Question mark with illustrated personWhen talking to prospects for revenue + associates I’ve been asking, “Are you happy with your rate of revenue growth, or would you like to grow faster?”

While 3 out of 4 small business owners report they don’t want to grow at all, that they’re comfortable at their current size, I’m talking to mid-market companies and they do want to grow. Some executives laugh when I ask this question, as if the question is obvious: everyone wants to grow faster.

In fact, a few executives have said that they don’t want to grow faster. These have fallen in two categories:

  • Service companies, which are harder to scale and typically want to grow at a modest pace
  • Product companies already experiencing rapid growth that are more focused on execution and service than growing even faster; wisely, they don’t want to blow it.

Most people, though, reply that, yes, they would like to grow faster.

I’ve come to realize, however, that that is the wrong question. Let me give an analogy:

About 15 years ago I lost 50 pounds. It took about 8 months and after I had lost most of the weight I ran into a friend who hadn’t seen me during that period of weight loss. He said, “You look great! How did you do it?” I replied, “Exercise more and eat less.” Disappointed, he said, “I knew that. I was hoping that you had some secret that made it easy.”

And while there is a data-driven methodology for growing revenue that’s especially popular among SaaS and venture backed companies, it takes work, too. It takes work to…

  • Understand your customers, their buyer’s journey and where they hang out
  • Gain their attention with a legitimate, customer-focused value proposition, useful content and great creative
  • Align sales and marketing so that there’s a written SLA and a common definition of a lead, leads are scored and acted on appropriately, and the two groups work together toward continuous improvement
  • Nurture suspects who aren’t prospects yet without spamming them
  • Stay in front of suspects as they turn into prospects and opportunities through both digital and traditional media and events
  • Track the metrics of marketing and sales and continuously optimize the work of both
  • Coach and train sales reps, and prepare the late stage content for them that will help them close deals
  • …and much more.

And not everyone’s up to digging into all of that, or even some of it.

I recently had a conversation with a VP of Sales and Marketing in which in about 10 minutes he shot down one idea after another: They weren’t going to go to the trouble of integrating data between their marketing automation system and their CRM. They didn’t want to use their in-house lists for email marketing. He hates remarketing, thinks that it’s creepy. No, a mobile-ready site really wasn’t important for them. And so on.

Individually many of these programs would have had an impact on their revenue growth. When thoughtfully combined with their other digital and traditional marketing, the impact could have been huge. But no.

So the right question isn’t, “Do you want to grow faster?”

The right question is, “Do you want to do the work to grow faster?”

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