“It’s time to hunker down.” As leaders, we have all heard it and experienced situations when the impulse is to pull back and cut back. At Marco, we’ve learned that we’re not very good at that.
When we faced challenges in the recession and more recently a dip in a business unit, our first reaction was to focus on cost cutting or “hunkering down.” Clearly costs need to be in line with revenue, but that by itself hasn’t proven to be very effective for us. We’ve had more success focusing on increasing revenue and selling our way out of it.
Hunkering down changes your attitude, shifting from growth and opportunity to skepticism and reluctance.
In the current situation involving improving the performance of a business unit, we realized the activity of “hunkering down” was distracting us from what our team is really good at. We decided to “get back to our knitting.” This is a simple concept that I learned from my new boss and is a reminder of what made us successful in the first place – our sales capabilities.
Some organizations are good at cost cutting and hunkering down. We’re better at growing our way out of it. Here’s what that looks like for us:
- Increase sales activity levels.
Activity defeats doubt. As a sales guy, my first reaction is we need to sell more. It can be the fastest way to turn around a business unit or a company’s overall performance. This is where I like to lead by example and get out in the field with our sales team and customers. It plays to my strengths. This also may mean ramping up sales efforts in specific markets or for certain products by leveraging our account base and focusing on cross-selling.
- Acquire another business.
This is a longer-term strategy. Acquisitions don’t happen overnight, but it has proven to be a good growth strategy for us. If this hasn’t been something you have considered, you might want to keep your eyes open for opportunities.
- Expand your sales team.
Sometimes more selling isn’t a possibility without expanding your sales force. We evaluate the needs, our goals and our manpower to deliver. When we’re falling short, we make a hire. A solid salesperson is always worth the investment.
- Increase your sales support team.
There are times when the support function of sales needs to increase to allow our sales team – and our company as a whole – to be more efficient. This area can easily get overlooked – or even cut – when hunkering down. Don’t underestimate the revenue-generating potential of a strong inside sales and support team.
Hunkering down can be hard on morale and sends a message about surviving instead of thriving. Clearly there are times when cost cutting is the obvious thing to do. But some combination of a responsible cost structure and continuing to drive sales results is probably a better answer.
In our case, we recognize that we are a sales-driven organization, and our track record would suggest that we are far better at growing than we are at hunkering down. So the next time you are considering cutting costs, you might also want to look at increasing sales activity as another option.