In today’s economic environment and ever faster moving marketplaces, it has never been more important for company leaders to make the right decisions about strategy, people, execution, and money. While ideas abound on the topic of accelerating growth, consider these four critical and less frequently asked questions that can have a substantial impact on a company’s ability to reach and exceed their revenue and profitability objectives.
1. What do customers really think of our company?
Customers see the company for what it is today, and that is not always where the company wants to be. Hearing customer perspectives on the sales experience, onboarding process, use of products or services, support, and even billing can be an eye opening experience. That insight is priceless to executive leadership as it can highlight where to focus support to achieve a company’s growth objectives.
Companies who embrace the concept of truly understanding market perceptions often use a third party to conduct audits by speaking with customers [and even lost deals]. These interviews gather in-depth feedback on all aspects of each customer’s experience and often lead to recommendations for change and improvement throughout the organization.
2. What are we doing to encourage innovation internally?
Employees can be the source of countless ideas that will effectively cut costs, streamline operations, and/or grow revenue. From the corporate office, to the factory floor, to out in the field, each employee brings a unique perspective based on their role and responsibilities, and many great ideas can be uncovered just by asking.
Encouraging innovation can take the form of putting together small teams to brainstorm new ideas, allocating time each month dedicated to idea creation, or implementing an online solution focused on sharing ideas. Just as critical as creating an environment that encourages innovation, is having a plan in place to implement the most promising idea(s). This requires true support from management to distribute resources and dollars to further develop each idea and determine its long-term viability.
3. What are we doing to support sales funnel growth?
Using a variety of inbound and outbound lead generation activities to drive top-of-funnel traffic is the norm for marketing, yet what is working continues to evolve. This is especially evident by the rise of the “self-directed buyer” – one who researches product or service options extensively via online and social channels before ever engaging with the company or going to the store to make a big purchase.
To address this trend, new techniques are now being used on the marketing front to find, develop, and qualify potential leads before passing them to sales. Using methods such as marketing automation, company leaders can objectively measure the impact of marketing on sales and accurately project what is needed to support sales funnel growth. This knowledge can help lower customer acquisition costs, shorten sales cycles, and increase the predictability of sales forecasts.
4. Are We Making the Right Systems Investments?
From eCommerce solutions to customer relationship management to marketing automation to support systems, every decision should be made with long-term needs in mind and should be integrated with all applicable systems internally.
This is important because technology is often a big investment for companies, both in hard and soft dollar costs. Getting it right the first time will save significantly in the long run through more streamlined operations and the ability to scale quickly without the need to dramatically increase headcount.
Asking the right questions of the team and fostering a candid conversation about where the company stands today is paramount to stay competitive in today’s economic environment. Top performing business leaders aren’t afraid to ask tough questions that provide critical data to create a cohesive strategy involving people, execution, and money, all of which is essential to exceed revenue and profitability goals.
NOTE: This blog post is an excerpt from an article originally published in the November/December 2013 edition of Texas CEO Magazine, “Fostering Candid Conversations: Key Questions Every CEO Should Ask Their Team” by Christa Kleinhans Tuttle, President of Launch Marketing