Through the course of business experience, people tend to develop a set of assumptions that solidify into the way in which they frame their business. These often become absolutes--they hold onto these beliefs even when clear data proves a change is in order.
Some of these assumptions, when shattered, have changed a market landscape. A few examples that might sound familiar:
- "No one will pay for water in a bottle when they can get it out of the tap."
- "You make the money on the food; the coffee just gets them in the door."
- "IT departments want to have their own servers and hardware on site."
Some of the biggest companies and markets that have been created in the past 15 years happened when people challenged the existing perspective of the marketplace.
That means the biggest obstacle to your company's growth may, in fact, be you.
So ask yourself: What are the self-limiting parameters you have constructed? One of the biggest areas to tackle is your view of the market: prospects, customers, and competitors. The answers are actually easily found.
Questions to Ask
To break out of your own constraints, you need to honestly examine some of the key "truths" that made you successful up until this point. Ask yourself these questions.
1. What was true about the market a year or two ago that is no longer true?
2. Why are new competitors in my market getting traction?
3. When are my customers most vulnerable to offers from my competitors?
4. How do prospects find us now compared with a year or two ago?
5. Which new market opportunities am I failing to take advantage of?
6. Who is my new buyer?
Answering these questions will help you look beyond your traditional framework.
I've worked with a lot of companies that have asked these questions and made some dramatic shifts. Here are a few examples:
- One medical supply company recently shifted its targeted buyer from the head of nursing to the CFO. By doing so, it shortened its sales cycle and increased both size of purchase and margin. There was a lot of internal resistance, however, because the company had always sold on the clinical side.
- A professional services company moved from dollars-per-hour consulting to joint-venture partnering with clients on new projects and facilities. Top-line opportunities were 10 times greater, and potential margin was higher as well.
- A technology services company expanded its offering from on-demand service to a "cradle to grave" package, which includes installation, optimization, application implementation, and 24-hour operating platform support. Customers were looking for more comprehensive support.
These were all successful companies that nonetheless felt that they had become stuck in their approach to the marketplace. By working through their own assumptions and testing them for gaps, new opportunities became apparent.