Accelerating Growth: Overcoming the Chasms of Failure™ (Part five of a five-part series)

Sustainable, ambitious growth is probably near the top of your priority list. But we all know it’s not easy to achieve, even with the right team and a great product. In parts two, three and four of this series, I offered some pretty dire warnings about what can go wrong as you work to reach that ambitious growth goal. You might find that your product plans or roadmap don’t quite match what your customers need (the Chasm of Failure to Deliver™) or that your people might not know how to keep the promises you’ve made to your customers (the Chasm of Failure to Execute™). The most dangerous of the Chasms of Failure is the one you fall into when you don’t really understand your customer well, or your understanding of the promises you make to your customer don’t match your customer’s understanding. That is called the Chasm of Failure to Focus™ and almost always results in internal chaos and wasted resources. But despite my dire warnings, there is a way out of the Chasms of Failure and back onto the path to growth.

Every company I’ve worked with — or, for that matter, seen — falls into at least one of the Chasms of Failure at some point, and sometimes at several points. What matters most is not that you’ve found yourself there, but that you know how to pull yourself out of it and get back on track.

In this final part of this series, I will show you how to identify the symptoms of each Chasm of Failure and offer some things to consider to get back on track. I don’t know your specific situation yet, but I’ll show you what other companies have done to succeed. Finally, I’ll give you a framework to help ensdure you’re firing on all cylinders and keeping all the parts of your business on track to growth.

Knowing the symptoms

Every company will find themselves in a Chasm of Failure sooner or later. Some of the symptoms by which you’ll know are common to all three Chasms of Failure, and others are specific. You may find you have unique versions of these, depending on your company’s business, structure and culture. Here’s what to watch for:

Symptoms of the Chasms of Failure

Symptoms common to all three Chasms of Failure
● Growth begins to feel much harder
● Sales reps are scrambling to find or save deals
● Marketing is desperate for new lead sources
● Customer retention starts to drop

Chasm of Failure to Focus

Chasm of Failure to Deliver

Chasm of Failure to Execute

● No two of your people have the same definition of your customer
● Confusion in the handoff from sales to customer success
● Dropping lead acceptance rate by sales
● Adoption rates drop
● Noticeable increase in customer dissatisfaction after a few months
● Large increase in support requests and escalations
● Salespeople promise anything to get a deal
● Increase in escalations to managers in sales and customer support/success
● Your team is confused about the right thing to do for your customer

Escaping the Chasms of Failure

Tactics common to all three Chasms of Failure
● Balance your focus among getting your Promises, your People and your Product right (see diagram below)
● Identify areas of disagreement or confusion, and clarify

Chasm of Failure to Focus

Chasm of Failure to Deliver

Chasm of Failure to Execute

● Know how your capabilities map to your customers’ concerns
● Be clear and precise on your promises to your customers
● Ask your customers, and make sure their understanding of the promises is the same as yours
● Ask your customers where the product doesn’t match expectations
● Examine your roadmap and ensure it matches your promises
● Ensure your capabilities can fulfill your promises
● Be sure the definition of your customer is clear and well-communicated
● Define precisely how every person on your team contributes to fulfilling your promises

Take a look at the earlier parts of this series for more discussion on what can happen in each chasm, and how to escape or avoid it.

I hope this will help you take an honest look at your challenges, and understand better why you are experiencing them and how to make your path to growth a lot smoother and faster.

Firing on all cylinders

I would like to see your company focused, executing smoothly and delivering consistently. But companies with which I’ve worked often focus on two main areas to try to make sure they are meeting customer needs and aspirations: First, they want to make sure customers are “delighted.” This usually involves surveys or, sometimes, direct interviews. Second, they try to measure customer trust. This is usually a binary measurement, meaning the conclusion is that a customer considers the company a trusted adviser or it doesn’t (trust is far more complex than that, as I’ll discuss in an upcoming series). But they miss most of the points on which they must excel in order to achieve the kind of ambitious growth I suspect you want.

Your Growth Roadmap

To achieve that level of growth, it’s important to look at each of the main areas necessary to succeed across each of the parts of your business that must fall into alignment.

Achieving focus means you must understand your customers well to create a strong relationship. Your product roadmap must be precisely targeted, and your people must have a map for the actions they will take to support that relationship

Executing well means you must make the right promises that match with your customers’ needs and aspirations. Your product must deliver on target according to your roadmap, and your people must produce consistent outcomes for your customers.

Delivering means your customers are invested in your promises and get excited about them. Your product must delight your customers, and your people must build and maintain the trust you have worked to earn.

Those last two items are where you are likely already putting in significant effort and are the ultimate measures of your success. But the hard work of getting all nine areas right is what you must do to achieve that.

I hope you’ve found some value and useful ideas in this series. If you’re interested in understanding better where you stand, what issues you might be able to avoid or how to build a trust-base growth strategy that will bring you to market leadership, please feel free to contact me.

I look forward to hearing your stories.

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