Growth

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14 Min Read

Sales Growth: Pivot Your Leadership Framework

 

U.S. businesses took a massive hit because of the pandemic, which caused an economic shock. Consequently, the gross domestic product of the United States fell 5% in the first quarter of 2020. However, even without the events of last year, business leaders have had to navigate a very different landscape. As a result, sales growth no longer arrives without leading change in the leadership framework. And, the current business climate has only proven this truth as the companies that have not adapted close.

Problem: Often, companies constrain managers and business leaders in maximizing revenue because they can't take their ideas to market fast enough. In other words, internal mechanisms exist which hinder the ability to act and react quickly in a continually changing marketplace.

Opportunity: To experience exponential sales growth, business executives need to learn to master the pivot as leaders. In short, companies have to end the dated thinking that the marketplace has to adapt to them. Further, they need to create customer-centric organizations that adapt and respond to continual change.

Resolution: Business leaders must integrate their leadership style into an iterative process, including people, data, and strategy, to create an action-oriented and responsive business environment. In short, by doing so, your company embraces all of the business elements of the 21st Century, which increases sales growth.

Growing Sales Led to Unintended Consequences

In my late twenties, I rose in the ranks to lead a multi-million business unit. At the time, I was excited and thought I would make my mark in the organization. Plainly, I thought that by ensuring sales growth, I would show the executive team the value I brought to the table. In other words, I wanted to show them that they made the right decision in hiring me as a manager.

From a sales growth perspective, the unit segmented customers into three tiers. And the top tier group existed in a continuity program. Further, the unit I led generated about 10 percent of the profit for my division. As a result, I understood it was a significant piece of the pie. At the start, I focused on ensuring that our group maximized efficiencies in operations. Of course, this meant ensuring we had the right technology, that contracts were renegotiated or terminated if they did not work for us, and that lead generation increased with content marketing. In short, the bottom line increased by 25 percent, and the topline sales increased by 10 percent.

Still, I remember thinking we had more work to achieve the full potential market value for our sales growth. So, I continued to trim costs and eliminate underperformance. Ultimately, my idea was to increase the lifetime value for each customer segment and generate new revenue lines. One day, I reported to management on my efforts. And when I did, I was surprised to see another business unit take our ideas to market, as opposed to us. Further, the leadership team took our budget and retargeted it to other underperforming areas. A business leader explained that since I did so well, and maximized value in their view, the money for my team had to get redistributed.

 

It still startles me to reflect that my success created artificial and arbitrary constraints on future growth. This was evidence of a management philosophy that institutionally inhibited exponential growth.

Why Success Got Rewarded in an Unforeseen Way

For many years, I thought back on that experience. How can sales growth success lead to an adverse reaction from management? Well, it turns out that the business leaders depended on leadership dysfunctions I could not see at the time. As it turns out, the management team of the company decided that new initiatives leading to expanded revenue lines and segments were too risky. So, to mitigate risk, it was safer in their eyes to keep existing business lines underperforming.

As far as leadership was concerned, the top leader's vision was lacking. Unfortunately, it reinforced the lack of flexibility necessary in today's dynamic environment, essential for growing sales. I was brought aboard to the management team to reinvigorate a sclerotic organization. However, tired leadership preferred to return to a static environment, instead of one full of exciting dynamism. Because the executive team did not yet understand the data, innovative use of people, and how my "part" integrated into the whole, the opportunity to maximize growth was stunted.

 

The path to successful and sustainable growth is rarely sitting at the top of the data for everyone to instantly see. It’s often lurking under the surface. And if you’ll take the time to review, you’ll discover one or two variables that, manipulated correctly, become key to your growth formula.

5 Vital Pivots Leaders Must Make to Ensure Sales Growth

My years as a business management consultant and revenue growth architect led me to write a book. Unfortunately, because of my experience and those I heard from other executives, I realized many entrepreneurs and companies still operate with dated approaches. Surprisingly, you have to wonder how it happens in the digital age, with continual disruption, dynamism, and change. However, as we know, it's sometimes tough for humans to change, and there's a natural resistance to it.

 

The current economic challenges and uncertainty only make it clear: change management is so vitally necessary as a business leader.

That said, the biggest takeaway I discovered was that business leaders have to master the pivot. Meaning, executives have to learn how to move effortlessly between "now and next" in an uncertain environment. And, that's why there are five key takeaways that every leader must know to navigate the modern business environment.

1. Leaders Have to Understand Their Place

Business leaders who make the most significant decisions are often the furthest away from the chaos of the marketplace.

As an example, CEOs are not the ones making direct sales. And, they're not the ones developing marketing messaging. Yet, as far away from the market as they are, they make monumental decisions. As a result, the quality of their teams and data information are crucial for decision-making.

2. For Growing Sales, Leaders Must Adopt Agile Management Techniques

There was a time when the marketplace evolved at a much slower pace. Because of it, decisions impacting sales growth happened throughout an arc of more time. However, the information age obliterated the longer runway.

 

Leaders have to master agility (pivoting), and not make perfection the enemy of progress.

Businesses or divisions mired in process and procedures often fail to grow during times of change.

3. Agility Is the New Business Strategy

As successful business leaders understand, barriers to entry have changed the business environment. Startups could use technology in a globalized world to compete much more cheaply and competitively. Therefore, to remain on top, business leaders need to focus on data and information. For instance, what is happening now, how does it relate, and why?

 

The truth is past results are already old and dated in a real-time and on-demand business environment.

4. Action Is a Daily Effort

Because data information is available in real-time, that means that as the market shifts, so must your approach. Therefore, within your company, you must empower all of your groups, including the virtual teams you created.

 

It's vital to make quick decisions and take rapid action continuously as new information is available.

Again, leaders must master the art of the pivot is a necessary leadership skill.

5. Sales Growth Does Not Depend on Perfection

Finally, in today's business environment, business leaders must internalize that perfection is not possible. Sure, it's vital to test and learn.

 

Leaders must be mindful to not allow testing and learning activities to get mired in core operations. When this happens, it merely reinforces the human instinct to resist change.

Instead, business leaders have to nurture iterative and adaptive management practices across their organizations.

 


 

Ben Stroup is Chief Growth Architect and President at Velocity Strategy Solutions where he helps leaders design, develop, and deploy smarter business growth strategies. Ben is a futurist, disruptor, and data champion. He leads a team that takes a structured learning approach to business challenges, which allows them to assist leaders in bridging the gap between ideas, innovation, and revenue—taking ideas from mind to market.

Velocity Strategy Solutions is an on-demand, next-generation business strategy and management consulting firm which provides clients with a relentless focus on data, execution, and results that positively impact the bottom line. Velocity delivers integrated people and revenue strategies combined with a disciplined approach to growth architecture that elevates the capacity of leaders, teams, and organizations to succeed and win more.

Topics:   Growth