I’m increasingly intrigued by the impact of purpose on business performance, especially sales performance. Last month, I had the chance to speak with two of my clients, who have been adopting Scaling Up for the last nine months, and both reported a breakthrough in sales after a period of stagnation. Their businesses were not growing, that’s why they came to attend Scaling Up to find an answer. One of them grew 25% in nine months after hitting a plateau. After being in business for seven years; her business stopped growing after the fifth.
So I can’t help but ask – What did you do to turbo-charge your sales?
Both of them, speaking to me on separate occasions, told me the same thing: They chose to focus on Core Purpose.
Both of them spent time to clarify their purpose in doing their business, focusing on answering the questions:
- Why did they do this business?
- How does this business benefit the client in a way money cannot buy?
- Will our customers miss us if we no longer exist? Why?
Once they gained clarity on these three questions, they make every effort to talk about it during their weekly sales meeting. One of the business owners told me she kicks off her sales meeting by sharing how big an impact they are making on their client’s life, and why they cannot do this wrongly, or with the wrong motivations. She shifted the focus from numbers to purpose. They start talking about numbers only after everybody had reflected on how they are doing in terms of fulfilling their core purpose.
And they saw sales increase!
How did this happen? Intrigued, I did more research on this, and found out that studies have shown that when people believe that their work will truly make someone else’s life better, performance goes up by an average of 28%. Adam Grant, Wharton Business School’s professor was talking about this in Linkedin, when he interviewed Jack Welch on why it is important for leaders to provide meaning to the work done by their employees. You can read about it in Jack Welch’s new book The Real-Life MBA. Giving meaning to employees is all the more important, given that world-wide employee engagement towards their work is only at a measly 13%.
So how do you find purpose for your business beyond making money?
One of my coaching clients shared how he found it so hard to relocate to Singapore. One of his biggest problems – finding a home. He then started a company helping people find the right property. The lesson – He could identify with his customer’s pain. He still thinks about it, and constantly asks himself how to lessen that pain. As his business grew, it became more complex, but he did not lose sight of why he started the company – to lessen the pain of relocation as he himself experienced. As a result, they grew beyond the $100m mark and now operate across SEA. Not too bad for a company younger than 10 years.
Selling with the purpose of solving someone’s pain is value creation. Customers pay for value, not for how much work you do. Instilling a purpose-driven mindset in your company will therefore drive value-creation!
So how do you help your staff develop meaning in their work?
- Talk about the problems you are solving for your customers. Too many companies talk about how many customers they need without talking about WHY someone should become their customers.
- Re-look at how you sell. You can see this in how company proposals are structured – company profile, intro, board member faces etc dominate the bulk of it.
Solutions come after that, and that’s what the customer cares about. Why do you put the part that matters most to the customers last?
- Spend time understanding your core customers’ needs and fears, and focus on how to solve them. Demographics will only tell us so much – who will buy, but does not tell us why they will buy. The WHY is the most important question. You need to answer it.
- And lastly, develop a compelling long-term goal couch NOT in financial terms e.g. be a $1 billion company in 10 years, but in terms of how much benefit to your core customer. Which do you think engages people more – $1 billion dollars in 10 years or 1 000 000 lives transformed in 10 years? Talk about this big goal frequently and link your employees’ contribution to it. This will motivate them more than money, as most humans want to be intrinsically motivated.
Do you find your business stagnating, or wondering how performance can be better? Perhaps it is time to seriously consider what drives your business.