by Chris Fletcher
In the Growth Acceleration Readiness Framework we've discussed, there are 8 dimensions to successful sales growth. As you may recall, the 8 dimensions are:
Sales team readiness
Marketing awareness and their readiness
Customer success readiness
Product integration and its capabilities to integrate into an Enterprise solution
Business impact on an understanding
External Partnerships to expand sales
Finally the change horizon; how quickly, as a management team of your organization, do you want to get to those large deals?
Let's address the business impact readiness dimension, and how investing in this area can improve your place on the maturity curve over time.
Let me tell you a story of how often this same conversation has happened to me. Sales teams often rely on marketing to help them articulate the business impact of their solution. Some marketing organizations really excel at this, whilst others, honestly really suck! For true business impact sharing, sales and marketing need to partner together to ensure success. So here are some snippet from conversations I’ve had with sales and marketing people, many times over…
Me: I've been looking at your website and I'm trying to understand the value proposition that you represent to your customers and prospects. Can you tell me why your current customers have purchased from you?
Response: Well we have great technology and they really get it. We've got lots of great customers and they are all really happy.
Me: That's great I can see you’ve got lots of logos, lots of great customers. I'm trying to understand why they bought from you, from a business standpoint.
Response: We know how we address broad market issues and that's why they are buying it.
Me: What's the business impact that those customers see your solution as bringing?
Response: Oh we don't know we haven't asked them; but, what we do know is that they know and we've been very successful in this space and people keep buying from us, it's great.
Me: Have you asked your customers why they purchased it, from a business standpoint? What was the impact of your marketing campaign? What was the impact to their business
process? What was the impact in terms of financial savings? What was the impact to their end customers?
Response: No, we don’t know, but they do!
Me: Well, you could ask them.
Response: Well, we could but we haven’t.
Me: Well, you could.
Response: Yes, well, we haven’t.
At this point I am beginning to feel like I am in a Monty Python sketch and I ask them to think about how they could ask their current customers for this information.
This is actually a conversation that is not uncommon. It's happened to me many times. Especially when a new product goes to market or when a new product is launched into a current established market. There are often lots of cool functions and cool features in the product that make it appealing to customers. Often those customers are the most Innovative in their space - the first to see a fit, and make a purchase. They are the “Innovators” because they're looking to do something different to achieve a business outcome. They’re maybe looking to leapfrog their competition by doing something differently, or gain a competitive advantage in some other way.
Not all organizations look at the opportunity that technology brings from this standpoint - not all customers are “Innovators”. The Innovative customers, just as in the book by Geoffrey Moore “Crossing in the Cassum”, have a very different behavior to those “Leaders” and “Laggards” in the same market. To position successfully, you must understand the maturity of your market (where you are in that market and ultimately the type of customers that your solution is going to appeal to). Your message needs to evolve as does your sales strategy, you need to obtain key information from your ‘Innovative’ customers, those first to see you as value-add in this market, and translate that into a comment value-added talktrack that others in that market will understand and relate to.
So why have I had that same conversation so many times? It's because many don't take the time to understand and capture how their customers actually gain value from their solution offering. If their current customers are all Leaders and not Laggers; couple that with a lack of ability to evolve their sales strategy and relate value to potential customers (both Leaders and Laggards) and you are going to find your growth stalled. In sales you can never stand still it's always a journey to keep evolving with your customers.
The first step is understanding “why” your current customers purchased your product or service. The next is understanding the return on investment that your current customers have seen.
With a new product, ‘Innovative’ customers often “see” the value of the product in business terms, long before your sales organization. This is only a bad thing, if you don’t recognize it, and you don’t stop to ask your customers about the business potential they see. In a true partnership relationship, the ‘innovative customers’ will share its insight if you ask. That said, if you have not put the time and effort into that customer to develop a joint partnership, then they typically won’t. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t push it, but recognize that you have not earned the right, and work to earn that right in the future.
It actually amazes me how many sales and marketing organizations never ask this simple question. It is truly mind boggling! Ask, and you may be pleasantly surprised. You may also come to understand that what you initially thought of as your “value proposition” needs to be tweaked, or redeveloped. Learn from your current customers, ask SMART questions (Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Results-oriented, Time-based) to understand the value they see.
SMART questions enable you to determine the business impact of your offering across multiple functions of a company’s value-chain - finance is a common one, however there are other value-dimensions for a company including Growth, Customer, etc. WIth this information you can determine more repeatable sales strategies that will resonate with new customers, with customer stories they can relate to. This is where the partnership between sales and marketing is so imperative. Without cooperation you will find it difficult to develop sales messaging that drives repeatable revenue growth. Silos will kill your potential.
There are many business techniques that help to develop your Business Impact Readiness strategy, to Accelerate your Growth, regardless of where you stand on the maturity curve of this dimension. At huerdo we can help you with an assessment of your Growth Acceleration plans, and provide recommendations on how to close the gaps. We also have Senior Sales and Marketing Executives on staff that can help you to evolve this dimension effectively. Create your own Growth Acceleration Framework and carpe diem!
Chris Fletcher is a Managing Partner at huerdo and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.