Switching horses to promote growth, responsibility & creativity

By Sean Evers, VP of Sales & Partner, Pipedrive

Small business owners lead two different horses along the path to growth: Responsible practices, and rapid creativity. The trick is knowing which to ride, and when.

Pipedrive’s most recent State of Sales & Marketing Report had respondents reporting an eight percent decline in the number of growing companies – unsurprisingly, given the state of the economy/world. It’s hard for business leaders to pick the right ‘horse’ to ride on the journey to growth. For example, sometimes there’s safety in following the herd, whilst at other times, anti-cyclical investments are the key to success. And managing talent is critical, but time spent revitalising people programmes may feel like time stolen from the pressing need to find sales to shore up the P&L.

Right now, firms are casting about to find that stable growth that points the way down the track to long-term success.

Anti-cyclical investments are one key to success

The State of Sales & Marketing Report also showed a clear pivot point where leaders and laggards diverged. That’s where 32% of companies made the decision to invest in new sales and marketing technologies and grew. Those companies that cut their budgets were 27% less likely to achieve their annual sales targets. Some business leaders are able not only to see how technology investments can be a strategic means of maintaining their market position but execute them well to expand market share.

This is where responsible practices come into play: Being led by a decision-making and purchasing process aimed at strengthening the business position by boosting sales. Of course, trimming costs is also often a prudent choice. Yet it’s only by looking at longer term trends and deciding where the line is between immediate survival and striving for growth that the best choices are made.

Some companies cut their marketing budgets in economically turbulent times. But this then opens up significant opportunities for those who buck the trend and increase their visibility. Those that take advantage via targeted content marketing and interactive online formats generate new leads precisely when they are most needed.

But why take the chance, some may ask. With a variety of communication channels in operation, marketing and sales teams need the right CRM tools to both service and retain existing customers as well as to target new groups. Much of this is now done online and requires integrations and intelligence to coordinate. This can bring new challenges for colleagues. This is why automation is becoming the workhorse of growth in sales and marketing.

The ol’ reliable horse – automation

It’s likely that due to diving into digitisation and digital marketing, firms may already be managing higher sales volumes and sales potential than ever before. More contacts, more leads, and more deals mean more to manage internally – on time and to agreed standards. Automation, sometimes using AI, has become the way busy teams focus their attention where it matters, as it takes over routine tasks and frees up human time.

Putting people to work where they make a bigger impact, like managing customers, courting prospects, and developing sales strategies, puts attention towards more valuable business activities and improves employee experience. Removing drudgery like calendarising reminders, sending out email campaigns, or transcribing calls, tasks that automation can do faster and more accurately, allows teams to employ their critical thinking and empathy. All of that adds to important KPIs that point to long-term success, like LTV and NPS.

Unleash the creativity in the right place

Ride the creative horse under the right conditions. A ‘hail Mary’ throw of the dice isn’t a smart play. It’s better to do the research and understand how your ideas, such as for a new marketing campaign, will land with your prospects. Creativity isn’t a wild, unbroken horse. It’s one that performs as part of your team, pulling to the same goals. It’s often allowed to gallop once data shows the right path for it to take.

Creativity can’t come entirely on demand. Your teams need to have psychological safety and resilience in order to give the right amount of mental energy for the task. Once again, that means making prudent decisions to give them the tools and the environment to do great creative work.

Pipedrive’s report uncovered that employees were most concerned with missing their goals (41%) and the possibility of increased individual workloads (29%). Such understandable employee concerns impact on mental states. But automation, the right tools, supports better working practices, and allows teams to focus more on what they love, including creative executions that will help bring prospects down the funnel.

Saddling up

Switching between business strategies is not always a complete either/or situation. Strategic investments in technology, better workforce support, or focussing on marketing creativity are all part of interrelated business goals and investment choices. When making hard business choices, consider how decisions can positively impact multiple goals, and pick the ones offering the greatest optionality: Keeping options open, allowing a reverse course if needed, but always boosting the ability of the business to change, pivot, and grow.