The Growth Strategy That No Competitor Can Copy
You already understand the pace at which products and services are copied by your competition. Buyers in the B2B environment can commoditize almost anything. It took only 3 years for a product hailed as one of the greatest innovations ever, the iPhone, to go from being completely unique with only one service provider option (AT&T) to having more than two dozen similarly functioning smartphones with service available from four major telecom carriers.
The customer experience is harder to copy, though many companies are also trying to add value in this arena. Ultimately, it’s the sales experience that provides a tremendous opportunity for differentiation and client value.
Sales is a vital component of the customer experience that is often neglected. Too often, executives think of sales as “just” the distribution engine for the business. The sales team is directed to go get new clients and extract more business from existing clients. But to do that well, and not sacrifice margin in a price war, the sales organization needs to move from “just” distribution to becoming part of the differentiation. When your sales team can differentiate in the way they sell, not just what they sell, you’ll have a growth strategy that no competitor can copy.
You won’t make that happen with a few days of sales training. It’s a fundamental strategy for your business that impacts metrics, recruiting, sales team deployment, and of course, leadership provided by executives in the C-suite. You can’t just ask the VP of Sales to lead a major shift in the business. (More on that in this article I wrote for HBR a few years ago. ) Instead, focus part of your business strategy on differentiating and creating value in the sales process. That will create a unique prospect/client experience, that influences at least 25% of the buying decision according to McKinsey & Co. (and I think that number is massively understated.)
In order to deliver a sales experience that grows your bottom line, your team will have to make considerable changes in what it means to sell solutions today. If you’re interested in learning more about what that means, read on.
I teamed up with LinkedIn Learning to create a video course on solution selling that outlines these approaches in great detail. It launched about a week ago and has been received quite well. The first two videos are free for a short time thanks to the sponsorship and support of LinkedIn Learning. Click the videos below to watch. You can read also my recent article on the future of solution selling here.
Jake Orville founded the Cleveland HeartLab as a spinoff of the Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland HeartLab has developed unique biomarker technology and tests designed to identify and reduce cardiovascular risk. This is a breakthrough innovation since 50% of people that have a heart attack or stroke have normal cholesterol—yet cholesterol is still the most commonly used test to access cardiovascular disease.
Over the years Jake and I have worked together on several engagements to lead the growth of the business. In December he completed the sale of the company to Fortune 500 company Quest Diagnostics for $94 million in cash. You can read more about it here.
And here is a video with Jake sharing a little bit about our work together.
The key reason Jake solidified a deal with Quest Diagnostics was to ensure that a solution to healthcare’s biggest problem, cardiovascular disease, would be accessible everywhere. With Quest’s scale and distribution, that will now be a reality. Big congratulations to Jake and the Cleveland HeartLab team.
A Slice of Life Balance
We don’t talk a lot about compassion in the world of business. And I don’t mean compassion for the homeless, or for children in peril, that anyone with a heart experiences. I also don’t mean civility (though plenty of leaders could start there), or sympathy or being soft and fuzzy. The kind of compassion I’m referring to is empathy that enables you as a leader to understand a different perspective, sense the motivations of others, and provide better guidance and direction.
Showing compassion of this sort isn’t just a nice thing to do. It will make you more effective as a leader. In research for my first book, The Inspiring Leader, we found data on compassionate behaviors strongly correlated with metrics such as higher levels of commitment from direct reports, decreased turnover, and even increased net income. Where could you be more compassionate? Small actions can make a big difference in the productivity and cohesiveness of your team.