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Increase the ‘top line’ to survive

Although the recently released ICAEW Business Confidence Monitor shows an increase in confidence for 2021 many businesses still face major difficulties. Anzo Francis shares seven steps to increasing the ‘top line.’

April 2021Anzo Francis

The latest Business Confidence Monitor survey carried out by the ICAEW shows that business confidence in 2021 is improving, compared to the significant falls experienced in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit uncertainties. The vaccine roll-out appears to be the main source of improved confidence.

Despite the improvement in business confidence, many businesses continue to experience major difficulties including late payments, high stock levels, spare capacity, reduced cashflow and cross-border regulations. The main challenge is how to reverse falls in sales, income, or funding. Boards and executives are increasingly focussed on this challenge, as it is key to turning around a business’s fortunes, improving cashflow, reducing stock levels, and improving profits.

Seven steps to increase the ‘top line’

1) Research

Carry out thorough research of the businesses you are pitching to. Research their industry and market. This will help you to understand their needs and how your business model can meet those needs.

2) Build a professional brand

It is important to create a positive impression which will include your personal appearance, how you behave and your communication style. You should be punctual when arriving at client meetings, in person or online. Build a professional business profile with testimonials and recommendations. Ensure your branded materials and website all present a professional image.

3) Identify your USP

Find a gap in the market and be clear on your unique selling proposition (USP). Continuously scan the market you are in, and be flexible and adaptable. When you identify new business opportunities, take action, and adapt your market offer.

4) Be clear on your values

A solid set of values should help define your business’s uniqueness and help you to stand out from the crowd. You may wish to include your stance on ethical and ecological matters, matters of corporate social responsibility, and corporate governance.

5) Practise your pitch

Your pitch should clearly demonstrate how you can meet your customer’s needs. You will need to be specific. Highlight what your business does best, and its key strengths. Prepare your figures, calculations, and scenarios in advance. At the meeting, listen to what your customer is asking for, take notes, be open and flexible, and prepared to come back with revisions and further ideas.

6) Meet the decisionmaker

You will need to identify who the decisionmaker is and arrange to meet with that person to make your pitch. The decisionmaker will be the person with sufficient budget and authority to approve the sale. It may require several phone calls, emails, and much perseverance to get to the right person.

7) Be confident

You should demonstrate your belief in your business model and USP, so there should be no need to be overwhelmed by the customer and sell yourself short. Be aware of your business needs, your target sales price, your payment terms, and standards of service.

Anzo Francis is Honorary Secretary of the LSCA, Vice Chair of the London Business Board, and LSCA Business Champion. She works in international development as Director of Finance of Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor.

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