Defining Issues & Priorities


Ensure that the key issues facing business have been realistically defined in light of the current and rapidly changing business environment. There is nothing new about this requirement, but the fact is that very few management teams actually take the time and apply the discipline necessary to objectively define and prioritize the key issues that can make or break their business. The issues of inferior quality, higher cost products, lower productivity, and nonresponsive service plague manufacturers for the better part of the recent past. Many companies in industries such as steel, automotive, machine tool, textile, farm and construction equipment suffer badly as a result. Only few companies address these issues in effective ways. Most are unable to clearly identify the key issues, set priorities, and develop the necessary business plans to overcome the underlying problems.

While the specific issues vary for different companies and industries, the management mindset should not vary. To deal effectively with an increasingly turbulent environment, priorities must be set so the business can survive unexpected blows, adapt to sudden dropping changes, and then capitalize on smaller windows of opportunity that develop and close much more quickly than they have in the past.

Many progressive managers kick off their planning process with a session aimed specifically at getting agreement on key issues and priorities. Accepting these priorities require a shift in the way most managers think and act, such as:

  • Liquidity becomes a more important objective, often more important than reported earnings. It provides the flexibility to deal more effectively with unexpected events than is possible when everything is tied up in fixed and slow moving assets.
  • Productivity gains per dollar of capital and per employee must be achieved annually. These reductions must exceed inflation and achieve demonstrably lower costs.
  • Innovation must never stop. Demonstrable product and process improvements must be achieved year after year.
  • All cycle and response times must be continuously reduced.
  • A “frightened” sense of urgency must be the way of life in all parts of the business.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Marketing Eras


  • Production Era:  Prior to 1925, most firms operating in highly developed economies focused narrowly on production. Manufacturers stressed production of quality products and then looked for people to purchase them.  The production era did not reach its peak until the early part of 20th century.
  • Sales Era: Manufacturers began to increase their emphasis on effective sales forces to find customers for their output. Firms attempted to match their output to the potential number of customers who would want it. Companies with a sales orientation assume that customers will resist purchasing products and services not deemed essential and that the task of personal selling and advertising is to convince them to buy. Although marketing departments began to emerge from shadows of production, finance, and engineering during the sales era, marketing dominated sales and other areas. Selling is thus a component of marketing.
  • Marketing: Personal incomes and consumer demand for products and services dropped rapidly thrusting marketing into a more important role. Organizational survival dictated that managers pay close attention to the markets for their goods and services. The trend ended with the outbreak of World War 11, when rationing and shortages of consumer goods became commonplace. The war years created only a pause in an emerging trend in business: a shift in the focus from products and sales to satisfying customer needs.
  • Relationship: It emerged during the 90s. Organizations carried the marketing era’s customer orientation one step further by focusing on establishing and maintaining relationships. This effort represented a major shift from the traditional concept of marketing as a simple exchange between buyer and seller. Relationship marketing by contrast, involves long-term, value-added relationships developed over time, strategic alliances and partnerships retailers play major roles in relationship marketing.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Good Pricing Decisions


Pricing decisions draw on many areas of marketing expertise. It requires a comprehensive understanding of the forces that shape the market, including competitive  interactions, technology and consumer psychology. Sometimes these forces interact and are likely to put downward pressure on prices, such as substitutes, technological advances, price-driven competition, customer experience, and changes in internal focus, such as sales forecasts. Customer makes it difficult to raise prices, as repeat customers’ ability to perceive incremental value of a company’s product or service diminishes over time, especially as substitute or competitive products emerge. Increased internal expectations in the form of expected sales increases or new budgets can send prices on a downward spiral. Customer price sensitivity may also serve  to keep prices in check, especially in the presence of available competitive substitutes or among a company’s marginal customers.

Even in a deflationary economy, there are opportunities for keeping prices from dropping or even for raising prices. However, customers must perceive that these enhancements deliver a genuine, meaningful benefit, or they will continue to seek lower cost alternatives.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Determining Training Needs


When a supervisor sees evidence of inadequate job performance, assuming the individual is making a satisfactory effort, attention should be given to raising the worker’s skill level. When a supervisor is confronted with a drop in productivity, it may suggest that skills need to be fine-tuned. Of course it would be related to other factors, too—lack of resources or equipment malfunctions. That’s why it’s imperative to pinpoint the problem precisely.

In addition to the productivity measures, high rejection rate or unusual rate of wastage may indicate a need for employee training. A rise in the number of  accidents reported can also suggest some type of retraining is necessary. Furthermore, the changes that are being imposed on workers as a result of a job redesign or a technological breakthrough demand training.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Muddled Communication


It is only when an organization fails to communicate effectively with its market place that problems are sometimes noticed.

The first response to a drop in sales can be an immediate call for a new identity of a new advertising campaign. Rebranding may be expensive but it can be an easier pill to swallow than brutally honest self-examination of core relationships.

Less than scrupulously honest communication companies will queue up to offload and organization’s cash if they think there is money to be made; but putting a new face on a sick organization is purely papering over the cracks.

Muddled communication has often been the first point of contact with new companies. Many companies prefer easy, con-confrontational action that they can take immediately to challenging questions and the need to may be think and behave in new ways.

Only when presented with unequivocal evidence are some companies prepared to take hard decisions, especially if it involves the agreement and support of peers—worse still—bosses.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

Building Business Pipeline


  1. Every week, select ten companies or organizations that meet your ‘target’ market profile. List these names, addresses and phone numbers. Select these carefully and include referrals.
  2. Make a research cell to each and identify the most appropriate initial contact. You do not need to speak to this person at this stage, talk to the receptionist or assistant instead.
  3. Send a one-page ‘success’ letter and a very brief overview of what benefits you can offer. Mail on a Thursday or Friday. Focus on your capabilities and how you can benefit the prospect.
  4. Telephone each ‘suspect’ that you mailed within 3-5 days. As 50 percent will be unavailable, log callbacks in your diary. Don’t be surprised if they don’t remember your letter, review it on the phone. Dropping names or using benefits by association can be useful.
  5. Have a prepared call sheet, questions and reasons for an appointment (your goal is a short initial meeting). Offer a benefit to your meeting: share ideas, examples, etc.
  6. Set aside time each week for research, mailing and planning – consistency is vital for this to work. You might find it better to aim for one hour a day rather than one whole day each week.
  7. Maintain accurate but brief reports to monitor your progress and to track activity.
  8. After approximately 10-12 weeks of containing new suspects, reduce the new contacts by between 50 percent and 80 percent and instead go back through all those people you contacted previously and re-contact them, i.e., stay in touch with suspects and prospects every three months. Things often change and if you have selected potential prospects well, it may only be a matter of time before you do business.
  9. Make sure that the subsequent 90 day contact contains something new, interesting or different, even if only very slightly. This also makes sure that you don’t appear too pushy.

10.  No matter how busy you get, always make time to keep in touch with new suspects and prospects in this way on a planned and consistent basis.

The rules:

  1. Do not allow any one customer to contribute more than 30 percent of you sales in any given quarter.
  2. Make sure that at least 30 percent of your sales pipelines is from new business, the rest should be from existing customers or referrals. Do not rely on existing customers to the exclusion of new customers.
  3. Always have a third more sales in the pipeline than you need.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

The Creative Selling Process


Although it may look easy, creative selling is not a simple task. Of course, some sales are made in a matter of minutes. But others, particularly for large organizational purchase, can take years to complete. Salespeople should follow a carefully planned process from start to finish.

Step 1: Prospecting: Prospecting is the process of finding and qualifying potential customers. This involves three activities:

  • Generating sales leads. Sales leads are names of individuals and organizations that might be likely prospects for the company’s products.
  • Identifying prospects. A prospect is a potential customer who indicates a need or a desire for the seller’s product.
  • Qualifying prospects. Not all prospects are worth investing sales time in. some may not have the authority to buy, and others won’t have enough money. The ones who do have both the authority and the available money are called qualified prospects.

Step 2: Preparing: With a list of hot prospects in hand, the salesperson’s next step is to prepare for the sales call. Without this preparation, the chances of success are greatly reduced. Preparation starts with creating a prospect profile, which includes the names of key people, their role in the decision-making process, and other relevant information such as the prospect’s buying needs, motive for buying, current suppliers, income/revenue level, and so on.

Next, the salesperson decides how to approach the prospect. Possible options for a first contact include sending a letter or cold calling in person or by telephone. For an existing customer, the salesperson can either drop by unannounced or call ahead for an appointment, which is generally preferred.

Before meeting with the prospect, the salesperson establishes specific objectives to achieve during the sales call. Depending on the situation, objectives can range anywhere from “getting the order today” to simply “convincing prospects top accept the company as a potential supplier.” Following that, the salesperson prepares the actual presentation, which can be as basic as a list of points to discuss or as elaborate as a product demonstration or multimedia presentation.

Step 3: Approaching the Prospect: Positive first impressions result from three elements. The first is an appropriate appearance—you wouldn’t wear blue jeans to call on a banker, and you probably wouldn’t wear a business suit to call on a farmer. Appearance also covers the things that represent you, including business cards, letters, and automobiles. Second, a salesperson’s attitude and behavior can make or break a sale. A salesperson should come across as professional, courteous, and considerate. Third, a salesperson’s opening lines should include a brief greeting and introduction, followed by a few carefully chosen words that get the prospect’s attention and generate interest. The best way to accomplish this is to focus on a benefit to the customer rather than on the product itself.

Step 4: Making the Presentation: the most critical step in the selling process is the presentation. It can take many forms, but its purpose never varies: to personally communicate a product message that will convince a prospect to buy. Most sellers use of two methods: The canned approach is a memorized presentation (easier for inexperienced sellers, but inefficient for complex products or for sellers who don’t know customer’s needs). The need satisfaction approach (now used by most professionals) identifies the customer’s needs and creates a presentation to specifically address them.

Step 5: Handling Objections: No matter how well a presentation is delivered, it doesn’t always conclude with an immediate offer that might move the prospect to buy. Often, the prospect will express various types of objections and concerns throughout the presentation. In fact, the absence of objections is often an indication that the prospect is not very interested in what the salesperson is selling. Many successful salespeople look at objections as a sign of the prospect’s interest and as an opportunity to develop new ideas that will strengthen future presentations.

Three basic approaches to overcoming objections include asking the prospect a question, giving a response to the objection, or telling the prospect that you will need to look into the matter and address it later.

Step 6: Closing: So far, you haven’t made a dime. You may have spent weeks or months—years in some cases—to bring the customer to this point, but you don’t make any money until the prospect decides to buy. This stage of the selling process, when you persuade the customer to place an order, is referred to as closing.

How should you ask for the order? Closing techniques are numerous; here are some of the more popular. The alternative proposal close asks the prospect to assumptive close, you simply proceed with processing the order, assuming that the prospect has already decided to buy. Another alternative is the silent close, in which you finish your presentation and sit quietly, waiting for the customer to respond with his or her buying decision. Finally, many salespeople prefer the direct close, where you just come right out and ask for the order.

These closing techniques might strike you as tricks, and in the hands of unethical salespeople, some closing approaches certainly can be. But the professional salesperson uses these techniques to make the selling process effective and efficient—not to trick people into buying when they aren’t ready.

Step 7: Following Up: Most salespeople depend on repeat sales, so it is important that they follow up on all sales and not ignore the customer once the first sale is made. During this follow-up stage of the selling process, you need to make sure that the product has been delivered properly and that the customer is satisfied. Inexperienced salespeople may avoid the follow-up stage because they fear facing an unhappy customer. However, an important part of a salesperson’s job is to ensure customer satisfaction and to build goodwill.

In order to improve the odds of keeping a satisfied customer after the sale, salespeople should remember to:

  • Handle complaints promptly and pleasantly
  • Maintain contact with customers
  • Keep serving the customers
  • Show appreciation.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

The Manager


The manager describes what a person does rather than what a person knows. A manager makes sure an organization operates smoothly and efficiently. Upper-level managers, known as executives, address longer-range concerns. They foresee problems years ahead by considering questions such as the following:

  1. Is current technology at the company becoming obsolete?
  2. How expensive are the newest technologies?
  3. How much would they disrupt operations if they were adopted?
  4. What other plans would have to be postponed or dropped altogether?
  5. When would the new technologies start to pay for themselves?
  6. What has been the experience of other companies that have adopted these new technologies?

Executives are concerned with these and dozens of other broad questions that go beyond day-to-day managerial concerns.

Managers want to know the bottom line. They have to get a job done on schedule they don’t have time to consider theory in the way an expert does. Rather, managers must judge constraints—financial, personnel, time, and informational—and make logical and reasonable decisions quickly. And they have to communicate with their own supervisors.

In writing to a manager, try to determine his or her technical background and then choose an appropriate vocabulary and sentence length. Focus on practical information. If you think that your reader will take your information and use it in a document addressed to executives, make your reader’s job easier. Include an executive summary and use frequent headings to highlight your major points. Ask your reader if there is an organizational pattern or format, or a strategy for writing the document that will help him or her use your document as source material.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Accounting Information


Accurate cost data are required for the successful implementation of the integrated physical distribution management concept using total cost analysis, for the management and control of physical distribution operations, and to aid in setting selling prices and in justifying price differentials.

As the cost of physical distribution increases, the need for accurate accounting for the costs becomes increasingly critical. Since the physical distribution function is relatively more energy intensive and labor intensive than other areas of the firm, its ratio of costs to total company costs has been steadily increasing. Efficient and effective distribution policies cannot be determined until the costs related to separate functional areas and their interaction are made available to distribution decision makers.

The quality of the accounting data will influence management’s ability to exploit new markets, take advantage of innovative transportation systems, make changes in packaging, choose between common carriers and private trucking, increase deliveries or increase inventories, and determine to what extent the order-processing system should be automated.

The accounting system must be capable of providing information to answer the following questions:

a)        What are the impacts of physical distribution costs on contribution by product, by territory, by customer, and by salesperson?

b)        What are the costs associated with providing additional levels of customer service? What trade-offs are necessary and what are the incremental benefits or losses?

c)        What is the optimal amount of inventory? How sensitive is the inventory level to changes in warehousing patterns or to changes in customer service levels? How much does it cost to hold inventory?

d)        What mix of transportation modes and carriers should be used?

e)        How many field warehouses should be used and where should they be located?

f)          How many production set-ups are required? Which plants will be used to produce each product?

g)        To what extent should the order-processing system be automated?

To answer these and other questions requires knowledge of the costs and revenues that will change if the physical distribution system changes. That is, determination of a product’s contribution should be based on how corporate revenues, expenses, and hence profitability would change if the product line were dropped. Any costs or revenues that are unaffected by the decision are irrelevant to the problem. For example, a relevant cost woul be public warehouse handling charges associated with a product’s sales; a non-relevant cost would be the overhead costs associated with the firm’s private trucking fleet.

Implementation of this approach to deceision making is severely hampered by the lack of availability of the right accounting data or the inability to use the data when they are available. The best and most sophisticated models are only as good as the accounting input, and a number of recent studies attest to the gross inadequacies of distribution cost data.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Lectures, Line of Sight

Musts and Wants


Divide the objectives into two categories: Musts and Wants. The Must objectives are mandatory: they must be achieved to guarantee a successful decision. When the time comes to assess alternatives against our objectives, any alternative that cannot fulfill a MUST objective will immediately drop out of the analysis. These objectives must be measurable because they function as a screen to eliminate failure-prone alternatives. We must be able to say, “This alternative absolutely cannot fulfill this objective; it cannot meet a requirement that is mandatory for success.

All other objectives are categorized as WANTS. The alternatives we generate will be judged on their relative performance against WANT objectives, not on whether or not they fulfill them. The function of these objectives is to give us a comparative picture of alternatives—a sense of how the alternatives perform relative to each other.

A WANT objective may be mandatory but cannot be classified as a MUST for one or two reasons: First, it may not be measurable. It cannot, therefore, give us an absolute Yes or No judgment about the performance of an alternative. Secondly, we may not want a Yes or No judgment. We may prefer to use that objective as a relative measure of performance.

An objective will be stated frequently as a MUST and then be rephrased as a WANT so that it can perform both functions. The MUSTs decide who gets to play, but the WANTs decide who wins.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

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