Nothing Happens Until Somebody Sells Something: How to Improve the Process

You may be familiar with Arthur “Red” Motley’s quote, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something!”

Leaving aside the extent to which Motley’s perspective might or might not be true, effectively managing the sales process and maintaining a path of steady revenue growth are every-day objectives within organizations of all types and sizes. And while many external factors, such as variation in the economy or increased competition, can significantly impact results, the selling process – like all processes – can and must be studied and continually improved.

Interestingly, when we delve into that subject with organizational leaders we frequently find that they have not defined a “sales process” that focuses on the work. Instead, they refer to their CRM categories as the sales process.

We understand and appreciate the value of CRM systems and forecasting, but this type of measurement does not focus on the work. It is, therefore, not surprising that a common challenge facing so many organizations is how to grow revenue.

If sales growth is an issue for your organization, here are a few strategies you might consider from a past newsletter:

Looking outward to test or confirm what customers deem most important. Start by testing your understanding of what your customers and your competitors’ customers really care about.

Every customer contact is an opportunity to mine information that can help you grow the business. Ask customers what they like about your services or products. Ask what they would want you to change (other than the price) that would make them happier. Learn about their related needs, new needs and concerns – and remember that, in many cases, customers are not fully-aware of their needs; so, while you’re at it, probe for unrecognized needs as well.

Ask your customers about what is most important to them and how they think you stack up. Ask bigger-picture questions to gain insight into challenges they face that go beyond the use of your product or service. Armed with information about what customers value, you can innovate solutions that leverage your capabilities to exceed your customers’ expectations.

You must also have a repository for the information, and a method and the discipline to capture the information for analysis and action.

Consider exploring three other sources of valuable information about your customers and the market you serve:

Observation: arrange a method for watching your customers use your product or service. A great deal can be learned by simply looking!
Analyze lost sales data, and use the information to set improvement initiatives in motion
Internet searches: see what people in your marketplace are searching for and interested in. As the saying goes, “Find the need and fill it!”

Look inward for opportunities to define and improve the sales process – that is, study the work!

What processes do you use to generate sales?

How well are these processes working?

How do you know?

You can study and improve your sales generation process just as you can improve any other process – by gathering facts and data about how the process is currently working, identifying the waste in the process, addressing the underlying causes, and measuring and standardizing the results of the improvements. What process do you use to acquire new accounts? What process do you use to grow sales with existing accounts? Below are several different processes that businesses use to generate sales and how you might study and improve them:

Sales calls – are they well planned and executed? Messaging? Outcomes?
Promotions – are they effective? Net gains?
Distribution channels – are they effective? Are there additional channels to be evaluated?
Pricing – is it too high? Is it too low? How do we know?

Look forward to maintain an innovative edge. Sooner or later all products or services become “commodities.”

Simply stated, you must offer something meaningfully unique and that means, you must innovate.

Following are three directions you could explore to innovate and expand the business:

Adapt your current offering to rejuvenate relationships with existing customers. What new feature or service would make the relationships young again? New features, functionality, packaging or performance?
Commercialize under-utilized capabilities. What capabilities do you have or do your suppliers have that are under-utilized?
Adapt your current capabilities and offerings toward emerging needs and markets. Where is the market headed? What technological changes will influence future needs? What geographical openings will grow in the coming decade? If you were to imagine the future, what would you see?

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Reflecions of Worldwide Cruises

As a four-decade Certified Travel Agent, international airline employee, researcher, writer, teacher, and photographer, travel, whether for pleasure or business purposes, has always been a significant and an integral part of my life. Some 400 trips to every portion of the globe, by means of road, rail, sea, and air, entailed destinations both mundane and exotic. This article focuses on my worldwide cruises and crossings.

My lifetime Cruise Program, which spanned the 18-year period from 1991 to 2009, entailed 27 voyages on 24 ships operated by 11 cruise lines to 17 regions, 49 countries, and 114 ports-of-call. During 205 days at sea, I sailed almost 60,000 nautical miles. The journeys themselves have been subdivided into geographical region.

The east coast of the United States, for instance, was covered with both northerly and southerly itineraries.

The first, with Holland America’s Rotterdam, departed New York on a ten-day cruise that took it to Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine, and then to Canada, specifically Noa Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec, plying the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City and Montreal. The second, with Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Dawn, paralleled the eastern seaboard on its seven-day sailing to Orlando and Miami in Florida, and then amended its course to a more easterly one to Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas, before returning to its port-or-origin.

The West Coast was also thoroughly covered by sea. Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas, for example, threaded its way from San Diego to Vancouver, with ports-of-call in San Francisco and Astoria, Oregon, before charting Canadian waters to British Columbia, while Princess Cruise Line’s Regal Princess undertook its seven-day Alaska Inside Passage itinerary from Vancouver to Juneau, Skagway, Yakutat Bay, and Sitka.

Hawaii, in the Pacific, was covered with a multiple-island circuit on the Norwegian Star, specifically Oahu, the big island of Hawaii, Maui, and Kuai, before assuming a southerly heading to the almost equator-equivalent, three-degree north latitude location of Fanning Island in the Republic of Kiribati, its mandatory foreign port-of-call.

Other than the Bahamas, Bermuda counted as an Atlantic Island destination-in this case, on Carnival’s Pride for a seven-day sailing that included three nights at port for daily sightseeing of an equal number of the British island’s areas.

Three Caribbean island cruises-one to the Eastern and two to the Southern Caribbean-provided considerable coverage there.

The first, with the Grand Princess, departed Ft. Lauderdale’s Port Everglades and touched bases in St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Princess Cays, its private island.

The second, with Celebrity’s Constellation, set sail from San Juan and traveled to the Dominican Republic, Barbados, Grenada, Antigua, and St. Thomas.

The third, with the Caribbean Princess, once again had a San Juan origin, but sailed to Aruba, Bonaire, Grenada, Dominica, and, for a third time, St. Thomas.

Two Mexican itineraries entailed a single-day one from San Diego to Ensenada on Starlite Cruise Line’s Pacific Star, and the more traditional single-week one with the Sea Princess-in this case, from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera destinations of Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, and Cabo San Lucas, reminiscent of the one weekly plied in The Love Boat television series, which sparked considerable cruise interest.

South America was circumnavigated with three 14-day journeys.

The first, on the Royal Princess, departed Ft. Lauderdale and hopscotched its way to St. Barthelemy, St. Lucia, and Barbados in the Caribbean, before venturing to Devil’s Island in French Guiana, crossing the equator, and penetrating the Amazon River in Brazil to Santana, Santarem, Boca da Valeria, Parintins, and Manaus, covering 3,236 miles.

The second, originating in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and operated by Celebrity’s Infinity, ultimately arched its way around the tip of the continent at Cape Horn, which provided northerly access to the Beagle Channel of Darwin fame and the southerly entrance to the Drake Passage. Its ports-of-calls included Montevideo in Uruguay, Puerto Madryn in Argentina, Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, Ushuaia in Argentina, and Punta Arenas in Chile. Continuing its trek up the west coast, it plied the Strait of Magellan and the Chilean Fjords, offering close inspection of Skua Glacier, before sailing to Puerto Mont and terminating in Valparaiso, both in Chile, completing a 4,070-mile cruise.

The third, of equal duration and on the same ship some two years later, departed Valparaiso, but alighted in La Serena and Arica, both in Chile, before continuing to Callao, Peru, and Manta, Ecuador, in the process crossing the equator. An easterly transit through the Panama Canal took it through the Miraflores Locks, Gatun Lake, the Gaillard Cut, and the Gatun Locks, during which time it was subjected to an 85-foot change in water level. The final four days of its journey took it to Cartagena, Colombia; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and Ft. Lauderdale, its terminus, ending a 4,505-mile journey.

An earlier, partial Panama Canal crossing, on the Coral Princess, had also departed Ft. Lauderdale, but called on Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman in the Caribbean, Limon in Costa Rica, and Cozumel in Mexico. It only entered the Gatun Locks and plied the lake of the same name.

Off of South America’s west coast-specifically Ecuador-a five-day, four-night Galapagos Island cruise on the smaller Corinthian entailed ports-of-call in San Cristobal, Tower, BartolomĂ©, Santiago, Santa Fe, and Santa Crux, its two daily shore expeditions requiring a barefoot plunge into the warm, crystal water from tenders and a subsequent walk-and-wade to the beach to bridge.

The North American and European continents were connected with three transatlantic crossings between New York and Southampton on Cunard’s famous Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Mary 2 ocean liners, one in an easterly direction and the other two in a westerly one for ultimate travel opulence. They all passed the Statue of Liberty, penetrated the choppy Grand Banks of Newfoundland, and sailed their way down the Solent to Southampton, sometimes in reverse order, depending upon the travel; direction.

Europe was extensively cruise-covered from the north to the south.

A British Isles circumnavigation on the Golden Princess, for instance, proceeded from Southampton to Dublin in Ireland, Hollyhead in Wales, Belfast in Northern Ireland, Greenock in Scotland, Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands, South Queensferry, serving Edinburgh in Scotland, and back to Southampton, England.

The Norwegian Fjords, on Celebrity’s Century, were accessed through Olden, Flam, Alesund, and Bergen, an itinerary that included the breathtaking North Fjord, Jostedal Glacier, Europe’s largest, and the Sognefjorden, the continent’s longest, after a departure from Amsterdam.

An excerpt from my Cruise Log captured the experience.

“The Century exited the Sognefjorden, once again turning north and plying the North Sea throughout the night. Approaching Alesund, its third port-of-call during the early-morning hours, it docked to starboard in the silver-mirror-reflective harbor at 0730 between the low, deep green hills on its left side, above which dirty-white clouds, like ethereal mist, hovered, and the gabled, turreted Norwegian row houses of the town on its right, characterized area architecture. Located at the mouth of the Storfjord, Alesund proudly sported Mount Aksla, which prominently rose above it.”

Scandinavia was also covered with a cruise from Copenhagen on the Crown Princess, calling at Nyshaven in Sweden and Helsinki in Finland, before continuing to St. Petersburg in Russia. Although it docked in Oslo, Norway, at the end of its sailing, it returned via the Baltic countries of Estonia and Poland.

An Iberian sailing from Southampton on the Sea Princess paralleled Europe’s west coast after docking in the Isle of Guernsey, and then proceeded to La Rochelle in France and Vigo in Spain.

The Eastern and Western sides of the Mediterranean were also cruise-covered.

The former, on Royal Caribbean’s Splendour of the Seas, departed Barcelona and touched bases in Marseilles and Nice in France, Monaco, and Florence, Pisa, Capri and Sorrento in Italy.

The latter, with Celebrity’s Galaxy, sailed to Greece and Turkey, and the Greek Islands of Santorini and Mykonos from Rome.

Finally, a 3,374-mile sailing on the Costa Fortuna entailed ports-of-call in Barcelona before proceeding through the Straits of Gibraltar, bridge between the European and African continents, to Casablanca in Morocco, where after it plied the South Atlantic to Santa Cruz on Tenerife in the Canary Islands and Funchal in Madeira. Its return brought it to Malaga on Spain’s sun-drenched Costa del Sol.

These cruises and crossings offered new approaches to destinations already visited, along with many new ones. As self-contained, floating cities, their megaships, sometimes housing populations of 7,000 passengers and crew members, brought multi-colored sunsets, tranquility to the soul, and islands, cities, and countries that appeared outside of my stateroom’s window or balcony almost every morning. During days at sea, I took advantage of some one hundred lectures and courses, an equal number of live performances at night, and just as many shore excursions when they were in port. The countless buffet and sit-down meals are almost unfathomable, but three examples have been citied.

“Breakfast in the Splendour of the Seas’ King and I Dining Room included orange juice, fried eggs, bacon, grilled tomatoes, hash-browned potatoes, and croissants.”

“Afternoon tea, on the Queen Mary 2, was a British tradition and a delightful intermittence between lunch and dinner served on every Cunard crossing. Served today in the Queen’s Room, which was the largest ballroom at sea with an arched ceiling, twin crystal chandeliers, a velvet blue and gold curtain over the orchestra stage, a 1,225-square-foot dance floor, a live harpist, and small, round tables, it consisted of egg, ham and cheese, cucumber, tomato, beef, and seafood finger-sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and strawberry cream tarts.”

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