Smart growth for your business organization


Leading the transformation from a transactional business to selling broader solutions is a major challenge for most companies. Especially when you have a business organization that is already very good at what it does. So how do you communicate and execute your vision for the organization? It starts with a change of mindset –– a different mental model.

The S-curve of learning as modeled by Whitney Johnson in her latest book, Smart growth: how to grow your employees to grow your business, provides a useful roadmap and common language for navigating growth and transformation for both individuals and organizations.

The S-curve of learning is defined by three phases: the launch point, the sweet spot, and mastery. Whitney adds nuance to this model by articulating six stages of growth through these three phases: Explorer, Collector, Accelerator, Metamorph, Anchor, and Mountaineer. I’ve experienced every step of the S-Curve and seen countless leaders navigate their own S-Curves, so it’s helpful to have a roadmap to guide you.

When you lead a team through something new, you are at the launch point. Things can feel slow and overwhelming because there is so much to learn. At the launch point, you are a Explorer. The opportunities and challenges can seem endless and as a leader you are an explorer in the sales transformation process. Now is the time to examine the possibilities, define success, and identify the path forward.

From there, your vision of what the sales organization can be emerges and you have a plan to execute. You become a Collector. This is the time to gather input, feedback, and data to assess the suitability and value of your identified direction. For leaders transitioning to consultative selling, that means spending a lot of time talking to customers about what they value. And more importantly, engage with prospects who choose your competitors. Taking the time to collect this information will strengthen your ability to lead your team successfully through a transformation plan.

Things are starting to click in the sweet place. You achieve momentum when you accelerate through the curve. At this point, you can expect your sales team to implement the transitional changes and your customers to adopt your new solutions. For you, this could mean implementing management practices that promote solution selling and provide guidance to the sales organization on how to add value for their customers. Early successes can create confidence throughout the company in your new direction.

As you pick up speed, you are what smart growth defines as a Accelerator. You and your team have the data you need and feel capable and competent to execute the transformation. The results are visible and as a leader your focus shifts from creating change to scaling and replicating success. Instituting sales best practices, nurturing and developing your team, and paying attention to the right metrics are what fuel continued success.

The growth continues as you head into what Whitney called the Shapeshifter stage. At this point, the sales transformation you set out to create has woven itself into the fabric of the business, with new ways of doing things becoming the norm. What was once a desired future state of selling solutions strategically instead of selling transactionally is now part of who you and your team are. The new identity you’ve worked so hard to create with your team and in the marketplace is taking root.

The final stage of the S-curve is when you and your team have reached a level of mastery that produces high and sustained performance. The sales transformation as you originally envisioned it is complete and you have successfully achieved the growth that was once just a vision. New behaviors and new ways of approaching business are now ingrained or Aanchor for your team.

Once you’ve reached the top of the S-curve in your sales transformation, it’s time to find the next idea or vision that will allow your business to grow and move forward. This last stage of growth is called the Mountaineer. After a climber enjoys the view from the top of a peak, he turns his attention to identifying a new mountain to climb. Likewise, once your transformation is complete, it’s time to look for your next mountain (or S-curve) to tackle. For example, after mastering the move to a consultative selling process, you may move to adopting a subscription model to generate recurring revenue.

As customer demands and expectations evolve and innovation creates new opportunities for value creation, finding a new peak is unlikely to be difficult. The key for you as a leader is to have a clear roadmap to guide the journey and be ready to do the work of navigating the next S-curve. The Smart Growth approach can help you lead your team to Success.


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