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Start Publishing: 02-20-2019
When The Wind Changes, Adjust Your Sails

When The Wind Changes, Adjust Your Sails
6 Ways to Adjust for Success in a Crazy Market
By Gerhard Vierthaler    



The past years have been a reminder to us never to take anything for granted. The sluggish recovery and uncertain economy has derailed many successful sales organizations. In a market that changes unexpectedly and dramatically across all industries, it's important your company is positioned for survival. Even though we seem to be out of the woods, it's impossible to know exactly what the future will hold. Market changes may happen suddenly and regularly and the learning curve for organizations may be steep, but necessary. One thing is for certain, we must adapt to compete in an economy in flux. the new reality.

One such example of this is the old saying, "When you can't change the direction of your wind - adjust your sails." You can't control the wind any more than you can control other outside factors. You have to adjust your strategic direction and tactical actions to sustain business growth in the face of these changes. Those who can do this concisely and correctly won't miss a beat

Those without a deep understanding of their business processes, customer pains, market conditions, change mechanics or adequate feedback metrics will quickly falter. Make no mistake, if you delay making hard decisions, the market will make it for you. Most leaders have strategies for good times, but the new economy will require change and a new set of skills - and is unforgiving to strategic missteps. 

Why do you need to change? Here are some examples:

  • Your company's role is changing and you are moving from a feature & function discussion, where you have great products & services, to a result and total solutions model. It's about creating thought leadership and succinct communication of differentiated value - demonstrating tangible results. Take the time to craft a compelling value proposition for each kind of customer you have; create relevant marketing content and lead nurturing campaigns. Engage, educate and stimulate the market to generate qualified leads. Nurture leads with those principles in mind: Who are you talking to? How can you educate them about value?  How do you establish trust? What do you want them to do? Ask them to do it. Give them a compelling reason to do it now. Follow up to make sure they have done it.   

  • Many B2B firms are commonly looked at as commodity vendors. Breaking out of slow sales cycles and forcing prospects to take an action step requires adding value to client strategy, painting a compelling picture of how your solution will drive their business results. It requires translating the benefits of your offering into high impact, measurable outcomes that matter to them - speaking to their greatest, red-hot pains. It enables you to maximize the competitive advantages that differentiate you from your competitors, creating urgency why they need your product or service now to be more successful. Make it easy to do business with you - if it is too complex or takes a lot of work on their part - they will choose to do nothing. Your fiercest competitor is the status quo!

  • Customers are buying differently. As buyers become increasingly empowered, and avoid contacting a salesperson until about 57% of their purchasing process is complete, salespeople must learn to evolve - and fast! Buyers do their own research, due diligence and judge you against your competitors.The rise of the self-educating consumer doesn't signal the end of sales as we know it. Rather, the buyer's revolution has brought with it the need for a new breed of salespeople who are much more marketing and research oriented than ever before. Immaculate online presence, compelling value and thought leadership positioning with a clear call to action to induce nurture is crucial at this stage. Their level of engagement will let you know when they want to be contacted by sales. 

  • Sales people hanging on to their old ways of "relationship-selling" are failing to close deals with "qualified" prospects taking up permanent residence in pipelines.The nature of sales & marketing is a lot less personal than it has been - you need to position the company different and move beyond relationship selling. If you want to be loved, get a dog! 

    You need to sell based on establishing peer to peer trust to earn a seat at the table, focus on the pain management capabilities of your offering, and explain the cost of doing nothing. Deal with people that will most likely buy based on action steps taken to quickly move through the sales cycle, maximizing your productivity. Turning your sales pipeline into the single most accurate predictor of revenue enables you to better align resources with projected cash flow.

  • Busy prospects loath salespeople who waste their time - today's buyers are looking for strategic advisers with deep business acumen. Be diagnostic, never prescriptive when suggesting your solutions. Develop a thorough understanding of the prospect's business and ask intelligent questions to make them think; help them visualize what your offering means to them professionally and personally. Use talking points, do your research and become an agent of change.  

  • Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Word class growth companies are the epitome of flexibility and creativity. You'll need to be ready to throw out the old playbook if it looks like it isn't working anymore. It may no longer be possible to succeed using yesterday's tactics. It is still possible to reach your sales targets- you just need to be willing to try new approaches. 

While many of the changes in the new economy have been drastic, they don't have to be. First, acknowledge your company's Achilles heel; analyze what works and what doesn't. Secondly, seek out the tools, advice and know how to make the necessary changes. Third, institute these changes and as a final step monitor the impact of changes, how they affect your results - modify and fine-tune. 

To thrive in the new market requires businesses to be brutally honest, pushing many managers - optimists by nature - to stop looking for silver linings and focus on creating innovative, executable strategies.

Strategy implies planning, thoughtful, deliberate, and calculated thinking, the results of which carry long term impacts and benefits. This is a rather crucial business continuation aspect in a turbulent world. Deciding where to cut costs, developing a new presentation format in meetings or asking managers to become more diligent about business development is not strategic. These are fine maintenance activities certain people in the firm can perform, but they aren't the high lights. 

The new market is expecting much more and the firm will require a whole lot more if you want to sustain healthy growth in the future. 21st century organizations have limited time and resources, which must be focused on areas that will bring a return on investment. This is one of the reasons why I believe learning agility is a critical factor for organizations today. Learning agility is a key differentiator that separates high performing, long-lived organizations from those that will languish in mediocrity.  

Heed these signs to come about, check your rigging, grab the tiller and point your venture into the wind. 

The lesson here: The biggest shifting gust won't be able to knock the wind from your sails if you're prepared.

"A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor" ~ Unknown


To your ongoing success,

Gerhard Vierthaler
Value Strategy Group

(907) 222-2703



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