GUEST: Imtiaz Patel, Founder of Accelerated Growth Solutions
There’s a very fine line between success and failure.
How do you ensure that you’re on the right side of it?
Imtiaz Patel, Founder of Accelerated Growth Solutions and a proven executive with experience leading teams to revamp circulation at the Dow Jones company and heading growth strategies at The Children's Place, has some insight for you. Today he's a highly sought after business consultant helping organizations define and implement growth strategies to optimize revenue.
What is Patel’s first and foremost piece of advice? “Think about what the customer is going through. That will fundamentally change how you think about the sales process.”
"Think about what the customer is going through. That will fundamentally change how you think about the sales process."
FOUNDER, ACCELERATED GROWTH SOLUTIONS
Success Requires a Plan
All successful initiatives start with a well thought-out and executed vision: ‘Where are you going, why are you going there, what’s the rallying call that everyone can get around?’
If you can’t define and defend those, it becomes change for change’s sake.
When you think about change initiatives and the catalyst for them usually, unfortunately, there are often negative connotations to the change. Executives have some indicator that they need to do something different.
Nowadays almost every organization has some change initiative going on. There are three essential components to avoid change fatigue.
- You need something that people can rally themselves around.
- Be inclusive. Talk to the people who have their boots on the ground throughout the course of the initiative.
- Create specific milestones and deliverables -- where should you be when, and what are the dependencies?
Staying Ahead of the Change Curve
Early warning indicators give you some sense of what is happening. There are metrics you should be looking at such as ‘is the pipeline getting smaller?’ Or, ‘is the win rate starting to decline?’ You might be priced out of line with the marketplace; maybe competitors are coming in, and if that’s the case, without corrective action, you will have a problem.
Talk with customers. If you are hearing similar themes from multiple people, you know this is going to build up. You have to say, ‘I'm hearing this…’ and understand what the implications may be.
If you are feeling really proactive, do a war game. Patel created a simulated war game. “We create teams and each team wants to win market share. Everyone makes moves. People get so competitive and they all want to win. I find it's amazingly predictive of what may happen in the marketplace.”
"We create teams and each team wants to win market share. Everyone makes moves. People get so competitive and they all want to win. I find it's amazingly predictive of what may happen in the marketplace."
founder, Accelerated Growth solutions
It gives you insight into not only your own organization, market, and competitors, but also the behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses of the individual members of the team that you have in-house.
Look at the Big Picture
Understand what's happening. Think about the market, the competitors, and what is going on with yourself. Maybe the sales team is doing well, but your products or pricing are not right. Look at the whole collective sales performance.
Consider the overall market. Start segmenting and cut the data a little differently. Is it a regional issue? Who else is selling in that space and what's their value proposition? Really understand the different drivers of performance, because once you understand which drivers are struggling, you can figure out a solution.
How to Boost Sales 23% in a Down Market
For example, at Dow Jones, the global business was declining 20% a year after a crash. Patel looked at everything.
- There was an opportunity for growth in the U.S., but not with the current customer set. They had to go to smaller clients, so that meant they had to sell differently. In Northern Europe, which was probably about 35% of the business, the market opportunity was decimated. In Asia, it was an open field. So Patel cut in Northern Europe and added people in Asia.
- People were buying smaller deals. The average deal went from $100,000 to $10,000.
- The field reps were very expensive, so they shifted more to in-house sales people.
- Patel dug into the sales process and interviewed customers. Customers wanted a resource that would help them navigate their choices. So they throw out the existing sales process and created a biocentric sales process.
- There was a disconnect between where the reps and the customers each thought they were in the sales funnel. Reps were instructed not to exit stage one to stage two until the buyer had fulfilled specific criteria.
- They reframed everything to think like the buyer. What is the buyer going through? What is the buyer doing? What are the problems they're thinking about and how are you aligning with them?
- It takes a salesperson twice as long to lose a deal as to win a deal. If you can identify someone who's willing not going to buy early in the process, you've saved yourself time that you can put towards others. Someone who typically won't purchase tends to take much longer to schedule a meeting, or they're just not responsive.
Patel helped lead Dow Jones from -20% to +3% growth in 18 months, a 23% upswing in a downmarket.
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