Chairman of RevenuePartners, Andrew Honey, unpacks how to achieve this with fast-cycle planning that identifies new buyer factors, growth levers and go-to-market channels while simultaneously ensuring operational efficiency.
Amancio Ortega is not a name that is widely recognised. The name of the empire he built is.
Zara is a fashion behemoth, raking in revenues of $24,8 billion in 2021. Its earnings have made Ortega a staple on the Forbes Rich List – and notably, for a brief period in 2015, he overtook Bill Gates as the world’s richest man when his personal net worth peaked at $80 billion.
Founded in 1975, in an unremarkable city in Spain – far from the glitzy European fashion capitals of Paris and Milan – Zara pioneered what is known today as ‘fast-fashion’ – driven by a production cycle where the latest catwalk and celebrity trends are delivered to store at affordable prices and a blistering pace.
Where traditional fashion manufacturers can take up to 6 months to get a design from concept to store, Zara revolutionised the rapid fashion product lifecycle – enabling it to compress design, production, and distribution into just 30 days. And again, where many traditional counterparts plan their season’s line, up to 6 months in advance, Zara limits advanced planning, opting instead to create the majority of its season’s collections at the beginning – and in the middle of the season – enabling it to deliver the latest trends to shoppers every 2 weeks. This quick delivery cycle also enables it to pull non-performers from its shelves fast, replacing them with new designs.
The strategy has paid off. Where customers visit other high-street stores in Spain on average only 3 times a year, that figure skyrockets to 17 times for Zara stores.
Other fast-fashion brands like Asos, Fashion-Nova, Revolve and Shein (recently valued at $100 billion) have followed in Zara’s rapid-cycle footsteps, and have capitalised on social media and e-commerce to make their founders billions.
Global fast-fashion is not without its criticism (questionable labour practices, allegations of copyright infringement and sustainability concerns) – but the success of its rapid planning and production approach is undeniable and warrants the consideration of any company seeking competitive advantage today.
FAST-CYCLE PLANNING & EXECUTION
In the foreword to this issue, I outlined what has come to be known in the scientific community as ‘rapid evolution’ – the fast drive towards adaptation through near real-time evolution of species.
In business today, it’s essential that we too adopt a real-time approach to strategy and execution to ensure we evolve rapidly and appropriately to changing conditions to both survive and thrive.
Three- and five-year plans are a thing of the past. To ensure ongoing competitive advantage today, companies need to constantly re-evaluate their customers’ changing needs, their environments, competitors, the value they offer and how they show up.
Leaders of B2B organisations today need a proven framework for fast-cycle planning and execution to shape and deliver on their Revenue Growth Strategy.
What is a Revenue Growth Strategy?
A Revenue Growth Strategy is a specifically sequenced methodology for achieving or surpassing board budget numbers and is designed to grow revenue at a sustainable 20%+ per annum.
- It is designed at a C-Suite Level
- It is resolutely focused on Outside-In design thinking
- It is based on specific revenue growth levers an organisation can influence
- Go-to-market channels are reviewed, and new options considered
- It must be designed for Operational Efficiency
- Wherever possible internal and external activities must be digitised
- It must be designed with precision and speed using strategy planning frameworks
- It must identify what to focus on for the next 12 months for a competitive advantage
- It is accompanied by a Sales Strategy that includes Process Design and Execution Support for the Sales Organisation to drive results on-the-ground
- The Sales Organisation must have clear steps and KPIs to build long-term capacity and scalability, achieved through mapping against a Sales Organisation Maturity Framework
- The outcomes of all strategic plans are specific projects with nominated project leaders
- It must be revisited annually to review goals and to plan the up-coming 12-months.
This is a service we offer our customers at RevenuePartners.
Read on to learn more.
BUT FIRST, AVOID THE TRAPS…
It’s not to say that companies are unable to formulate Revenue Growth plans without external intervention. However, over the past 10 years, we’ve observed several traps that many companies succumb to – traps that inhibit or prevent them from realising sustainable 20%+ Revenue Growth potential. These are the most prevalent:
Trap 1: We’ve got a Revenue Growth Strategy covered in our Corporate Strategy
This may be true – but let’s dive deeper into exactly what we mean by Revenue Growth Strategy (by our definition) to test that assumption.
A Revenue Growth Strategy is a detailed but simple roadmap – with clearly marked destinations and directions for how to achieve or surpass board budget numbers and outperform the market – as outlined in the Corporate Strategy. It is designed by the CEO and EXCO and execution is achieved through projects, assigned to Project Leaders.
It’s important to note that a Revenue Growth Strategy is a component within strategy, it is not a company’s Corporate Strategy. However, the two go together. Without a Revenue Growth Strategy, the key strategic objectives of the Corporate Strategy might not be achieved.
Most importantly (and this is where the trap comes in), the hidden potential for exponential revenue growth remains unidentified and unrealised in a number of company strategies.
Companies have the potential to unlock revenue growth opportunities – but fail to do so because they run into this first trap and the others outlined below.
Trap 2: In this environment it’s unrealistic to target any goal beyond inflationary-related growth numbers
Not true. Since the onset of the pandemic, we’ve worked with companies that have benefitted from trends driven by Covid, as well as those that have been beleaguered by supply chain issues, rising input costs, strike action and other disruptions.
In our experience, the common denominator of companies like these that are pursuing and achieving revenue targets above inflation, are those led by growth-minded CEOs and teams.
We assist these organisations to identify the right revenue growth levers to help them gain short- and mid-term advantage in the current environment.
The essence of our Revenue Growth Strategy approach lies in analysing and then planning which of these six key revenue growth levers to pursue:
- Customer growth
- Market share gain
- New market vertical entry
- New market territory entry
- Market expansion
- Product focus
You’re no doubt familiar with these six levers – at a glance, you may even feel you have them covered. This is where we find many companies fall short. Designing a Revenue Growth Strategy that delivers exponential growth of 20%+ resides in the methodology detail.
We’ve built a methodology based on a specific sequence of components, and that’s the secret. The components making up our methodology are not new, but the sequence followed helps companies build clear and powerful Revenue Growth roadmaps – fast.
Trap 3: External consultants can’t add value because they don’t know our business
While it’s true that external parties will likely never match the knowledge or experience you hold in your field, that’s not our objective.
Our mission is different. It’s to leverage our expertise in Revenue Growth Engineering – using our tried and tested frameworks to guide your team, extract their insights and expertise and merge our knowledge with yours.
When we run Revenue Growth Strategy Workshops, we bring your leadership team and brain trust together for two days to review your competitor analysis, your value to buyers and your go-to-market options (to name a few) – to ultimately determine which growth levers will result in the highest opportunities for your revenue growth over the next 12-18 months and beyond.
Our role is not to tell our customers what to do. Our role is to facilitate, channel (and where necessary, challenge) the solid, lateral, and open thinking of your company’s brain trust.
We provide the frameworks and insights gleaned from our catalogue of experience with cross-sector clients to enable your leadership team to define and build your own successful Revenue Growth Strategy.
Trap 4: We’ve employed talented people, they can handle it
True, and maybe true. Let me elaborate.
Yes, you have a talented team – but in our experience most Managers are already over-burdened with hefty workloads and seemingly never-ending demands for their attention.
Under these conditions, what is ‘urgent’ (day-to-day tasks, client emergencies, meetings, subordinates, reporting, etc) always takes precedence over what is ‘important’ (committing the time and focus to structured planning and the actions that emanate).
That old nugget about ‘not being able to see the wood for the trees.’ When we’re deeply immersed in ‘what is’, it can be difficult to envision ‘what could be’ – particularly when we’re talking about fast-cycle planning that requires an ‘outside-in’ perspective to identify previously overlooked revenue growth potential.
As outlined above, our approach is purpose-built to facilitate fast-cycle planning, but as we all know, without an execution plan in place, no strategy is worth the paper it’s printed on.
Here’s how we cater for execution outcomes in our Revenue Growth Strategy Workshops to help your team overcome time and focus challenges:
- The Workshops are conducted in a formal setting designed to deliver specific outcomes
- Teams can formulate a winning Revenue Growth Strategy in two days
- A proven methodology guides the process, leveraging structured frameworks and canvasses
- Results are achieved quickly because the brain trust of the organisation is in the room
- Projects with clear, measurable outcomes are identified and designed
- The outcomes cascade down to the Sales Organisation to translate into on-the-ground results
- Once primary growth levers are identified, projects are determined, marketing alignment achieved, and operational budgets catered for.
Trap 5: Our offering is superior to our competitors’
This belief is not unusual – most businesses that hold it do genuinely have a good offering. Unfortunately, it’s meaningless unless your customers agree with you – and many don’t.
A key reason why businesses with superior products are not growing at 20%+ year-on-year is precisely because customers do not recognise – or do not agree – that your Company is superior, based on their own evaluation, according to their key buyer needs – what we call ‘buyer factors.’
Consequently, they only measure your Company on price, and unless you are definitively the #1 lowest cost option, they will either opt for your competitor or simply remain with the status quo.
Wanting something to be a buyer factor doesn’t mean it is a buyer factor.
This realisation has been the root of countless ‘aha’ moments in our workshops thanks to a simple but powerful exercise we facilitate in which we plot our customers ‘As-Is Competitive Profile’ with them.
One such ‘aha’ moment came when we screened the results of a customer’s ‘As-Is Competitive Profile.’ for their Company.
The room grew silent as the picture emerged. Not only did this Company look identical to its competitors on most buyer factors, but on two factors they scored lower than their competitors. In the view of this customer, those two factors had never been a big deal – but what they came to realise was that for their buyers, these factors are a big deal.
At this point, I asked the team if they wanted to re-evaluate themselves, perhaps they had been too self-critical. “No,” said the CEO. “This is reflective of how we are perceived in the market, and it’s the reason we’ve been struggling to grow. We look just like our competitors. The only real difference from the outside
is that we’re more expensive – and customers don’t know why.”
Trap 6: Our value is clear, and our customers get it
If your Company can truly claim to lead with an ‘outside-in’ philosophy where customer value is central to your offering, articulated in all your messaging and championed at every touch point – then congratulations, your business represents a small percentage of companies that get it right.
The truth is, while many senior executives would like to believe their organisation ticks these boxes, they simply don’t. The majority of B2B organisations still operate with ‘inside-out’ mentality and lead with a ‘features and benefits’ approach, while operating under the mistaken belief they are customer-centric.
There is a particular cognitive bias that may account for this miscalculation. It’s termed the ‘Curse of Knowledge’ and it refers to a phenomenon when an individual, steeped in knowledge on a particular subject, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand that subject. After all, given their own immersion in the topic, the facts are now so obvious to them, they don’t consider that they would be anything but obvious to another.
In 1990, a Stanford University graduate student named Elizabeth Newton set out to illustrate the ‘Curse of Knowledge.’ She devised a simple game involving two participants – one would be the tapper, the other the listener. Each tapper was asked to select a well-known song, such as ‘Happy Birthday,’ and tap out the rhythm with their fingers on a table. The listener’s job was to guess the song.
But before the tapping commenced, Newton asked the tappers to predict the probability that the listeners would guess the tune correctly – in other words how confident were they that the tune would be obvious to the listener. On average the tappers predicted 50% – assuming 1 in 2 listeners would get it right.
The results? Over the course of Newton’s experiment, 120 songs were tapped out. Only 3 people guessed the correct tunes – that’s 3 in 120 – a success ratio of 2.5%.
In business today you can’t assume the value you offer is clearly perceived by your customers. In our Revenue Growth Programmes we put these assumptions to the test. Vision, mission and values are not enough – nor are platitudes about customer service or ‘partnering for success’.
When a prospective buyer doesn’t understand what you do for them and why you’re different, price becomes the only differentiating factor. And unless your Company is definitively the #1 lowest cost option, why would a prospect buy from you?
We interrogate what you do for your customers, what your solutions look like inside their business and how you assist your customers increase revenue or decrease costs.
The outcome? “Since defining why we exist, we have clarity on why customers and prospects would care if we were not around. Our vision and mission didn’t answer this,” said one CEO attending our workshop.
Trap 7: Revenue growth falls under the purview of the Sales Force
There are three problems with this stance.
Corporate strategy, or revenue growth initiatives, often fail to translate into the required daily on-the-ground Sales Rep activities and customer engagement actions needed for exponential results. Consequently, impactful revenue change is not achieved. We help our customers fix this.
When Organisations realise the value of alignment between a Corporate Revenue Growth Strategy and a Sales Strategy, a powerful shift takes place.
It begins with the acknowledgement that Revenue Growth and Sales starts in the boardroom. Sales cannot be handed a Corporate Strategy and told to execute. Instead, a Sales Strategy based on the Corporate Revenue Growth Strategy must be designed with clear revenue generating projects and actions in place.
The Sales Organisation is a multi-dimensional business unit in a Company. Within its domain resides the following 5-Pillars:
- Strategy with focus areas that include Sales Force Productivity Design, Customer Portfolio Mapping and Territory Planning, to name just a few
- Customer Engagement is next and includes process design and value articulation
- Then comes Sales Talent with hiring, onboarding and training considerations
- Followed by Sales Management that entails hiring, activity management, coaching and forecasting
- And finally, Sales Enablement that looks at case studies, lead generation, CRM and sales support tools.
As you can see, within each of the 5-Pillars lies a multitude of additional factors. To build a world-class, high-performance Sales Organisation, leaders require absolute clarity on their current strengths and weaknesses on each factor within all 5-Pillars. Vague notions simply won’t cut it.
We’ve designed a powerful gap analysis tool that has been used by almost 300 companies to score their Sales Organsations against all these critical factors. This 5-Pillar Sales Organisation Assessment enables companies to score themselves using multiple inputs from Sales Leaders and Managers for 360-degree sales planning and execution reporting (with peer benchmarking), that is tailored to their top 3 sales objectives for the coming 12 months.
There is a commonly held view that assumes sales success is the outcome of hiring, incentivising, motivating, training and driving Sales Reps. This view is flawed.
When its scalable revenue growth you’re after, talent alone will never beat process. Let me explain why.
When it comes to high-performing Sales Reps, those rocks stars who possess the perfect blend of Sales DNA, charisma, determination and expertise, they are unstoppable and are likely responsible for generating an out-sized proportion of your Sales Team’s revenue.
If your Sales Force was populated by nothing but these top-performing rock stars, there would be no reason for our services. The problem is, these unicorns are hard to find and hard to replace.
In almost every company we’ve worked with, these stars account for around only 20% of the Sales Force. The question is, how do you uplift the remaining 80%?
The reality is that unless a Sales Director and their Managers devote considerable time and energy to establishing and maintaining a disciplined Sales Process, making target is often more fluke – and missing the numbers is blamed on a few poor performers who are always below target.
In the absence of a Sales Process, top performers are left to carry the load for the business – creating an unacceptably high risk if – or rather when – they leave.
Talent is not the answer. The key is in building a scalable, customer engagement process designed to drive leading (not lagging) indicators – one process that can be managed, measured, and coached. And here’s the key reason why this has become a non-negotiable in modern sales: Customers have gained power.
They are spoilt for choice. Access to the Internet means they can do their own research. This means they don’t need your Sales Reps other than to generate a quote, by which time the key measurement for selection is typically price. If your Company is selected as the preferred supplier (note the absence of the word ‘partner’) the Sales Rep is expected to deliver the quote and ensure implementation and results.
And the globalisation of business means you are not only competing with local suppliers, but in many instances with international players too.
In a nutshell, saying the customer is king is no longer just an empty platitude. It’s the reality. That’s why your charismatic, experienced top-achievers perform well. They’ve developed their own process that works for them and their customers, and they understand what their customers need from them.
So, how do you equip the rest of the team to differentiate your Company in a sea of competitors and ensure the high expectations of your customers are consistently met?
A successful Sales Process must be designed according to your Sales Strategy, and must be flawlessly executed by the Sales Force in an agile manner to enable:
- Scalable expansion with fast-tracked onboarding
- A framework to transform customer engagements from one-dimensional interactions into business outcomes-driven discussions where your customers’ challenges and needs are clearly identified and linked to your solutions
- One process to which your Managers can align measurement, training and coaching
- A focus on leading indicators to build pipeline quality and quantity
- Dependable forecasting.
Yes, ‘Sales DNA’ is important (and it can be identified and measured to attract and retain more candidates who possess it), but if you want to rebalance your reliance on top performers and achieve predictable and scalable results, the people must be aligned with the process, and not the other way round.
And before you mentally check the ‘we already have a Sales Process in place’ box, first establish whether all your Sales Reps are actually following it, your Managers are measuring leading indicators and forecasting against it, and your training and coaching aligns to it. For many companies, on deeper inspection, that answer is ‘no.’
Trap 8: Sales training can fix the problem
A Revenue Growth Strategy is not sales training.
For mid-sized and large organisations looking to unlock real revenue opportunities, or stem revenue losses – sales training alone is the equivalent of using a Band-Aid to treat a bullet wound.
Let’s be clear, we’re not knocking training; it plays an essential role in shaping the correct mindset and equipping Managers and Reps with the right skills –
and it’s an important component of our offering.
The problem is that without having the right foundations in place (strategy and process), training efforts may provide a short-term morale boost but will be ineffective in delivering impactful revenue growth.
In summary, sequencing is key
Over the years, we’ve engaged with many customers who thought what they needed was sales training to improve their revenue results, but what they really needed was a Corporate Revenue Growth Strategy with specific projects to deliver results.
- This Revenue Growth Strategy in turn cascades down to the Sales Organisation, where an in-depth assessment identifies the projects necessary to leverage strengths and mitigate weaknesses.
- Sales training that delivers results is based on a unique Sales Process design, informed by the Revenue Growth and Sales Organisation strategies.
- Only once these projects and processes are in place should sales training effectively take place.
It all comes down to sequencing in a cascading effect. It is a pathway to exponential revenue growth. There is no shortcut.
Ready to start the discussion?
Get in touch to schedule a 75-minute meeting, following which we will provide you with:
- A matrix representation of your Company’s Revenue Growth risk or opportunity
- Your current ‘As-Is’ Competitive Profile
- A hypothesis of your Market Share growth opportunity.
Call us on +27 (0)11 886 6880 or email email@example.com