Empowering Sellers to Enable Buyers – Sales Enablement Soirée, Spring 2020

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Welcome to today’s session on Empowering Sellers to Enable Buyers. This topic is extremely timely given the buying process is becoming even more complex and we need to help our sellers navigate in a brand new landscape. I’m excited to have Lucy Green from Larato join us. Lucy comes to us with 20 years of experience building revenue growth strategies for organizations across industries and around the globe.

She’s also named one of the top five sales and marketing experts in the UK. Lucy, I’m extremely excited to have you join us today. With that, I’m going to hand it over to you. 

Lucy Green: Hello. I’m Lucy Green, Chief Executive of Business Development for Larato. For the past 15 years, we’ve helped businesses to start up, to turn around their fortunes, and to grow. 

We work with all kinds of customers, from major corporations like Vodafone, all the way through to startups with no brand awareness and indeed no customers. We specialize in business development planning and go-to-market planning. And every plan we create is different because every business is different.

We are very passionate about the use of data. And helping to make business decisions. And in fact, we’ve invested very heavily in developing data modeling and data tools to take some of the guesswork out of growth, while still complimenting the creativity and passion that every business needs to succeed.

We’ve helped our clients unlock out almost 500 million pounds of new revenues and we enjoy a high level of repeat business. Which is great. So what we’re going to do today is we’re going to look at some business planning for a crisis, and we’ve developed a playbook for you to use and there is a download to go with this session.

And basically what we’re going to do today is we’re going to take you through how to use the playbook with a few worked examples to give you a good idea about how to use it. Then you can download it and use it yourself. With that in mind, let’s get going. Rahm Emanuel worked in the White House in 2008, when the, what is now called the Great Recession, happened, and he said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” and those are pretty wise words. 

I think Coronavirus is a serious crisis. It’s impacted pretty much every business in the world, and although it’s impossible to predict with precision, what the long term consequences are for industries, there are some practical steps that every leader can take to strengthen their own business in times of disruption and economic uncertainty. 

Now today, there’s a lot of information around about how to deal with the immediate crisis. Particularly those important things like keeping your employees safe and making sure that cyber criminals can’t get into your organization as more people are working remotely.

Although all of that is really important, it’s also vital that business leaders begin to understand what the fallout of this crisis might mean for their business. Rather than providing generic advice that may work for a cross-section of businesses, this playbook can enable every business leader to build a plan that is specific to their own situation.

So what this playbook will help you to do, is it will help you to build a data-backed picture of your organization’s short- and medium-term prospects. It will give you an objective way of looking at the options available to you, that will be easy for you to discuss with colleagues and stakeholders. And there is a template to create a really short, precise action plan to take you forward.

Now you’ll be familiar with some of the business planning tools that we’ll use, but I think it’s important to say that if they’ve been adapted for a crisis, and we’ve used them in crisis situations before, and we know they work. They’ve also been carefully streamlined to provide you with answers you need quickly and accurately.

And then, our experience in working with organizations in crisis has prompted us to include a little bit of additional material about how to engage with and influence others in turbulent times. And that’s quite simply because we’re all human and people behave differently when they’re under pressure and we need to take account of that as we move forward.

Now, there are four steps to this process, this playbook, and I’m just gonna kick straight off with step one. Step one begins by looking at outcomes, and we’ve deliberately chosen outcomes first, because if we start looking at commercials in times of crisis, commercials, the figures, can be unsettling and that can constrain the creativity of your thinking.

So it’s important that when you do this for yourself, you start with outcomes first. We’re going to think about the outcomes for our business and then the impact on customers and partners, if we work with partners. The idea here is just to think about half a dozen important outcomes you want for your business as we move out of this crisis.

And here I’ve made a few suggestions. You’ll see they’re all expressed in the past tense. And that’s because you need to visualize them as these have happened. My business plan, my action plan is going to take me to these destinations. So it could be that I’m in a business that needs to survive.

I may need to survive and become stronger. I may, for example, on this illustration, I may be a business that’s dependent on a specific set of customers or markets. And I may need to lower that dependence in order for me to be able to survive. So think about the outcomes that you want and be as creative as you like, and then, shortlist them down to the top six. From there, pick one or two, at most, three that you really need to achieve in the short term. So in this example, if I’m in a business that needs to survive, then survival is going to be a top priority outcome. And my biggest threat to survival is going to be my second biggest priority. Now, although that might sound obvious, actually taking the time to take a step back, think it through, document it, change your mind is an important part of crisis planning. Giving yourself space is really important during times of trouble. 

Once we’ve done that for ourselves, we look at what does this mean for our customers and partners? You can’t think about an outcome for your own business without at least thinking about the outcome for your customers, and if you are dependent on working with partners, you have to bring them into the picture as well. Again, this is really straightforward and common sense, but having it all captured in one place, like here on this table, gives you a really powerful way of seeing the big picture and talking through your options with your colleagues. So, for example, my top required outcome is that I’ve got to survive.

So actually, I need the people that I’m doing business with to survive as well. And if I’m working with partners, the same goes for them. And the reason to draw that out is that it may change your thinking about your own survival. When you start to bring in your customers and your partners into that picture, it might change your thinking about what you do with your own business. So it’s important to shine a light on all of those areas. 

Then once we’ve done that and we’ve captured: outcomes for ourselves, what that means for our customers and our partners, and we’ve picked the top two that we need to focus on in the short term, we’re in good shape then to move on and look at the commercials.

I’m recommending a pretty strict, red, amber, green analysis of your commercials. And what we’re doing here is we’re building a holistic picture of your business, again, so that you can take a step back and see the bigger picture. So the way to get that is to begin with your customers. Go down your customer list and segment them.

The green ones are those customers who may actually be seeing an upturn in business at the moment, or, the crisis is having no impact on their business. The amber ones or those customers where, yes the Coronavirus is having an impact, but that customer is adapting, they’re continuing to buy from you. They may cut their spend with you a little bit, but you expect that to recover to pre-virus levels. Those are the amber ones. And the red ones are where your customers are having a really hard time and they may not recover in a timeframe that is acceptable to your business, and therefore they present a significant risk. Those are the red ones. 

Then you turn to revenues and profits, and it’s the same categorization for revenues and profits. Just work on them separately. So the green ones are those that will be sustained through the crisis, the amber ones, are the ones that are going to be impacted but you expect them to recover in a tolerable time frame. And what that means for your business is individual to you. It’s going to depend on your asset base, your cash flow, all of those kinds of things. And then the red revenues and profits or the ones that you’re going to lose or will dip and they won’t come back in a timeframe that your business can tolerate.

Then finally, turn to your pipeline and look at your pipeline through this red, amber, green lens. The green ones are these opportunities or forecasts. They’re expected to go ahead. There’s not going to be a delay, and so that’s all great. The amber ones are expected to be delayed with some negative cash flow for your business and how far out they go will depend on whether they stay amber or they turn red. And the red pipeline is those opportunities are going to go away or they are so far out that you can’t, it’s not tolerable in the situation that your business finds itself. So once you’ve done that, I always suggest a crisis cross check through pipeline. 

In business-to-business a qualified sales pipeline quite often has a one in four success rate, so be really skeptical about your green pipeline. Just really to where, on the side of caution in a crisis, it’s better to be slightly more cautious because you’ll make better decisions basically. Then in the playbook, we’ve just provided you with a simple table where you can document all of these figures. You’re going to have these to hand, then turn them into these pie charts. So this is an example that we’ve made up just to illustrate the power of what you’re going to produce. Because now in four charts, we have a risk profile, a very visual one, of a business. We know the risk the customer base presents, we know the risk to our revenues and our profits, and we know the risk of our pipeline.

And you can use this tool then to discuss with colleagues and help you make good objective and data backed decisions. The first thing to do in these situations is to look at the green ones and the amber ones (just check that you’re really confident in the green numbers) and then ask yourself the question, what of these ambers can I turn into greens? Because that will start to inform your decision making as you move forward. 

This is a very, very simple, but super powerful tool to manage your way through a crisis. And basically the next step is to use this information and map out, in a very simple table, what you think your likely revenues and profits are going to be between now and September, September and next March, and then post next March. You can change those time frames if you want, but the way that this crisis is evolving, we think those time frames are about the right length of time to be planning within. Then you can start to ask yourself some really critical questions.

If you’ve got two top priority outcomes you need to achieve. Now you’ve looked at the risk profile of your business, can you achieve those outcomes from the financial position that you’re in? Or do you need to refinance or do something else? In my example, I talked about having a high dependence on a specific market, and from the customer analysis I did, 40% of my customers were red.

So that means I’m going to have to look at some kind of market diversification, which means I’m going to need some resources to do that. Therefore, in that example, my top priority outcome is going to need some money. Have I got it? It starts to give you some really good, data backed ways of making some of these really quite difficult decisions.

You may be in a position where you’re asking yourself the question, can my business survive this without some fundamental change and stay positive? If that’s the case, because we’re going to look at how you achieve that change. On the other hand, if you’re one of those businesses where demand is going through the roof and your revenues are up and your profits are up, have a think about how you’re going to manage your stakeholders expectations when the crisis passes.

Are those revenues and profits sustainable? If they are, then absolutely fantastic. That’s brilliant. But they may not be. And so you need to be thinking now about how you manage your stakeholders expectations. Right, that’s step one. Step two is looking at your options. 

I’m going to turn to my favorite hero, Albert Einstein. A very positive message here, “In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity.” A tiny example from the UK. We had a postal strike in the late 1980s that really impacted every business badly. But actually the outcome of that was a long term market for the fax machine. And I’m sure that you can think of plenty of other examples where people have made money out of a crisis.

Using the visualization that you’ve just done with the pie charts, you can start setting yourself a baseline for what your core strategy might be. And in the downloa, we’ve developed quite a long set of questions for you to consider. Just a word of warning, don’t answer all of those questions. Pick two or three of the ones that are most relevant for you. 

In a time of crisis, it’s really easy to go into, over-analyzing and just thinking, well, if I get that extra bit of data or I get answers to these extra questions, I’m going to make a better decision. That’s largely not true. I’ll refer to General Patton, “A good plan implemented now is better than a perfect plan implemented tomorrow.” 

That is absolutely true in trauma at the time of crisis. So don’t be tempted to overdo it. But you’re going to start off from some base different positions. If your business is largely green, you’re going to be looking at a strategy that’s consolidation and strengthening of your position in the short and medium term.

If it’s amber, amber is the trickiest one, because it needs some careful balancing of risk against investment, using some very robust objective measures and checking on a regular basis. And then if your business is already red, you’re then looking at an adaptation of your go-to-market.

If you’re going to do market diversification, it’s much, much better to look for a niche where you can be really strong, than look for what might appear to be a large market with strong growth that might look attractive. Everybody’s going to be after that and the competition will be much higher. So if you can find yourself a niche, it’s a much, much stronger strategic position.

I’ve got a little worked example, just briefly. So here is a business. It’s dominant status is amber, which means that its base short term strategy is about balancing risk and investment. It’s got two outcomes. It wants to improve business resilience, and so it wants to strengthen its cost base and improve its operational performance.

Now, there are options here. You can start looking with technology. You can start looking at process improvement. You can start looking at new working practices. You’ll be learning. If you’ve got people now working from home, they’ll be working differently. They’ll be learning things. They’ll have a lot to contribute to how you can make your business more resilient. So it’s a good example too, of how you can get people involved. 

I want to decrease the dependence on my markets and my customers. So should I consider entering new markets? What’s the risk of diversification? How much resource do I actually have and how much am I prepared to risk?

And if I do it, does it turn my status to green? That really is the acid test. That’s what you’ve got to check for. Because you’re pre-crisis, if you’re running a successful business, your business is green, and that’s where it needs to get back to. So complete these tables and then you will get a really good template from which to see what your short term options are and the impact they’re going to have on your risk profile and your outcomes. 

Then we turn to the medium term and a good old friend in times of trouble is Ansoff. Ansoff is a very good way of objectively measuring what your midterm strategy should be and just work through it. Work through it in order, and in this instance, can set up all four possibilities. So think about how can you do market penetration? How can you sell more of your existing services into your existing customer base? Is that possible? Is it possible to improve your profitability to a point where your business becomes green again by changing your efficiency base or your productivity performance? 

Those are the sorts of questions to be asking there. Then, can you turn your business back to green, or keep it green, by presenting new products into your existing customer base? Or do you really need to specialize in a niche that is struggling? And do you need to be able to reapply your product set into a different context? 

Those are the riskier sides of the picture. And I’ll use a statistic from the UK. If you find yourself in a position where you are really having to diversify and take new products into new markets, it’s the highest risk strategy and it’s like being a startup all over again. So you just need to account for that. 

And 60% of startups fail in the UK. So you really need to be very confident in your plan if you’re in that diversification square. But still be positive because you can make it work.

So what we’ve done so far, before I move on to step three, is we’ve looked at what outcomes we would like. We’ve looked at the commercials and our risk profile. We’ve prioritized our short term outcomes. We’ve looked at options to determine our medium term outcomes. So now we have a base set of information from which we can make a choice. Making the choices the trickiest bit and quite appropriately.

But with that intelligence that you’ve put together from the previous steps, you’ve now got a really good basis on which to discuss your future with colleagues and make decisions. Best tactic is to shortlist one or two short term options and one or two medium term options.

Consider the red, amber, green status that you’ve done and then see how your choices, how the options available to you can help you get back into green. And those decisions then start to inform how you put together the next step, which is your action plan. I’m not going to go into the details of the action plan, but it’s in the booklet. It’s really straightforward to complete. It’s very practical and it makes you focus in on the actual steps you need to take in terms of your markets and your products, to get you back into a business, or making the business that you’ve got even stronger.

And if you have any questions about that part of the playbook, I’ve got my contact details at the end of the presentation, so please feel free to get in touch. I’d love to talk to you, find out how you’re getting on. So that’s it for the business planning. I did say that we wanted to touch on engaging with people and influencing them during times of stress.

We need to be conscious that other people are probably having a tough time too. And when times are tough or uncertain, our basic human instincts of fight or flight come into play. And this affects how we listen. It also affects how we hear. It affects how we respond to one another and it’s actually been psychologically proven that people under stress remember things incorrectly and for a shorter amount of time. 

So when we start thinking about how we talk to people, about how we engage with them, and how we influence them, we have to bear these things in mind. Now, we’ve spent the session so far creating a set of tools to talk to your colleagues and your stakeholders.

This is as relevant to your engagement with them as it is to the actual communications you do with your customers and your markets. There are four basic elements to consider: there’s your credibility, there’s listening, there’s the logic and reasoning of your position, and then there’s timing. And they all change slightly differently during times of a crisis.

They’re listed in that order for a reason. Somebody won’t listen to you if they don’t think you’re credible. They won’t start to meet you in terms of understanding your position unless they felt you’ve listened to them. And timing is absolutely vital, because if you get the timing wrong, the conversation could just collapse.

I’m just going to very briefly touch on each of these, whether at the focus on how, how you do that, and how it changes in a crisis. So your credibility is more than what you know, it’s who you are and it’s how you behave. And in times of crisis, being candid with people actually really helps your credibility.

So if you’ve done your red, amber green, for example, analysis and your businesses come out red and you’re candidly speaking with other people about the fact that your business is red. That you’ve understood its vulnerabilities and you’re owning them and you’re finding a way forward. Your credibility is going to improve and probably improve quite significantly.

A word of warning. Beware of false empathy. There’s a ton of it out there at the moment. You see it everywhere. “We’re just here to help. Please come and buy some stuff.” That is just not doing anybody’s credibility any favors, at all. So just avoid that. It’s bad news. Then listening. If you want to influence, you must listen. And it’s even more important when people are stressed, because stress affects what people remember and it affects their outlook.

You can’t influence someone unless you’ve understood where that person is coming from, what their position is, what their worries are, and what their concerns are at this time. So you’ve really got to listen and you’ve really got to probe. And what is a really good idea here, is just using, “can I just check I’ve understood?” “Can we run through that again because I’m not quite sure I’ve understood you.” “Let me see if I’ve got this right.” All of those kinds of phrases, but obviously it could be listening as well, but they come into play really well and I found in my own experience that, I think, I may have asked that question three or four times to an individual and I still haven’t heard what their position actually is.

So don’t be afraid to repeat the question several times over. Test is really to say to that person, do you think I’ve understood you? And if they say yes, then great. And all of that time you’re gathering data about what their concerns are, that will then help you to adapt and change your argument and the reasoning of your position.

So again, if you’re a leader of a business that’s red, your board members, they may be worried, they may be worried about different things to you. Once you’ve understood what their concerns are, they might affect your own thinking and your own reasoning, and then you can adapt. You really then improve your chances significantly of winning your argument or actually even understanding whether your argument needs to change.

Timing is always critical during a crisis. In our experience err on the side of caution. Try and understand as much background information as you can about the person or the audience that you’re going to be engaging with to try and determine whether now is a good time. And then finally, two last things.

Golden rule: Don’t try and have a conversation with somebody who won’t gain value from it. There’s so much of that happening and it gets worse in a crisis. Just always think about that. And then the last thing is adapting your communication style. There are basically four types of people. And it’s really helpful and it will improve your ability to engage and influence if you can adapt your own style to the person that you’re talking to.

So, these again, are laid out in some detail in the playbook, but basically a pioneer, is pretty competitive. Likes to try out new things. Doesn’t mind risk. Is happy to share ideas. Probably has a fairly short attention span, so you need to be quick. it’s quite creative and inventive. So just bear that in mind when you’re talking to a pioneer. 

A fast follower is interested in the new. They like to try things out, but they don’t like to be first. So you need to provide some reassurance. And they’re likely to be competitive, creative, and logical. And as a leader, they are quite often quite directional. So they’re really good in a crisis. These people really come to the fore in a crisis. 

You have your conservatives, they are slightly more risk averse. They definitely need the comfort of another person’s decisions. So if you are having to do a change in direction of your business, engage with your pioneers and your fast followers first, and then help them to influence the conservatives and then the ultra conservatives.

That is a very fundamental way of achieving business change. Conservatives are good team players. So again, that comes into a positive in a crisis. 

Then we’ve got your ultra conservatives and they will be really struggling Now. They don’t like change. They’re very uncomfortable with it. They like to keep the status quo. If you’ve got ultra conservative workers in your team and they’ve been displaced from their place of work and they’re working from home or from somewhere else, they’re likely to be struggling and you need to watch out for those guys. Because those guys will need some support. So that’s it for me, really.

There’s a lot more information in the playbook itself. These are my contact details. Please feel free to email or call me. I’d love to hear feedback about the playbook, about how you’re getting on, about any questions. And I’d like to thank you for inviting me to this session and wish you well. 

Thank you. 

Shawnna Sumaoang: Thank you so much for that presentation. With that, to our audience, we’d like to open it up for Q and A. Please type any questions you have in the chat panel below and we’ll be sure to address those. Again, thank you for joining us today.

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