Many companies struggle to grow revenue despite having multiple areas where modest improvements in commercial activities could make a significant difference. Oddly, this abundance of opportunities often stymies action. Not knowing the best place to start, many management teams do nothing.
A powerful tool for overcoming this paralysis is the “blitz” initiative—an intense effort, sustained over a short period of time, driving quick changes that lead to broader improvement opportunities. The best blitzes:
- Are short. Three months often balances between long enough to create impact and short enough for an intense effort.
- Target clear, measurable objectives. With achievable goals, the organization can declare victory while building enthusiasm for continuing the effort.
- Take first steps in an important direction with a vision for building on initial success.
Don’t worry about choosing the optimal place to start. It is better to start today with a good opportunity than waste time trying to decide on the “perfect” place to start. To narrow down options, we often recommend one of four high-potential blitz targets that lead to further progress in many areas of commercial effectiveness.
Too few new customers is a top cause of weak growth. Many causes of the problem—salespeople who don’t hunt, marketing teams without unaccountability for new business, lack of systems for tracking leads and subsequent pursuits—can be attacked with a blitz.
A lead generation blitz pulls together Sales and Marketing teams with a commitment to replenish the pipeline by generating and qualifying a specific target number of leads in a fixed period. Sales and Marketing leaders identify target market segments and a powerful message, then Marketing works with thought leaders to develop and package content for outbound campaigns. Once the campaigns begin, Marketing or Sales resources qualify leads using criteria determined in advance. If tools are needed to organize the large number of required contacts and touches, use quick, temporary measures that lay the groundwork for more permanent solutions as success takes hold.
Top-to-Top Customer Engagement
Many companies need stronger complex sales capabilities, especially at important, but demanding, strategic accounts. A fruitful point of focus is meetings between the top business leaders of the supplier and customer, which often suffer from lack of frequency and preparation. A blitz to conduct a target number of high-quality top-to-top meetings can lead to widespread improvements in complex selling skills.
For this blitz, senior executives focus on the highest-potential accounts and prospects. After analytically identifying these accounts, sales reps, managers and executives set objectives and plan the pursuit. The account team prepares a clear communication of how the company drives value for the customer in hard dollars and cents terms. Importantly, be ready for customers to find value in these meetings and expect more in the future, creating positive pressure to sustain the efforts. Over time, stronger selling to top accounts creates both more and better business.
Despite the importance of managing with metrics, businesses often neither track sales metrics nor trust them due to poor quality information. A blitz to clean up pipeline information puts the organization in a position to begin managing Sales with solid data.
Launch the pipeline cleanup blitz by addressing shortcomings in the sales process definition and pipeline tracking systems. Next, set a target—typically, the absence of any substantial errors in the pipeline. Testing this goal with a pipeline review by the CSO or CFO with the sales managers is often adequate to be comfortable the pipeline is clean. Realistically, it will require many detailed pipeline reviews to eliminate all bad data and ensure new opportunities are entered accurately. This is time well spent as a clean, reliable pipeline is more than good data—it’s a litmus test of a well-defined sales process and disciplined sales management.
Performance Improvement for Lowest Profitability Customers
Almost every B2B firm has a “tail” of customers consuming disproportionate time relative to profit contribution. Addressing this tail and reallocating time to higher-growth opportunities are powerful levers for improving the bottom line.
This blitz drives performance improvement plans (PIPs) for underperforming customers, typically including:
- Thorough analysis of the tail
- Identifying strategies and playbooks addressing drivers of low profitability
- Creating specific PIPs for each customer below threshold profitability
- Actively managing against the PIPs and tracking progress
- Re-evaluating the tail as targeted customers improve or are released to the competition
Part of the power of the customer profitability blitz is forcing action where companies are often reluctant to take it. It also triggers a sustained improvement in managing customer profitability.
These four blitzes won’t address all the potential areas for improving commercial performance, but they collectively lead to almost all areas. Importantly, blitzing overcomes inertia, helping companies kick-start growth with manageable and impactful efforts, ultimately creating momentum for further improvements.
Gerald Hughes is a Managing Director and Kevin Berger is a Principal with Blue Ridge Partners. Find out more by visiting here.