Stop complaining and take action — now!

The gnashing of teeth needs to end.  Sure, the economy is tough and businesses are living with the status quo.   This leaves CEO’s with a choice.  They can cut and cut to try to survive or they can cut AND play offense — and prosper.

Ram Charan has a great article in the August 31, 2009 issue of Fortune entitled “My (Recovery) Playbook.”  It features three CEOs, Jeffrey Immelt of GE, Eric Fyrwald of Nalco, and Andrea Jung of Avon.  Each of these CEO took aggressive and bold action, which we discuss below.

I also wish to share a great quote from Ram “When I hear CEOs say they don’t have the money to be aggressive, I know they aren’t looking deeply enough for ways to free up cash.  They aren’t thinking creatively.” Amen, Ram.  Think everyone! Use that brain.

Mr. Frywald took an interesting approach.  He asked his employees for ideas and made them an offer.  If they could find $150 million in cost reductions, each employee would get a 4% bonus.  If they reached 1/2 the goal, they get 1/2 the bonus.  As you might guess, he got thousands of suggestions and they made the goal.

Have you asked your employees?

An employee reduction of 4% was also needed, but Mr. Frywald avoided the mistake of mandating equal cuts across the board.  Instead, they relocated people and used a more strategic approach.

Narrowing the focus was also important.  Mr. Frywald called his top lieutenants to a hotel at a Hilton near headquarters.  They flew in from all over the world.  But they had clear marching orders.  No one comes out of the room until they identify 25% of the product line to cut. After three days of meetings, the team had blown up hundreds of products.

When managers got ready to present to Mr. Immelt, he grew tired of the doom and gloom. Instead, he asked his troops to focus on what they can do, like close a big locomotive order in Egypt.

How can you make some carefully considered and strategic bets?

If Mr. Immelt, Mr.  Frywald and Ms. Jung can do it, so can you.  Stop crying and take action.  Bring in some fresh ideas from the outside.

For instance, lead generation should be one of your top priorities.  You should refocus on your value proposition.   Remember, prospective customers want to stay with the status quo, so you need to make a BIG difference for them — small changes won’t work.

And lead nurturing needs to become a primary focus — staying in touch with prospective buyers till they are ready to buy with strong and compelling content.  You also need a Universal Lead Definition, an accurate and complete marketing database and content mapped to buying process and roles.

With shrinking marketing budgets and rising quotas, matched with skeptical buyers — more of the same is not the answer.  You need dramatic change and you need to think outside the box.  Look for outside help.

For instance, calling an executive on your schedule is always difficult, but calling by appointment only can result in much higher success rate.  Or you need help getting in, so help with appointment setting is needed.

Or maybe lead generation is the issue.

The point is that you need to exit the cave, listen to your employees and bring in outside experts — just as soon as you can.

For companies looking to optimize each marketing campaign in b2b lead generation who wish to improve the way they acquire customers, Find New Customers is the place to go. CSO Insights says companies need to improve the way they generate leads through great marketing campaigns and implement processes for business to business lead generation.

Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor, is a demand generation expert and sales leader, as well as the President of Find New Customers, a lead generation company, who helps businesses leverage database marketing to optimize their lead generation campaigns and continually publishes the best lead generation ideas, so his readers can determine the best lead generation strategy to find new customers.