Sunday, November 22, 2009

Another SWOT in the HTG Books

This week I was in Rice Lake Wisconsin with DCS Netlink, a great company led by Dane Deutsch. On the SWOT team with me were Lyf Wildenberg (HTG2) and Mike Haworth (HTG15). We had a fabulous time as we dug deep into the business and worked to identify some tweaks and changes that will help the team there continue their growth. As is the case for most small businesses, there are a number of plateau’s and blockers that come up along the path to growth. That is the case at DCS, and so we worked to help solidify what the team already knew – they need to grow into a sales organization. This is definitely the most common problem that HTG companies are wrestling with. It happens to many about the same time. You grow pretty well without an official sales plan until you hit 1M – 1.5M or so in revenue. And then you hit the wall. No matter what you try, it just seems like you are stuck right there. Since a lot of us are entrepreneurs that came up through the technical side, we have a dislike for the whole sales process anyway. We can’t figure out why we can’t turn some screwdriver or find some new technical solution that will fix this problem.

The reality is that any business that wants to grow has to become a sales organization. Nothing happens until a sale gets made. It took me a long time to admit that fact. We can engineer the greatest solutions in the world, but if we never sell them, or don't get paid appropriately for them, we will go out of business. It is a pretty simple truth that many never figure out. So sales is not optional – it is essential and needs to come off the list of things you have to hold your nose about. Get over the fact that you think sales people are all like the used car types and embrace the reality that you need to find some good ones if you want to grow your company. But then what? Once you know you need to change from being an invincible engineering company to a sales company – what next? Well you actually have to hire someone to sell. And that becomes a challenge because a good sales person thinks very differently than your typical MCSE. They don’t necessarily understand every detail, or even care for that matter. I personally think it is better to hire someone who can sell before worrying about whether they understand technology or not. Sales is all about relationships, not how much you know about the latest gidgets and gadgets. But that is my opinion and certainly no one looks to me as the expert on this topic. There are some good resources out there in our channel that can help. HTG currently has some classes going on with Kendra Lee around hiring a sales person. Erick Simpson and MSPU has some fantastic resources. If you are struggling - get some help. Don't flounder around here - you need to find a salesperson and get started.

Of course, hiring is probably the easy part even though it does seem overwhelming. Once you have a person on your team, then you have to manage them. There are few things more dangerous to a business than an unmanaged sales person. ConnectWise has great tools to assist in sales management. Again - there are lots of solid resources available to help teach you how to manage sales people. One of the best though is to talk to peers who are successful doing it. There are a number of HTG companies with sales organizations that are making it happen every day because of great sales management. Find them and figure out how to put their practices into your business.

Nothing happens til somebody sells it. Get off the fence and find a salesperson and begin the process of becoming a sales organization. Vision without execution is hallucination - and I see more companies that are hallucinating in the area of sales than anywhere. Sales is not rocket science. It may feel that way, but it really isn't. And without it, you can plan to plateau and be stuck for as long as you allow it to happen to you. You can't grow without becoming a sales organization. Get over it and get on with it!

Thanks to Dane and the team at DCS for a great experience in rural Wisconsin. I learned much and look forward to watching you go through this challenge and on to the next one!


Stuart R. Crawford said...

Sales in the lifeline to your success in business.

Stuart R. Crawford
Bulletproof InfoTech

Roger Swanson said...

I am excited to see fellow HTG'er Dane at DCS getting a SWOT done. Also present Mike Haworth you guys rock.

Yep, we all have to get the sales gears rolling. Best wishes in your business and life journey.

Be Blessed,
Proverbs 27:17 - iron sharpens iron as one man sharpens another

Roger Swanson
Summerville, SC