How to turn down revenue that isn’t aligned with your company’s purpose and/or values?
As I’m currently on holiday with my family, and there’s no #KarmicCapitalist podcast episode this or next week, I thought I’d pick a couple of learnings I had in themes talking to my guests.
One consistent theme from the companies that have gone all in on purpose or values is on business development, or sales.
This came up with Richard Clarke at Secret Source, with Elaine Forth at Hyphen8: Salesforce Consulting Partner and Ruth Hartnoll most recently at Matchstick Creative.
They all have overcome the nearly primal need that I’ve seen in the vast majority of CEOs / MDs to go after every sale, every opportunity.
Almost all commissioned salespeople I’ve seen will pursue any deal. The better ones qualify before pursuit – but that qualification is usually based on the chances of winning and the size of the deal.
Rarely on alignment with strategy, values or purpose.
And they will then retrospectively justify why it’s a fit (this isn’t the part of the company that manufactures weapons / look at the good that the company does for tobacco farmers in the developing world / I’m sure we can make them nice people).
Most CEOs / MDs, if they’re not that commissioned salesperson, allow that retrospective justification. Either because they’re worried about turning down a revenue opportunity (understandable), or about annoying or confronting the sales person (less understandable).
But not these 3 guests. What allowed them to do that and still win deals? 4 common themes:
1) Position so strongly and clearly that your customers pre-qualify themselves before they even get to you. Marketing, messaging, content, etc
2) Explicitly include your values and/or purpose in your qualification criteria. That way anyone who is selling knows before they’ve started the active pursuit, and if they ignore it, you still have the basis as MD/CEO to have an honest conversation that’s not “news” to your salesperson.
3) Don’t bring in a salesperson too early – build up momentum winning the right kind of deals without them – and think hard about their commission structure when you do bring them in.
4) Actively speak to your prospects about your expectations of them up front, and be prepared to follow through if they don’t live up to their side of the bargain.
(Incidentally, I believe in using the same approaches for qualifying for profitability. We also shouldn’t usually be taking on unprofitable revenue, and that needs to be qualified for up front as well. But that’s another conversation).
If you’re serious about purpose and values, you could do worse than to adopt the same approach. It starts with clarity and commitment.
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