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Archives - April 2014

Creating a Successful Sales Program

April 15, 2014
By Steve Terp

The old saying goes that nothing happens in business until someone sells something.  Over the years, we’ve learned some valuable lessons about sales and wanted to share a few of them.

  1. Culture:  First, we should all understand that everyone in the organization should be wearing a sales hat – and that attitude starts at the top.  To send the right message throughout the company, it’s important to teach – and incent – the right behaviors.
  2. Planning for your people:  Before you hire a sales person, remember two things.  First, don’t limit your thinking to your immediate budget (although of course that’s important) by considering only the role you need to fill now.  Be sure to look down the road to your future needs.   Often CEOs shy away from hiring a more experienced sales person for budget reasons, only to find that a year later they need that level of experience and skill.  Second, once you have your sales leader in place, assign your budget appropriately among the support elements, including marketing and inside sales.  Hiring more outside sales people is not always the best way to grow your sales.
  3. Find the winner: Our best sales people have come from referrals from business partners, customers and even former employees.  We’re always in sales recruitment mode and never pass up an opportunity to meet with new talent.  Our best advice is to develop a thorough recruitment and assessment process.  After you qualify candidates, take the time to get to know them in a variety of settings – on the phone, in person, in the office, in a group and outside the office – so you can observe how they interact with others.  We also use personality testing to get a better feel for how good the organizational “fit” will be. 
  4. Make it all crystal clear:  To be effective, your sales people need to understand your customers, your products and services, your key messages, their sales goals and their compensation.  Keep the compensation structure simple – we like to say, “there should be no gray in pay.” Balance what’s right for the sales person with what’s right for your shareholders.
  5. Execute, learn and adjust to the market:  Now it’s time to set your annual sales goals, mapped to the budget and forecasts.  Measure progress consistently and share it publicly to keep your sales folks aware of where they all are.  Create a model everyone can understand related to more opportunities, the size of opportunities and how to maximize sales and profitability. 

Put most simply, you want to sell to more people and sell more things to more people.  It’s that simple (but also that difficult!). 

Steve Terp is chief sales officer at Tribridge (www.tribridge.com).  He can be reached at steve.terp@tribridge.com.  This blog post was taken from his recent TECH Talk presentation.  

From Service to Start-Up

April 01, 2014
By Danielle Weitlauf

As veterans return from their tours of duty, we don’t always hear about the next chapter of their lives.  For an increasing number of veterans, that chapter takes an interesting turn as they follow an entrepreneurial path.  Their numbers are growing and they may well have what it takes to succeed:  according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, military experience is an even stronger predictor of self-employment than graduate level education.

Maybe the best example of a veteran turned entrepreneur is Fred Smith. Smith earned his undergraduate degree at Yale, where he wrote a term paper on the deficiencies of the passenger route systems used by most airfreight shippers. He spent time as a platoon leader and a forward air controller in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he had the opportunity to observe the military’s logistics system. Using his background and his military experience, he launched Federal Express, now known as FedEx, the first and largest overnight express delivery company in the world.  Forty-three years later, Smith is still the company’s chairman and CEO.  

What makes veterans such good entrepreneurs? Military service men and women are disciplined, organized problem solvers who are passionate about what they do and willing to seek advice.  A number of them also possess strong leadership skills.

We recently held a StartUp Studio program specifically for veterans and in the first class, asked participants to list skills possessed by entrepreneurs.  Later we covered the word “entrepreneurs” and replaced it with “military” and discussed how many of the characteristics were the same. These included the ability to receive and process a lot of information, make difficult decisions and carry out projects from formation to implementation. Seeing this, it’s no wonder the last U.S. Census found that 2.45 million businesses were majority owned by veterans, or that veteran-owned firms represented 9 percent of all firms.  Florida had the third highest number of veteran-owned firms, behind California and Texas.

Tampa Bay Innovation Center is doing its part to help veterans interested in becoming entrepreneurs, offering the StartUp Studio program to entrepreneurs in the idea stage. The two StartUp Studio courses allow entrepreneurs to determine if their idea is a good business idea and then identify their next steps.  Supported by a grant from Enterprise Florida, Inc. and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, we can waive program fees for qualifying veteran entrepreneurs in Tampa Bay (limited number available).  We invite veterans to give us a call and we’ll see how we can help turn a business idea into reality.

Danielle Weitlauf is Business Partnership Director of Tampa Bay Innovation Center.  She can be reached at weitlaufd@tbinnovates.com.

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