Your Sales Motion Is Challenged – It’s Time to Pivot in a New Direction

It’s been more than a decade since we’ve seen such a radical change in the market – one that is driving every organization to reconsider its business strategy – including its go-to-market approach and sales motion. Whether we’re ready or not, as sales and marketing leaders, it’s time to pivot.

One of my favorite business books is “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson. An all-too-relevant parable about the inevitability of change and the ways in which we can deal with it by revising our approach.

As the book unfolds, a key and impactful insight is uncovered; a group of simple-minded mice are faced with changes in their environment. Rather than stay the course, the mice quickly accept the changed situation for what it is, not cursing the world or the environment for its unfairness. They adapt and immediately head out to look for new cheese. And while it takes a concerted effort and tremendous courage, they eventually find happiness in the form of a huge new pile of cheese.

A favorite quote from the book is perhaps the perfect guidance to address the challenges facing business in light of the current environment: “The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you find new cheese.”

For almost every business, my organization included, sales motion and go-to-market approach is challenged – and it’s absolutely prudent to pivot in a new direction.

In sports – a pivot is an essential move to stay in the game. It allows the athlete an opportunity to move in another direction with one foot, while keeping the other (the pivot foot) in contact with the floor in order to determine the best path forward.

Today more than ever, a pivot is essential, as sales and marketing leaders, to address the changes in how we connect to our buyer and customers.

For example, collaborating face-to-face, be it for sales trainings, at industry events, onsite workshops or Executive Summits – is not an option now, and likely won’t be for many months.

So, the question stands large – how do we go-to-market given these changes? Here are four ideas to help jumpstart your pivot and help you thrive in this change.

1. Be Clear on The Customer Challenges You’re Poised to Solve

During acute marketing shifts like we’re facing now, it’s more important than ever to talk to customers and prospects to discover if their needs or buying process has changed. You may think you know, but don’t rely on a gut feeling alone. Start asking questions to understand what’s shifted in their business. This type of research and analysis (even if done quickly) is key to validating your/your organization’s hypothesis and enabling you to be a valued and trusted partner.

Be proactive and get ahead of shifting buying processes by learning:

  • Are there any acute issues that need to be solved immediately that we can provide support around?
  • Have your pain points changed? If so, how can we better structure our conversations to address those changes?
  • Have the ground rules changed for how we should engage with you?
  • How, and how often, do you want to be communicated with at this time?
  • How are you consuming content now – has it changed at all?
  • Are there more or less people involved in the decision-making process? Has this increased or decreased the buying process lifecycle?
  • What does success look like for your business today? And, what’s changing?

For sellers, in particular, we are successful when we help solve problems for our prospects and customers. Organizations that can quickly pivot their go-to-market message and sales approach to deliver problem-solving value to customers will be the ones who most successfully find “new cheese” in the near and longer term.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Test More Than One Approach

Now that you’ve gained better insight into your buyer’s shifting needs and processes, both as they relate to the near-term and the long-term, it NEVER hurts to test first. Testing doesn’t need to be lengthy or arduous. Here are a few simple methods for testing your pivot path:

  • Absolutely leverage one-on-one conversations with customers and prospects to “try on” revised positioning and to ask which formats they’re appreciating most for gaining access to peer insights and information.
  • Consider new formats for “connecting” with prospects. There are dozens of great examples I’ve seen of organizations trying everything from Virtual Coffee Meetups to online Executive Fireside Chats, LinkedIn groups or Virtual Coaching Sessions. I personally have scheduled numerous video calls with customers and prospects alike in the past few weeks. What I found is that now, more than ever, people are welcoming the visual connection.
  • Utilize your BDR/SDR team as a great resource to test messaging on outbound calling, within their social selling communications or other points of contact with prospects.
  • Run message tests on your website and/or in your digital channels like social media.

Both now and in the long-term, testing and tuning various aspects of your go-to-market message and sales motion will always be essential. Anecdotal information is a good starting point, but ultimately, to validate your test results, you’ll need to apply rigor and scrutiny to your marketing and sales metrics to track performance. Not sure how to do that? Read Demand Marketing KPIs and Metrics you Need to Monitor.

3. Communicate Regularly – Now More Than Ever

Communication, early and often, is essential. Involving your team, customers, and prospects in the solution (which requires regular communication) can heavily contribute to your success. Teams now, more than ever, must align around the pivot and clearly understand everyone’s role. Teams also need to be focused on the outcomes – knowing that when the pivot delivers results, the business and its customers are in a great position to win.

More important than ever is energizing a vision beyond the next 30 days. We need to encourage and inspire our teams to look out much further. In my business of Digital Demand Transformation, I’m certain that aspects of our business – related to customer experience in particular – have changed for the foreseeable future, and possibly longer. Now is the time to have teams embrace this change and look toward the future.

If you find yourself struggling to keep teams on the same page during a pivot, it’s probably because they weren’t aligned to begin with. You can’t afford to push that problem aside any longer. Read: How to Align Sales and Marketing Teams.

4. Drop Your Fears and See Opportunity

Fear, uncertainty and doubt can be a deal killer. Any seller knows that. After input from customers, employees, leadership and coaches have been gathered, don’t question the decision to pivot. Move forward.

Whether specific to the challenges that are here and now, or looking forward to the challenges that come with any businesses ebb and flow, pivoting is a great way to bring new life to the business. All businesses must evolve if they want to stay current with their audience and competitive within their industry.

I also want to give a huge applause to organizations and companies pivoting their capabilities and/or facilities to support the needs of the community (vs. with a focus on new revenue streams). Tesla is manufacturing FDA approved ventilators. Nike, New Balance and Under Armor are repurposing their manufacturing plants to make protective masks for healthcare workers and others. Dozens of companies are truly stepping up. Kudos to you.

While not every business can make a “philanthropic pivot” – the time is now for every business to be considering a pivot to immediately address new and/or evolved market and buyer needs.

If you’re having trouble initiating your sales pivot – perhaps because you don’t know where to go – it could be because you’re stuck in a tactical demand generation state. Read Making the Critical Shift from Tactical Demand Generation to Strategic Demand Marketing to learn more.

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