So what distinguishes sales organisations as fast-growing companies from their lagging peers? In a wide-ranging survey of more than 1,000 companies, five meaningful differences emerged.
1. Commitment to the future
First off, sales leaders, managers and decision-makers within growth-oriented companies can anticipate changes that can shift operations and revenues in the right direction.
This is because they’ve put in place the systems and processes to make forecasting and predictive analytics a part of the company’s operations.
As seen above, focuses on innovation, training and hiring are indicative of this kind of ‘commitment to the future’, since sharp sales leaders and senior execs understand that business growth is a marathon, not a sprint.
And this marathon is one that calls for all the key, strategic pieces be put in place, up to a year or two in advance.
2. Focus on key aspects of digital
Besides bringing in social media, businesses that plan to experience growth — and, indeed, use growth marketing — have managed to make online sales and e-commerce a part of their products and services.
This could come in the form diversifying and offering a ‘productised service‘. It could call for product-based businesses building a wealth of content around the brand, on multiple channels. It could also be the strategic expansion into global markets using pop-up stores for a primarily online business.
Regardless of the execution of these digital marketing strategies, measurement and selling is a large component of steady growth. It gives companies new crops of ‘leads’ and responds to the demand that physical customers have for the ‘omnichannel’ experience, an integrated online and offline method of selling that is extremely customer-centric.
Done right, and constantly refined, digital can provide a major competitive edge.
For companies that are experiencing rapid growth, digital marketing provides the tools and systems that support and streamline the sales aspect of the business. This occurs in three ways:
- Training and arming sales teams with digital tools and interfaces where they can quickly learn about a customer’s preferences and gain insights into patterns of purchasing
- Hooking in other related departments — such as marketing — with sales so the two can seamlessly operate, communicate and collaborate for the full customer ‘experience’
- Digital is not an action but a process which means that businesses will always need to be on the lookout for or on the leading edge of a significant market trend that can improve planning and capture opportunities for selling, at scale
In fact, successful growth connected to digital comes from making constant refinement and optimisation an ongoing priority.
Companies growing through digital are using mobile to reach customers in a cross-channel experience, moving the buyer from search to conversion in a series of tailored and personalised interactions with the brand.
3. Harnessing the full range of sales analytics
Completing the trifecta of best practices for growth-oriented businesses is analytics.
Data-driven businesses thrive because they’re tracking growth and constantly testing the efficacy of digital strategies through incoming analytics. Analytics give a measurable way for businesses to also test new products and services introduced into the market, or any other decisions that directly affect the sales process.
The power of data has always been a linchpin for organisations looking to maximise profit in a sustainable way. It allows them to validate their decisions and use tools that will both justify their decisions and actually guide their next best actions.
Fast-growing organisations are also those that use their analytics platforms and tools to an extremely effective degree. There’s an ‘art’ to analytics.
Businesses that are fast-growers will use their analytics in four ways:
- Gathering data from internal and external data sources
- Gaining general insights from the platform itself
- Driving actions such as sales workflows, guiding human decisions and interactions with clients/customers, and automating digital actions and events to create these online and offline touchpoints
- Measuring the outcomes and incoming data from the above actions, including personalising communication, creating incentives, and using the data to provide further training
4. Investment in people
Investing in people — talent development — is one of the best ways to embody a commitment to the future, spark innovation and remain growth-oriented.
The truth is that nothing happens without a committed, core team of engaged employees.
Investment in people comes in many faces. At AT&T Communications, increasing automation on the job coupled with an older staff cohort might have made the company naturally look to downsizing — but the telecom behemoth chose another tack.
Seeing the value in their current staff while also acknowledging the inevitability of encroaching automation, AT&T decided to move 75% of its network to software-controlled systems by 2020. They then partnered with Udacity to fund further learning, training and development of employees’ skills in programming, nanotech and computer science, helping them move towards proficiency for this change in 2020.
This is both a demonstrative commitment to the future and an investment in people.
Talent development is top of mind for both employees and executives: while 94% of employees would consider remaining at a company with a strong training and development program, 90% of executives say that these investments in their employees are a necessary benefit to the company.
5. Marriage of clear vision with leadership action
As far as decisions and strategic action can go, it all starts from the top and then trickles down. In other words, fast-growing and growth-oriented organisations can’t get very far without leaders and executives paving the way.
Steadfast support from C-suite executives is incredibly important in activities like day-to-day decision-making or the doling out of funds that will support sales, marketing or even training initiatives.
Leaders have the chance to articulate a vision for the company at large. This then affects internal workplace culture, external, client-facing brand loyalty and perception, as well as operational plans like expansion and internationalisation.
Sales leaders at these growth-oriented organisations say the two most important factors that contribute to their success are management articulation of a clear and consistent vision and strategy, followed by leadership commitment.
What does this look like in action?
‘The chief executive officer of an emerging-markets telecommunications firm, for example, announced a “3 × 3 × 3” growth aspiration: three years to expand beyond its home country, three years to expand beyond its region, and three years to become a leading global brand. Besides being simple, the aspiration was bold, specific, and easily measurable.’ — The sales secrets of high-growth companies, McKinsey
Leaders with a clear vision, armed with focused, impactful growth strategies, are also in the best position to keep a company’s focus tight. Remember that it’s not only about what a company does but what it doesn’t do that makes its choices ‘right’ and makes growth a part of its DNA.
Smart and savvy leaders know that, despite hurtling through a day of decision-making at breakneck speeds, teams cannot be wasting time and resources chasing strategies that may work. This intuitive expertise is supported by real-time analytics, which bring in the data that informs and justifies these decisions.
Instead, leaders know that steady upward mobility requires a steady commitment to such drivers of growth like customer experience or improved staff satisfaction. As such, they’ll keep the company focused on only the actions that matter to achieve these outcomes.
There are a few things to be taken from the state of Australian businesses right now and the focus of successful, growth-oriented businesses in 2016 and 2017.
Companies that focus on methods of organic growth are more successful with their efforts. These are also the businesses that take a steady and sustainable approach to growth, focusing on multiple avenues.
And, as can be seen, ‘growth’ is simply a catch-all term for a number of smart, forward-thinking choices. This collection of strategies is what determines the DNA of a company.
Successful growers adopt a bifocal perspective, which emphasises both near-term and long-term vision and tactics. Even though they plan within a clear strategy, they are not slaves to a mechanistic process for projecting a medium-term budget.
In contrast, many low-growth companies are.
No single strategy can offer a complete view of how to grow, and any approach that overemphasises one strategy also oversimplifies the manager’s challenge. Given that each company brings to growth a unique position and exposure to different kinds of opportunity, there are many possible strategies for growth.
These can be to:
- Maximise existing customers
- Attract new customers
- Innovate new products and services
- Innovate and improve the value-delivery system
- Improve industry structure
- Undertake geographical expansion
- Step out into new business arenas
This article is an excerpt from ‘Coded for Growth: Infusing a Growth Framework Within a Business’s DNA’. In this White Paper, we explore what it takes to infuse a growth marketing process into a business and what the best businesses are doing. In it we discuss growth marketing, digital marketing, data and insights as well as digital transformation. To view the full White Paper, click here.