Hat tip to Blue Ocean Strategy. If you haven't read it, you need to and go apply it to your sales process and product innovation lifecycle. It has applications for commanding a united front with your sales and marketing strategy. It contains the tea leaves on how to outflank your competitors by opening up new greenfield opportunities and totally outshining the competition by doing something that's Monty Python meets Steve Jobs, "And now for something completely different..."
I got to thinking about the above graph as it relates to Cirque Du Soleil, YellowTail, Apple, Southwest and many other strategic movers and shakers that maximized profit and market share seeming to arise out of nowhere and go straight to the top in a rapid period of time. What exactly was their Blue Ocean Strategy to optimize their value curve and unique value creation elements? I then related it to sales processes themselves and a great deal of the sameness in the strategy of today's incumbents and the disruptors who seek to challenge them, quite frankly, evidenced itself.
“Value innovation requires companies to orient the whole system toward achieving a leap in value for both buyers and themselves.” ― W. Chan Kim, Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space And Make The Competition Irrelevant
To compete effectively in 2015, we must think outside the box. The paradox appears in generating a more profitable and cost effective sales organization while endeavoring to modernize your strategic selling or equation simultaneously. This is not a post about gimmicks or the next shiny object. Value creation and efficiency are no longer mutually exclusive with the new set of rules and tools. It's food for thought. Strip your sales thinking down to its bare boned essentials and look for peculiar areas of competitive advantage. Realize, based on a strategy graph, that your competitors (and you!) all look pretty much exactly the same in the eyes of your dream customer.
We differentiate ourselves most by how we sell. The following our some blue ocean ideas I've been toying with in various posts that get you out of the red ocean of competition by creating new paradigms for selling.
I. Running Extra Lean Has Never Been Easier – Imagine lowering your cost of sale to the quick without sacrificing quality or integrity. You could launch your company in the cloud. You could build your headquarters on an island and make it all happen remotely like Tim Ferriss. The trend of sales is moving from field to inside selling. Imagine hiring much fewer sales people that are truly stars in their own right and overpaying them.
Why not build incentives so phenomenal that that your best people will never leave you? Why does it have to be lemmings over the cliff? Challenge the challengers. One way to run an extra lean selling organization, is by leveraging stealth B2B lead gen technology to accelerate the funnel. The sales organization becomes the marketing organization becomes the sales organization in a flywheel motion. Challenger content is pushed out to Publisher via a Sales Manager Editor. B2B Lead Gen opens three to five meetings per day. All-star closers work lower in the funnel.
II. Automation Book Ends the New MKT Sales Funnel– Revenue Disruption by Phil Fernandez, the Founder of Marketo, is an appealing book in that it makes the case for moving away from traditional interruption selling to one of engagement, lead scoring and drip marketing in a nuanced fashion. Imagine if you could automate the top and bottom of the funnel. In essence, smart AI and machine learning algorithms moving in a natural way above the forest canopy to generate new business and continuing to educate, enable and walk existing business up the ladder of engagement beneath the trees where the jaguar roam. The traditional sales and marketing funnel has changed. Here's a great one from Steve Patrizi I agree with. The writing is on the wall in this diagram. Your sales team could solely work that key piece from 90% to 100% of the funnel.
There's a case to be made for generating demand and uncovering latent demand by running an extra wide automated funnel at the top that can literally catch deals out of the hands of competitors or inject ambivalence into an extant choice to play it safe with the status quo or internal solution. It takes sophisticated writing to cut through. It takes a powerful set of automated lifecycle marketing messages upstream to truly spur organic interest. Craig Elias speaks of 'selective awareness.' This is the concept that if you buy a Volkswagen you will see Volkswagens everywhere. It's critical to study Tibor Shanto and Craig's workbecause the 'window of dissatisfaction' is maximally powerful.
III. The CEO Can Be A Selling Sensation At The Helm – Marc Benioff is the ultimate example of this strategy. You'd think he'd hand off the PowerPoints and conference emcee duties to a talented delegate from his team. He cares that much. He flies in. He closes the big deals. Does your CEO micromanage you or is she pivotal in closing the deals that matter? Once you've put the previous strategies in place, theoretically (and I've seen this in practice), the result is CEO to CEO contact closing the final chapter of the deal. Marc Roberge [CRO HubSpot] talks about inbound marketing and content market strategy applied so effectively that after months of pushing out valuable, useful subject matter expertise, executives would simply book a dinner and sign up for HubSpot. True story! This could be you...
Many pundits argue that a CEO or executive sponsor should be brought in at the end of the sales process to consummate the deal. First impressions are everything so why wouldn't deft use of automation and pre-qualifying questions filter out a tight front of funnel sweet spot set of opportunities. Then bring the CXO on the first call to set the tone. It's like the maître d' of the finest Michelin 3 star restaurant.
If you are embedded into the right business case high enough and early enough within the organization's buying process, perhaps you can bring C-Levels into the mix on both sides? Have you ever thought of that? As executive prospects are farther in the buying process than ever, you can intercept an active deal cycle, interject yourself with validity (without hubris) and corral the usual suspects to the table. Despite the CEB research that speaks to 5.4 stakeholders in the average enterprise deal, there is still a weight and counterbalance of opinion. Averages are elusive. There is still the heavy who is going to make the final call. You and I both know that. [I can almost see a seasoned sales manager nodding her head right now...] Not much has changed in the decision making department in hundreds of years, I'm afraid. I'm not saying the boss doesn't get consensus but ultimately someone's job is on the line, make no mistake. Develop a strong bond with your own CEO and work together to align sales and marketing so that you do not waste her time. Be willing to insert C-Level participation cogently at various stages of a deal when it counts.
IV. Tiger Team Social Selling Models Transcend Into Synergy – Imagine removing the cumbersome nature of the telephone. Now replace that with Skype. Now preference face-to-face content. Prioritize Human to Human (H2H) interaction. Leverage Sales Navigator to book the on-site meetings. Leverage the Skype calls to lead with provocative insight to land the crucial meetings. Face to face interaction will always remain 10X more powerful and effective than any advanced technology. Even with utopian holo-conferencing, Artificial Intelligence and a minority report like Oculus Rift, HoloLens, sales society nothing can supplant the experience of gut checks, face to face interaction, thin-slicing and intuition from another executive.
If selling is truly facing an existential threat of going the way of the Dodo, wouldn't it make sense to preserve your best players and morph them into a futuristic outfit akin to Seal Team Six? This would mean being all over Sales Navigator, Trigger Event Selling Science, and building out a strategic social selling plan informed by the science of big deal closing that has been around for a much longer period of time. This would mean moving out of the red ocean of competition and into the wild blue yonder. Building upon everything cutting edge out there and everything that came before contains one primary risk. True innovation. As business models change, appearing the same as your competition, placing too heavy an emphasis on competing in the current marketplace [market forces, dynamics and technology features], pivoting on the exact same value drivers and sounding the same is the greater risk.
How are you driving wildly unexpected value? How are you selling in a way that differentiates you? Are you taking a data driven approach? Did the CEO shock the customer by being on the first call? Are you pre-trigger? Are you leveraging advanced technology that allows you to have clairvoyant levels of insight and predict market shifts with an eagle eye?
You will notice that I did not speak to compartmentalization of sales forces, cold calling and bull pens. These are unique concepts. But how will they be reimagined for the strategic social selling age? Isn't a shift from active to passive monitoring almost more aggressive based on a fly by night attack? The enemy doesn't even see you coming. You're so far upstream, the buyer hasn't even gone to market. Think about it...
What you're doing in selling doesn't need to look like another company or anything that you've read in a book, blog or post. What would you do if you had completely unlimited resources and you could reimagine it from the ground up? What if you were a one woman marketing, product development and sales department? What would the customer experience look like? How about your signature funnel? Flip the script. Imagine if you were your own dream customer. What's the optimal flow?
Now it's your turn: What unique selling models have you witnessed being effective in the enterprise? Do you believe it's possible to simultaneously raise revenue and the effectiveness, ingenuity and power of your sales team while at the same time lowering cost of sales? Is setting Everest high quota attainment goals the way to drive growth or engineering a sales strategy the world has seldom seen?
If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.
Main image photo by Flickr: Kevin Dinkel