1. Keys to Scaling a Business
There are many ways to sell products and services Over the years we have been lucky to work with some great people and great companies. Some were small startups, some were large Mid-Market organisations and there were/are the large enterprise organisations we have worked with.
So after all these years and the hundreds of companies, we’ve worked with, and the thousands of salespeople we’ve trained and coached, we can honestly say that the number one challenge facing every business that wants to scale is finding new customers. Without New Customers, it’s impossible to Scale or Grow any business.
To scale a business fast is dependant on rapidly increasing the sales of your products and services, however, it’s important to recognise that traditional sales strategies are less relevant in terms of the initial sales strategy when you are scaling.
An example of this would be, no business has ever successfully scaled by using telesales or by applying the best practice in territory sales management. Scaling by nature is predominantly done online which is the only way to get the rapid growth required.
That’s not to say that those companies who have successfully scaled don’t use traditional sales tactics like telesales as part of their overall strategy, it’s more that they are much less reliant on these methods.
For example one of the best examples of scaling is inbound marketing experts Hubspot who is now worth over a billion dollars.
Hubspot scaled rapidly online from 2006 onwards but heavily invested in traditional sales strategies like telesales from 2015 onwards.
2. Scaling vs Growth
Whilst similar, Scaling and growth are two different business models. When you scale a business new customers are added without a substantial increase in structure and overhead. For example, when a software company creates a cloud-based product there is often little additional overhead required to move from 1,000 monthly subscribers to 10,000. Yet if a manufacturing company grew at the same rate they would have to add additional resources such as production lines, distribution and staff.
Scaling was never really possible before the internet which is where there are many examples like search engines, social media companies and software providers. Scaling businesses do have to add resource as they grow but the connection between the two isn’t linear. Whether you are scaling or growing your business the strategy outlined in section 9 of this page will work for you.
Often what dictates Growth and scaling in a business are the length of their sales cycles. Business Growth tends to come with long sales cycles which by their nature make it difficult to scale.
3. Why Scaling is Important
For the startup scaling a business may be the very reason people invested in the business. When you fail to scale a business this can mean difficult conversations with investors that may demand more equity in return for the next round of finance. Sadly many Startup founders failed to scale their business and subsequently went back to the Investors too many times for additional capital. Sadly they ended up being fired from the business they started, all because of missed sales targets.
For the SMEs failing to scale a business means, growth has stalled and all the good things that have been done stand to unravel, as the best salespeople look around and question their future. It’s easy to stay on the bus when it’s all going well but when growth stalls commissions and bonuses stall and whilst not everything is about money, few of us ever vote for a pay cut. Structure, systems and process are great however none of these will work without the people that built them, use them and run them.
New customers bring a sense of purpose and buzz around the organisation that simply isn’t there when every single sale is a hard-fought battle that seemingly drags on forever. There are few things as demoralising for a Sales Rep than chasing a Sales Target they don’t believe in and in their heart don’t think they can achieve. The next step then is the good salespeople leave and the lower performers stay.
4. Barriers to Scaling a Business
Whether you are a startup trying to find your first customer or an Enterprise like Microsoft who we worked with to help ramp up their channels to sell O365, new customer acquisition is king for growth and scaling any business.
New customers bring new revenues that breathe life into every organisation and without them, growth stalls and things start to go backwards.
There are millions of sales and marketing experts with millions of strategies advising how you can find more customers.
However, the message is either not getting through or possibly, the message gets through but it’s difficult to execute on all these different strategies, so people either give up or they struggle to implement the strategies.
5. The Dangers When You Scale a Business Too Fast
Finding and winning new customers creates other challenges in the business such as operations, finance, and retention to name but a few, however, the revenues that new sales brings makes it much easier to solve these problems. There are the dangers of overtrading and running out of cash however it’s much easier to get an injection of capital with a full order book than an empty one. Unlike growth where the supply chain can break or become too costly to fund, most challenges when you scale a business come when things break due to the amount of pressure that scaling can create.
5.1 Systems & Process
As your business grows and more people join having effective systems and processes becomes even more important. These processes cover every part of the business from sales to operations to HR and finance and their importance shouldn’t be underestimated. Your processes should also cover the legal requirements that every business has and these can be often easily overlooked.
People are the heart of every business and the more people in the business the more important it is to find, hire, retain and develop the people in the business. It’s perfectly normal to make mistakes in the hiring process as every business has done this however with the right systems and process in place you will reduce this and be able to cope with any mistakes you might make. As the business grows the skills, experience and aptitude of the people the business requires will change and you need to make sure you not only have the right people on your bus but those people need to be in the right seats.
5.3 Customer Care
There is nothing more demoralising than winning new customers to discover you have lost half of them next month. Churn is impossible to remove completely, however, it’s important to minimise this as soon as possible. Bad news and bad service is more likely to go viral than any other type of web content so investing in customer care is a necessity.
Before even attempting to Scale you should ensure you have a reliable product and service that adds unique value to your target audience.
Many Startups use free software to reduce costs in their early years. More often this software is not fit for a scaling enterprise and will need to be swapped out for something more suitable which inevitably causes disruptions. From experience, it’s better to do this as soon as possible and before the free software becomes a bigger problem for the business.
6. Challenges of Scaling
Most people work hard and try their best, but with so much different and often conflicting advice, it’s no wonder people and companies get “stuck” and end up with poor sales results, causing them to start procrastinating over what to do next. To scale a business is about sales and in sales, like no other business function the work we do today often has no immediate payoff. This creates uncertainty around if it’s the right work and eventually so much F.U.D (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) creeps in we stop and try something else looking for that instant gratification and proof we are providing value to the business.
This is akin to the farmer who sows his seeds in the fields at springtime and then returns the next day to find no crop to harvest. Sales is not a profession that provides instant gratification. In the same way that the farmer was water, feed and nurture the seeds for months Salespeople need to do the same thing to be successful.
Furthermore, in Sales, most Sales targets are revenue-based which are lag indicators. Modern sales management has moved on from lag indicators and mostly use lead indicators based on the actions and activities that drive the sales opportunity through the pipeline. Identifying and measuring the correct lead indicators is quite easy, however, once again the problem of instant gratification or rather the lack of it in sales, makes consistency the biggest challenge for most sales leaders.
7. Traditional Marketing Doesn’t Work
Marketers and salespeople will normally argue over who is responsible for Lead Generation within the business. The reality is everyone is responsible for sales so assigning blame won’t solve the problem or get your business moving forward.
There are of course numerous studies showing the most common strategies for generating B2B sales leads however each one of these could almost be a full time job and given that most marketers and salespeople are so busy they will struggle to do more than one of these strategies consistently.
For example, it’s really easy to spend a whole day on LinkedIn, creating a post, sharing a post, contributing to discussions in groups and liking and sharing content from your network.
At best you are staying in front of your prospects mind at worst you are frittering away the hours and achieving very little.
Include the fact that studies show that multitasking decreases productivity by up to 40% yet most marketers and salespeople are trying to execute on multiple activities both online and offline every day.
If like most businesses you have a marketing plan it’s possibly not working or you wouldn’t have ended up in this page. The truth is most marketing plans are 40-60 pages long and are never implemented.
8. Examples of a Modern Scaling Business
Leadpages are a great example of how to scale a business who bucked the traditional marketing methods and are now an industry leader. Leadpages create high converting landing pages. This is a highly competitive market and Leadpages had to fight industry giants like Hubspot as they acquired 15,000 new customers and a $3.5 million run rate in their first nine months. After three years Leadpages had acquired 35,000 customers and were turning over $16 million. You can learn more about Leadpages amazing scaling journey here.
Groove is a helpdesk software provider who grew their blog to 5,000 subscribers in just 5 weeks which is simply amazing. The blog now has over 150,000 subscribers and they have generated over 3,000 paying customers in 2 years. This article explains Grooves scaling strategy really well.
Mint who operate in the hugely competitive personal finance space experts gained a huge online following before being sold to Intuit for $170 million.
9. Business Scaling Strategy
Every example of Scaling a modern business we have studied has one thing in common. They get to Page 1 of Google. Getting to Page 1 of Google provides traffic back to the website which in turn provides the massive increases in new customer acquisition and revenues.
Whilst other forms of marketing may be important, nothing has an impact on the business that Page 1 of Google does to drive sales. With 4.33 Billion active users on the internet the sheer volume of search traffic available dwarfs other more traditional marketing channels such as pr, events or networking. Internet traffic is growing 8 times faster than the world’s population so it’s just madness to ignore it.
Of the 4.33 Billion active users Google has 63.8% market share. Social Media sites like Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook are important but much less so, especially in B2B sales. You don’t need fans and likes you need customers.
With 1.7billion websites on the internet and 354.7 million new sites registered in 2019 the web is a crowded place and Page 1 of Google is a big ask for any business. The fact is, however, most B2B marketers are not focussed on Page 1 and instead are busy multitasking on Web, Social Media, PR, Events etc.
We’re not saying these activities don’t add value, what we’re saying is that they are the wrong priority and more and more B2B companies are questioning the value that platforms like Facebook add with the changes in their algorithms and group policies.
Most Entrepreneurs know that getting to Page 1 of Google is easy if you target a keyword that no one is searching for like “pink fluffy wwe wrestlers”. It is however worthless unless you are selling “pink fluffy wwe wrestlers” and someone wants to buy “pink fluffy wwe wrestlers”.
Leadpages, Mint, Hubspot, Groove, Buffer and many others got to page 1 on Google for specific keywords their buyers were actively searching for.
Every single one of these companies and many others had a sales strategy to get to Page 1 of Google. What most Entrepreneurs don’t know is that all the information from Google and other experts is in the public domain and most of it is free.
We know this because we’ve already done the research and studied the experts like:
|Brian Dean – Backlinko||Joe Pulizzi – CMI|
|Rand Fishkin – Moz||Jay Baer – Convince & Convert|
|Neil Patel – Ubersuggest||Anne Handley – MarketingProfs|
|Danny Sullivan – Search Engine Land||Emma Brudner – Hubspot|
|Larry Kim – Wordstream||Michael Brenner – Marketing Insider|
Here’s an example from our own business where we have achieved what’s called Position Zero which is technically called the Rich Snippet above the Position 1 ranking on page 1.
Please feel free to check this and other Keywords we rank for such as Online Sales Coach, Online Sales Coaching, Exec Sales Coaching, Remote Sales Coaching, Enterprise Sales Training, Online Sales Coaching Model.
10. How Fast is Fast?
There is, of course, a catch, whilst the information on how to get to page 1 of Google is free it takes a lot of time and effort to implement the strategies. And the killer is that even if you do everything perfectly your website, or rather the pages or posts of your website will take on average 35 weeks to achieve 80% of it’s ranking on Google.
In Verne Harnish’s book Scaling Up he asserts it takes 2-3 years for all the processes, people and structure to meld together and another 2-3 years to master them. There are very few that have moved quicker than this so it’s important to manage expectations.
Luckily most people don’t believe it’s possible to get to Page 1 of Google and therefore don’t even try, however, the fact that most companies aren’t even trying is exactly why it is possible.
95% of websites operate in a different niche to yours and are no competition for you.
95% of the remaining 5% of companies that are in your niche are not even trying to get to Page 1.
If you want to Scale a business our recommendation is really simple. Strip back all non-revenue generating marketing activity and re-focus the whole business on getting to Page 1 of Google.
There are more sales available from Page 1 of Google than most businesses can cope with.
11. Recommended Reading
To learn more on how to scale a business check out how we support Entrepreneurs and SMEs to grow their businesses here.