By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.
Austria-based Simon Severino is an expert in helping clients to get noticed and grow sales. In the recent episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, he talked about Strategy Sprints — a team he founded which is composed of coaches helping people double their revenue in 90 days.
Image from Strategy Sprints
One of the foundations of their programme is that you have a positioning. Then, there’s awareness about you. And that awareness then generates interest. How you’ll turn that interest into engagement and that engagement into ready-to-buy — how you’ll close the deal — is where they will help you.
They help entrepreneurs like you improve each of these parts in 90 days.
Prioritise, Prioritise, Prioritise
For Simon, it’s not that hard to double revenue in 90 days if you focus on three things. And these three things are activities.
In a week, you could be doing too many activities, like 20 to 30 different things. What you should do is make a list of those things and prioritise the ones that meet one of these three criteria. For instance, if you’re doing LinkedIn posts:
Do they increase the frequency of your sales by 25%?
Do they increase the amount you can charge for the same thing by 25%?
Do they increase the conversion rates from your existing leads by 25%?
If for the next 90 days, you focus on the few activities that tick any of these three, then you will be able to double your sales. Because, in this case, 25 plus 25 plus 25 makes 99+ because they compound.
If you just do these three things, it will be much, much less than what you are doing during your weekly routine. It's less flight, it's less marketing. And though it may be the same amount of sales, you’ll have more focus, intention, awareness — and more joy. Because now, you have time to think about each word and you can play in the conversations.
A Programme of Simplification
Their programme makes doubling sales sound simple. But Simon said that simple things are sometimes hard to do. Everybody eats, cleans, works out, and sleeps. But some of that can be hard to do because there are many other shiny things that can be done. Oh, we can do this. We can do that.
If you want to double your revenue, use their checklist and focus on the things that tick one of those boxes. Essentially, their programme of reduction and simplification.
Image from Pexels
For some people, it's hard to simplify. And that's what's holding them back. If you look at your room, your shelf would look so much better if there was just one book there instead of 40. But for some reason, it's hard for you to let go of 39 books.
If you do the work of reduction alone, it’s sometimes overwhelming. It takes emotional work. And that's what they at Strategy Sprints avoid. Because if you do it with a coach — if there was Marie Kondo in your room, for instance — there’d be someone to ask you, “Which one of those books really sparks joy?" Then you would pick one and it would be easy. In five minutes, you’re done and your room is cleaned up.
That's why it's easier to double your revenue in 90 days with a Sprint coach than to do it alone.
Simon has also shared this as a book. The chapters talk about what their clients’ challenges are and how they tackled and solved them in a 90-day period. His book can already help many people. And it shows that you’re not completely alone because you have a blueprint, a checklist.
You can also get a coach. Some people like to have one because it's accountability, energy, and knowledge right there. And the said blueprint can save you and your coach a ton of time because with that, you can just spend half an hour instead of three days creating something.
Solving Bottlenecks One after Another
During the 90 days of trying to double your revenue, you have three goals: a sales goal, a marketing goal, and an operations goal. Each of these goals gets a number. And that number will tell you if you’re working in the right direction and at the right pace.
When you work with Strategy Sprints, you'll have a Sprint dashboard, which shows three numbers. You’ll also see a blue and a red line, representing the current and the target. And you can learn from these data every seven days.
Now, how do you define all these hundred moving parts? Which one is the bottleneck? The Strategy Sprints method entails solving one bottleneck after the other.
It takes eight minutes to identify a bottleneck. You map out your business — awareness, interest, engagement, ready-to-buy, closing, fulfilling, retaining, upselling, and cross-selling. And then you'll be asked a set of questions.
Sprint coaches come with a set of questions. One example is, “If you get 10 times more clients next week, which part of your business breaks first?” Maybe, in Week 0 you can still get all of your clients aboard, but in Week 1 there will already be a specific part that breaks because you have a limited number of people. With that, you’ll be able to identify, “There’s a manual process in there. That's the bottleneck. How can we scale that so we can accommodate all our additional clients well?"
Upon solving that, you can improve, for instance, 20% of your throughput. But you still have 80% more. What you should do next is to move to the next bottleneck. Again, you have to focus only on that one.
Image from Strategy Sprints
The difference between their and conventional methodologies is that in the conventional world, your team will be doing 17 tasks this week but none of those activities gives them energy back. It should be like in the game Angry Birds: When you shoot a bird, you get 500 points; when you shoot another bird, you get 600 points. The next thing you want is to shoot for 800. It becomes a flow state because it gives you immediate feedback.
So, if for seven days, the whole team is solving only one issue, whenever that is solved, it will give your team immediate feedback. Everybody will celebrate and get empowered. Where's the next bottleneck? Give me the next problem. And that's the momentum, that's the energy. It’s the very reason why it's a sprint: There’s momentum and energy that makes it easier for the stone to continue to roll when it's rolling rather than to stop.
Why Weekly Huddles are Essential
When communicating with a team, there could be a bottleneck in terms of one person might set off on their own priorities or another person might not even be on the same page.
According to Simon, this is the reason why they provide a Sprint dashboard that has three numbers (the marketing number, sales number, and ops number).
Every seven days (they do this every Friday), the whole team comes together. There will be the marketing people, the sales people, and the operations people. In that discussion, they’ll look at the activities and get conversations that can go like this:
“I built a landing page.”
“Alright. Are you done with the landing page?”
“How do you know that you're done?”
“Well, look at the marketing number. It went up”
Then the sales people will say:
“But I don't care about that number. The other number is relevant for us because I don't care if you increased the number of posts on LinkedIn — so what? Increasing the number of posts is not a relevant number on our dashboard. Look at our dashboard. It says ‘conversion rate.’ Conversion into sales calls. On our sales calendar, we had -0.2% discovery calls.”
With that kind of discussion, you can get immediate alignment between misaligned activities, which traditionally are misaligned. Marketing and sales, sales and operations, marketing and operations. These usually don't talk to each other. And it's really important that you align them because their key performance indicators (KPIs) are different.
Marketing things are all about the number of posts and creative pieces. And the sales people are about conversion rates. And then, those in operations are about “You sold too much. You should sell less. I cannot deliver.”
Knowing all these concerns, the different people involved can talk things out. “How can I promise a little bit less?” “Can you also deliver a little bit more?” “Let's agree on that.” These are the very relevant conversations in any team.
Work From Wherever, with Whatever Device
Asked if they have a platform where people can log in simultaneously, Simon shared that their clients can work everywhere on every device. Whatever software they use and wherever they are, even when they are on a plane, they can get their dashboards working. They can text their Sprint coach. This has been what it’s like for entrepreneurs because entrepreneurs are in action.
It can be likened to Spider-Man and his friend, the guy in the chair. When Spider-Man is in action and goes, “Should I kick the left or the right door? What should I do?,” his friend says, "Give me a minute. Kick the left door because behind the right door, there is a cactus.” This is what entrepreneurs need — and this is what they at Strategy Sprints have created.
Simon’s dream has always been to create the Jasper (formerly Jarvis) for entrepreneurs. And he and his team kind of created it. They’re always in front of the technology. They need their platform to work wherever you are, whatever you use. It’s completely agnostic of where you are and what your tech setup is. If you have wifi, it works.
This is completely liberating, especially when it comes to aligning the concerned people who could be working across geographies.
On Marketing and The $35,000-Revenue Mark
When it comes to getting noticed, Simon said that one of the traditional bottlenecks that people experience is spending on marketing too early and too much.
Image from Freepik
For him, the first cent in marketing spend should be after you have reached a $35,000 monthly recurring revenue. It’s only after you make more than $35,000 in a month that you should think about spending your first dollar on marketing.
This is quite the opposite of what almost everybody hears. But how do you get that $35,000 without doing any marketing?
According to Simon, you don't need marketing to do good work. You can get to that revenue figure just by doing good work and solving real problems for real people. And client referrals are enough to get to $35,000. It’s just organic.
How did he arrive at that number? He shared that he got his data from the field — working there for 21 years and making 1,600 sprints that got measured every seven days. The $35,000 is the demarcation line. Concept validation is at $10,000 or $12,000. When you reach that, it means that your concept is validated. But when you reach $35,000, that’s only when your market is validated.
He also pointed out that when you haven’t created a business yet, you shouldn’t be caring about marketing at all. Business creation is about, This is something that the people want, need, and take. Business creation is operations work. It’s not marketing, it’s not sales — it's full operations.
If you’re a service, you build an experience. If you're a product, it should be a product that people really need, want, and take. This is the only thing that you need to do before the $35,000-mark. You just have to speak to people.
Simon doesn't call it marketing, because it’s directly sales. From operations, you move to the sales part of the process. And sales is that short conversation: “Hey, I have something. It's cool. It can bring you there. If you have this problem, it can solve it. It’s built for you.” It's only a five-minute conversation — and the few people who’ll buy into that will bring you to $35,000. You don't need many.
When you put more curation into that, it becomes a proper sales grip, a proper flow. You start building some material, then you collect client testimonials. For instance, Simon has a client who, within 90 days, was able to build systems that work without her. She’s now running a business working independently of her. This is an example of a client testimonial. This is what you should build before you reach $35,000.
If you have 15 of those client testimonials, you probably are now above that mark and you have something that works. Now, it's time to scale it because if you put more conversations too early into it, it won’t transform into something more impactful. But now, every single additional conversation becomes more impactful.
Now, it's time for marketing. Now, you can put in as many conversations as possible. You can start many conversations, tell the whole world, scream it from the rooftop — whatever you like to do, do it. And show up every day. Build communities, connect people, send flyers, and sing your song.
Doing Things in Order is The Way to Go
All these blueprints, checklists, and the step-by-step process — How can you get to $35,000? What do you do after you get to that? How do you scale? — are written in Simon’s book, which is also called “Strategy Sprints.” It's currently available on Amazon.
Image from Amazon
It shows how there’s a literal order of things to do. And many mistakes are made when people do the right things in the wrong order.
For most people, marketing is the most enjoyable part. Sales is the least enjoyable part. And operations is the most boring part. And that's why they convert the order: They start with marketing and then see what happens. However, that’s not the way that Simon does it.
Doing things in the wrong order is one reason why many companies are pivoting. Even worse, you will see companies crashing and tanking over the next 12 months.
Simon emphasised that you should keep in mind that we’re all heading into a recession. If you are built on marketing, he hopes that you’re also built on solid operations and solid sales and that you have enough liquidity — because we will go through a recession wherever we are. Europe is in a recession, the US is next, and, technically, it's two-quarters of negative GDP growth. So you need to better focus on operations and sales.
What Simon Does to Get Noticed
Many people are asking him what Simon does to get noticed. For him, the process of finding what works starts rather intuitively. When he wakes up in the morning, he asks: What will I want to do first?
He knows he’s a video kind of guy. He also likes to talk to people, ideally face-to-face, but in a scalable way. The only possibility for that is via video. So instead of writing, calculating, or doing other things, this is how he starts: he does a lot of videos.
Every seven days, he uses his Sprint dashboard to measure what happens with those videos. Currently, he and his team have published around 600 videos on YouTube. Now, he’s starting to learn which one gets really noticed — and why. What are the keywords that are effective? YouTube is also telling him what else his audience follows. He’s learning about them, but it's after 600 videos that he was starting to learn about them.
So the first thing that you have to do is just show up. If you come from a good place in your heart and you have something to share, share it. The second thing is you measure if anybody cares. And if anybody cares, you ask, “Who are these people and why do they care? And what else do they need?” And that's your next video.
This is the process. It’s intuitive creation, playful exploration, and showing up. It’s also about being vulnerable, because, of course, you may look like an idiot for 300 episodes. But it's okay. Just show up.
Then, every seven days, learn from your analytics and your data. Then, do more of what people really need and less of what they obviously don't need.
Now, what also works for Simon right now is podcasting and being on podcasts (he goes on six podcasts every day), being on keynotes, and having client and colleague referrals (Strategy Sprints is also now a franchise). In every continent and every time zone, there are certified Strategy Sprints coaches who they consider ambassadors of their brand.
On top of these, Simon also runs communities and joint venture clubs where he connects people. Primarily, they create six-figure collaborations with each other, but the second-level effect is that his collaborators also get to think of him — he stays on top of their minds because he’s the host of those events. And whenever somebody asks them about their need to increase their sales, they’d refer them to him.
Simon has small joint ventures (one every week) and big joint ventures. Every year, he also selects one big platform that he and his team collaborate with. This year, it's Google. Through their Grow with Google programme, the tech giant helps businesses grow; they do a referral and say, “Hey, if you want to grow a business, you need to do the Strategy Sprints in 90 days.”
This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.