“If you have five dollars and Chuck Norris has five dollars, Chuck Norris has more money than you.”
I doubt that there are many companies that have hockey stick paths to fame, fortune, and riches. We already know that 50% of startups go out of business within the first five years, not to mention the zillions of companies that were formed in people’s heads but never got beyond that point because those people were afraid to take that first step (by the way, Derek Halpern has an excellent video on how to take that first step). I’m fairly sure that in almost every company, there’s a stumbling point, that point where they’ve grown their revenues and things are going along well and the owners are starting to imagine yachts and dance parties and Cristal champagne, and suddenly…
A bump in the road.
Maybe they lost a big client or a product launch didn’t go as well as they hoped or perhaps there was an overall dip in the economy and people lost jobs and couldn’t afford superfluous stuff anymore.
Or maybe the team got complacent, resting on their laurels, thinking that because they were doing a great job, the whole world would figure it out and come beating a path to the company’s door. Instead of taking the opportunity to step on the gas and crush the competition, they let off, had a collective “ahh” moment and started navel gazing.
Whatever the cause was, it’s a tipping point. Companies can either double down, renew their efforts, and go get customers, or they can start the slow (or quick) decline into obscurity and administrative decertification from their state’s corporation commission.
I’ve been there.
As I shared in the article “Humility in Business”, we had a 7 digit contract with a major customer that was a huge percentage of our overall revenue. Our customer had a contract with the Department of Defense, and when they lost that contract, they had to drop us.
We were facing the precipice.
I was guilty of coasting, of resting on our laurels. We figured that once the rest of the intelligence community found out about the great job we were doing, they’d all want to work with us.
There was one problem. Our customer didn’t mention our work to anyone. They branded it as their work. They were paying for it; that was their right.
I had a conversation with our business coach about our revenue issue. If you’re in Virginia and want a business coach, go check out Jennifer. I linked to her for a reason. She also provides excellent pointy-headed manager training.
She had a very elegant solution to our issue. The elegance was in the simplicity.
It was called the four point day.
What is a four point day?
She had a system for tracking activities that led to sales.
4 points: a signed contract
3 points: a meeting/discussion with someone who could sign a contract
2 points: made an appointment to have a meeting/discussion with someone who could sign a contract
1 point: discussion/meeting/e-mail with someone who could eventually lead to a customer relationship
It took a little while for the results of the four point days to shake out, since we were in an industry with long lead times (why can’t I pick industries with instant gratification?), but once we got going, we never stopped.
It wasn’t a practice that we kept up with religiously, though we probably should have. However, whenever we started to see declining revenues on the horizon, we’d dust off the 4 point day spreadsheet and start going again. Pretty soon, the revenue projection would fix itself through the magic of the 4 point day.
Why did it work?
It worked because having a measurable tracking mechanism meant that I took concrete steps every day that would lead to sales. Rather than being distracted by a website redesign or looking at some low probability RFP, I was making active, human connections in an effort to reveal their problems and identify ways that we could solve problems.
Not everyone that I spoke with had a problem we could solve. Actually, relatively few of them did. But, I tried to help everyone I came across, first and foremost, rather than approaching the discussion with the tin cup out. I do them a solid, maybe, sometime down the road, they’ll do me a solid.
In my experience, probably 10% of the people I helped out eventually helped me out. Combine that with the 10% of people who actually needed what we could offer in the first place, and that meant that 19% of the people I reached out to eventually led to fruitful discussions. While we came nowhere near closing all of those potential openings, it meant that about once every week, I was having discussions that actually led somewhere.
Maybe the statement about reciprocity paints me as kind of a jerk. The reality is that we were in business to make money and to make profit. We made money and made profit by doing great work for our clients. However, to get to the point where we were able to do said work, we had to create awareness, and if I had to help someone else solve a problem first to get that awareness, then so be it. It was cheaper than advertising.
If you’re not in sales, can you still use a four point day?
Absolutely. In your job, you’re measured on results that you deliver. You have to perform certain tasks in order to deliver those results. Measure the tasks using a four point day. Create your own scale.
Perhaps you want the kids to do chores around the house. Give them four point days. When they get 20 points, they can play an hour of Xbox.
Maybe you want to write the Great American Novel. Use the four point day to actually commit yourself to putting words down on paper.
The possibilities of the use of the four point day are endless. It’s a simple, but elegant way of committing yourself to performing tasks that move you towards whatever goal it is that you have in your life, from sales to chores to chasing down your dreams.
Do you have a four point day? What is it? How do you earn points? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!