Five Must Have Conversations for 2017

By: Anne C. Graham

Feb 2, 2017

The new year is always a time for optimism that this year will be better than last, a time for resolutions to increase sales, make your business more efficient and get to all the left-over items on your ‘to do’ list from 2016. STOP. SIMPLIFY. FOCUS. Current research into execution and success suggests that if you start the year with the 15+ strategic initiatives, you’ll accomplish none of them. If you have seven, you might accomplish three. If you have three, you stand an excellent chance of achieving them all. For the next five weeks, have one of the conversations below to create clarity and sustainable success.

Conversation #1:
Of all the good things on our ‘to do’ list, if we could only choose three, which three would create a big leap forward in our business? Here’s a great visual I use in some of my seminars that brings the point home. Have two people hold the corners of a sheet of flip chart paper so that the paper is like a target in a shooting range. Have a third person try to punch all five of their fingers on one hand through the paper at the same time (not in a fist, as outstretched fingers). Then, have them try to punch just one finger through the paper. The message is clear and unequivocal. Less is more. Decide on just one of the three initiatives to put all your energies behind in the first quarter. Get it done and move on to the next.

Conversation #2:
Every business leader knows that they should be connecting at an executive level to strengthen the relationships with key customers. Unfortunately, they often get stuck behind their desk muddling with email and internal issues instead of getting out there. And every frazzled leader inevitably wants to send out an email survey instead. STOP. In a world where everyone is blasting out surveys, there is no better competitive differentiator than to get eyeball to eyeball to find out how you’re doing today and how you can add more value going forward. Have a conversation with your team to identify ten customers who need face-to-face TLC from you or another member of the leadership team in the first quarter and resolve to make it happen. Then repeat with ten more customers each quarter. I’ve never failed to see significantly more sales results, even though you’re not there to sell.

Conversation #3:
Are you hunting and gathering in the right proportions? Most sales teams start the year with aggressive budgets for new business and conquest accounts (hunting). But your best source of new business is old customers (gathering). Have the conversation about how to make old customers new again by harvesting low hanging fruit before chasing new business.

Conversation #4:
Are we cutting costs that are holding us back, or cutting costs that are investments in moving forward? If you had a tough year in 2016, there’s probably been some belt-tightening for 2017 on items like people, marketing, travel, training, capital expenditures and technology – and those are investments in your future. However, just like the Easter Islanders cut down tree after tree beyond the point of sustainability, you can’t cut your way to growth. What’s the solution? The conversation should be: “How can we identify and eliminate costs that shouldn’t even be in our business?” Every time you’re fixing, escalating, or offering discounts and concessions to “make it right,” that’s an unnecessary cost, because it should have been right the first time. Those hidden costs are massive, and really move the needle on profitability when you eliminate them for good.

Conversation #5:
When was the last time you did something truly innovative that made your market sit up and take notice? If it has been a while, then this conversation is overdue, and your next question is exactly the same, just replace “we” with “one of our competitors.” Are you failing to differentiate in a changing market? Or is your entire industry stagnant and absolutely ripe for someone to lead the way in ways that will surprise and delight your marketplace?

Just these five simple conversations with the right people around the table will take you forward further and faster than most laborious strategic planning sessions. And when you change your conversations, you change your results.

Anne C. Graham is a TEC Speaker and the #1 Best Selling Author of Profit in Plain Sight: The Proven Leadership Path to Unlock Profit, Passion and Growth. She shares The P.R.O.F.I+T Roadmap on international stages and with private clients to help them double their profits or more in less than one year, using uncommon strategies that deliver results.


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