Narrow The Focus – Expand The Yield

September 17, 2008

I recently work with a client to help them take their go-to-market strategy and implement through the company.  The time came to bring the message to the sales team, and (with very little surprise) we encountered resistance.

The salespeople did not like the hyper-focus we had created in defining:
a)    who the target prospect was,
b)    what compelling problems we solved, and
c)    the focus of our message.

Their concern (at least as stated by them) was, “if I only focus on ‘that’ description, then I could come across someone who doesn’t have those problems, or at least doesn’t think they have them; whom we could help.  If I do that, I’ll be missing opportunities.  I think we have to be more opportunistic.”

As I’ve written before, I’m as opportunistic as anyone out there, but I’ve learned (the hard way) that opportunism is often a recipe for frustration.   So I’ve determined that there two types of opportunism – strategic and tactical.  Strategic opportunism is good and is the key to driving growth.  Tactical opportunism is bad – it distracts and reduces the impact of effort and wastes resources.  Too often, executives use the term “opportunism” to justify foolish actions.

Strategic opportunism occurs as companies gain increasing insights into who their customers are and what their high probability worry-list items are.  When companies are maniacally focused on seeing the world through their clients’ eyes, they see opportunities before their clients, or their competitors, do.  When those opportunities match up with a company’s capabilities and their Money-Making Machine™, advantages are created.

Tactical opportunism is just another word for trying to be all things to all people.  It sounds good on the front-side – after all, who wouldn’t want to sell something to someone that could of benefit?

How can tactical opportunism be bad?

Every company falls into one of two categories – best or “me-too.”  Only about 5% of companies are able to achieve “best” status.  Rarely is the failure to achieve “best” the result of a lack of capabilities.  Far more often the cause is a failure to focus on being the best at something.  Companies try to do too much, and salespeople try to communicate too much.

What the best way to navigate this trap?  Narrow your focus, then narrow it some more.  Once you are completely, totally clear on who your best clients are – and you are experiencing success in the market with that focus – it is safe to begin thinking of ways to expand your markets.  If you narrow your focus, you will expand your yield.  That’s right, focus on attracting fewer opportunities and you’ll end up attracting more good ones.

Failure to narrow your focus will leave you as just another “me-too.”

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  1. [...] focus the message, the approach and the process to solving those problems. This required us to more tightly define their market, to probe deeply into the results their clients desired and to develop the tools to have the [...]

  2. [...] Bad profits are okay so long as you use them to reinforce your good profits and core business. Great companies to this religiously, average companies rationalize that they are being opportunistic. [...]

  3. [...] Fast growth companies can learn from this.  In today’s complex world, customers are looking to you to make some choices for them.  To filter the world a bit.  Sure, the decisions you make will annoy some (just ask Apple), but done properly they’ll delight a few.  The key to real growth – and real profit – in the future isn’t making everyone happy; it’s in delighting the few. [...]

  4. [...] Don’t confuse brains with a bull market.  I caution CEOs in every speech I make – just because the fish are jumping in your boat doesn’t mean your an expert angler.  AOL’s success had far more to do with the market, the environment and the timing than it [...]

  5. [...] Who are our core customers?  What are our core markets? [...]

  6. [...] couldn’t help but make the connection to business growth.  So often, in the name of “opportunism,” businesses stop playing to their inherent strengths.  In the pursuit for volume, businesses stop focusing on those to whom they are indispensable.  [...]

  7. [...] value for key buyers.  To do that, the seller must first go through a painstaking process of understanding who their customer really is (which I can tell from this solicitation they have not [...]

  8. [...] and by far, my most important, point.  When times are difficult, focus is the key to success.  Narrow your focus and expand your yield.  Prioritize – don’t work on more than five things; and have one area clearly [...]

  9. [...] Be really, really clear on who your audience is.  This strategy can only work with a maniacal focus on who your customer is – and who it isn’t.  I call this the first rule for creating demand:  Know and understand your customers better than they know and understand themselves. [...]

  10. [...] of the fundamental precepts of great businesses is to narrow your market focus and expand your yield.  Great companies are maniacally focused on who their customers are – and who they aren’t.  [...]

  11. [...] In my experience, the biggest mistake made by businesses and salespeople is they approach their market too broadly.  In an effort to be opportunistic, we actually reduce the impact of our message and our efforts. [...]



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