Like a race car driver passing the competition and accelerating into the last lap, sales organizations need to remain sufficiently quick and nimble in order to take advantage of business and industry-wide paradigm shifts.
This is also the most direct and effective way to alter the perception prospects may have of you, in effect elevating you and your sales organization from vendor to trusted advisor.
The best example I can give of this is a personal one. My company, Revelwood, primarily provides business performance management solutions supporting the budgeting, reporting, forecasting, and modeling needs of financial organizations at Fortune 1000 and mid-market companies.
It had became increasingly clear to us that our primary audience—CFOs and senior finance executives at U.S.-based companies—were growing increasingly attracted to the concept of the rolling forecast. By replacing (or at least, supplementing) the traditional budgeting process, this discourages organizations from becoming too fixated on the present at the expense of the future.
The annual budget has long been standard operating fare at virtually all American companies, although it has been common in Europe for many years. But as the concept of annual financial evaluations has begun to come into question here in the U.S.—especially during challenging economic times like now—financial professionals have collectively started to embrace the idea of rolling forecasts.
Cognizant of this trend, we jumped ahead of the curve by capitalizing on the ease of use of our technology in supporting this need. We also made sure our prospects were aware of this, whether or not they ever raised the issue of rolling forecasts.
With the financial executives of tomorrow now being schooled in their MBA programs on the benefits offered by rolling forecasts, this phenomenon will undoubtedly grow over time. Accordingly, they will need an agile and flexible BPM solution, as we offer, to facilitate such a move.
A trusted advisor must demonstrate an insider's knowledge of their client's business, and an ability to solve their complex business challenges. While other firms are failing to think outside the box, content in selling technologies of the past based on trends from yesterday, we believe we have been successful by helping our clients find new ways to improve profits, lower expenses, and mitigate risks.
Becoming a Trusted Advisor
Of course, it's not only a case of staying ahead of the industry trends, but also of being fully aware of the existing landscape. For example, realizing the extensive time and money corporations invested in data warehousing programs—most of which were miserable disappointments to those seeking measurable ROIs by their benefactors—Revelwood embraced the idea of real-time, multi-dimensional analysis technology that could be implemented in three to six months on average, and for less than a fraction of the cost of traditional information analysis initiatives.
Another example we noted is the growing need for analysis required by our clients' sales organizations. As companies with large domestic and, in some cases, international sales teams found the need to manage quotas, territories, incentive compensation plans, and errors in commissions payments—as well as analyze sales results in real time—it became apparent sophisticated calculation engines were necessary to make quick adjustments in sales strategies and in-field representation.
Some leading companies thought the trend would be a movement toward software-as-a-service applications, but this turned out not to be the utopia many expected. Our sales force foresaw the challenges and was able to lead the industry by making a compelling case for a cost-effective, in-house-based sales/workforce performance management solution.
Of course, seeking to take advantage of trends does pose a danger: the possibility that the trend isn't aligned in the sales professional's mind in the same way as it is in the buyer's. Some trends also run their course too quickly to ensure a profit. The marketplace is littered with great ideas that were introduced way before their time (e.g., the satellite telephone).
Yet, being agile enough to take advantage of an industry-wide paradigm can help you stand out in a crowd, boost your credibility, and convince prospects you speak the same language. In the end, that's what will power you first across the finish line when the checkered flag comes down.
Mitch Lapidus is vice president of sales at Revelwood, based in Parsippany, NJ. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 201-984-3038.