Sustaining the growth of a business is harder than ever.

That’s the true measure of a business – can it sustain growth and profits over a 20, 30, or 40-year period?

Predictable growth that led to sustainability used to be the norm. Today, it’s the rare exception.

We all know it. Business models are changing at an ever-faster pace rapid due to:

  • Digital technology capabilities
  • An influx of new, nimble competitors
  • Lower-priced global competition is willing to do a lot more for a lot less.

A few short decades ago, a business could make profits from a product for 5-7 years before facing big shifts in their industry. For example, IBM & Dell made massive profits from the personal computer for a half-dozen years with just incremental improvements.

What’s the lifecycle of a personal computer today?

Years & Months?

More like weeks & days.

To sustain profitable growth, leaders of a business must make four critical decisions.

These four decisions have little impact on today, but a big impact on tomorrow:
  1. Vision: How will we make money in the future? What’s coming around the corner that we can’t see?
  2. Speed: How do we quickly get through our window of opportunity with our new products/markets – our big-bet innovations that represent the world of higher profits?
  3. Core: How can we be as efficient as possible in our core, competitive, traditional business? Where can we cut cost here?
  4. Outsource: What work should we get rid of so we can re-deploy resources to higher margin areas? Otherwise, we’ll never escape from our perpetually decreasing lower-margin core business.
A decade ago, sales conversations were focused on today.

“Where is your pain? What’s keeping you awake at night?”

Salespeople still need to ask those questions. But executives are much more interested in conversations about the future. If your questions aren’t future-focused, there’s a good chance that you’re missing a big opportunity. It’s the mistake of many salespeople – it’s not what they ask, but what they don’t ask.

The sins of omission, not commission.

Today, business leaders spend much more of their time dealing with the uncertainty of the future.

“What’s around the corner? We’d like to know.”

Instead of asking questions ad nauseam, it may be time to tell your customers what’s going to be keeping them awake at night three years from now. I doubt they know, and that’s your new value.

Be bold.

The most important thing a salesperson can do: help clients sustain the growth of their business.

Too often they miss this bigger picture because they frame the world through the lens of their products.

Disruption is good for salespeople AND their customers as long as collaborative discussions around the future are happening.

Those conversations are the catalyst to differentiation and new wealth for both parties. When that happens, your customers sustain profitable growth – and that’s a very good thing for both of you.

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