Instill these strategies into your company’s DNA to promote long-term revenue increases and repeat business.
In college, we nicknamed our friend Mike Monroe “Rover” or “Rove”, a tribute to his warm personality that endeared him to everyone he met in a man’s-best-friend kind of way. After graduating, Mike sold fax machines door-to-door and actually liked it — excelling in a job that not just anyone could do well.
“As co-president, I personally called 10 to 20 customers per month. That was definitely one of our secret weapons.” – Mike Monroe
A few years later, he and his brother bought a refrigeration distribution business and worked in it – and on it – with a goal to grow it. As co-presidents, they revitalized the company and grew revenues by a staggering 6X, propelling it to the top tier of the industry.
Last year, they sold the company to a corporate giant, and Mike retired at age 55.
I asked Mike to spill the secrets behind the remarkable growth and success that led to such a life-changing triumph. Mike is super modest, so it took some convincing to coax him to talk. After thinking about it, he revealed five pivotal elements that paved the way for extraordinary success:
1. Know your customers inside and out
Truly understanding your customers enables you to fulfill their expectations, develop mutual respect, and cultivate loyalty.
Try this: As co-president, I personally called 10 to 20 customers per month. Our sales team and product managers each provided one or two contacts per month and a reason for my call — new customer, increased purchases, disgruntled, or dissatisfied. Whether I was thanking them for their business or trying to solve a problem, they typically appreciated the attention, and I gained valuable insights. The customers felt “heard,” while I saw firsthand what my salespeople were navigating and gathered intel to tweak our offerings over time. That was definitely one of our secret weapons.
2. Empower your team with quick-decision autonomy
Enabling coworkers to make quick decisions can strengthen relationships with both customers and colleagues. Customers appreciate agility, which allows them to seize opportunities promptly. It will also differentiate your business from competitors and help you close more sales. Giving team members autonomy helps them feel valued and trusted, leading to improved job satisfaction and stronger relationships within the organization. Plus, you can quickly correct and learn from mistakes if they get it wrong.
Consider this situation: While developing a relationship with a potential dealer, they approached us with a time-sensitive opportunity. They would feature our company’s products in their marketing campaign if we shared costs with them. But, they needed a same-day answer, or they would miss the cost-saving buy. Our salesperson, unable to reach her manager, made a game-day decision to authorize the buy based on previous experience. The marketing campaign was a success, and they became a permanent dealer.
3. Set goals for the company, departments, and individuals
Setting — and, more importantly, measuring — goals boosts sales and profitability. During the goal-setting process, involving all parties that must work together to achieve the goals is crucial and will create buy-in and enhance accuracy. Once our team adopted this discipline, sales and profitability increased dramatically.
Best practice: We posted a daily forecast that displayed our progress compared to goal. We celebrated those on track to meet their goal and worked with those who needed help achieving their objectives.
4. Seek the “win-win” scenario
In every vendor, customer, and coworker interaction, the goal is to achieve a win-win scenario. That means always looking for mutually beneficial outcomes. While it may not always be feasible, a win-win should be the goal. This approach helps to foster long-term, reciprocal, and sustainable relationships.
For instance: One key supplier had a product shortcoming that caused Mike’s business to miss out on opportunities in the evolving market. The supplier committed to expanding its product line within a year and, in the meantime, provided competitive pricing and programs that would enable Mike’s company to continue serving the market profitably. This collaboration benefitted both parties because it ensured that the supplier didn’t lose market share, and the company could meet demand without needing another supplier. Win-win.
5. Make decisions with long-term vision
Building sustainable relationships is crucial for long-term business success. It applies both to investing in the business and nurturing relationships with dealers, suppliers, customers, and coworkers.
Real-world scenario: When establishing a distribution partner for a particular brand, consider the long-term reputation of the brand and the profitability of its existing dealers in the market. It’s better to sacrifice short-term sales and wait for the ideal distribution partner who will maintain the brand’s long-term stability than to jump into any available partnership. Make such decisions with the goal of building a robust and sustainable dealer network that will benefit all long-term.
While the last two secrets were already ingrained in the company’s DNA and grew stronger as Mike and his brother cultivated them, the other three were new. The combination drove revenue to new heights, allowing the company to flourish and attract interest from strategic buyers who wanted a foothold in the Pacific Northwest with the best representation available.
Every leader infuses their business strategy with a distinctive blend of personal interests and passions. The essence of strong leadership therefore takes many forms. Mike’s early success in sales guided his focus toward strategies that influenced his company’s sales operations, ultimately propelling the business to unparalleled success. Any organization that embraces these five concepts will be well-positioned to experience a similar journey toward exceptional revenue growth.
Barry Raber is a serial entrepreneur, president of Carefree RV Storage, a 22-year member of the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO), the founder of Business Property Trust, and an EO Portland Entrepreneur of the Year. He shares his successful business secrets at realsimplebusiness.org.