Author: Joel Reed

Communicate Price Increases

THIS IS HOW YOUR CUSTOMERS WANT YOU TO COMMUNICATE PRICE INCREASES



“U.S. Inflation Rate Accelerates to a 40-Year High of 7.5%.” “Strong consumer demand and pandemic-related supply constraints continued to push up prices in January.” “Wholesale prices jump 9.7% in January, further evidence of red-hot inflation.”

Headlines like these have seemingly become commonplace over the last six months.  Whether you believe these inflationary trends are transitory or longer lasting, as a business selling goods and services to other businesses you are likely to be raising prices to recover rising wage and supply costs and to try to maintain your margins. Subsequently you will face difficult discussions with your customers (and prospects) — with your sales team at the front line of these interactions.

Sales professionals are (not surprisingly) focused on selling — prospecting for new opportunities to serve customers and to provide them with differentiated solutions, driving value for them and revenues for you. Sales teams often do not have a vast store of knowledge to communicate price increases. And unless they have been around 40 years, these communications are surely not as developed or practiced as a prospecting call.

With the extent of the price increases in this current environment, your salespeople cannot afford to wing it. Your sales leadership and sales enablement teams must provide the right training and tools now to make these necessary albeit unwanted communications more digestible — for your team and your customer. Here are five key areas to focus your teams’ efforts.

UNDERSTAND MARKET CIRCUMSTANCES AND DRIVERS, AND PRACTICE EMPATHY

To truly serve customers, salespeople need to serve as sources of insight and market knowledge. Thus to the greatest extent possible, arm your salespeople with information about:

  • The market drivers of the pricing changes
  • Efforts your firm has taken to mitigate these impacts
  • How your business is communicating this information in as timely a manner as possible to enable your customers to react and protect their margins

Most of all implore your sales force to be empathetic: listen to your customers, understand their issues and concerns, and be on the lookout for potential ways to offset these impacts with other solutions that may reduce costs elsewhere. A strategy of Seek to Serve, Not to Sell™ helps selling organizations maintain sustainable revenue performance throughout all market conditions.

TREAT EVERY INTERACTION AS A POTENTIAL OPPORTUNITY

During customer discussions, your salespeople should be on high alert to uncover alternative solutions that mitigate some or all of the price increase impact. For hard goods perhaps there exists an alternative part or redesign support. For software or services that may translate to bundled approaches or volume agreements that reach a discount threshold. There may also exist solutions you offer that your customer has not yet deployed that may help lower costs in another business area (i.e., cross-sell or up-sell). Ultimately, salespeople should not treat buyer communications about price increases as a scripted interaction but rather as a discovery session. Salespeople can feel like they are selling once more — while customers gain a trusted advisor.

POSITION AND ENABLE YOUR SALES TEAM TO HANDLE THE EXPECTED OBJECTIONS RAISED

Whether the price change is within your control or not, customers will likely raise some objections. Prepare your sales force to effectively handle these interactions with reframes:

  1. Appreciate the buyer surfacing the objection.
  2. Acknowledge the underlying concern (empathy).
  3. Understand the source of the objection.
  4. Position a strength, preferably a new offering or a differentiated approach you are taking.
  5. State the benefit of the interaction (timely communication, alternative approaches, etc.).
  6. Offer a relevant example of how this can help them / has helped others.

COMMIT TO EFFECTIVE AND TIMELY EXECUTION

Depending on the circumstance there may be a specific window of time (e.g., contract renewal, supplier price increases for you) that make the communication of these price changes time-sensitive. Typically, the faster you communicate the increases, the better you protect your margins — and the more time a customer has to respond and protect their margins. Make the actions and expected outcomes clear to your sales team. Help them understand why this is important to the company, to their success and to your customer.

PRACTICE FOR BETTER — MAYBE EVEN PERFECT — INTERACTIONS

If communicating price increases is not a developed skill among your team, take the time to practice the communications in mock scenarios. Record a sample effective interaction, arm them with cheat sheets on how to handle the call and the objections, and coach them to success. Then reinforce and remind often. Whatever your sales training and enablement strategy, do not let your salespeople use your customers or prospects as practice dummies.

GET THE PLAYBOOK TO ENABLE YOUR TEAMS TO COMMUNICATE PRICE INCREASES

Do not let price shock or sales communication fumbles derail your deals. Prepare your sales teams to handle price conversations and objections with ease and refinement — for our inflationary environment today and for any shifts into the future. We can help.

Learn how Mereo revenue consultants developed the playbook for objection handling strategies, price messaging and sales tools for Nextworld — a cloud-based ERP software provider — helping this new firm enter the marketplace competitively and confidently.

 

PREPARE YOUR SALES TEAM FOR SUCCESS



Pricing Strategies to Optimize Your Revenue Performance



Pricing strategies are a vital part of the solution, financial and go-to-market elements of your organization. Pricing affects profitability at every level of your business, including gross profit and EBITDA (Investopedia). In fact, according to Profitwell, as little as a 1% improvement in price optimization can result in an average boost of 11.1% in profits. The benefits are easy enough to understand and grasp.

Yet if only it were so simple to figure out your solution’s pricing sweet spot.

For B2B companies — especially those in the software and service sectors — the environment has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. A rapidly changing marketplace introduces a new level of pricing complexity.

Many B2B organizations must grapple with the shift from license contract models to subscription models. Additionally, the global marketplace has seen an influx of software providers and rapid-growth startups. Jay McBain, principal analyst at Forrester does not see this trend going away: “I estimate there are more than 100,000 software companies (ISVs) today around the world — up from 10,000 only 10 years ago. I wouldn’t be surprised, with the level of hyper-specialization new buyers are demanding, to see that number grow to 1 million by 2027.”

With all this change, what should you do with your pricing strategy — and what would best serve your buyers? We sought answers to these very questions and came away with pricing principles that would stand the test of time, even in a chaotic marketplace. We are excited to share what we learned here.

Integrating Key Pricing Principles

Our solution management experts at Mereo independently researched 20 B2B software companies, including application and platform providers. We complemented our online research with 15 in-depth buyer and seller interviews focused on C-level executives that procure and sell software, as well as product management and sales executives of software providers — representing the spectrum from SMB to enterprise companies.

After digging into the biggest challenges, solutions and outcomes for our participants, we yielded four key pricing strategy principles every software provider — and software buyer — should consider.

Encourage Growth

As obvious as this seems, we found numerous examples of pricing models that in fact discouraged user growth and adoption. Your pricing strategy must encourage growth.

The best pricing approaches:

  • Align the pricing to the value the software delivers
  • Simplifies scaling as the business requires
  • Is packaged to encourage initial adoption as well as cross-sells and up-sells of new features and associated modules

Be Predictable and Understandable

The number one pricing factor raised by buyers was the ability to predict costs now and in the future for the solutions they procure. Interestingly, sellers felt the same way; they did not want models that create buyer confusion and objections to closing a deal.

As part of aligning to this principle, think in terms of pricing structure versus the price itself. Keep the structure simple to understand for the buyer and seller, and consider how predictable it will be for you as a vendor and them as a buyer. Can they see how the future costs would be impacted, for instance, by a merger, acquisition or other growth strategy?

Reduce Churn

Sellers must make it easy for buyers to remain a customer. Providing flexible models for consuming the software from both a technology and pricing approach (e.g. modules, users, transactions) is critical, but, as a provider, you will also want to think about what will make your solution “sticky” in the long-term. For example, a seller could provide built-in concierge service for specific tools to ensure they are rapidly deployed. The strategy varies between solution, market and customer, but is important to consider from the onset.

What feature or capability do you need to ensure is rapidly and fully adopted that will create a desire to continue using the solution? How do you encourage that usage?

Recover Fixed and Variable Costs

Providers, especially those in rapid-growth mode, often talked about the “surprise” factors associated with using third-party hosting services (e.g. Microsoft or Amazon Web Services).  These providers had not considered all the associated costs related to storage, transactions, integrations and more. As such, they often were put in a position of having to go back to customers upon renewal with significant cost changes.

No buyer wants to be surprised by data and storage charges, unexpected transaction fees or costs of integrations to other mission-critical systems (see Principle 2). Do your up-front research and do it well to make this part of pricing transparent to the buyer. Also, consider approaches that allow you to recoup these environment charges early to reduce cost absorption risk on your business.

Explore how our pricing solutions and guidance have supported a new and growing software provider!

Choosing the Right Foundational Pricing Model

Out of our same research, we discovered three common pricing models.

Outcome-based Pricing

The solution is priced based on the outcome the buyer may realize. This model is also referred to as “value-based pricing” or “cost/revenue sharing.”

While this model is discussed now and again, it is rarely adopted as:

  • Buyers do not want to share their gains
  • Sellers do not want to go through the trouble and lack of visibility to predictability of trying to track buyer metrics for billing

Consumption-based Pricing

The solution is priced based on how much of something the buyer consumes. This is a common choice for apps, transactions, storage, endpoints, flows or kilo-characters.

This approach has:

  • A neutral growth impact as it is typically transaction-based (think EDI)
  • Predictability for point solutions but generally not for broader solutions like ERP
  • Potential to turn off a buyer after the sale if the metric and pricing are not visible
  • Positive outcomes for sellers when the cost model is also consumption-based

User and Module–based Pricing

The solution is priced based on the number of users (named, concurrent and/or type) purchased and/or number of modules purchased.

This approach offers:

  • Predictable cost impacts associated with usage and growth, which are easily measured and forecasted for the buyer
  • Alignment to the consumption and value delivered by the seller
  • Ability to be designed to encourage use of specific capabilities that drive adoption and stickiness
  • Cost recovery of environment setup and maintenance reducing margin risk in the short-term

Uncovering Your Ideal Pricing Strategy

Considering the high-level pricing principles and approaches in the context of application pricing, platform pricing, packaging, contract terms, training, services, support and SLA’s is a daunting task. Successful companies align pricing strategies with their differentiated value proposition to accelerate deal negotiations and contract closing.

At Mereo, we can help navigate these complex and multi-faceted elements with your team to build the right pricing approach for you. We would be happy to schedule time to review our findings with your organization and explore how you can accelerate your revenue performance. Fill in the form below, and a solution management expert will be in touch to set up a time to talk.

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Elevate Your Product Roadmap Governance for Sustainable Revenue Performance ROI



Solution strategies set intentions. Product roadmaps define the execution plan. Governance ensures these investments stay on track. One of the main failures of the Airbus A380 was not that the product idea came to life — it was that there was a lack of product roadmap governance that should have shown clear indicators the strategy was headed for a nosedive.

Should have being a key point, because Airbus is not alone in governance issues. A 2019 research study found that identifying data-driven firms were on the decline: from 37.1% in 2017 to 32.4% in 2018 to 31% in 2019.

As strategic business consultants — focused on supporting clients’ in improving revenue performance — we at Mereo have witnessed this first and foremost in recent years. The major offenders have not been in sales and marketing either, where metrics, pipeline and demand generation reviews abound and are, anecdotally, probably more tuned-in to the data and related analytics. Rather, we have found a lack of data-driven performance and governance most obviously in the product management space.

Most product management teams fail not in the development of a product roadmap but rather in its communication and execution, and rarely are there continuous and measurable governance actions to ensure effective remediation when execution begins to waiver. What makes this an even larger misstep is that research and development is often one of the largest investment areas. That means organizations are putting great sums of money behind solutions that live on a map that has been crumpled up and tossed in a drawer to never see the light of day again.

How can your product management team make better investment decisions? Follow along through these three core concepts for some direction.

The Continuous Investment Decision Process

Typically, the product strategy and roadmap lifecycle repeats at least annually, often due to alignment with the corporate budgeting cycles and more often as short-term roadmaps need updates.

The Strategy and Roadmap Lifecycle

In this lifecycle product management leadership should:

  • Continually gather market inputs by performing an environmental scan.
  • Assess and reassess the opportunities — defining and redefining your goals and objectives.
  • Chart the path forward, updating strategies and roadmaps as needed.
  • Execute those plans implementing your strategy.
  • Monitor and measure your progress against goals, tracking key metrics and doing remediation as needed.

This last step is often difficult as most companies do not clearly define metrics for success of these investments in the first place.

Portfolio Rationalization Opportunities

It is important to always keep an eye on opportunities for portfolio rationalization. This is the area where there is often the greatest opportunity to improve efficiencies throughout the organization and to re-purpose resources to accelerate higher priority investments. It is not just about end-of-life; it is about finding ways to be more efficient because your resources are precious, and margin is critical.

Consider these points during each planning cycle:

  • Sales volume, revenue, and profitability performance
  • Impact of eliminating one offering on overall offerings
  • Possible functionality synergies across various products
  • Customer need or competitive advantage opportunities
  • Potential resource allocation shifts where delivered value will be higher

Doing this without emotion means companies need to separate capability from technology. Often a company can change underlying technology and continue to deliver needed capabilities to the end users. In software this is often thought of as re-platforming. In hardware this is often an exercise in Bill of Material rationalization.

In one example, an $8 billion high-tech electronics manufacturer was plagued with high cost of materials and constant supply shortages impacting the manufacturing floor. The design organization specified unique components and requirements for each product without considering the broader portfolio of components in use. The manufacturing engineering team and purchasing team created a large display along the manufacturing floor with all the components required for each assembly and specific displays showing all the variety of specific components like capacitors and connectors.

The designers were invited to tour the floor, and while there they realized they could use common components from one assembly for another. Over a six-month period, the number of parts was reduced by 11% and shortages dropped 22%. Procurement costs improved as volumes of individual components increased, providing more purchasing power and better supply security.

Practice Product Management Governance

Companies need to institute a strong governance practice and culture to ensure a return on investment and to facilitate proactive and reactive response to market and technology changes.

Product Management Governance Chart

But what is governance in practice for a B2B organization? It is helpful to think about governance in four key areas:

  1. Process
  2. Activity
  3. Performance
  4. Inspection

PROCESS

Validate that your processes are being followed and especially that constituent groups inside and outside the organization are contributing appropriately and being updated regularly.

Process governance focus areas include:

  • Are processes and mechanisms in place for optimal customer and partner inputs into the strategy and roadmap?
  • Are clear success metrics defined for each release (i.e., development, market and business metrics)?
  • Are regular processes in place to communicate any changes in content and delivery schedules?

ACTIVITY

Keep a firm hand on a regular cadence of each type of activity critical to creating, launching and successfully selling solutions.

Activity governance focus areas include:

  • Is a regular cadence of cross-functional planning and status reviews in place?
  • Are communication activities occurring regularly to inform cross-functional organizations on release status?
  • Are client advisory boards (CABs) in place and engaged to gather prioritization and strategic inputs from the target market?

PERFORMANCE

Think about both metric establishment and the processes needed to inspect those metrics.

Performance governance focus areas include:

  • Is overall progress status by release measured?
  • Are metrics for success defined?
    • Development / engineering-based
    • Business / market-based
    • Predictability metrics (e.g., performance of content and date delivery against goals)
  • Are roadmaps available for a rolling period of 9 to 15 months in all key product / solution areas?

INSPECTION

Consider how you inspect each key area on a regular basis. This includes not just the inspection of financial metrics but inspection of artifacts and activities as well.

Inspection governance focus areas include:

  • Roadmap reviews and status checks
  • Engineering metric presentations and remediation
  • Business metric reviews and remediation

Unleash Sustainable Revenue Performance

Taking the time to appropriately create and execute effective product roadmap governance is one of the most critical aspects of continuous improvement and assurance of return on development investments.

At Mereo we have served hundreds of B2B companies with strategic governance support to drive sustainable revenue performance. Is your organization charging ahead without a clear map? Contact us to get started.

For more direction on keeping your solution strategy and activities on track, access the exclusive solution management expert workbook.

 

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Finding Your Success in the Horizon: Strategic Product Themes



In product management, your strategy does not stop at understanding effective growth options and how to gain validation for your solutions.

To achieve consensus within your business and effectively organize your resources for go-to-market success, it is also important to “paint a picture” of the future and define that future by answering questions such as:

  • What are the goals and objectives over each of the next 3 to 5 years?
  • How will we know we are successful?
  • How will we position ourselves to win against the competition?
  • How and where will we grow? Where must we prune?
  • How much will this cost?

Without a shared and unified focus on where your business is headed, your organization threatens misalignment internally and externally. Employees and leadership will not know or agree on how to focus their time and efforts — and messaging. Your customers will not be able to plan effectively for how and when to employ your solutions and services. Your target profile buyers thus are confused about the misalignment they witness and experience — and may decide to engage competitive offerings.

The onus lies with your solution leadership to take out your binoculars, your telescopes, your viewfinders and determine and effectively communicate a compelling direction to point them toward. Then gaze out onto the horizon ahead and scrutinize the path before you. What is born from that far-sightedness — the aligning force that will drive your solution strategy and organizational efforts for the future to come — is the guiding beacon of a theme.

Developing Strategic Product Management Themes

While strategic product management themes sound easy — and truly are in concept and practice — B2B solution management leadership too often overlooks the value in taking this extra step.

A strategic theme presents a concrete and predictable path for industry, solution or financial analysts. It creates context for the audience — as well as confidence in your organization’s ability to deliver on its promise when you execute effectively. It should embody a sense of achievement for the groups executing on the strategy and the visible milestones along the way.

By developing strategic product management investment themes and time horizons from the onset, your leadership is able to map opportunities against a strategy and avoid falling off-course by following misaligned opportunities.

Additionally, your marketing and sales teams are better set-up to effectively prepare the market — both clients and prospects — for the new or updated offerings. With this vital preparation, your organization overall will realize increased returns on engineering and go-to-market investments.

Strategic Themes in Practice

Now that we have discussed what product management themes are and why they are important, let us explore a tangible example.

The graphic above depicts a typical approach to defining investment themes over time. In this example:

  • NEXT 12 MONTHS: The first theme is to defend the core markets the company is in and to grow through further penetration of that market.
  • 1-3 YEARS: The theme is to expand from that core into adjacent markets that are new. These could be new geographies, different sized companies or new industries, to name a few.
  • 3-6 YEARS: The final theme is to transform the company’s solutions and innovate in a way that fundamentally changes the market itself.

Now let us apply this strategic theme approach example to a company such as Amazon and consider its recent investment strategy:

  • HORIZON 1: Invest in internal infrastructure (ecommerce and distribution) to broaden and expand products offered and geographic coverage, while leveraging the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx and UPS for shipments.
  • HORIZON 2: Acquire Whole Foods and invest in small warehouses to offer one-day or same-day delivery service, and enter content services through Amazon Prime Video.
  • HORIZON 3: Displace alternative carriers with Amazon fleet of shippers, introduce Amazon brands into the ecommerce site, change the search engine routines to position Amazon’s own products and fundamentally challenge the entire concept of traditional retail and services.

The advantage of establishing a set of themes and horizons is that during your planning and execution discussions it enables you to map your investment opportunities against a strategy framework (a “vision” if you will) to create improved investment and market synergies.

Once the opportunities are mapped, a defined roadmap and investment plan can be established to ensure the highest probability of success and provide guardrails for effective governance.

Put another way, the process becomes:

  • Consider your strategic themes and horizons.
  • Utilize those to align and prioritize your opportunities into a defined roadmap.
  • Define your metrics for success in execution and in the market.
  • Present those in a compelling way that can be consumed by organizations that need to execute on the go-to-market plans to deliver the revenue. This “Statement of Direction” presents the target market, the market situation and issues, the goals of each horizon in context of themes, the solutions/services to be delivered, the benefits to the market (and to your company), and the investment and market availability timing.

On Your Horizon: Sustainable Revenue Performance

Mereo principals have helped hundreds of B2B companies develop effective themes and empowering roadmaps that help drive sustainable revenue performance. We bridge cross-organizational alignment gaps and bring an expert eye to solution opportunities worth investing in. Contact us to get started.

For more direction on elevating revenue performance with solution management, access the free Mereo eBook.



Seeking out growth strategies? Uncover a ‘Whole Product’ approach.



Can you recall a couple of years ago when Google was hyping its Google Glass? This thing looked straight out of the future: a wearable computer with a head-mounted display—a “hands-free smartphone.” Your pair are surely next to your keyboard. Oh wait, you in fact did not buy a pair? Me either. Actually, hardly anyone bought the pricey new gadget before it was pulled from the market and deemed a failure. While a unique product, this is not an unusual product management growth (or lack thereof) story.

According to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, each year more than 30,000 new consumer products are launched — and 80% fail. Nielsen has found consumer product flops at more than 85%.

If growth by introducing a new product is incredibly risky (and it is), what better options are available to your B2B organization product management team then?

Focus on market — not product — for more-sustainable growth.

A more strategic approach to organizational growth comes from markets, not products — by growing share of existing markets or entering new ones altogether. As a base of growth, most companies want to retain existing revenue — securing their base buyers as a foundation for growth and building upon that by tapping into additional wallet share from the aforementioned buyers. A natural progression companies follow is to target and win new accounts and expand certain products into new regions, where they have a smaller market penetration.

Mereo Growth Strategies and Approaches Chart

These strategies can be approached in one of three ways:

  1. Organically create solutions.
  2. Acquire the solutions or technology.
  3. Partner with others to build and/or sell the solutions

Understand your solution strategies — and where your current offerings and capabilities allow you to explore and expand.

The Mereo Growth Strategy Matrix

Another way to think about these options is in a simple quadrant called the Ansoff Matrix. This common approach has been used since 1957 to organize and define product and market growth strategies into four fundamental sectors:

1. MARKET PENETRATION GROWTH STRATEGY

What: The process of entering an existing market in which there are current or similar products and taking market share from the other competing companies.
Pros: This is the most common growth strategy and usually the lowest risk of the four options because the need is validated already.
Cons: The greatest challenge is mindshare and differentiation to get your fair share, and it puts a premium on out-executing the competition.

2. MARKET DEVELOPMENT GROWTH STRATEGY

What: The process of identifying and developing new opportunities to sell existing products in previously unexplored markets (e.g., new industries or new geographies).
Pros: Assuming your company is happy with your current products/services, this is the logical and lower risk strategy for expanding your customer base and increasing revenue.
Cons: Companies often underestimate the level of effort for success. For example, entering a new geography may require product changes, expansion of service and support capabilities, branding initiatives, partnership development, and initial promotional expenditures.

3. PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT GROWTH STRATEGY

What: The process of identifying and developing new products to sell to markets where you already have experience and success.
Pros: Assuming your existing customers have a positive view of your solutions and experience, they are much more likely to engage in both input on solution development and entertain your prospecting initiatives.
Cons: New product development always carries a risk and is highly dependent on your understanding of the customers/market need, your ability to execute, and your overall speed to market.

4. DIVERSIFICATION GROWTH STRATEGY

What: The process of adding new products in new markets.
Pros: This strategy can help extend reach, offset risk or seasonality, boost brand image, or possibly differentiate and improve competitiveness.
Cons: This is the highest risk area not only because of the inherent risks associated with developing new products but also because of lack of experience working within the new market. When a company chooses to diversify, they knowingly put themselves in a position of great uncertainty. For these reasons, it is recommended that a company should only pursue a diversification strategy when the current product or current market no longer offers opportunities for further growth.

As a leading practice, companies should look at their solution strategy and investments and map them across a matrix like this. They should take a moment to evaluate the results asking questions such as: Are all the investments in one quadrant? If so, is the company at risk by not diversifying? Does the growth risk approach align with the company’s risk profile?

Embrace the ‘Whole Product’ approach.

Most importantly, your company needs to perform due diligence when considering methods for engaging in promising solution growth strategies. Many businesses fail by only considering growth via research and development investment — while not taking into account a Whole Product approach.

The Mereo Whole Product approach supports product managers in considering a core product and augments it with everything a buyer needs to have a compelling reason to buy. It considers that research and development is only one of many investment options to drive growth.

The core product is the benefit received by the solution and is complimented by the tangible product and augmented product that create the entire buyer experience.

The Mereo Whole Product Approach

So if we now look back to the Ansoff Matrix, we see that we can spread our research and development bets by utilizing marketing promotions and campaigns, partnerships, packaging and pricing — to name but a few approaches.

Recap of Mereo Growth Strategies

Achieve sustainable revenue performance.  

In a highly competitive and uncertain market environment, diversification is critical — and broadening one’s approach to diversification can enable a company to stretch over-taxed research and development.

Mereo works with B2B organizations to create new “muscle memory” with simple and lightweight approaches to challenge harmful solution management status quo.

 

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Your Solution Strategy Is Desperate for Validation



While B2B product management teams around the globe are convening to refresh their solution strategy for the next two to five years, most will never actually succeed. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, each year more than 30,000 new products are launched — and a whopping 95% of them fail (2019).

Why? A major lack of validation. Most companies fail to ensure they can realistically achieve what they set out to do.

In today’s competitive environment, simply having a solution strategy is no longer enough. Before you engage resources and release funds, your teams must take some simple but vital steps toward validating your strategy.

Imagine in our current market context: Companies have suddenly needed to interact virtually — and many selling organizations may face the requirement to deliver solutions differently. With that comes a number of questions to validate a new solution delivery system: Does your technological infrastructure and skillset support these initiatives? Does the customer base understand the solutions and have a desire to adopt their new delivery? Is there a system to track usage and billing? Will sales and support teams be prepared?

Solution strategy validation may seem like common sense, but it is not common practice. Additionally, there are key validation factors that matter more than others. Read on for proven, expert validation strategies.

Validation as Investment Confidence

Your team has a handful of options for a formal solution strategy validation plan.

OPTION 1: QUICK CAPABILITY + ALIGNMENT CHECK POINTS

A simple high-level checklist can be configured to match the needs of your business. This checklist would vary business to business, but a typical checklist might include:

  • Financial Benefit in 202x: The potential revenue and margin contribution of the capability are significant enough to justify this level of investment by the company.
  • Ability to Deliver: Adjacent products that are part of the solution are technologically proven and well-integrated, and the company and/or partners have the resources/qualified staff to deliver on the customer promise.
  • Strategic Importance to the Customer: The solution addresses the strategic business imperative or initiative of the customer.
  • Short-term Financial Benefits to the Customer: Your customer has budget and can achieve financial benefits in a relatively short time frame (1-3 years).
  • Ability of Sales and Channel Partners to Sell the Solution: The value messaging and domain knowledge is straightforward and clear enough for the sales team to effectively sell the offering with proper training and tools.
  • Market Impact: The offering has the potential to reposition the company in the marketplace and/or change the competitive landscape. Plus, it can be supported by a compelling integrated marketing campaign.

OPTION 2: ORGANIZATIONAL CAPABILITIES TO EXECUTE PER OPPORTUNITY RATING CHART

Another approach to solution strategy validation is to simply rate the organizational capabilities to execute the solution strategy relative to the various strategic opportunities.

Solution Strategy Management

With this chart, your leadership team will be able to better visualize and pinpoint your organization’s current strengths and potential weaknesses in the context of key aspects of each solution strategy opportunity. Once your team assesses these, they can more strategically focus on prioritizing the most promising opportunities — and work on resolving  issues with secondary opportunities for the future.

Validation as a Roadmap 

Taking a moment to honestly answer these questions and to assess strategic options in the context of these validation points can help improve your confidence in your investment decisions — putting your organization on the path to wisely using its time, resources and money to serve some real value to its customers, and to realize sustainable revenue performance in the long run.

In the case of Trillium Software, the leadership engaged Mereo’s expertise to help develop and validate their solution strategy. With Mereo’s comprehensive tools, the team was able to define a strategy and align a time-phased roadmap for the next few years by identifying opportunities they could successfully deliver here and now. Beyond that, the team also identified opportunities for future investment of resources and skill development that were supported by market demand and significant customer impact.

Validation as Expert Third-Party Advisors

While the solution validation checklist and opportunity chart will put your teams on the right path toward realistic and high-potential solution successes, the true game-changer in validation comes from outside sources.

If you do not believe me, I will direct you to the Airbus 380 case study once more. A third-party expert can help you avoid office politics, individual biases and oversights. And a third-party partner like Mereo takes validation a step further with our Decision Maker Network™. This network represents a vast, diverse group of hundreds of business leaders across industries that can be engaged for your specific questions and concerns.

Is your solution strategy for the next few years in the works? Let’s make it unstoppable.

 

Validate Your Strategy + Investments

 

Revenue Performance Report

The State of Revenue Performance 2020: Opportunities for B2B Sellers Navigating the Pandemic



The performance of the top companies around the globe is indicative of our current economic environment — and also offers direction forward for where sellers can best Seek to Serve™ for sustainable revenue performance.

In Mereo’s sixth annual revenue performance report of Fortune 500, Global 500 and Russell 2000 companies, we have identified a continuing trend of slow revenue growth and a new issue of poor profit performance. A variety of issues have influenced this negative performance trend, and uncovering these faults will help us explore strategies to move forward successfully — and may help your organization avoid these revenue pitfalls altogether.

NOTE! This article was written in collaboration with Austin Greene, Mereo’s 2020 summer intern and rising Baylor University senior majoring in Professional Selling, Entrepreneurship and International Business.

Performance Evaluation Highlights

  • In the past fiscal year, 47% of Fortune 500 companies experienced a profit reduction compared to the previous year — meaning that profitability has become a major issue for these companies.
  • In the year before COVID, we see a doubling of Fortune 500 companies with a loss to 31% and another 16% with profits below 5%, meaning nearly 50% experienced this poor profit behavior.
  • On the revenue side, the number of companies with declining revenue was steady at 16% from one year to the next.
  • Those with a meager revenue growth rate (below 5%) were also steady at 40%.
  • This means in total, 56% of companies in the Fortune 500 grew slower than 5% or had a revenue decline.

revenue performance report

This slow-paced growth or decline in revenue is a departure from last year’s State of Revenue Performance Report findings — where overall revenue growth was increasing, with loss on a downward trend. With the issue surrounding growth and profitability identified, let us dive deeper into what influences are causing this — and how to combat declines moving ahead.

The Revenue Performance Opportunity for B2B Sellers Moving Forward

Revenue and Profitability Pitfall 1: Customer-Driven Only Perspectives

One explanation for top companies’ issues with growth and profitability may stem from their internal structures. A number of these suffering companies have pushed to be more customer-driven only in the past years — rather than upholding a dual customer- and market-oriented perspective.

This customer-driven approach leads to companies solving the problems of today (being responsive) but missing the problems of tomorrow (being innovative). While customer experience scores – measured by Net Promoter Score (NPS), for example – may increase in the near term, allowing a customer (or set of customers) to have such a heavy hand in guiding the product strategy or commanding a significant investment of the company resources to satisfy their needs can be a double-edge sword.

For example, the pandemic took almost every industry by storm, and while there was not much time to prepare, businesses that could adapt to a virtual platform faster than others tended to perform better. Market-driven companies tend to identify and invest in new opportunities and technologies earlier and are therefore prepared to take advantage of changes ahead of those focused only on satisfying today’s client needs.

Revenue Performance Solution 1: Balanced Customer- and Market-Oriented Perspectives

Companies need to balance being responsive to customers’ short-term needs with being innovative to embrace market-driven demands bringing improved value to the client in turn. This equilibrium creates true value for customers while producing clear differentiation to improve pricing and avoid product and service commoditization. Companies that have not differentiated themselves in both message and product are likely to be the ones that perform the worst as we continue to get the results from the pandemic’s impact on the economy.

Revenue and Profitability Pitfall 2: Failing to Adjust Content Strategy to Virtual Platforms

The traditional business world continues to shift to a virtual environment. According to a recent Salesforce report, “State of Sales,” 60% of sellers report an increase in virtual meetings since 2015, while sellers have increased their time connecting virtually with customers at a rate three times greater than connecting in person.

In the coming months, one of the greatest challenges that will be faced by executives is developing compelling content with marketing teams to virtually cater to coaching the sales teams. Research has found that only 1/3 of buyers believed most their vendors were well-prepared and had already enabled digital channels (PROS Global Survey). Yet, looking forward, B2B companies see digital interactions as two to three times more important to their customers than traditional sales interactions (McKinsey).

While continuing to place an emphasis on aligning sales and marketing efforts to perform and adapt to various situations is vital to driving revenue, it is simply not enough to focus solely on past content standards and expect continued growth. Many organizations are struggling to identify and enable their teams with vital tools in today’s market.

Revenue Performance Solution 2: Adaptation to a Virtual Environment

By understanding what you can do to drive positive performance, you can set your organization above and apart during these turbulent times and enable your teams to adapt. This links to companies arming their sales and marketing teams with better tools that enable them to continue to differentiate their portfolios of products while not falling behind due to a lack of technical capabilities. Already almost 90% of sales have moved to videoconferencing, phone or web sales models, and while some skepticism remains, more than half believe this is equally or more effective than sales models used before COVID-19 (McKinsey).

By evaluating the effects of the pandemic on sales teams, Mereo has established a model on how to capture a prospect’s attention through this new virtual environment in Lead in Virtual Selling with RICH™ Content. RICH™ content stands for Relevance, Innovation, Complexities, and Hard data and proof. Incorporating these four areas into content development, meeting preparation and other interactions is critical to ensuring an effective sales force as we move into the new virtual age of business.


At Mereo, we thrive on enabling teams to identify issues and move forward to provide value industry and serve their clients. For guidance on how to have these conversations, contact us.

Virtual Selling

{Top Sales Magazine} Lead in Virtual Selling With RICH™ Content



Learn how to lead in virtual selling with RICH content in the latest Top Sales Magazine article!


In late 2019, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) published the “Economic Performance of the Airline Industry” report. It predicted a 4.1% growth in global air traffic demand in 2020. Then the global pandemic undermined this forecast as borders closed, social distancing ensued, and sales executives slashed travel budgets for their teams through the rest of this year and into next.

No one could have foretold our current sales environment. Yet as sales leaders and business executives, it is vital to adjust and adapt to this current situation — rather than deny or fight it.

In the short-term, from this disruption, a decline in revenue performance is manageable. However, businesses must proactively make moves now to sell as effectively as possible and ensure long-term revenue performance sustainability. The current situation is difficult, but it is not dire. Alternative approaches are available. Equip your sales teams with the technology, skills and resources to win an unfair share™ in a virtual selling environment — and look to the Mereo RICH™ virtual selling formula to guide you.

Find the entire article on pages 18-19 of the Top Sales Magazine September Issue and dive into the elements of RICH™ content.

 

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virtual business practices

The Future of Your Organization Is Virtual — at Least Partially



The economy has been reopening — and with that comes the expectation of offices leaving behind their virtual organization and reopening their doors too. There are many reasons to be eager to “get back to normal” and to restart business face-to-face. Organizations rely on alignment to attain sustainable revenue performance, and what better way to achieve that than physical proximity and regular meetings? In-person business and selling is paramount in effectiveness and engagement.

Yet, the recent social distancing mandates have sent people home for half of 2020. The work-from-home environment has required organizations to invest in technology, to develop procedures and to shift practices. As such, the short-term requirement to work from home has accelerated a trend toward greater infrastructure and acceptance of virtual business environments.

While some organizations may eventually return to a more-traditional workplace environment, and in-person selling will resume in the future, business practices will forever be changed. Here is what you can expect:

Technologic Foundations Built in the Pandemic Have Set the Stage for Future Business Norms

Many organizations did not have the technological or procedural foundations to support a remote workforce prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Early 2020 saw large investments in computers, software, telecommunications equipment and tools, security protocols and procedures. All this will stick with leaders in a sunk cost type of mindset. They cannot feasibly and responsibly abandon the infrastructure they have created.

With these investments in mind, leadership will need to consider the best path forward with restrictions lifting. Most offices cannot meet safe social distancing without pricy office space updates. At a minimum, leadership may decide to shift to regional operations in lieu of central offices. They may decide to move their teams to remote capacity.

Though it was unplanned and unexpected, the pandemic provided a trial run of virtual organization practices. Leadership can take this time to review the efficacy of the last months:

  • Were there any surprising benefits?
  • Were there major roadblocks to operations?
  • Are there solutions moving forward to overcome those?
  • Are the travel and expense savings substantial and sustainable?
  • Are there compromises between “operations as usual” and “full virtual organization practices”?

Not only will internal impacts ensue. Your buyers will also be navigating virtual organization practices. Leadership will need to keep an eye on the external industry and buyer environment. Are your buyers comfortable taking face-to-face visits yet? Are business practices in your industry shifting to a more sterile, virtual environment as the preferred? Are there new lasting pains and focuses for your buyers? For example, for industries like IT, secure cloud-based solutions will continue to increase in importance. Data replication and security will be on the minds of IT and finance professionals. Are there opportunities for your organization to Seek to Serve™?

A Future Compromise of In-Person and Virtual Organizations

The pandemic turned age-old business practices on its head. There are drawbacks to virtual selling and business practices. Many of these things people and digital solution providers are working hastily to overcome. But, additionally, many leaders surely were surprised to uncover some benefits too. The key point is for leadership to analyze opportunities moving forward for using virtual tools to support agile, transparent and robust selling.

A shift to longer-term virtual selling organizations will require formal but lightweight processes. Without a physical presence in the office, there will need to be new methods of accountability.  Professionals can expect more checkpoints that track and manage their activities, deal progression and functional performance. Remote coaching will become even more important in the development of personnel and in the obtainment of sales goals. Project planning and tracking will increase in importance, as well as easy-to-use — and secure — collaboration tools. Access to and transparency with data will be critical for successfully moving forward. Heavy oversight will fail; lightweight but formal team engagement is the key to success.

Productive cross-functional engagement, already an issue for many organizations, will become even more critical in remote environments. There will be an even greater need for formal reviews and alignment of financial, go-to-market, product and sales strategies. Cross-functional participation will also need to overcome limits of remote work, including for launch programs, product strategy definition and roadmap definition.

For support navigating virtual business best practices into the future, contact us. As you are looking toward the future, read more Principal Predictions to support the future of your business.

 

Principal Predictions

COVID-19 Supply Chain

Business Leaders Face Difficult Supply Chain Decisions Ahead



In early May 2020, Mereo principals shared seven predictions of COVID-19’s lasting impacts on go-to-market organizations. One of these predictions detailed the massive disruption to the global supply chain and the hefty changes to come. While COVID-19 has been a catalyst for supply chain disruption and discussions — there are additional geo-political forces at play that deepen supply chain impacts and future actions. Business leaders must make vital supply chain decisions in this “new normal.”

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Huawei and the U.S.-China Tech War,” reinforces our supply chain principal predictions, namely regarding the vital need for:

  • Enhanced supply security
  • Better supply chain agility
  • Strategy shift from sole-sourcing to multi-sourcing

The article details the heightened regulations the U.S. Commerce Department has placed on Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant which is seen as a threat due to its inability to be autonomous from the Chinese government. It also discusses the recently announced plans for building a factory in Arizona for Taiwan-based TSMC, the largest semiconductor maker in the world, which would remove the current supply gap of chip manufacturers in the U.S. Likely, moves like these may become recurring trends into the future and will continue to influence global businesses, B2B and otherwise.

For support in aligning your business strategy to the market realities surfacing now and into the future, contact us. For further insights into supply chain impacts — among leadership adaptation, online retail, marketing activities and more — look to the Mereo Principal Predictions.

 

Prepare for Change