Mark McNamee is leading business development expert with over 30 years’ experience working with businesses across Australia, SE Asia and the South Pacific. Marks experience includes working for large multinational corporate businesses through to small start-ups in agricultural, automotive, white goods and professional services sectors. Mark is an avid member of Fire Station 101 and is hosting a workshop series, ‘Understanding the Importance of Selling’ for Fire Station 101 and the broader entrepreneur community of Ipswich. We caught up with Mark for a quick Q&A to find out more about his experiences, learnings and what to expect from his upcoming workshop. To attend ‘Understanding the Importance of Selling’ RSVP here!

How do you help entrepreneurs and businesses to be innovative?

There are lots of ways I help my clients be innovative, however, if I was to choose one, it would be to understand the difference between an objective and strategy. An ‘objective’ is something you’re trying to achieve — a marker of the success of the organisation. At the other end of the spectrum is ‘action’. Action occurs at the individual level — the level that you are presented with day after day. So naturally when they think ‘strategy’ they focus on what they do. But this isn’t strategy either.

‘Strategy’ takes place between objective and action at an organisational level. In an established, well run organization, say with a CEO, they have an advantage because the CEO has a total view of the organisation. For innovators, startups and emerging businesses, they are often caught in the doing; setting objectives and completing tasks. When that’s your day to day grind, staying aligned with the strategy, or even developing and adjusting the strategy can be difficult.

Getting clear about their business strategy, reviewing and revising when necessary is a critical function of transitioning to a viable business. Having the outsider looking in can be invaluable in ensuring that discipline is applied. So among other things, that’s one way I help clients.

What’s the most effective daily habit you possess?

I am going to be greedy and suggest 2 habits – one weekly and one daily.
1. Weekly planning to ensure I take care of the things that are most important to each of the roles I have in and outside the business. I never want to get caught up in the thick of things. Weekly planning helps me ensure the things that matter most are never sacrificed for the things that matter least.
2. Daily reviewing to learn – every day I review progress toward my stated weekly objectives and adjust when required. I am ruthless with this.

How did you land where you are today?

It was 25 years in corporate life, including working with two off-shoot startups, so I have been there and done that. One went very well, the other has struggled over the years. My last role was working with clients in a business advisory role, working inside a corporate environment helping the distributors build their business. Some clients suggested I should consider stepping out on my own. About four years ago I became tired of corporate life and took the plunge and stepped out on my own. So that’s what got me here.

Why should a startup or solopreneur attend your workshop?

I have a saying that just about nobody likes to hear but it’s is just so true, “Nothing happens till somebody sells something”. As startups and emerging businesses, you’re always selling, and it will never stop. You start by selling the idea to yourself, then to your investors, other development partners and if you are lucky, you will be selling to customers – you know, the ones that pay the bills and make you successful.

Setting up a sales culture, knowing and applying selling skills will get you to where you want to go faster, in a more profitable way, without having to compromise on the values you and your product represent.

That’s why they should come along.

Why do entrepreneurs and startups need to understand selling?

There are lots of things. Most entrepreneurs don’t have a sales background, they tend to look at things from a technical perspective. Perhaps their total sales experience has been as a customer and given sales is seldom done well, have never seen a great sales process in action.

Let’s consider just one selling skill – Determining a value proposition.

Poor pricing practices are insidious, especially in startups run by inexperienced leaders. Poor pricing strategy and management damage a company’s economics and can go unnoticed for years. Consider the case of a client who was a startup industrial goods manufacturer that was struggling with low profit margins, relative both to competitors and to its own targets. It traced much of the cause to a mismatch between its sales incentives and pricing strategy. The manufacturer was compensating sales representatives based solely on how much revenue they generated. Reps thus had little motivation to hit or exceed price targets on any given deal, and most were closing deals at the lowest permissible margin.

Designing your sales system and process will be critical to lasting success. Considering how your selling resources are assessing customer needs, identifying relevant features and communicating the benefits is worth thinking about now, not when you are about to go to market. Thinking about how each stakeholder will be compensated is equally important to consider.

Why do you believe culture is more important than process when it comes to selling? Can you explain what you mean by ‘culture’ in a sales context?

So much has, and will be, written about culture. Establishing an ‘effective’ culture for your business is one that matches the market you operate in and is so much easier to do from the start rather than trying to undo or reinvent the way things are done half way down the track.

Let’s take customer centricity as an example. Companies have been trying to adopt customer centricity for nearly 20 years now. But the CMO Council reports that “only 14 percent of marketers say that customer centricity is a hallmark of their companies, and only 11 percent believe their customers would agree with that characterisation.”

Why do so many companies struggle to get customer centricity right? The volume, velocity, and variety of customer data that now exists overwhelms many organisations. Some companies don’t have the systems and technology to segment and profile customers. Others lack the processes and operational capabilities to target them with personalised communications and experiences.

But the most common, and perhaps the greatest, barrier to customer centricity is the lack of a customer-centric organisational culture. At most companies the culture remains product-focused or sales-driven, or customer centricity is considered a priority only for certain functions such as marketing. To successfully implement a customer-centric strategy and operating model, a company must have a culture that aligns with them — and leaders who deliberately cultivate the necessary mindset and values in their employees.

Company leaders are starting to recognise that culture and strategy go hand in hand. Only when customer-centric strategies are supported and advanced by culture will a company realise its customer-centric vision.

To attend ‘Understanding the Importance of Selling’ RSVP here!

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