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Systems for sales success

Business champion and US sales guru Jack Daly is big hit on the international speaking circuit and has cemented a great reputation by helping businesses sharpen their selling skills. For more than two decades, he’s been walking the talk – from leading global sales forces to building businesses from the ground up.

Peter Switzer caught up with Daly on his program, SWITZER, on Sky News Business Channel to find out the tricks of his trade.

Something with numbers

Daly started in sales at a young age.

“My first selling experience was at seven years old,” says Daly. “By 12, I had gone on to build my first company. At 13 I had five employees.”

Eventually, he took the advice of those who were older (and, he presumed, wiser) and went back to school to learn how numbers work.

“If I understood how the numbers work, then I could grow not only a business with sales but with profits.”

Daly went on to earn an accounting degree, to work with Arthur Andersen, and start six businesses from scratch. He grew them into national platforms in the US, and then sold a couple of them to Wall St.

“They were fast growing on the top line and fast growing on the bottom line. Along the way I had a lot of fun.”

Around 14 years ago, Daly took his bow from the business world in favour of a different stage, the speaking circuit, so he could “help other businesses do something in a similar fashion”.

Letting go for growth

For many, selling a business built from scratch would be a hard task. Not so for Daly.

“For me, it was easy,” says Daly. “The reason I think it was easy was because that’s what my intent was: I’m a ‘build and sell’ type of individual. My capital can only take the company so far. I get real joy out of the blank sheet of paper and being the artist creating the company; get it to a certain size and we really need a different skill set in there. Somebody that’s going to professionally manage it. And then it becomes more like work, and much less like play. I’d rather play.”

Switzer says he’s not alone and in Australia, he often hears stories of the entrepreneur being asked to move away from the daily running of the business by their board.

The right numbers

But let’s get back to the numbers. His mentors saw this as a key to his future success. Does this apply across the board?

“It’s a common problem with a lot of businesses that fail. We have a lot of folks that are very good technically, they’re very good at bringing business in. But there’s a difference between bringing business in and profitable business.”

The numbers Daly refers to are those associated with cash and profitability. And this is where many businesses trip up – they grow too fast without checking the figures.

“I don’t want to have hundreds of thousands of employees out on the street bringing business in; hundreds of thousands of employees generating the operational side of the house, and then at the end of the month find myself at the bank where I’m going to take an additional loan so I can meet payroll because it didn’t pencil. So it’s cash and profitability.”

In the system

Switzer asks if Daly thinks a lot of people in business get distracted by big revenue numbers and lot of employees and whether they forget the important things – like the numbers that will keep them in business.

“Absolutely. They absolutely do.”

Switzer cites best-selling author Jim Collins’s assertion that the fundamental realisation is that the leader can confront the brutal truth, and says those who aren’t across the numbers aren’t getting the full picture.

“People and companies both tend to under perform to their capabilities because they rush to the urgent at the expense of the important,” says Daly.

He points to a US-based mag for SMEs, Ink which publishes a ‘top 500’ annually, and says a lot of entrepreneurs are focused on making that list, but that 70 per cent don’t typically make money in the year that they are honoured.

In business, Switzer says, many are deluded by their own successes without stopping to evaluate whether they were successes in a business sense. So how does Daly advise people to shake this complacency?

“I’m going to use two words that are almost an anathema to the business community when it comes to an entrepreneur: systems and processes.”

Now, says Switzer, he’s starting to sound like an accountant.

“Systems and processes is the key,” says Daly. “There’s hardly anything that goes on in a sales call that you couldn’t anticipate. When we go out and we watch what the top producing sales people are doing – no matter what industry that we’re working in and we’re working in 80 industries on average a year – the top sales people are canned, they say the same thing, the same way each time.”

Canned, Daly explains, means the same – just like a well-rehearsed theatre production.

“The beauty of the top sales guys is that they don’t sound canned, it sounds as though it’s the very first time they’ve ever said it,” says Daly. “If I go to opening night but the show has been on Broadway for eight years, I don’t want them to make new things up the night I’m there.”

The theatre analogy is an apt one. Switzer says there is great value in rehearsing – especially your ad libs. This advice, he says, was given to him by the best of the best. Daly continues: “I love sports analogies,” he says. “Watch the professional circuit and you hear about Tiger Woods taking this high risk shot. Well, it was high risk for someone who doesn’t play the game regularly, but he’s played that shot over and over and over again. I wish more sales people would take to that. Practice and preparation.”

Setting goals

Can systems – the bane of many entrepreneurs' existence – be exciting?

Daly says ‘first of the year’ people subscribe to New Years Resolutions – they want to be healthy, so they join a gym. In January, gyms are packed. Now, in August, you can have any machine you want as the tumbleweeds roll on through.

“The reason we fall off is because that’s an inappropriate goal. A goal needs to be in writing, it needs to have a written plan on how you’re actually going to achieve it, a system of measurement and a system of accountability,” says Daly. “And if any one of those ingredients are missing, the likelihood of achieving the goal is severely diminished.”

Daly uses his own goal – to run a marathon in each of the 50 states – as a case in point.

“I can’t just pick up the paper and see there’s a marathon on tomorrow and say, oh, I think I’m going to run that. Not 42 km. what we need to do is a number of activities for two or three months prior, day in and day out to capably finish the marathon. Selling and running our businesses is a marathon. We need to do the basics on a day to day basis in order to cross the finish line in a profitable fashion.”

Published on: Monday, April 23, 2012

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