including creating a sales process, implementing a sales operations infrastructure, and designing a sales enablement program in the form of sales training and coaching.
The founder’s goal with this investment in professional development is to realize a double-digit increase in revenue this year. With a solid strategy, execution plan, and documented delivery process, I’m confident the company and the new rep will excel and achieve the vision.
While it may seem like taking the time to create a strategy, execution plan, and delivery process will delay revenue and cost you money by having to pay for professional coaching or consulting, an erratic and uncoordinated experiment can also cost you far more in lost opportunities, squandered resources, and time you can never get back.
How are you approaching your growth and development goals? Are you throwing spaghetti against the wall, or have you invested time and resources into a sturdy, well-thought-out plan to get you headed in the right direction, with the right resources and the right people, doing the right things, at the right time?