Master: The Herjavec Group
Key Indicator: Five-year revenue growth of 3, 785%
If you've ever dreamed of reinventing your business but never quite figured out how to make it happen, Robert Herjavechas a message for you: to fuel fast growth, focus on creating a company culture that puts sales at its very heart.
Herjavec says this focus has been the determining factor in the exponential expansion of The Herjavec Group (THG), his Toronto-based computer network security provider. And he says that's where you should concentrate, too: "Unless 90% of your sales are recurring, service-contract revenue, everything you do has to be driven by sales—from answering the phone, to having professional salespeople, to forecasting, to training."
Art Wilson, a Boerne, Tex.-based sales consultant, says SMEs that make sales their central thrust can compete on a level playing field these days against bigger companies, thanks to the availability of customer relationship management software and vast information online about effective sales practices. If your firm lives and breathes sales, you can gain the upper hand on rivals of any size that don't make it their overarching priority.
Harvey Copeman, president of the Canadian Professional Sales Association, says building a strong sales culture requires investing strongly in sales training—not just money, but senior managers' time and energy. He says salespeople at companies that have made this investment tend to earn more and feel better recognized for their contribution to the firm's success, so they're likelier to stick around. They also develop a closer connection to the marketplace, says Copeman, bringing back insights that can help improve every aspect of operations, from R&D to marketing.
There's no missing the intense focus on sales at THG, which Herjavec says is ruled by the motto "Sales and margin start the minute you walk in the door." He insists on professionalism among his reps. Suits and ties are de rigueur five days a week, "because our customers also buy on Fridays." And no report or proposal leaves the premises without being properly bound and branded.
You need to look in the mirror and ask yourself, 'Do I inspire a great sales culture?'
Reps who excel are asked to help the team by coaching weaker or less-experienced colleagues. But Herjavec—who's also one of the multimillionaire investors on CBC's hit Dragons' Den—is under no illusions that his sales staff arrive at work every day strictly for the good of the firm.
"People respect and admire the corporation, and understand why it's good for the team to succeed," he says. "But in sales, the needs of the individual have to come first. If people aren't self-driven or motivated by money in sales, they're not going to be great salespeople." That's why THG asks job candidates to name the top three things they look for in a job; if money isn't one of them, then THG doesn't invite them to a second interview.
The company keeps sales targets realistic and achievable so its reps can reach their goals and stay motivated, and it celebrates strong performance. But the minute the last glass of champagne has been drunk dry, it sets the metaphorical bar higher.
Herjavec says the key to building a strong sales culture starts with the boss: "The first thing you need to do is look in the mirror and ask yourself, 'Do I inspire a great sales culture or a culture of success in my company that other people are going to want to follow?'" If not, he says, you need to hire a sales executive who does.
The payoff from THG's sales-first approach has been impressive. Despite the slump, revenue is set to reach $45 million this year, up from almost $30 million in 2008—and just $434,000 in 2002. "There are many people that do what we do, but none has grown at the rate that we have," says Herjavec. "It's not that they necessarily do a worse job [at sales] than at engineering or R&D. But they don't have a sales-driven culture."