It was Dale Carnegie who said, “There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts; what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.” With all due respect to Dale Carnegie, I’d like to add one more way we have contact with our world to his list: “What we report on!”
Think of communication not only as what you say or what you write, but also what you report on. Reporting is a huge opportunity for your business. Reporting is a task that provides the opportunity to win, or, in some cases, lose in the eyes of your team members, vendors, customers, and strategic partners.
Your reporting should be timely and consistent. When I was in sales management, I expected a simple and easy-to-understand report from the credit/billing/accounts receivable team on the fifth of every month that showed the good, bad, and ugly customers.
And they delivered! They gave me a simple and effective one- page report that showed me which of my customers were paying and which were not paying their bills so I could stop selling to them. I wanted to see it every month so I didn’t waste my selling time.
Remember, if it’s not measurable, it’s not manageable. If certain team members, vendors, or strategic partners (and even customers) aren’t following your rules, policies, and procedures, the appropriate data can show how much profit your company is losing. Or, if people are following the rules, data can show how much money you’re saving! When was the last time you assembled a report to show this kind of information?
I learned from my sales administration days that corporate red tape wastes salespeople’s time and the company’s money. For example, if a salesperson makes $100,000 a year and works 2,080 hours a year, the company is investing $48/hour in that salesperson to produce excellent results.
When a policy or procedure isn’t carried out consistently by a certain department (for instance, credit/billing/accounts receivable), it takes, on average, a salesperson four hours a month to fix it, costing the company $192 worth of sales time that month. That’s not too bad, right?
Well, what if this happens to every salesperson, every month?
Consider the math:
Do I have your attention now? You wouldn’t have known this unless you would have taken the time to get this important data and do some simple math. What other ways can you apply this methodology throughout your company?
Use objective data and reports to get attention and drive awareness of the opportunities and challenges that impact your efficiency, and ultimately the profitability of your company. When the right data gets in front of the right people, profit vampires can be addressed once and for all.
When I was a teenager, one of my dreams was to purchase a waterbed. But I had one challenge: my dad. I lived in a small two story, three-bedroom house. The bedrooms were on the second floor. My dad was worried that a waterbed would fall right through the floor of our second story onto the first story!
I remember trying to make my case to my dad by saying, “But Dad, I’m a good son and a ‘C’ student in school! (I ‘see’ my way through it.) I take care of things you ask me to do for you, Mom, and my brothers. Barry, Ricky and Ronnie. All I want is a simple waterbed!” But my dad would not budge. His answer continued to be, “NO!”
After weeks of trying to persuade him emotionally, I realized I had to change my approach. I started thinking of ways I could prove to my dad that my waterbed was not going to fall through the floor. Otherwise, my dad was never going to budge.
Like my struggle with Dad about a silly waterbed, there are people who try to persuade others to make decisions on the basis of their emotions. But many times, there are always people who, like my dad, won’t budge! They will not budge until you stop getting mad and start getting data!
So I did some research. I went to a waterbed salesperson and asked for some objective data on the weight of waterbeds and their impact on two-story homes. Then I went back to Dad and said, “The waterbed weighs less than a bathtub or a refrigerator. Dad, has the refrigerator or bathtub ever fallen through the floor?”
Dad said “No.” Now I was onto something. So I worked on Dad little bit more. I continued reading from the brochure the salesperson gave me:
“Dad, waterbeds feature supportive frames that spread their weight over their entire area. What this means is that at no one point beneath a waterbed is there more load applied to the floor than that of a full refrigerator.” I pressed him again: “Dad, our refrigerator hasn’t fallen through the floor yet, has it?
Perseverance and objective data has amazing persuasive power. It can diffuse a lot of emotional decision-making – at least most of the time! Stop dealing with the “I think we should,” “My gut-feeling is,” and “my belief is” kind of people. Instead, work with data. After all, if data got me a waterbed, it may just get you more profit!