Russell Ward is CEO of Silent Edge – a specialist in sales training and motivation gives 6 powerful tips on how to keep going in difficult times.
Even a cursory glance at the statistics would suggest that small and medium enterprises hold the key to guiding the UK out of recession. SMEs make up 99.8% of UK business. They employ over 20 million people and generate over $3 billion annual turnover. And, what’s more, many of them are thriving.
Traditionally, small to medium enterprises have been the worst hit by economic downturn. With less capital and restricted cashflow, organisations employing fewer than 250 people are at greater risk of going under when times are hard.
However, whilst the financial crisis presents considerable challenges for SMEs, it can also pose unique opportunities. Silent Edge work with SMEs to strengthen their businesses. These are the ways in which our clients have learned to flourish in challenging times.
1. Remain calm. Stay objective.
Objectivity is the holy grail of business management. It can be hard to stay objective when closely tied to your business, because assumptions, habits and bias all get in the way of constructive decision-making. But it’s particularly important to put objective evaluation at the heart of a development programme so that training is effective and relevant.
2. Take risks and innovate
The number of SME leaders describing themselves as ‘risk-adverse’ has halved in the last 2 years. These are great times to be thinking differently and looking for new ways to maximise performance. For instance, SMEs can consider implementing a competency framework to monitor performance. If linked to best practice, these frameworks can dramatically improve revenues.
3. Evolve with the times
SME’s have the great advantage of being flexible and able to adapt to changing circumstances. Many SMEs are now looking to utilise technology as a means of talent management, assessment and marketing. At Silent Edge, our sales evaluation and review process is built on technology platforms for ease of use. This modern means of sales performance management helps clients to evaluate and improve their sales teams more efficiently than ever before.
4. Invest in your people
The British Chamber of Commerce recently observed that one of the most considerable barriers to growth for SMEs is the lack of a skilled work force. That’s why it’s particularly important to ensure that you recruit, retain and progress the best talent. However, selecting a training programme can be a real minefield. If you’re not careful you could end up wasting time and money. Select a development programme that offers clear links to ROI and provides a bespoke approach to your organisation.
5. Identify your unique Sales Value Proposition (SVP)
What makes you unique? All organisations need to articulate a clear SVP in order to sell. At Silent Edge, we find that many of our clients are struggling because their salespeople aren’t differentiating their organisation from the competition. We offer workshops designed to improve your salespeoples’ awareness of company SVPs and to help them to clearly communicate these to clients. Many of our clients have benefitted enormously from taking this simple step which has significant impact on increasing revenues.
6. Tailor your approach
These are some general tips for thriving in an economic downturn, but it’s important to identify the right approach for you. We tailor our training to the specific needs of each sales force. This means that our clients invest in the development programme that’s right for them. Avoid sheep-dip training solutions which fail to consider your unique position. Instead, try to identify the specific requirements of your business and address these.
It may be tough out there, but there are opportunities available for SMEs to take advantage of the changing economic conditions. Indeed, when recession eventually ends and the financial skies brighten again, the SME market might well find itself even better off.