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The Changes You Need To Make Today To Enjoy Profitable Growth Tomorrow By searching for the truth in your business, you can make the critical adjustments that can lead you to increased profitability.

By Ed Hatton

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If you want your business to grow faster, become more competitive or simply improve sustainability, you will need to make changes.

Change is expensive and usually disruptive so it's impractical to try changing everything in the hope something will make a difference. It makes much more sense to take a hard look at your company, your products and services and your efficiencies in marketing, sales and customer expectation fulfilment.

You can then identify which interventions are most likely to generate the development you seek. Self-evaluation is difficult; you might be unduly critical, or you could overestimate your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.

Overestimating our capabilities is a common human failing, known as illusory superiority. Ask anyone about their driving skills and most will rate themselves above average. There must be average and below average drivers, but few will admit this. It's the same in business; we are likely to overestimate our superiority.

Start with your company

Questions you should be asking about your company include: How good are you at delivering on your promises? What do customers experience when dealing with your company?

Related: Video: Expert Insights On Increasing Profits

That is much broader than customer service, it includes every contact the customer has with your company and its products.

Evaluate how in-touch you are with your target markets; get the views of customers and industry experts. Ask your sales force what they think of your sales support and recheck whether your R&D is preparing products for the future.

Ask yourself how much you really know about your competitors, not only the current ones but the disruptive technologies that could change your world.

Assess your own performance; are you a good manager, a leader, a strategist? A harsh look at the truth about your business can be sobering, but it is the only way you can determine what changes you need to stay competitive and grow.

Are you competitive?

Consider your products and services; are they still competitive? Do they fill changing customer needs? Have you become over reliant on the old faithful products that have been cash cows for years? New technologies, more suited to customer needs could reduce your sales dramatically.

Related: Driving Double-Digit Growth And Increasing Your Profits

Can you effectively defend your price in a tight economy, or are you continually losing to lower priced competitors? How safe and durable are your products compared to competitors?

Examine your terms and conditions; you may be imposing conditions that are in conflict with new legislation or more appropriate to a seller's market.

Check whether you are preparing the products and services you will need in the future. Almost everyone will be affected by the sweeping changes in technology, buying patterns, marketing and customer expectations in the years to come.

Measuring your effectiveness

Examining how effectively you market and sell is the biggest challenge. Although sales success or failure appears to be very easy to measure, illusory superiority is normal in sales and marketing teams.

Failure to meet targets is attributed to overpricing, poor customer service, unrealistic targets or economic conditions.

Very few salespeople or resellers will admit to being below average or even average, and yet there are many underperforming sales teams and marketing campaigns.

Related: Understanding Profit In Your Business

Check for the skill set your team needs, consider areas like time management, the ability to uncover and understand customer needs, their product and industry knowledge.

Ask yourself these key questions:

  • How capable are they of getting to the decision makers?
  • How well do they understand the trends affecting their target customers?
  • How accurate and efficient is the sales funnel?
  • What is your hit rate?
  • How good are the incoming leads and the sales support material?

Once you have done a really good self-assessment, you are in a great position to target your weaknesses for improvement. Training, product development, better marketing and customer support skills may all play a part.

You should capitalise on your strengths to build new customers and new markets by updating marketing messages, benchmarking against competitors and getting customer ratings.

Related: Profit With Purpose

Ed Hatton

Owner: The Marketing Director

Ed Hatton is the owner of The Marketing Director and has consulted to and mentored SMBs in strategy, marketing and sales for almost 20 years. He co-authored an entrepreneurship textbook and is passionate about helping entrepreneurs to succeed.
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