Any firm that wishes to grow their business, can only really achieve it by following these four ways. They are:
1. find more of the ideal customers,
2. encourage them to buy more,
3. improve your margin and
4. ensure you have proper systems and procedures in place that will be robust enough to take care of the increased business.
Consider these four ways now and have a real, in-depth think about each of them. For example, in relation to the ideal customers rather than using a scattergun approach and asking who could our customers be, ask who should our customers be. Big difference!
If you lead a team and part of your function is to grow the business, you owe it to yourself, and to your colleagues, to sit down regularly and brainstorm questions like this. Every office should have plenty of flipcharts, 'blue sticky gum stuff' and markers ...not to be sitting there looking pretty, but to be regularly sweated!
Have exercises like this scheduled into your monthly calendar. Make the sessions sacrosanct! Everybody must attend as if their lives depended on it. If the truth be known, their business lives probably depend on activities like this to generate new ideas for new business.
Brainstorming does require discipline and there are some do and don'ts, of course. We will speak about team values, and how important they are to the overall success of any team, another day. Suffice to say for now that you need to set ground rules for these type of sessions. As an owner/manager, your job is to create the environment in which people firstly, contribute what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviours when such sessions are being facilitated.
Why not give that job away to somebody who will be on the team? As owner/manager/ business leader, whatever, your job is to give away your job. In other words, all success comes from moving from activities of low value to activities of high-value; from low productivity activities to high productivity activities.
It may seem counterintuitive, however, the best managers always surround themselves with people who may, in fact, be better than the manager in some or even all areas.
Getting back to the brainstorming session, allow the team to create their own ground rules and as manager, only add to the list if there is an obvious omission. So, once the ground rules are set, keep an eye that there is clarity about timing, location, equipment, who will facilitate, what people are going to take part in the session, what is the ideal outcome and so on. Watch your own biases!
My personal preference is to always focus on quantity of ideas rather than quality of ideas. Why is this? If we put down an idea and then we have a debate about it, we will never have the time to become creative. I always try to aim for 25 to 30 ideas on a particular question that is written at the top of the flipchart.
You see, every other team in every other company will come up with the first 10 to 15 and I often find they may be of limited value. When you start exceeding 15 and getting into the 20s and sometimes 30s, this is where you will find the rich veins of ideas-gold.
Don't allow crazy ideas to be dismissed! Extreme left brain and right brain thinkers on teams can often be an amazing addition to creativity; lots of companies today are recruiting these type of people to shake up the thinking. We are often so close to the coalface in our day-to-day business lives, that we do not have time to see how new, innovative and creative ways of doing things can be brought into reality. We procrastinate and put that off till another day.
It's the difference between managing and leading. Managing is like taking a team through a forest ensuring that the brambles are hacked away in advance so that the work can get done. Leading is about climbing one of the trees, taking a look around and saying "wrong forest".
So, allow yourself the luxury of surrounding yourself with your selected team members and creating the environment in which brainstorming of new sales ideas is a regular feature of your routine. I promise, the answers are in their heads and you won't be disappointed!
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