Sustainable Sales Growth

By Mike Philie posted 10-25-2016 03:16 PM


Here’s where we are. Yes, it’s the 4th quarter, the time when most graphic communications companies are doing very well, and are making hay – a technical term. Most of you are reaping the rewards of the hard work your team has done over this past year and prior years. If you aren’t, maybe you should take a hard look at your business building process. More on this in my next post.

As you review your YTD numbers, take a hard look at a few segments of your business:

  1. How are you doing overall last year?
  2. How are you doing overall vs. budget?
  3. How many of your sales reps have increased their business? What % of your reps will make budget?
  4. Is your sales compensation plan meeting its objectives?
  5. How are you doing with the accounts that really fit your ideal client profile?
  6. How are you doing with the accounts that are not really accounts, but actually just a few random projects each year?

Sales Overall to Last Year is a Wash

What I’m Hearing

Here’s what I’m finding in too many cases as I speak with CEO’s. Sales overall to last year has been a wash. Sales to budget has underperformed. They haven’t capitalized on the new services that they’ve brought to market. While sales with clients that fit your ideal client profile have increased, sales with clients that you do a few random projects with year over year have gone down. And only 10-20% of their sales reps have increased their business. You’ve got to ask yourself – is your sales team focused on what you do very well and can make money with or are you open to any and all opportunities that come down the pike? I think there is a correlation between this and accomplishing your goals.

How about the Leaders?

Now, on the other side of the coin, there are companies that are just tearing it up. What’s the difference? To paraphrase many who have written about what Abraham Lincoln said of General Ulysses S. Grant after his many victorious battles: “find out what the General is drinking and send a couple of those whiskey barrels to all my other generals!” Unfortunately, it may be a bit more involved than this. The discipline of having a strategic and/or marketing lead-generation and sales plan and of knowing what really fits you and what doesn’t is a key first step. Conducting thorough research on new opportunities and having the right team in place allows you to be creative and discuss the client’s business strategies vs. only the specifications of a project. These all can lead to more successful meetings, which lead to more appropriate opportunities, and finally, more of the right type of business, which leads to sustainable sales growth in year over year sales.

No Silver Bullets

Let’s be realistic. There are no silver bullets out there…just do this, do that, and do the other thing and you’ll skyrocket to the industry leader category. Sort of like, just take this pill every day and you’ll lose 20 lbs. in a month! It’s hard work, really. Well, being an industry leader is hard work too! What’s your leadership discipline and what’s the discipline of your sales team and how is your sales effort aligned to the goals of the business?

The Good News

The good news is that you’ve got about 60 days to think about, and plan for, your continued growth for 2017. The bad news is that if you’ve not reached your 2016 goals, then as Ricki said to Lucy, “you’ve got some explaining to do.” Sorry to be the “Debbie Downer” here but we need to get this party started!

Let’s have a friendly conversation about what you’re going to do differently in 2017 and how likely that will lead to better results.

As always, I’m happy to discuss these and other topics with you. I can be reached at or (703) 837-1090. Looking forward to hearing from you!