B2B Growth Strategy - unrelated articles....or are they

Ed Marsh | Nov 26, 2013

A variety of recent articles - looking for a B2B Growth Strategy Theme

"Since World War II, America has been the envy of the world, boasting average annual economic growth of more than 3.5% for most of that period, despite periodic recessions, huge global defense obligations and corrosive inflation from the late 1960s to the early 1980s.  But two secular trends threaten to end this golden age...growth depends on both increases in the size of working age populations and their productivity.  Unfortunately each measure shows signs of dramatically slowing...

Our new era, the Great Stagnation"

Barron's "Slowing to a Crawl" October 28, 2013

"Because customers are increasingly savvy about their needs and available solutions, sales reps must challenge them by offering disruptive insights and unexpected solutions....encouraging innovation and a sense of business ownership among sales reps....

Empowered customers now approach suppliers armed with a clear idea of their own needs, the potential solutions, and what they're willing to pay.  When suppliers encounter such customers, there's often little left to negotiate but price.  

As a result, a supplier's biggest competitive challenge today isn't so much the competition's ability to sell, as it is the customer's ability to learn.  Where as competing against a rival's ability to sell requires superior sales discipline - more calls per hour, visits per week, and so on - competing against a customer's ability to learn requires superior teaching skills, a talent for revealing novel and important information about the business that the customer has overlooked...

Most advanced sales organizations are verifying not only the behaviors late in the process that indicated whether a customer is closer to making a purchase but also the behaviors very early in the process that signal whether the customer is ready and willing to change.  This approach is about creating demand, not simply responding to it."

Harvard Business Review "Dismantling the Sales Machine" September, 2013

"Executives (aren't) in denial about their propensity for error....the bulk of the decision making research applies to one type of decision, and it's not the type that's most challenging for managers.  Their most important and most difficult decisions - strategic decisions with consequences for the performance of the company - call for a very different approach.  

The fact is that people need to make up their minds in a great variety of circumstances, and it's a source of confusion that the same word, "decision," is used for all of them...When a company faces an opportunity - to enter a new market, acquire another company, or launch a new product - what is required of it's management?  A decision...

Decision makers need to develop two vital skills.  First they must be able to discern the nature of the decision at hand.  Second, they need to respond with the appropriate approach, able to act now as a psychologist, then as a tactician, next as a riverboat gambler, and perhaps once again as a psychologist.  When it comes to the most complex decisions of all, those that drive the fortunes for organizations, executives need more than an ability to avoid common errors.  They require a seemingly contradictory blend:  a talent for clear-eyed analysis and the ability to take bold action."

Harvard Business Review "What Makes Strategic Decisions Different" November, 2013

Here's the theme - Business development evolution

And the articles take us on a journey - from

What's happening around you that will force change


One of the key areas that demands change

arriving at

Why the decision to change is so problematic - even when you're the boss

So where are we going with this?  It's really pretty simple.  And non of it is startling if you take your nose out of the sports section long enough to really observe macro trends.

Revenue growth is no longer by default - it now requires a deliberate growth strategy

There was a time in the US when you could grow your B2B manufacturing business by working hard and being a reliable partner.  Economic growth powered along - which created new customers for you.  And once you had a customer they rode the same wave of growth with their own customers.  So incremental organic growth from existing customers and new customer growth both happened normally.  It's no news flash that that's changed.  

The buying process has inverted roles - but B2B Sales & Marketing persist in archaic approaches

Buyers will find your solution based on your ability to craft a digestible narrative of how your solution fits problems they recognize (or not) and coaches them through the process of making a buying decision that satisfies their personal and corporate buying process.  Think about it.  You're the same.  Aside from occasional referrals, if it's not in the search results, it's not a viable solution!  And you have neither time nor inclination to entertain inane sales rep questions - particularly while you are researching and learning.  Every single prospect of yours is the same.  You need to start treating them accordingly!

Evaluating and deciding where to focus and how to adapt is really complicated

That's the bad news.  The good news is that recognizing that you must, and committing to do so is really quite simple.  And further, incorporating an outside perspective can have an amazingly simplifying effect.  A detached 3rd party with pertinent business development experience in the B2B manufacturing space can help to distill the tremendously complex array of opportunities and variables that you see into a focused set of priorities with the greatest profit and revenue opportunity according to your goals, products and markets.

In essence, with the right advisors, your decision is simply to change as the markets demand.  (And to pick the right advisor....)

Who | Where | How

But it's important that the expertise upon which you rely is broad and relevant.  Really succeeding today means looking at the right markets to support your target growth.  Just as that requires looking strategically beyond a stagnating domestic market, it similarly demands a cerebral approach to market selection rather than a reflexive pursuit of high profile BRICs.

Similarly, intensively evaluating your strengths, and developing ideal customer (and channel partner) profiles, will allow you to allocate limited business development resources where they will be effective (and apply appropriately diverse models to different types of targets accordingly.)  

Finally, developing B2B sales & marketing approaches which mirror the way your customers buy today is critical.  You'll be amazed by how incredibly effective and efficient your process becomes when it satisfies your buyers, rather than your traditional sales approach.


If you are thrashing around trying to decide if something needs to change, you will be overwhelmed.  If you are casting about trying to design the change yourself, from within your bubble, you will be overwhelmed.  And if you try to develop a business development growth strategy which doesn't simultaneously consider all three elements noted above, you will consign yourself, and your business, to mediocrity.

Certainly there's lots that's new.  But you've been here before.  There was a time early in your life adventure when everything was foreign, harsh and perplexing.  But it was exciting - and you prevailed....with the caring, wisdom and help of others.  

And this time the potty training will only be figurative!

You know your business well.  Find someone who understands today's B2B global (that means everywhere - domestic and international) business development world as well as you know your business, and understands how to use today's powerful, efficient tools to reach buyers and help them buy.

You'll be astounded at the clarity, focus, strategy and results.