Our Business and Strategic Advisor, Terry Weaver of Chief Executive Boards International, said something brilliant the other day. We were talking about the fact that many caterers claim they market their companies through “word of mouth.” Terry objected:
“Word of mouth” is an accidental strategy. It’s not reliable and it’s not intentional. If you want to run your business instead of just letting it run you, you have to have an intentional strategy.
“Word of mouth” is fantastic. It’s flattering when a new client tells you they were referred to you by an existing client. It feels great to know that customers are so happy with your work that they are willing to share your name with others. “Word of mouth” makes us feel like heroes. But it is unacceptable as a sales foundation to support your company. You can’t budget for “word of mouth.” You can’t make hiring decisions based on the hopes of good “word of mouth.” The bank won’t accept “word of mouth” as part of your business plan.
I know from my own experience as a caterer and also as a coach and consultant, that catering can often feel like clinging to the back of a runaway horse. In order to take the reins and assert some control over your company, you need to establish a reliable sales strategy that you can teach to your salespeople. Even the smallest company needs these systems in order to grow (and larger companies will find improvement in tightening their existing systems).
Having a replicable sales system allows your team to continue selling while you’re busy doing the other important things your business requires. The structure of a sales system will give your team confidence in representing your company and will give you the reassurance that your brand is presented the way you want.
Think of a sales system as a recipe: you wouldn’t expect a cook to make your signature soup without knowing all the steps you take. Instead, you write down your ingredients and you supervise your cooks until they are turning out vats of Butternut Squash Soup that taste as delicious as yours. Likewise, how can you expect a sales team to sell your service without similar instructions? Only once you’ve identified your target market, crafted your unique selling proposition, and established your outreach schedule will you be able to expand your client base and increase your revenue. Once you’ve got that under control, your company will feel less like a runaway horse and more like a well-run business.