Better Pay Attention – Here Comes the Future!

By Jeff Hoey, writing to cause creation of sustainable competitive advantages at

If you knew an event was virtually guaranteed to occur in the future – an event with the potential to be the worst or the best thing to ever happen to you – and you had the ability to affect the outcome, would you develop a process to identify its arrival and deal with it? Of course you would. Yet I am willing to bet you don’t have this process in place for what’s definitely going to happen to you and your company.

In 1990, Powersoft Corporation started selling its new solution. Unfortunately, no business manager wanted it and no IT manager wanted to pay for it … they thought it should be free. Pivot. Give it away, and then start selling the product we had been giving away. Next six months, sales were US$25 million. The business plan called for independent third-party sales and support; two years later there were no channel sales or partners.  Pivot. Change the distribution strategy to make third parties dependent on the direct sales force. Channel revenue went from US$0 to US$120 million in three years. Sybase acquired Powersoft in 1995 for $1.5 billion.

All successful companies modified their original go-to-market strategy. It might have been product, distribution, target market; sometimes all three, and sometimes multiple times.  The most successful companies continue to identify and apply advantageous adaptations. Unfortunately, transformation is not easy and success is not guaranteed … and surprises are almost never good.

Have a Plan B in place?  You have two choices: 1) have an effective method to identify and take advantage of the continually occurring market, as well as competitive and economic changes affecting your business; or 2) ask yourself, “Do I feel lucky?” 

But there is good news; there are actually signs. Failed entrepreneurs almost all say, “I didn’t see the signs.”  My response is, “No, actually, you weren’t looking for them or paying attention when they presented themselves.” What did Powersoft recognize that its competitors didn’t? Obviously, failure caught our attention, it was beating us up. More importantly, we paid attention to success.

Rather than trying to fix a problem and make something that wasn’t working work, we stopped doing it. We identified what was working and did that, and then figured out how to do more of it in spite of the original business plan or what we originally told the investors. How? We focused, on the present. Here’s what to do: 

  • Write down your current sales process, step by step.  You may think your sales process is the “problem” because it appears to be under the control of mutant space zombies; but, the only real choice you have is to start from where you are. 
  • Focus like a crazed zombie hunter on counting the actions and reactions of prospects and customers, and stop the focus of counting the activities of your team. Work to eliminate any sales process step which cannot be concretely and objectively counted. 
  • Use your meetings to discuss how to improve the results at each step. Avoid analysis of, or blame for, what is not working.  Focus on what is working and when it is working.
  • Implement only small, measurable actions which can be immediately counted and continued (but only if successful from the beginning) or dropped immediately if there isn’t success from the beginning.

Focusing on the present, and what is successful, will reveal the “signs.” You can now build on success, evolving in reaction to market changes defining the future and your more successful place in it.

Categories: general


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