Christine Comaford, Author, Power Your Tribe
Has your organization ever suffered from Competitive Crush?
Competitive crush is when a competitor has swooped out of left field, raiding an organization’s top performers and key customers like an unstoppable force of nature.
In the scenario I’ll cover below, our client hadn’t anticipated the potential threat. Salespeople were discouraged, and market share eroded overnight. The organization’s survival was threatened, and panic was prevalent.
Assess: What We Found
Competitive crush was showing up for this organization in three ways:
- Sales eroding: Within only two quarters, 15 percent of sales of one product and 37 percent of the other had been seized by the competitor. They were eating our client’s proverbial lunch.
- Staff exodus: By the time we were called in, our client had lost three of its top salespeople—who had historically brought in 67 percent of their revenue—to their competitor, whose salary and commission offers our client simply could not match.
- PR problems: The competitor’s PR bluntly stated that our client’s products were outdated and risky to use—untrue! The negative perception was so powerful that even our client’s employees started asking questions.
We needed intense and immediate efforts to shift perception both inside and outside of the organization. We had to stop the sales losses, start an upswing, and keep staff in place.
Act: What We Did
First, we held a two-day offsite where we taught essential brain-based tools to help our client’s team shift from panic to power. These included killing the cultural “scary stories” and telling new ones that were empowering. Language structures reality. It was time for a new reality.
Next we created three sprint teams of three to five cross-functional leaders per team. Team 1 would stop the eroding sales and start gaining back market share, Team 2 would stop salesperson attrition and boost retention, Team 3 would work on the perception challenge.
Team 1. Securing Sales
We held a one-day Sales and Marketing Intensive to create our plan to secure sales and then to boost them once the bleeding had stopped. To prepare, we asked the following questions:
- What percentage of your salespeople are performing at quota?
- How many stages are in the sales process? What happens at each stage? At which stages do sales get stuck or slow down?
- What’s your current sales cycle? What would you like it to be, and by when?
- What percentage of your pipeline do you close? What percentage would you like, and by when?
- What percentage of sales do you lose to competitors? Why? What percentage would you be willing to tolerate, and by when?
- What are your customers’ and prospects’ five greatest pain points?
- What’s your current client retention rate? What would you like it to be, and by when?
- What are your current margins? What would you like them to be, and by when?
- How many qualified leads are generated each month? Through what channels? How many would you like, and by when?
- What marketing channels are you currently using (for example, trade shows, social media, webinars, infographics, blogs, and ads)? Which are the most effective?
We then sketched out client profiles (Safety, Belonging, and Mattering (SBM) Triggers and Meta Program (MP) Profiles) of the most at-risk customer categories, and the top influencers we’d need to get on board. It was time to launch our counterattack.
Team 2. Retaining Talent
The organization needed to rapidly ramp up engagement, communication, and trust. So we did an SBM Index, to determine the levels of safety, belonging, mattering.
Then we launched key cultural programs: stronger and more compelling mission, vision, and values, the latest Performance Motivation techniques, Weekly Wins, Accountability Structures, Feedback Frames, Impact Descriptions and more.
Team 2 immediately assessed all key players by working with the Talent Team to identify the following “exit indicators”:
- Productivity and accountability drop.
- Communication stops or drops.
- Negative attitudes and behaviors.
- Significant changes in physical appearance.
- Team members expressing concern.
If our client saw these behaviors, they acted to reengage the team member using tools including our Seven-Step Feedback Frame to bring the employee back on board. Our client also found it powerful to check in with a “flight-risk employee” before that team member checked out.
We invited all team members to be in a Leadership Lunch group (see www.PowerYourTribe.com). In addition, the potential flight risks as well as the highest potential associates were offered an opportunity to apply to participate in a Leadership Development Program.
Team 3. Perception Turnaround
Here we used a three-pronged approach: calls from key executives to all clients, a potent content strategy to raise the organization’s profile and position it more powerfully as a thought leader, and an influencer campaign to ensure that high profile thought leaders were powerfully on board.
ROI: How the Organization Benefited
The Sales, Talent, and Perception Teams all did exceptional jobs:
- Recovered and strengthened sales: Our client won back 100 percent of the lost customers on the first product and 89 percent on the second product. Some enhancements to the second product resulted in new products that started crushing those of the competitor. Game on!
- Increased staff retention: Our client retained 97 percent of the salespeople, and all the marketing, high potentials, and key staff. A few associates left due to retirement or relocation for a spouse’s career.
- Boosted employee engagement: The SBM Index showed us engagement was at 65 percent when we started. Over the next 12 months, the Talent Team moved engagement by an impressive 13 points to 78 percent.
The best part was the new spring in everyone’s step, the heads held high, the improved camaraderie, and the shouts of enthusiasm in the sales and marketing area when the horn was blown as each customer was won back.
Do you know someone in the throes of Competitive Crush? If so, please forward this blog to them!
About the Author
Christine Comaford, author of Power Your Tribe, has been a leadership and culture coach for the past 30 years. She has also built and sold five companies with an average ROI of 700 percent. A sought-after speaker and lecturer, she is a corporate consultant to mid-sized firms and the Fortune 1000, a leadership columnist for Forbes.com, and The New York Times bestselling author of Rules for Renegades and SmartTribes.
For more information, please visit www.PowerYourTribe.com.