Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy New Year

It’s a time for reminiscing

The big Times Square Ball is about to fall. 2014 slowly shuffles down Memory Lane; and 2015 boldly marches forward. The ghost of Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin' Eve shows past flash through the subconscious of America. TV pundits scour their previous 364 shows for memorable moments. Celebs step onto the red carpet and captivate us with half backed renditions of personal growth. Culture dictates this as the time of year for quiet reflection and forward thinking resolution.

Taking momentary advantage of this space in time, let’s reflect:

What new bit of technology did we discover in 2014?
I personally discovered the power of the mobile app. Mid-year I noticed a young salesperson pull out their tablet and walk a customer through the selection of a complex industrial sensor. With the assistance of the app, this relative neophyte seller displayed the product/application skill of a seasoned veteran. Get ready, this one will impact our world. This category could go on for a dozen pages.

What part of your customer’s world changed in 2014?
With all the pseudo-crisis activities blasting out on distributor news sites, scare tactic tweets and LinkedIn propaganda efforts, it’s easy to focus on what’s going on in our world. But isn’t it all about the customer? Here are a few points to ponder. Customers dependent on water are experiencing a drought. Companies relying on engineering expertise can’t find enough talent. Massively fluctuating oil prices give petroleum related companies unbelievable heartburn. How tuned into these issues are you?

Where you really selling solutions in 2014?
I recently read an article stating 70%+ of all distributors claim to be solution sellers. At the same time, experience dictates most distributor salespeople struggle to keep up with simple product knowledge. Most fail to understand customer pain points in a meaningful way. Think about orders won and orders lost. Were you selling, really selling solutions?

What value did you provide to your own organization in 2014?
Most readers will quickly point out increases in sales and gross margin generated. Great stuff. For most of the distributors reading, anything greater than an 8% growth number probably indicates you outgrew the market. But, let’s move deeper. How did you produce greater profitability? Did you do something that sets the stage strategically for coming years? How did your work increase the stock value of your company?

What do you wish you could have accomplished in 2014?
Don’t be shy. We all have at least one wish. I wish I could have finished my new book on building account based strategic plans. You have a few of these as well. Which were strategically important? What lessons might have been learned?

Let’s shift our focus from the past to the future. Looking ahead….

Why will it be easier and better to be your customer in 2015?
Pushing the old adage “What have you done for me lately?” forward, let’s think. What strategic service, product offering, technology tool or other offering will you provide your customer next year? Chances are more of the same doesn’t count. Further, putting together this competition killer of a plan will take some time. Wouldn’t now be a good time to start?

What will you do to make your competitor’s life more difficult in 2015?
Let’s assume you have some really difficult to duplicate competitive advantages. Your competitors fear you. Resting on last year’s advantage is not a good strategy. What strategic plans, investments, activities and positioning will be needed to make competing with you harder in 2015 than today?

What really important stuff should you accomplish in 2015?
I have every reason to believe 2015 will be an action filled year. Business is set to be brisk. Our customers will reward us with orders. Urgent crisis will come by the dozens. We must remain focused or meaningful advantage will slip through our fingers. The answers to our questions at the end of 2015 will not shine as brightly as they might have.

Before we go…
If you are not through planning for the New Year, I suggest you get started. Our Distributor’s Annual Planning workbook contains lots of tips, tricks and some of the right stuff to get your planning started. It is available here

We also have some other resources available electronically. They can be easily downloaded here.

Happy New Year

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