7 Resolutions for 2015

A very long time ago I resolved to never write a column which included resolutions.  I’m pleased to say that resolution lasted a lot longer than any other I have made, but this year I have an opportunity to propose some for you to follow:

  1.  Make sure you know where you’re going.  As Yogi Berra purportedly said, “if you don’t know where you’re going you may wind up somewhere else.”  Now is a great time to consider what you want from your business in the coming year.  (Actually, months ago was a better time, but better late than never.)  Are you focused on adding customers?  Do you want to expand geographic locations? Is revenue growth or profitability key?  Only by putting those goals down (and there can be more than one) can you keep yourself on task.
  2.  Plan to your goals.  Putting down what you want to accomplish is only a part of the battle.  You need to put together a plan to get there.  If you’re adding customers, what steps will you take to get them?  Do you need to invest in marketing programs, more sales people or a stronger web presence?  If profitability is a top goal, how will you improve your current state?  Do you need to analyze your current business processes and refine them?  Are there opportunities for cost savings that can be identified and executed against?  How’s your pricing?  Competitive? Too low? Too high?  Sometimes a few tweaks can make all the difference.
  3.  Be proactive.  This is such a key to the success or failure of meeting your goals.  Things don’t “just happen.”  You want to take and keep control over your own performance, whether you’re an individual sales person, a business owner or the head of an operating division.  Make things happen.  Execute your plan and pay attention to the quality of that execution.  If your business isn’t growing it’s falling behind.
  4.  Measure, read and react.  Along with building a goals plan and executing against it, define metrics, key performance indictors to determine if you’re on the right path to meeting those goals.  For example, if the goal is customer growth, make sure you’re counting the new customers, but also keep an eye on existing customers and make sure they’re not leaving.  Otherwise you’re replacing, not growing.  If you’re not getting the results you expected from what you’re doing, these benchmarks will let you know—make sure you pay attention and not admit defeat, but rather, read them and make adjustments.  Then measure again and adjust accordingly.  Markets change, economies slow or accelerate, competitors come and go.  Sticking to a plan doggedly, in spite of changed conditions is a plan to fail.  Don’t be afraid to adjust!
  5.  Find expertise and use it.  I’ve written on this a lot: just because you can type an email doesn’t mean you can write compelling marketing copy.  Even though you are good with people, that’s no indicator you know how to move a prospect along a sales cycle and then seal the deal quickly and profitably.  No, it may not be rocket science, but planning, messaging, selling, keeping customers happy are all skills requiring experience, talent and hard, often specialized work.  Bright people think they can do anything (and less bright people often think they can do even more, but that’s for another column), but it’s really easy to get in over your head, declare victory or failure and move on, regardless of the actual result. (See above!)
  6.  Be consistent in everything you do.  The number one reason for a plan’s failure, besides the obvious one of poor planning, is not giving your efforts enough time to work—or not.  A handful of emails, a dozen phone calls, a single three day promotion doesn’t give the market time to respond.  You need to make sure you have a large enough sample size in terms of touches, exposure time, prospect/customer reactions.  Stick to your plan until the metrics tell you it isn’t working.  You need to give the world time to hear what you have to say, and they’re not always paying attention!
  7.  Be nice! OK, so this isn’t, strictly speaking, a sales and marketing-specific resolution, but it can’t hurt, can it?  Don’t be obnoxious.  People buy from people they like.  A grumpy shopkeeper, a surly support person, a too-pushy salesperson are all to be avoided, right?  Life is too short. Who needs that?  I know it sounds obvious, but be polite.  Be considerate.  Listen to your prospect and understand their perspective.  Treat potential customers as you like to be treated.  Doesn’t matter if you’re in the corporate world, the retail space or in the services business. You’ll learn more about their real needs and how you can address them by being nice.  If you don’t like people, don’t do work where you have to interact with them!

I can’t guarantee that by adhering to these resolutions your business will grow, but I am confident they’ll put you in a better position to do so.  So here’s to success in 2015!

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