At the Insights Association’s CEO Summit last month, one of the presentations highlighted the results from a survey that the association conducted of its members. And one of the topics was on growing revenue. Ahhh… music to my ears.
In the presentation, they reported on the top three obstacles to growing revenue:
- Getting qualified leads
- Recruiting more effective sales professionals
- The cyclical nature of the seller-door model
And while it’s hard to argue with the results of the survey – and I’m glad to see that these firms recognize these issues – what’s interesting is that I don’t see very much being done to address them!
#1. Getting Qualified Leads
Yep! This is where it starts. Not every lead will become a client, but every client started out as a lead… can’t happen any other way. So where do today’s firms get most of their leads?
- Referrals/word of mouth… they hope their name gets shared in the buyer community, and that new buyers come to them. And while referrals can often be your best leads, there are rarely enough of them to sustain growth.
- Following client contacts from one company to another… that sounds like a good strategy, but there are two big issues with it. 1) There’s no guarantee that your contact’s new company will be anywhere near as good to you (from a revenue perspective) as the one they left. 2) Worse, in the majority of cases when that happens, you end up losing the business from the company they left.
To continuously generate sales leads, you have to invest (time and money) in networking at industry conferences, creating and promoting gated content, creating a more compelling website that generates inquiries, getting active with social selling and so on.
Also – and this is a big one – you have to have a process in place for effective follow-up so all of those sales leads you generate are not wasted.
#2. Recruiting More Effective Sales Professionals
What’s interesting about this note is that – at least with small-to-midsize research agencies – they don’t generally employ sales professionals. They subscribe to the seller-doer model. That is, they anoint someone (or several someones) in their firm to take on selling responsibilities, in addition to their full-time research/management role. And then they complain about the seller-doer sales results. Hmmm…
But in the off chance that they’re actually going to hire a full-time sales professional, their first priority is to find someone with research experience. And that’s wrong!
Their first priority should be to find someone who can sell… and then let them do ‘sales stuff.’ These sales reps then can – and should – pull in the subject matter experts from your team to help with the complex and detailed research conversations. But 90% of selling takes place before these conversations ever happen. Things that professional salespeople are good at (e.g., cold calling, social selling, networking, etc.)… and seller-doers, not so much.
#3. The Cyclical Nature of the Seller-Doer Model
Because most firms choose the seller-doer model, we end up right where we are – driving the feast-or-famine revenue nature of our industry. So, how do we fix it?
- Hire full-time sales professionals (see #2 above).
- Put in place a frequent, consistent, multichannel, marketing program. Do this effectively and you will build brand awareness in the markets you serve, establish and cement your reputation and generate qualified sales leads (see #1 above).
A book was published years ago, entitled ‘Hope is Not a Strategy’… and I agree with that philosophy 1,000%! And yet, that’s how most business leaders in our industry approach revenue growth.
- “I hope a few more leads come in next month.”
- “I hope those leads from the conference turn into something.”
- “I hope my seller-doer can stir up some activity next month.”
- “I hope our revenue becomes more consistent.”
You’ve got to stop that approach to growth. You’ve got to ‘grab the bull by the ba**s’ and make revenue growth happen! Do you want sales leads? Put a lead gen program in place. Want better salespeople? Then either hire full-time sales professionals or train your seller-doers. What consistent revenue? Then marketing can’t be an afterthought!
You know what to do… you just gotta go do it! What’s holding you back?