By Benedict Roff-Marsh
I used to work in a business where a friend of the owner would call us cowboys because we didn't follow the formal rules of the day in how to manage customers within the sale. He said we lacked structure and were shooting from the hip, making it up as we went. Pow, Pow!
He became a manager with us for a while and brought in all his rote activities that everyone had to follow (on pain of dismissal) but instead of improving on our position as #1 Retailer for our brand, he brought reduced sales, reduced gross per sale, and damaged staff morale badly.
We already had a process but it was based on knowing what we needed to achieve instead of merely doing certain things at particular moments. We were in effect using the Agile methodology as we all knew what the real outcomes needed to be and could focus on delivering those intelligently instead of doing things that had no real value (past box-ticking).
Where you finish is more about where & how you start
In my other life, I am a musician. I hear other musicians endlessly talking about Mixing Tips & Tricks and better Secrets for Mastering their songs. Interestingly they commonly have very poor output both in quantity & quality of material.
Understanding why this is so, is a direct parallel for any business. Let's start with the picture I use to try to explain this to musicians:
In this image you can see that Mixing & Mastering are only a small portion of the creation process for making a piece of music. This means that if you put all your effort into creating a wonderful Mix and Mastering it to perfection, you would in effect have created nothing of value. We used to call that "polishing a turd".
Matter of fact there are many records out there that are considered classic albums despite having relatively poor mixes and overall sound. Examples are:
Meatloaf "Bat Out Of Hell"
Judas Priest "Sin After Sin"
Bruce Springsteen "Nebraska"
Why are these records that sound far from shiny-perfect still considered vital listening? Because they have great songwriting & performances.
A great song is created in the composition. It is then well performed. Once those basics are in-place the mix & master effectively fall into place. Even further, you can actually botch them and still make the sale.
Example: I had a couple of fellows on the tarmac wanting a car but I seemed to be getting nowhere. One was the buyer, the other his friend being supportive. The buyer was what I referred to as "gummy", he wouldn't really engage with anything. His friend was nice but also a bit at sea. I then made the sort of mistake I would sack myself for: I turned to the car beside us and said "What if I could get you this car for a discount? What if it was $19,000?" I had no commitment in anything. I was pants-dropping. In my head I was face-palming and working out what to tell the boss. Get this, the buyer turned to me and pointed to the same car in blue and said "No, that's the car I want and $19,990 is already a really great price. I would like to buy that one there". OMG. OMFG even! His friend said, "Shouldn't you be asking for a discount and a test drive?" The buyer again said, "No that is the car I want and that is a great price." Still somewhat stunned at my great luck I said, "We better go sit at my desk then" and started walking. And we did, and he was a happy customer.
To relate that to my graphic above, unbeknownst to me (and his friend) the Compose part was already done as the buyer had already researched that exact car and knew he loved it. We had a great foundation. On the yard, he was gummy because he needed to (another of my expressions) "wind his clock down" before committing to the decision he had already made. My talking to him and his friend actually filled the Performance part perfectly for him. He felt me and trusted me. The sale closed itself (Mix) and I delivered that car (Master) despite my blunder because the groundwork was well done.
The moral of this story is that while many people in business focus on the exciting stuff at the pointy end like building websites & apps in the belief that they create sales, the real work in building sales is done way before in the Strategy & Tactics.
I didn't really get lucky that day. My customer was already in the flow, our flow, my flow because he had been on the website I made, spent time talking to me, and even though I phrased the question terribly wrongly, when I asked for his business he closed himself (I felt I had something there despite no buying signs).
Things Flow or they are Brokended
Every part of a business from the person who licks the stamps on the bills to go to customers to the billboards on the side of the highway have to flow.
There has to be a clear line between every person & task and every other person & task or the business does what ours did when we let the "proper" manager do his formal thing. He broke us. Badly actually as that business never recovered once it had lost belief in the groundwork that made us winners in the first place. We started doing a lot of things that made no sense and stopped doing the things that worked, even after the fellow was gone. Losing was inevitable. I felt it and left.
In business, like in recording your own song, it is easy to think you are doing one thing but in reality another altogether is happening. That disconnect almost always results in problems. At best inefficiencies, but in reality more likely failure. This is why a record company always puts a Producer (like George Martin) in the room whose job it is to understand what the artist is trying to achieve and to guide the sessions toward delivering that in a way that will best appeal to audiences. That is, sell more records.
Checking Your Flow
It is easy to lose flow. It doesn't take much. It is then a lot harder to re-establish, especially if there wasn't a great groundwork in vision that everyone in the company (incl. your customers) feels and lives every moment.
If you are concerned that things in your business aren't running with a good flow, it is best to assess this ASAP as the longer you leave it, the more that toxic culture grows. Toxic cultures build inefficiencies as they stop being Agile and even worse, build internal empires that have other agendas.
At Intracept, we have a great set of noses for sniffing out both great flows and when they have gotted broke.
Ways that we can help look at the flow in your business include activities like:
Assessing Your Website for Sales Flow
If you are a smaller business (a person or two) and you want to get a sense of how this works, particularly in how your website is performing (or not) for you, we are happy to assess your site and deliver our report.
Cost for this is AUD $50 and paid up-front over PayPal. If this is something that you would like us to do for you, please use the Contact Form requesting your Website Sales Flow Assessment and why you are concerned. We will then send you a payment request and set to work to assess your public website and send you our report.
After that if you want to take action, we can have a proper discussion to develop Strategy, Tactics and of course Solutions that are quotable.
To give you a sense of what your report will look like and the sorts of things it may contain, you may download and read this sample.