I recently attended an event sponsored by Startup Grind Asheville. Startup Grind is a global startup community designed to educate, inspire, and connect entrepreneurs. The speaker at this particular event was Josh Dorfman, from Venture Asheville (an initiative to support high growth business ventures).
In response to a question, Josh gave the advice to look sideways. He was encouraging entrepreneurs to look sideways as they run hard straight ahead toward their goal (so they don’t miss an opportunity they were not really looking for). This is another way to express something I heard years ago from the consulting firm Innosight. A speaker I heard from Innosight said that the great majority of companies that successfully transitioned their business during an industry disruption did so by pursuing a path they didn’t see when they started to make their pivot. That struck me at the time. What Innosight had learned is that the plan you develop when you start in a new direction is almost certainly the wrong plan, but doing nothing is also a sure path to failure. What an interesting discovery.
For those of us in sales, I think the “look sideways” principle is powerful advice. Here are some examples of how it applies:
- While you are pursuing a new prospect, be alert enough to see opportunities to the side. You might be trying to help a hospital with their marketing and discover that Bayer Aspirin is willing to help fund the program, for example.
- While meeting with a client to present a new opportunity, if you keep your ears open you might discover they need help in a completely different area than you were focused on when you walked in the door.
- You might think you are calling on the decision-maker with an important prospect, only to learn as you get deeper in that the decision-making process is a little more nuanced and complex than you first thought.
It seems in sales, and many other areas of business, we all need to learn to run hard toward our goal, straight ahead with great focus and passion, but look sideways at all times!