Three Years From Now, Who Will Be Left Standing?By Christine Corelli
Article Date: 01-01-2011
Copyright(C) 2011 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
The paint on the fleet won't be the distinguishing trait of survivors – step into the future for a few minutes and see who's there.
Considering today's unprecedented change conditions, volatile economic situation, more cost-conscious customers, and ferocious competition, you can't help but wonder: "Who will be left standing three years from now?" When the dust settles, there will be 10 characteristics that identify distributor organizations that stood the test of time. These companies employed sound business practices that created and sustained success and ensured business development even in the most challenging business climate this generation has ever experienced. Three years from now, the following is what will be said of them:
1.) They slowed down in order to speed up. They stopped what they were doing and conducted strategic planning sessions that included all the smartest people in their company, regardless of title or rank. This team was instructed to look at the business and industry as if they were unbiased outside consultants.
Together, the team had to acknowledge the harsh realities the company and industry was facing and made decisions upon which actions could be built to drive business growth and ensure a successful future. They did this fully realizing that they would likely have to shift gears along the way. They identified ways to cut costs, but not to the extent that cutting would lower the level of service they needed to provide. They addressed strengths and weaknesses, as well as critical success factors to ensure long-term growth and key areas for improvement. For example, they realized that the sales team needed to have a "process" to build relationships and serve customers.
They also realized that for every customer, they needed to have a "strategy" to win that customer over. Most important of all, they made a group commitment to meet their challenges head on, not get stuck in the past, and help all employees do the same. To ensure regular commitment to the mission at hand, they held quarterly retreats to evaluate progress.
2.) Complacency was their enemy. They challenged the status quo and took risks – not frivolously, but supported by rational decisionmaking after careful research on what top performing distributors were doing and idea-sharing from employees, colleagues, and often, an outside consultant. They adopted even bolder marketing and advertising strategies and competitively funded their communications campaigns. They reinvented their organization to become more nimble, flexible, and more customer-focused. In addition, while many individual dealer organizations felt that it was not on their "must-do ASAP list" the survivors recognized that the Green Movement was not about to subside. They created a green program, appointed someone to lead it, used it in their marketing and PR, and gave their sales people something more to talk about. Most importantly, they did the right thing for their employees, community, and the planet.
3.) They consistently sought and implemented new ways to add value for their customers. They realized and exploited the fact that much of the value they provided to customers was the superior knowledge they had to offer. They created value-added packages for their customers for equipment maintenance and rental, as they knew how important these were to profitability. They helped their customers far more than any competitor, knowing that in tough times, customers appreciate it. They established a VIP program for loyal customers that emphasized increased value and made these select customers feel special. They used the Value Management Objective Process (VMOP), in which performance criteria are set and evaluated by their customers themselves. They asked customers: "How can we provide more value?" They reached agreement on priorities, actions, and outcomes.
4.) They got serious about customer service. Every single aspect of the customer experience was analyzed. Service flaws were identified and eliminated. Systems and procedures were streamlined to make it easy for customers to do business with them. Product support employees knew their performance was critical to the success and profitability of their organizations. Parts and service managers made sure they understood their customers' business in order to anticipate their needs. Each day, parts managers made sure all orders in stock were shipped and back-order parts were found. They consistently brainstormed and implemented ways to "up" the Wow Factor, keeping in mind that no detail was too small. Teams were put into place to assist in these areas and in the establishment of a "Sales-Service Excellence Culture" (one in which every person is dedicated to helping sales through service excellence and giving their full support to the sales team. The sales, parts, and service departments worked hand-in-hand.
Together, the company and its people developed an obsession to deliver their best performance – with every customer, every day. They developed a reputation for exceptional customer service. Customer confidence was increased, as well as customer advocacy.
5.) State-of-the-art technology was the driver and the tool to assist them in becoming faster than their competitors and closer to customers. They had to rethink their entire business strategy. Technology and the Internet were their tools.
In addition, social media was not ignored as a passing fad. While the majority of equipment distributors were too consumed with the bottom line and didn't want to think about it, these companies were consistent with utilizing it for sales, marketing and advertising their distributor organization. Creativity was applied with each and every tweet, blog, and You-Tube video. Their website was far superior to their competitors and optimized for search engine placement. Video clips were on their main page and throughout their site. No stone was left unturned.
6.) They were learning organizations and learned faster than their competitors. They were constantly striving to improve and master their skills. Their sales team studied and mastered every single aspect of "Sales 101" and were provided with advanced sales training on negotiation, sales communication, and presentation skills. They were masters at building relationships and trust with potential and existing customers. Training was provided for leaders and managers so that everyone would lead in the same way. They didn't take it for granted that people knew how to serve customers; they trained them in all critical areas. Role-playing was conducted during slow hours, but the rule was to have fun while doing it. While most employees despise role playing, their employees actually looked forward it.
7.) Every person in the company lived and breathed their core values. All leaders and employees consistently demonstrated and operated from the core values of honesty, integrity, teamwork, respect, excellence, accountability, social and environmental consciousness, health, safety, family, and other values intrinsic to the company's private mission. Leaders recognized that their employees looked to them and how they acted during challenging times. It was especially important for them to set the tone and be a consistent example for them to follow. Sales managers recognized that they were accountable for sales results and they were available to each sales rep. They worked with each individual sales person to review their "pipeline" once a week and help them close deals.
8.) Executives and managers treated their people the same way they treat their best customers. Setting a good example for the rest of the organization was a key to their success. They realized that businesses don't do business. People do business. It's the people in a company who will or will not carry an organization into a successful future and assist in new business development.
Dynamic leadership, teamwork, employee involvement was a strong part of their competitive strategy. Reward and recognition (including unexpected small monetary rewards for service pros) were part of the culture. These companies had a Zero Tolerance for Bad Bosses. They knew that having great bosses and creating a great place to come to work each day was the best way to keep people motivated and performing at their best.
To make sure their people were happy, they conducted simple yet effective employee satisfaction surveys annually. After analyzing them, they identified three areas for improvement and made a commitment to their workforce to improve in each area. Lip service was never allowed. Action consistently occurred.
9.) Execution was a strong part of their competitive strategy. They recognized that knowing what they should do and then actually doing it were two very different things. They mastered the art of getting things done and established specific criteria for excellence and accountability that managers and employees could use in every aspect of their job role.
10. They kept their eye on the prize. They realized that they had only one goal – to still be standing, business intact, growing, prospering, and with solid business development in the years to come.
You've Seen the Future – So, What Will You Do?
Of course, the success of these companies involved a great deal more. But how are you doing in these specified areas? For now, the question you should ask is, "In three years, will we still be standing?" Set your goal even higher. "Will we be growing and prospering?" "Will our business development be strong? If the answer is that you are not sure, get moving on these 10 irrefutable strategies that will ensure your success for the long run. Business development doesn't just happen by itself. It takes the will power of an entire organization to succeed, and that starts at the top.
Take action to ensure that you are one of the equipment distributors who is not only still standing, but growing and prospering.
Christine Corelli is a frequent presenter for AED Foundation educational events for dealers. Register now for Christine's webinar on Feb. 16, 10-11:30 a.m. CST, "The Customer of the Future - Will Tomorrow's Customers Be Yours?" Visit www.aednet.org for details, or e-mail Pat Novak, firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on Christine's speaking services, call (847) 581-9968. ©Copyright 2010 - Christine Corelli & Associates, Inc.- www.christinespeaks.com.
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