I've heard it so many times over the past few weeks that it's a confirmed trend. Or better yet, I've actually confirmed my own rumor. Just the same, there is a lesson to be learned.
The solution providers I talk to on a regular basis are almost universally saying they have cut all the costs they can possibly cut out of the business at this point and they need revenue improvement in 2010. We can all relate to that. But here's the bigger issue: Have you spent as much time thinking and doing things that can help drive new revenue as you have taking costs out?
If you can honestly answer yes to that, you are one of the few -- and
you are also not being honest with yourself. I'm not taking anything away from cost-cutting, but the reality is revenue can solve a lot of problems. So in an effort to help, here are some things that are worth thinking long and hard about.
1. Commit to always looking for ways to take more costs out of the
business—with one caveat. Every time you do so, drop 50 percent of the savings to the bottom line and use the other 50 percent to drive sales. That could mean using the newfound cash to drive a marketing initiative, add sales support or add another salesperson if there is enough money. Realize that any amount can be used effectively to
raise awareness and/or find new revenue.
2. Build a solid sales and marketing plan for current and prospective customers. There is a lot of material out there that speaks to how to do this, so I'm not going to go into detail. However, this is something that is crucial to successful revenue growth in a difficult environment. At the very least, your sales professionals need to have goals for their current customers and for bringing new customers to the table.
Marketing needs to know what you expect it to do with the
current customer set -- perhaps make it aware of new offerings,
as an example -- as well as what you expect in finding new prospects.
3. Do an accounting of all the co-op and market development funds you left on the table last year or that were used for unproductive endeavors such as T-shirts and golf outings. Then commit to making these soft dollars work for you in 2010. Somewhere between 40 percent and 60 percent of these soft dollars go unused every year. The CFO at your supplier is happy to take the liability off the books, while the channel managers are disappointed the dollars didn't get used to drive more revenue. There are myriad ways to effectively use this money, and it really needs to be calculated into your overall sales
and marketing plan.
4. Consider finding new suppliers of services that can help you take advantage of those floundering soft dollars. We here at Everything Channel, as an example, have a host of products and services designed to drive demand for solution providers -- all of which are effective in driving large returns on the investment and all of which can be measured and approved for reimbursement from suppliers.
5. Find ways for every customer-facing individual in the business to do more of what drives sales -- and that's get in front of the customers more. This means making sure the technical deployment team realizes it is as important and perhaps more important to driving revenue as the sales team. If you have direct contact with the customer for any reason, you should be trained to spot new opportunities and help the business meet those opportunities.