There’s a pretty famous saying that people in business like to use: Always be closing, or ABC. It’s a very sales-driven concept that suggests that whatever you do, you should always be closing a sale.
I used to like that way of thinking: Drive your pipeline growth, work on the numbers and push the sales as hard as you can all the time.
That approach definitely works for certain types of businesses, but after a while it can be soul destroying work that leaves a business a bit hollow. So over the past few years I’ve been working on a tweaked methodology.
I call this method of building and selling: Always be testing or ABT.
The concept is simple. You should constantly be testing things in your business to see if they’re working. If they are working, great, you can then start testing how to improve them. If they’re not working, you find out and can start testing fixes for the problem.
This applies to your team, your product, your day-to-day strategy for selling, customer acquisition and anything else you can think of.
Start testing yourself
The obsession with testing things started in my personal life. I was doing it without realising what I was doing. I started waking up 15 minutes earlier every month and after a while I was spritely and awake by 5:30am and walking my dogs or working while everyone else was asleep.
Then I stopped eating sugar for a while to see if I’d feel better. I did. That didn’t last but I then stopped drinking coffee to see if I’d sleep better. I did. So now I don’t drink caffeine of any kind after 3pm.
I found that I was constantly testing out everything that I did and tweaking my life accordingly. So one day I realised that this model would probably work in my business: Small, frequent tests with specific goals in mind to try to learn something new or verify something old.
Testing requires reporting
Setting up tests is not difficult. But tracking the results of the test requires preparation. Interestingly, when I moved Nic Harry from a pure e-commerce company into physical retail, I discovered how slow real world retailers have been to use technology to track changes they make in store.
With nicharry.com we have been able to test, tweak and track results for years. I have many tests and lots of data to pour through when I want information about a decision. I can make a change on the homepage and see if it leads to more transactions than the previous homepage tweak. If it works, great, if it doesn’t, I go back to the way it was.
I decided to take this type of thinking into our flagship store by treating each wall and window as a web page. We kept notes of which socks were on which walls and which socks sold better where in the store.
After a few months we had figured out which walls were the hotspots in the store. Then we started to move the socks around and see if we could influence who purchased what just by placing the socks in a different place.
This type of tiny testing environment helps me understand my stores, my team and me products with granular detail. However it wouldn’t be possible if my systems weren’t set up properly to help me track these changes.
Why test something that works?
People often ask me why they should test something that is clearly working. Well, what if one day your product stops selling and you don’t know why? What if your core revenue stream dries up over the course of a few months or years and you haven’t noticed?
Testing helps me to stay in front of my problems. I can think of a stand out example of a company that stopped testing and ended up losing: Blackberry. Do you remember them? I do, but not many people will in a year or two.
It’s also worth remembering Kodak. Kodak was founded in 1888 and thrived for a century, literally. Then it stopped testing in the face of innovation all around the company and from within. In 2012 Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection. The ironic part of the Kodak story is that digital photography killed their business. Why is this ironic? Kodak developed the first digital camera in 1975 but didn’t test it in the market. They were worried it would eat into their existing business.
If only they had tested the product before they dropped it. Tests do not have to be large and complex. Implement systems that allow you to track the changes in your business whether online or offline. Then engage with your team about how they can help you to measure and manage the tests and then start with something small.
Testing for no reason is futile. It’s imperative to know what you’re testing and why. Once you’ve figured out your goals, start testing and never stop.