New Course, New Thinking

It was as hot as a summer’s day can get and my 5 km run was not going well.

Starting out that morning, I had set two ambitious goals for myself: achieve both my distance and pace targets. But as the mercury kept climbing and with my water supply running on empty, I knew I had to make changes to my plans or I was going to find myself limping home.

So I grudgingly let go of my pace goal, and finished my loop.

Initially I wasn’t too happy about this, but it reminded me that sometimes I have to take a big spoonful of the advice I give regularly to my clients: it is a fundamental mistake to assume that the goals you set for yourself (or others) cannot be changed.

In today’s marketplace, goal setting has to be dynamic—not rigid. Just as important, your thinking today has to be much more adaptive than predictive.

Conditions change much faster now than before: new competitors steadily arrive on the scene, buying patterns evolve and dissolve rapidly, new technologies relentlessly challenge and replace old ways of doing things.

Finding better, smarter ways of solving problems—course correcting and applying new thinking—is what will help you and your business thrive, even amid all kinds of adversity and uncertainty.  

Here are four examples of businesses and business leaders who applied this approach and created a competitive advantage for themselves.

1.  New market, new assumptions

AS read in the WSJ, Boeing responded quickly to news that international trade sanctions had been lifted on Iran: a $400 billion market suddenly was in play for the first time in over a generation. Recognizing that this country had a fleet of aging aircraft, the manufacturer rolled up their sleeves, sharpened their pencils and inked a deal to sell 80 new aircraft to this new market. That sale—to the tune of $17.6 billion—happened because both parties correctly understood that new sales opportunities happen when we embrace new assumptions about the world in front of us.

2. Leveraged talents in new ways

An international manufacturing firm was struggling with a year-over-year drop in revenue. The management team went digging and discovered that the company’s field team had a higher than normal turn-over rate. In essence: there weren’t enough people on the ground to secure all of their existing customers’ orders. Money was being left on the table. The team created a revenue recovery plan: retooling their customer service team, putting them on the phones to call and quickly secure those unmet orders. The plan was a success. Within three months, $1 million in new POs were received: giving the team much-needed time to solve structural problems in their field office.

3. Re-adjusted milestones

A Sales VP had a sales rep on her team who’d fallen short of her first-quarter sales target: at $50,000, they were only halfway to meeting their $100,000 marker. Rather than relinquishing the goal, the Sales VP saw potential in both the sales rep’s abilities and in the appetite of the marketplace for their product. Instead, the Sales VP readjusted the sales targets for the second, third and fourth quarters to $117,000 each. Not only did the sales rep recover, she grew more confident because the company put their trust in her ability to turn things around

4. Knowing what is (and isn’t) mission critical

Over budget on the revenue side but with eroding margins, a company’s management team went digging for answers. They discovered that their inside sales team was dropping prices too aggressively to win POs. Why were they doing this? Because they’d been told at the start of the year that revenue growth was mission critical. “Win more POs” had been the rallying cry. That strategy was corrected: POs should only be accepted where there’s a minimum acceptable margin. As a result, revenue dropped (but not below their targets) and margin was regained. This strategy and the importance of establishing minimum profit per client is covered in more depth in Chapter 9 (page 189) of my book, Non-Stop Sales Boom.

Summing up: there’s no shame in course correcting your goals over the course of a year. Managers get into trouble when they stubbornly believe that goals are only meant to be set and achieved. Don’t fall into that mindset! Stay in alignment with your market—it’s one that’s changing faster every year.