I've providing b2b marketing services to technology companies since 1999 or so. In that time, I've heard a lot of the same issues pop up at many firms. One of the them is the pain that is generated when a company is making a change in strategy, direction or focus- and the sales team becomes reactionary and resistant.
A common example of this is when a product based company realizes that its products are becoming commodities and attempts to re-position itself as a solutions or services company. This change always seems to cause consternation with the folks who have been happily selling the products. With good reason...lol.
I just read a very good article by Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley luminary about just this issue. It is a very good read, and you should read the whole thing...but here is a snippet...
The Land of the Living Dead
I see this same pattern in early stage startups. Early sales look fine, but often plateau. Engineering comes into a staff meeting with several innovative ideas and the head of sales and/or marketing shoot them down with the cry of “It will kill our current sales.”
The irony is that “killing our current sales” is often what you need to do. Most startups don’t fail outright, they end up in “the land of living dead” where sales are consistently just OK but never breakout into a profitable and scalable company. This is usually due to a failure of the CEO and board in forcing the entire organization to Pivot. The goal of a scalable startup isn’t optimizing the comp plan for the sales team but optimizing the long-term outcome of the company. At times they will conflict. And startup CEO’s need a way to move everyone out of their comfort zone to the bigger prize.
Burn The Boats
In 1519 Hernando Cortes landed in the Yucatan peninsula to conquer the Aztec Empire and bring their treasure back to Spain. His small army arrived in 11 boats. As they landed Cortes solved the problem of getting his team focused on what was ahead of them – he ordered them to burn the boats they came in. Now the only way home was to succeed in their new venture or die. Pivots that involve radical changes to the business model may at times require burning the boats at the shore.
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