Businesses have something to sell, a market to sell in and a desire to grow – a generic business model. But in the digital sector both software and technology are evolving rapidly, there are many new entrants and customers often do not understand the subject matter. So where is the exponential growth we have come to associate with the dot.com revolution? Here are four experiences of barriers to growth I have encountered coaching SMEs in the digital sector.
1. Not understanding the marketplace
A digital SME with a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution did not know their marketplace: how many potential customers, of what types and what might they be ready to invest? So how is marketing planned? What determines realistic sales targets? How much growth is possible?
Exploring these issues through coaching, the company now appreciates the market potential. Benchmarking shows they are leading their competitors. Tracking prospects shows what types of marketing works to build brand and win enquiries leading to sales. They are now confidently setting realistic but ambitious sales targets and gearing up the operation and service teams to meet the growth. Growth is no longer hoped for but planned!
2. Not being clear on what you’re selling
If we are not clear on what we are selling to whom and for what reason, the customer will look elsewhere. Catalyst Logistics, a consultancy in supply chain management, had developed a software tool to model delivery paths, predicting the impact of changing transport links or inserting or removing warehouses. As their coach, a fundamental question arose for me: “What is it that you want to sell?” Was it the software in a box – flog and forget? Was it the software under licence with limited support? Or was it consultancy using their software as a winning pitch?
That question led us to work on market analysis, sales approaches and finance for growth. Through the help of my coaching the MD of Catalyst Logistics has said: “I am now able to separate my role as founder-director from the day-to-day running of things. I’m also more focused about the overall, fundamental service we as a company are offering.”
3. Not selling
Selling is explaining how your product/service would benefit customers – not how it works technically. New entrants to the digital market have great technical skills then face failure saying, “But I can’t sell.” Granted, selling is not everybody’s cup of tea but it is a key business skill and the skills can be learnt. Coaching builds the confidence to sell and demystifies the selling process.
One of my clients on the GrowthAccelerator service is in internet marketing. Not many deals were being closed. So together we analysed live prospects and mapped key stages that grew the likelihood of a sale. The client is now marching forward with a points game measuring weekly gains as prospects are drawn through the sales funnel and become customers.
4. Dreams staying as dreams
To turn dreams into a reality, passion and enthusiasm need good business sense and a well thought through plan. My coaching work helped Synergy Logistics elevate their company from being a successful but fairly ‘parochial’, UK software house with a leading edge product, to maximising its potential for growth. As their MD said “Put simply, Adrian has been the catalyst in helping us unlock (our) potential. With Adrian we created a comprehensive strategic growth plan … We appointed a Change Board and Change Team ….”
In 2011 Synergy Logistics won “The One to Watch” award from the Regional Development Agency and were runners up Business of the Year, with annual growth well over 20%.