As a founder of a business you are often the best early sales force for that business, but if succession planning isn’t enacted, then there will come a time when other aspects of the growing business will demand attention and sales could suffer.
It is natural, if you feel you own the relationships with your customers, to be concerned that the relationships might be damaged if you are not involved, or that they only keep coming back because they are dealing with you as one of the principals. If this is the case, then it is time to consider succession planning; how else will you ever grow your business or get a true holiday?
So, as the business grows the founders need to make decisions about where they focus their time and for many this becomes a choice between; business development, creating new offerings, delivery or wider business matters such as; finance, supply, HR or recruitment. Making such choices can be challenging, especially if the founders have been the primary means of generating business as the change may portend a drop in revenue if poorly executed.
A business that having grown well starts to stagnate, with revenue staying stubbornly at a particular level, is a likely candidate for a rainmaker approach.
The issues and concerns outlined above are perfectly reasonable and none is insurmountable. The hardest part, when confronted with multiple horses, is deciding which one should be your main ride. Are you going to be sales, delivery, or a back office person? In making this decision there are a number of key factors to be taken into account:
- Which area of the business plays to your main strengths? This may not be what you have been doing to date.
- Which area of the business is the most crucial for on-going success? There will almost certainly be several areas in which case it is important to ensure each is the top focus for someone in the business.
- Which area of the business is most interesting for you? This needs to be a consideration but should not be the ultimate driver in deciding where your focus your energies going forward.
If the decision is to move away from front line business development but you have the concerns, outlined above, about the impact on customers then you should consider the rainmaker approach. This enables a smooth transition from a total dependence upon you to the eventual position where you will have a dedicated self-contained business development function that is not dependent upon you for its success. Even if the decision is to focus your efforts on business development, the rainmaker approach will enable you to scale your efforts to keep the business growing.
A rainmaker uses their skills to create the environment for opportunities to germinate and grow into fully productive new customers or to facilitate existing customers giving you additional work.
Here are a few tips on becoming a rainmaker:
- You need to learn to sell your organisation not yourself
- When you meet new prospects or first time contacts at, for example, a networking event, conference or a trade show, make sure you use the word “we” instead of “I”. In answer to the question; what do you do? you say “we” or “our company” does … rather than “I” do …
- You position yourself as the Head of Business Development or the Commercial Director and refer to your sales people or account managers by name
- You explain your commercial engagement process again reinforcing you as its head but making it clear the prospect will be dealing mainly or entirely with others
- You explain how you will remain involved in the overall strategy of the solution thus giving the other party the confidence that they will be getting a part of you.
This approach enables you to leverage your strength and the power of your position as the founder/owner without requiring you to perform the minutia of the selling role. This will increase significantly the number of prospects that you can have influence over thus multiplying the effect that you can have on winning new business for the company.
Considering this move naturally creates concern but it is a common commercial model; you don’t expect to meet Mr. Marks when you go into M&S, or Mr. Lewis when you go into John Lewis, so why should you be expected to stand at front of house all the time?
Try it; we are sure you will like it.