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Walk Away and See Your Sales Soar

Walk Away and See Your Sales Soar

June 17, 2008

Are you willing to walk away from your next deal?

Sounds like a strange question, doesn't it? Here I am trying to help you increase sales and I'm actually encouraging you to actually walk away from your next sale.

Imagine if Jeff Bezos of Amazon told you to buy your next book at Barnes & Noble. Or if Apple's Steve Jobs told you to buy an HP computer instead of a Mac. Sounds crazy, doesn't it?

But it would make perfect sense if you told Bezos that you preferred to first open a book and touch and feel it before buying it. He'd probably simply tell you that his online bookstore wouldn't make sense for you and to visit the nearest brick and mortar bookstore. And if you're not interested in a Mac computer and preferred the features on a HP, I doubt Jobs would spend a lot of his valuable time trying to convince you otherwise.

In the early 1980s, when Chrysler was on the brink of bankruptcy and the automaker was struggling to improve its car quality, the CEO at the time, Lee Iacocca, stunned consumers when he said, "If you can find a better car, buy it!"

Are you leading a "Walk Away Life?"

My point is that you don't want to try to be all things to all people. And in order to do so, you have to be willing to walk away from some deals.

I call it living a "walk-away life." It's the ability to say, "no" to some deals so you can say, "yes" to those deals that are a right fit for you and your business.

I just got back from speaking at a trade show for inventors. It was such a rush being around thousands of other entrepreneurs who are so passionate and excited about their inventions.

There was one invention I saw in which a cell phone is attached to a wristband, which is great for cyclists to use. One woman even credits the device with saving her life after the car she was driving crashed into a river. She was able to keep her "wristphone" above water and call 911 and was rescued within minutes.

There were tons of great stories I heard about involving wonderful new inventions, but I was bothered by one thing in particular.

It had to do with this one, very simple question I asked entrepreneurs: "Who would use your product?"

"Everyone!" was the response I got nearly every time.

WRONG! There's no way a product is good for everyone. Nor should it be. There are some people who would benefit most. So who are those people? And who are the people you should walk away from?

The secret: Focus on sales that are the right fit

It's not easy to walk away from a sale, but the idea is to leverage the deals that are best for you and your business and concentrate on making more of those.

It's that thinking that turned a $7 million division into a $100 million opportunity. Author Verne Harnish talks about this dramatic turnaround in his book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, which I highly recommend adding to your summer reading list.

Harnish talks about how former CEO Paul Silvis was looking for solutions to turnaround one of his divisions at Restek, which manufactures chromatography products. He brought in consultant Gene Kirila to help him. One of the first things Kirila asked him to do was identify his biggest customer. Next, he pulled out the customer's income statement from their 10K filing and asked him to point to the line item where his division had the biggest impact.

Although Restek's metal coatings can reduce a company's costs 20% - 30%, they only had a fraction of one percent impact on their best customer's bottom line - not enough for anyone to be a strong advocate for their product.

But there was one client where they did make a huge impact on the business. A critical valve in its off-shore rigs have to be replaced frequently and when the rig is shut down, it costs the client millions of dollars. Restek's process could help improve the life-expectancy of the valves. Now that's an opportunity where they can make a difference!

That one client may do $100 million worth of business with Restek to keep its rigs from shutting down. As a result, the division shifted its focus to serving more off-shore rigs and walked away from those deals where they didn't make as much of an impact.

What deals are you willing to walk away from? If you're not willing to walk away from the deals that aren't a good fit, you'll always struggle to try and make it work.

Try living a "walk-away life" instead, and focus on the sales that matter most.

Always taking you from where you are to where you want to go,

Jon