As we examine success in early to mid-stage companies, Four Critical Dimensions were essential to achieve high growth in the marketplace. These dimensions are the pillars for successful go-to-market execution. They are as follows:
Dimension One: The Sales/Revenue Model - Team and Sales Strategy
Dimension Two: Sales Enablement - Messaging and Territory/Field Execution
Dimension Three: Leverage Model - Channel and Alliance Strategy and Execution
Dimension Four: Marketing Model - Demand Generation Plan/Brand Positioning and Development
As we explore deeper into each of these Four Dimensions we get some perspective into the many considerations needed to achieve success and scale in the go-to-market aspect of the business. There is no one size fits all in a go-to-market strategy. The particulars vary greatly depending upon whether you are focused on consumer markets (Business to Consumer or B2C), the enterprise (Business to Business or B2B) – and more specifically the type of product or service you are selling. Whichever the scenario, this model provides a useful framework for maximizing your success – and ultimately leads to a SCALABLE, REPEATABLE and PREDICTABLE growth path.
By using a grading scale when examining the Four Dimensions identified, we can determine likelihood of success. The specifics of may vary, but they roughly follow the definitions in the exhibit below. The grading scale described allows teams to focus on how the Four Dimensions impact the product fit and differentiation success and how interdependent they are amongst one another.
In Exhibit A, we lay out the Four Dimensions in specific order, from left to right, and how they impact success in a go-to-market strategy and execution plan, and how best to address them.
Using the grading scale and the Dimensions detailed above, we can explore how the framework was successfully applied to the go-to-market strategies of both Palo Alto Networks and Zscaler.
Palo Alto Networks had a clearly defined TAM and a product market fit that could easily be categorized as Grade “A.” The foundation for both product and company was structurally sound. The mission at Palo Alto was to bring all Four Dimensions into alignment and devise a successful go-to-market strategy. Ultimately, the team was able to do so and the result was a business ready for IPO and a Market Capitalization value that has continued to build throughout its time as a public company.
Evaluating Zscaler at this same point in time, it’s important to note that the company and its product were too early to market with its value proposition (being ahead of the cloud revolution) which posed a special challenge. While the product was a spectacular innovation, because of the product fit and value proposition headwind, it rated a Grade “A-minus.” The Four Dimensions suffered as a result. The Sales Model and Sales Enablement (Dimensions One and Two) struggled to achieve productivity goals - some of the sales talent was misaligned and simply not a strong fit. Leverage (Dimension Three) was missing - channel partners that we hoped would embrace this security innovation, were reluctant to take on an alternate “cloud” solution, as hardware and software security technology were still their lifeblood. Finally, the Marketing Model and Brand Positioning (Dimension Four) was not established - analysts were still in disbelief that customers would jettison their hardware for a cloud based security solution.
As such, Exhibit C(a) illustrates the dilemma Zscaler was facing. The company might have opted for an exit by sale, but the vision and opportunity for disruption was so large, that we decided to focus on improving the Dimensions and raise additional capital to chase the IPO opportunity.
By late 2017 the inevitable occurred and cloud solutions drove network transformation. Zscaler built a class “A” sales organization, found its channel largely by aligning with Service Providers (SPs) and created a marketing model and messaging that prepared it for an IPO. By March of 2018, Zscaler’s Dimensional grade scale looked much like Palo Alto Networks’ as depicted below.
Over the course of two decades working for and with early-stage Silicon Valley companies, the methodology focus has been on taking fledgling companies and making them scalable and repeatable in performance - and in so doing provide management and investors with a high degree of predictability. While we offer two examples here, the philosophy and methodology applies to most companies. The variables that impact each dimension may differ, but the overarching approach and attention to each dimension is consistent.
The foundation is laid by the product fit and overall product strategy. But a spectacular product or service does not in and of itself assure success. Conversely, even if you have a spectacular go-to-market strategy and plan for execution, you cannot prop a company up if the product or service offered miss the mark. While the illustrations are examples of security technology companies, the fundamentals are the same in assessing almost any emerging enterprise or consumer company.
There has much been written about sales productivity and the importance of investing properly along the path of achieving productivity targets. The Bess Venture model and approach to maximizing company performance and growth is based on achieving success in 4 KEY dimensions with company culture being a foundation that has an underlying (or overarching) impact.
As Bess Ventures advises and engages it's client firms - we explore deeply the Productivity Dimensions and culture of the company - and develop an individual strategy and plan for execution that is unique to each firm. The resulting playbook helps executive management and leadership teams to drive the right set of activities designed to meet performance objectives.
Exploring sales productivity also includes thoughtful design of the processes, programs and metrics managed and measured by the leadership team. Precision in the set of activities that are driven down through the organization matters. The resulting set of plans and procedures lead to an outcome that is understandable - - easy to communicate to all stakeholders - - but most of all is repeatable, scalable and predictable as the company and organization grows and succeeds.
Mapping the productivity dimensions against the go-to-market acquisition strategy is an exercise that ensures the company does not falter by focusing in the wrong area or over-investing time and resource in places that do not yield the highest returns.
The demand generation and marketing programs require an execution plan which closely marries with the sales productivity program components. Alignment of resources and expenditures between marketing and sales is always essential in achieving success. Too often the sales organization may feel under-supported by the set of marketing activities. Most commonly, there is not a close enough alignment and closed loop set of measurements to ensure that Sales and Marketing are working well to achieve success together.
The importance of turning a critical eye to your own product innovation, its product market fit and its potential as a disruptive innovation cannot be stressed enough. Equally, it’s important to consider how well you address each of the Four Dimensions. The variables that lead to success in any one of these Dimensions can differ greatly across all B2C and B2B companies. However, each company will have a formula for success that will enhance the likelihood of achieving a high valuation and longstanding presence in the market.