An inflection point is a pivotal moment when the marketplace is ripe for change. Sometimes consumer habits transform to cause these moments; other times changes in technology or regulations cause them. Inflection points present a rare opportunity for organizations and salespeople to adjust their strategy and become industry leaders. For example, advancement of technology and changing demands of consumers caused a major decline of desktop sales and an increase in the popularity of laptops, cell phones, and tablets. Organizations that recognized this inflection point became industry leaders and obtained a competitive advantage.
How do inflection points impact salespeople?
Changes to an organization’s actions typically precede changes in their overall strategy. These changes are driven by the sales force as they observe the marketplace and make adjustments to win business. This means that your observations can change your organization’s strategy, position you to become an industry leader, and ultimately shape your industry!
Most of the time, lower level employees recognize inflection points before anyone else. All too often, these ideas never make it to upper management, or management lacks the vision to see how the industry is changing. A prime example? In the early 2000’s, former CEO of Blockbuster John Antioco turned down the opportunity to purchase Netflix. Blockbuster’s customers complained about excessive late fees and were ready for a more convenient way to rent movies. I have to imagine that lower level employees noticed how the late fees impacted sales. This information either never got to the C suite, or upper management did not take the complaints seriously. Blockbuster lacked vision to see where the market was going and failed to pay attention to consumer demands.
As a salesperson, you are extremely in tune with consumer demands, and you might be the first one to identify inflection points. So how can you identify these shifts in the marketplace?
How to recognize inflection points
In short, pay attention! Become a student of your industry and your customers. Focus on understanding your clients’ needs instead of closing the sale. How do you know if a change in the environment is a true inflection point, meaning that the market is ready for a fundamental change? There are a few indicators you should pay close attention to:
- Most of your clients start focusing on new concerns, or become fixated on one problem. They say things like, “I just wish there was some way we could ___.” Your clients are looking for change, and telling you about an opportunity in the market.
- You begin feeling out of place when you speak with leaders or competitors, and feel that everyone around you is speaking gibberish. New names, terms, or concepts keep creeping their way into conversations around you. The market is ready for a change and is probably already changing. Pay attention, learn, and do not get left behind!
- Your competitors or partners fundamentally change their strategy and business practices to reach new markets or satisfy new consumer needs. You have probably missed the inflection point and need to catch up to stay relevant.
How to respond to inflection points
Inflection points can help you win a vast amount of sales and establish you as a leader in your organization and industry. Once you have identified a shift in the buyer’s mindset or needs, address these concerns as you reach out to prospects. Often, consumers will feel that you have a better grasp of their needs, which will give you an advantage. Anticipate your prospect’s needs and concerns and how your organization can meet them in a unique way. For example, in my industry, many employers turned to high deductible health plans to keep cost down. Agents who recognized the inflection point offered low cost supplemental plans or creative funding solutions to obtain a competitive advantage.
In some cases, inflection points can change your career. Develop a plan and present your observations, research, data, and next steps to the decision makers in your organization. Identify the resources you will need and potential pitfalls. If you work in an environment that stifles creativity and new ideas, I encourage you to look for a new organization where creative thinkers can grow. Or, if you have the ambition and resources, why not take your idea and implement it on your own? Many of the most successful startups began with someone who recognized an inflection point and did what no one else would do.
Remember that just because no one has ever done something, it does not mean that it cannot be done. Inflection points can create chaos in your environment, but they also present opportunities to propel your career to a new level.
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