The Sales Cycle: Get Off the Fence

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So it's time to make a decision about marketing and it has now taken you three to six months to review, analyze, compare and almost decide on a $500 per month advertising campaign. You are a multi-million dollar company with a good customer base--what's the hold-up? Perhaps it's just the fear of making a bad decision that prevents some from making even the most elementary of choices.

If $500 is a "make-it or break-it" decision for you, then you should be looking at other, bigger issues because you are probably in some serious trouble. I do realize that sometimes it's not about the money. For example, even with a 500 dollar-a-month ad campaign you'll want to get the message right. The key in any business is to move quickly, not recklessly, and get on with your business. Now isn't the time to be waffling--it's time to be focused on the opportunities in front of you.

At some point, you have to just decide you are moving forward and go on. Whether it is around advertising or business strategy, learn to make quick decisions and move on. The smaller the decision, the less time it should require. The larger ones--the ones that have serious consequences--are those on which you should spend extra time. But, don't spend so much time that the opportunity just slides by. We've all seen what happens to companies that do that...

I have watched seemingly smart people run their businesses into the ground because they were afraid of making the "wrong" decision. In many cases, not making a decision at all is, indeed, the wrong decision. In some cases, these companies got so stuck they couldn't even fire the people they knew should have been fired or change the way they did something because they were so locked into the old paradigm of business.

Don't run your business like that--run it like a fast-moving, brave entrepreneur willing to make changes quickly, adapting to new ideas and opportunities. We have all heard it is very difficult for larger companies to make quick decisions. Layers of people, committees or review boards can slow the big companies down. Work to remove such obstacles--it will keep you more competitive.

If you run a smaller company, make sure you are not getting mired in the decision-making process as well. You, too, must remove the obstacles that slow you down. Only so many working hours exist in a day, so efficiency is key. Don't be irresponsible--be judicious and timely in your decision-making process.

Companies that make good, quick decisions are winning. One way to ensure quick decision making is by "flattening" your organization--the flatter, the better. Put a decision-making process in place. Furnish the guidelines that you and your team will use each time a decision is made. Next, train and trust your people. If they know what the company's values and goals are, there is no reason why more people can't be empowered to make quicker decisions, independently.

It's not always easy--and people don't always get it right--but, if the decision-making process is spelled out it can work well. Tiers can actually work well in the process. For example, some well-known hotels empower their employees to make up to $500 decisions, on the spot, to take care of customers' needs. The employee needs no manager approval because they are simply following a predefined process.

I recently visited a restaurant where I asked the server about making a simple change to the side dish. She had to check with the manager before she could answer. It was very sad to see that management did not trust employees to make a simple decision that would have made the dining experience more enjoyable for a customer.

Whether it is a simple side dish, or a $500 a month ad campaign, don't get caught without a predefined process in place so your company can make a quick decision. By the way, the manager of the restaurant said "no" to my side dish substitution request. I don't eat there anymore. I also hope the server finds a new and smarter company to work for.


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