“Change before you have to.”
~ Jack Welch
Are You Looking at the Right Numbers?
In the midst of all the drama around us, it’s easy to look at how your business is doing right now and think “I don’t need to worry about the economic impact later on. I’m OK.”
The other day, I was in a coaching session with a client who sells medical technology. His story was that business was booming, his sales team could hardly keep up with appointments, and orders were flying out the door… which was all true.
But then we compared this year’s numbers with last year’s – and the year before that – and noticed a worrying trend…
… Appointments and sales were always booming at this time of year…
And they trailed off mid-December.
Then… He panicked and worked his butt off from the start of February to around August… when he started to feel complacent.
He’d been looking at total monthly sales rather than a comparison of monthly sales year-on-year.
In fact, when you looked at the situation from that angle, this year did present a challenge: sales were lower than they had been at this time in any of the preceding 3 years.
I suspected that that was what we would find, because I could vividly remember my first conversation back in March of this year, shortly before he brought me on board to coach his team.
I wasn’t trying to be unkind, but I needed to focus his attention on the real problem he faced so that we could solve it together.
Are You Looking at the Numbers Right?
As we looked at his cashflow projections for the coming months (which were scarily lean), I could hear the note of desperation rising in his voice, and see the tension in his shoulders: “What am I going to do, Chandell? I can’t deal with this roller coaster any longer.”
As a sales trainer, I saw these numbers from quite different angle to my client’s perspective. He was looking at it from his past experience on the feast or famine rollercoaster in the face of which he felt like a victim. I saw those same numbers as a sales challenge that could be overcome.
In my experience, when you see yourself as a victim it’s almost impossible to take appropriate action to solve potential problems. Numbers can be your friend if you use them as a springboard to decisive, strategic action. They’re only your enemy if you let them shape your emotional response to an ‘unchangeable’ future.
What Are You Going to Do Now?
I told my client about the plan of action I had already set up for the sales team and went through my cashflow projections on the basis of their implementation. I also had to explain how I had reached those numbers because his initial euphoric reaction had been based on one view of the numbers and with that euphoria shattered he was uncertain about all numbers.
Some years ago, I was in my client’s position – so excited about strong monthly sales that I didn’t see my February cash crunch coming until mid-December. When I finally realised how bad my cashflow projection looked, my first response was paralysis and despair. Fortunately, my coach pointed out that there was still time to change those projections. I leaped into gear and implemented this strategy for myself and ended up with my best month ever, plus a full pipeline stretching out for over 9 months.
What Are You Going to Do Next?
In my case, things worked out OK, but it was terribly stressful and I vowed never to do that to myself or my team again. Now I schedule what I call a “Cash Flow Projection Reality Check” in October each year when I still have plenty of time to change the situation rather than doing it at the last minute.
My client is going to be OK, too. His sales team are hard at work and he’s pushing those numbers upwards and has a solid flow of orders well into the middle of next year…
What about you?
Have you looked at your historic sales and your cashflow predictions for the coming months as well as your total sales? If not, I strongly suggest that you look at them while you have plenty of time to take decisive action without panic.
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