They say a rising tide lifts all boats, but growth is not a given, those who get it may do so at the expense of those who don’t.

The snippet of a conversation with a prospective client last month:

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) : 2018 is shaping up to be our best sales growth year ever, so I don’t think we need help with sales or marketing execution.

ME : Congratulations. That’s also why I’m here. Some of your competitors are clients, and their 2018 sales growth is shaping up to be the best they’ve had as well.

CEO: I don’t understand. You’re here because you knew that we are having our best year ever?

ME: That was my assumption. Let me explain. Investors and owners want to see sales growth, but they want to see consistent sales growth even more. If you can outpace the industry’s growth in good years and bad years, they know its attributable to better execution than your competitors.

CEO: Hmm. How do other companies measure their sales and marketing execution?

My 30 minute meeting with the CEO lasted two hours.

In many sectors, demand is robust with sales and marketing teams achieving the best results in years. When sales results are strong, sales and marketing leaders credit themselves for hard work and execution, but when results are weak, it’s the fault of the economy or external macroeconomic factors.

For the sales and marketing teams that are executing better, they are outpacing industry growth and doing so, more productively and profitably due to the flywheel effect — and according to author Jim Collins, that’s when a company goes from good to great.

Now is the time of year when most CEOs and sales leaders are finalizing their 2019 sales growth goals. After the obligatory review of headcount and marketing budgets, we recommend an honest discussion of sales and marketing team execution gaps, and the resources and investments needed to plug the holes.

The time to invest is, now, when business is strong.

When the economy or industry hits a downturn, investments in sales and marketing execution may not make it through the budget process.

These investments also take time to bear fruit, typically six to 12 months. If you invest now, you’ll be in better shape for a downturn, and you should be able to catch the flywheel effect sooner rather than later.

Unfortunately, many companies will have an out of focus view of this past year’s success. Better optics of your company’s sales and marketing execution capabilities can position it for more consistent and faster growth.

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