Unlocking Hidden Potential: The Power of Looking Inward for Growth Strategies

Over a decade ago I was working at a very large software company

Our team’s objective was to help a $2B+ product portfolio grow in double digits (>10%)

Market growth was in high single and this portfolio was growing in low single (~3%)


We started off with product comparison

Competitors were a shade better but we were already present in large accounts


We worked with the comp intel team, got some insights on positioning

We even spent a day talking to industry analysts like Gartner, Forrester etc.

(Large companies have big budgets)

Nothing big emerged, though there were lot of useful things to action


I started looking more inward

Talking to sales teams and going through sales contracts

It became apparent that our products (BI and Analytics) were a small portion of the overall deal

The account was “owned” by sales teams that sold much bigger ticket items, typically over $1M and often $2-5M

BI and Analytics was almost always under a million (usually $250-$500K) and often sold as an afterthought


For every account there was a large product sales rep

But for BI there was one sales rep per 5-10 accounts


We were selling BI at a company level talking to the CIO

That made perfect sense for large products like database and ERP

But did not make sense for Analytics which usually had Department level use cases


This was a great insight

We took this to the higher ups

They pushed back asking for more justification

It would be a big investment even for a company that size to grow the sales team and would need CEO and perhaps board approval

We would need to grow from around 100 reps worldwide to over 500 sales reps


Two of our fastest growing competitors were public

I started pouring over their financial statements

(In case you didn’t know, that is one of the best sources of competitor intel)

We could see that their sales and marketing expenses were growing along with revenue

One of the competitors even put out numbers for people in their various functions

We started building a financial model that showed this correlation

It took a while, but we were able to make a solid case for this big change in how our products were sold

It took over 6 months to see early results, but that’s what you need when you are moving a very large ship…


It was gratifying to solve this problem

All the data was out there, but the hard part was in putting all these things together and telling a coherent story and persuading senior management


How do you use market and competitor information?

How do you use that to grow? Faster than the market?