Shift Happens: Selling in Times of Change

"It becomes necessary to shift your competitive strategy when the fundamental needs of the customer group shift. Or when the particular type of product is no longer distinct. A strategy must also change when the trade-offs are eliminated by new technology or customer changes.”-- Michael Porter, the world’s leading expert on competitive strategy and international competitiveness.

Below are the 13 shifts we have noticed, discussed, and helped our clients respond. These shifts represent changes in our customer's customers, and they are the source of many sales opportunities — if sales organizations can capitalize. To turn these dynamics in opportunities, not only do salespeople need to understand these changes, but they also need to cast a vision for the outcomes. The outcomes should be ones they can drive and the role the company can play. Each shift below is backed up with recent public statements by executives:

  1. Growth strategies are shifting: “As it relates to our international segment, we're continuing to execute against our Renew Blue priorities, and we've made considerable progress on our cost reduction initiatives, while increasingly shifting our focus towards our topline opportunities.” Best Buy's CEO Hubert Joly on Q1 2015 Results

  2. Revenue mix is shifting: “The major contributor to the lower margin this quarter was the overall revenue mix shift” - Westell Technologies’ CEO Rick Gilbert on Q4 2014 Results

  3. Business models are shifting: “Medtronic is uniquely positioned to lead the shift to value-based health care, directing our products and solutions to help providers, payers, and governments achieve their goals in driving more value into healthcare systems around the world.” Medtronic's (MDT) CEO Omar Ishrak on Q4 2014 Results

  4. Buying Behaviors are shifting: “Over the last year our APM business has witnessed this shift in buying behaviors away from enterprise purchases to more consumption-based approach.” Compuware's CFO Joseph R. Angileri on Q4 2014 Results

  5. Buying Preferences are shifting: “Importantly, the more planned higher ticket purchases of products like our new line of Titan zero-turn mowers proceeded in spite of the weather. Their strong sales also reflect the ongoing shift in consumer preference from traditional tractors to more productive zero-turn equipment." Michael J. Hoffman CEO Toro on Q4 2014 results

  6. Shifting service and pricing models: “With regard to pricing, we view what we've done is a shift not an increase or a decrease, but a shift. And really what we're doing is saying if you want to pay for your handset directly and make the choices and make the economic choices based on not a $200 hour co-pay, but rather what the phones really cost we will be willing to give you the service or for what the service pricing is without that handset subsidy and we're seeing customers really love that transparency, that’s just a shift that’s going to make our results lumpy as we see more and more of our customers, a quarter of those postpaid customers chose to go to the no subsidy plan.” AT&T CFO John Stephens presents at the 42nd Annual J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference

  7. Industries are shifting: “Our view of cyber is that it is finally transitioning from becoming it how big a wall can we build only to discover that somebody can always build a ladder that’s taller to a much more predictive approach to trying to figure out where and how the bad guys are going to strike, and what we do about it in anticipation of that and we see that as an industry shift and something we are leading.” - Booz Allen Hamilton's CEO Ralph Shrader on Q4 2014 Results

  8. Business strategies are shifting: “We also are working the 800 core [product] for a potential long-range business shift. And that’s also progressing well.” United Technologies Corporation's CEO Louis Chenevert Presents at Electrical Products Group Conference 2014.

  9. Production capacity is shifting: “The mobile market is growing 50%-60% a year in terms of DRAM demand. The server market is growing in excess of 40% a year. So those are the two categories that I see our capacity continuing to shift towards and away from PC.” –Micron Technology CEO Ivan Donaldson CEO Management JP Morgan Technology, Media & Telecom Conference (Transcript)

  10. Marketing Investments are Shifting: “Underemployment and unemployment continues to affect our middle to lower-income customer base also as part of our national advertising initiatives we have shifted dollars from our traditional insert programs to a more aggressive television strategy, which we believe will drive our brand awareness and sales as we enter the back-to-school and second half of the year.” – Shoe Carnival's (SCVL) CEO Cliff Sifford on Q1 2014 Results

  11. Sales Motions are Shifting: "Our networking play has totally changed the nature of our sales motion, which is, two years ago, if you're like, okay, let's say, some random enterprise is going to be making a decision on their networking architecture. Who do you think they will talk to, probably Cisco, probably HP, maybe Alcatel. Today, anybody, anybody that's making a decision on their next edition of architecture, I guarantee it, we're in the conversation.” Martin Casado - Chief Technology Officer, Networking and Security, VMware’s 42nd Annual J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference

  12. The Product Mix is Shifting: “Following a successful shift from store tests with Minneapolis team members, we are planning to launch a guest-facing $10 rush delivery pilot in June in the Minneapolis, Boston and Miami markets.” -Target Corporation's (TGT) CEO John Mulligan on Q1 2014 Results

  13. Investments are Shifting: “So not only are we recognizing the shift to the Third Platform, we are innovating I think in a way the company is organized around. And we're putting a lot of money where our mouth is.” - David Goulden - Chief Financial Officer and Chief Executive Officer, Information Infrastructure EMC Corporation 42nd Annual J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference 2014

To help sellers be successful in navigating these shifts, they need to be able to speak to the changes within their customers. For example, customers need to:

  • Implement new technology solutions to accelerate the process and decrease reporting needs

  • Create and manage a new way of working

  • Infuse the voice of their customers across the organization

  • Re-define existing roles (including skills and knowledge)

  • Navigate complexity within corporate initiatives by factoring in change management efforts

  • Engineer more relevant sales conversations

  • Decrease the lag time between their strategy being set and execution happening

  • Develop and support a new modernized customer-centric culture

  • Adopt new Executive mandate(s)/vision

  • Install a new culture or mindset with employees

  • Create more cross-functional teaming within initiatives

  • Elevate the value contribution of business functions to become more relevant to the customer's experience

About Growth Matters

Growth Matters is an international business founded in 2011. This consulting and services organization focusses on the development and practice of sales management and sales enablement. Our team of world-renowned experts spans the globe enabling businesses to improve sales conversations through services and solutions aligned to sales strategy. Charlotte, NC (USA) is the headquarter of our Americas operation. With dedicated offices in South Africa (EMEA), and Sydney (APAC), we regularly facilitate senior-level workshops in 17+ cities and countries. For more information on equipping sales managers, and aligning to sales leadership, contact the Growth Matters team at

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