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Posted: December 30, 2009

Make the most of what you’ve got

Cuts only go so far in managing economic downturns

Larry Turner

As business owners and senior level managers, we tend to get caught up in the day-to-day activity of running our businesses and lose sight of areas that can generate additional revenue. Over the past 20 months, many of the businesses I've met with have been trying to ride out the recession, with some of these companies finding they are running out of room with their current cost structure.

Cost reductions only go so far in managing in economic downturns, and at some point, efforts to increase revenue need to be implemented. Many companies are finding they have cut sales and marketing so deep that there are limited funds or people available to start increasing sales. The following strategies are areas you can start exploring to increase sales with the resources you have.

1.) Develop strategic relationships

Start identifying companies in your industry that you could create a strategic relationship. The ideal partner could be companies that provide complementary products and services to your business. You are looking for partners that are not direct competitors and will benefit from a relationship just as much as your business will.

An example of a strategic partnership is one where you have an active lead-sharing relationship. Both companies see many opportunities that may not be a good fit their own solutions but could be a good fit for your partner. Start a lead-sharing relationship that may be informal, or could be more formalized with a regular meeting or even some revenue sharing agreement.

A strategic relationship with one or many other partners allows you to multiply your sales activity through the efforts of your partners.

2.) Stay focused

Many business owners I meet start to panic as their cash reserves dwindle or their debt approaches the limit. A common result is a business owner that tries a number of new things to generate revenue only to become frustrated when the results do not meet expectations.

Before heading out into new products or marketing programs take a critical look at your organization and evaluate if you have done everything possible to increase sales in your core market and current product line. There may have been some efforts in the past that were not given sufficient time to generate results, or there is activity that you know needs to be implemented but the company has just not gotten around to getting it done.

Keep focused on your core products, services and markets to generate as much revenue as you can before exploring new areas.

3.) Visit customers

Ask yourself, when the last time you or your management team visited with a customer to learn more about their business? You will probably find that the focus has been internal with limited face to face activity with your current customers.

In one company where I was running a division, the CEO assigned each senior manager five customers that they would be responsible for being a key leadership interface for our company. I remember not being very excited about this program, because a number of the customers assigned were not a part of my division's customer base. I felt awkward in the first few meetings, but the customer did not care what division I ran. They were interested in our company engaging them at a senior level.

Start by visiting your top 20 customers. The visits can be by the business owner or senior managers in your firm. The meetings are courtesy calls and a way for you to connect at level other than trying to sell them your stuff. During these meeting ask if you can be involved with their strategic planning efforts. How can you, as a provider of products and services to their company help them with their future plans?

You will be surprised by the response as well as the additional revenue you can generate from this activity.

There are a number of things we can all do with limited expense to the firm that generates revenue. The key is driving activity that will result in increased revenue from current clients, or sales from new customers. Start these activities today and lay the foundation for developing increased sales.

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Larry Turner is CEO of Roundhouse Advisors, Inc. and has over 25 years experience growing, starting up, repositioning, and revitalizing organizations.  Roundhouse Advisors is a consulting practice focused on helping businesses increase enterprise value by managing pain, growth and owner exits.  Larry is a consultant, public speaker, and the author of “Owner Exit Planning: Leave On Your Own Terms." For additional information visit www.RoundhouseAdvisors.com

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