Boards tell CEOs, “You should have seen it coming”, when they hand over separation agreements. A revenue miss is a revenue miss. Issues outside of the CEO’s control are labeled excuses. Boards feel they pay CEO’s to “see it coming”, whatever “it” is.


But, how can a CEO of a private company see it coming? 


Get to the Source

The clearest view of the future is the market view of a company’s prospects.  Not the view of its customers.  Not the view of its employees.  Not the view of its partners.  The prospects represent the future.  Their market view is one you have not heard yet. Customers represent the past.  Their market view is one you have already heard.


A change derived from a change in prospect behavior is invisible.  It sneaks up on you and bites you in- the-you-know-what. A change derived from a change in customer behavior is seen a million miles away.



A company’s information about prospects is limited. Sales can get appointments but with only a fraction of the market.  Marketing is happy if 1% of the target audience responds to an offer.  Customer service does not touch prospects at all.


*Dive deeper into this topic outside this article by leveraging the, “How to Make Your Number in 2018” Workbook


A company’s information about existing customers is vast. Sales, marketing, and customer service talk to customers every day.  Information flow is rich. If you don’t want to hear “you should have seen it coming,” get the answers to these 3 questions.


1. Who are the best prospects?

Here is how you would determine this:


Best Prospects


2. Is the sales force calling on the best prospects?

Survey these prospects. Here is an example of what you might ask them:


Prospect Behavior


Why are the best prospects NOT buying from you?

Knowing which accounts to focus on is important.  Determining if the sales force is calling on these accounts is essential.  But, you also want to know why these prospects are not buying from you.  Here is an example of how you might learn this:


Prospect Buying Behavior


The list of questions you might ask the prospects go beyond these three examples, of course.  The point is to start asking.  Results will start to trickle in.  Now what?  Take action.  Be proactive.  Don’t report on the outcome.  Affect the outcome by making changes. Using the 3 examples above, here are some actions you might take:


  • Redesign the coverage model so that the best prospects are highly visible to all.
  • Hold reps accountable to high call frequencies on these top prospects.
  • Train the sales team on how to reduce the risk associated with buying your products.


If you are still reading, you must be interested in this idea.  Here is what I recommend you do next:


  1. Can you “see” next years number?  If yes, ignore this idea.  Move on to something more strategic.  If no, proceed to step #2.
  2. Ask your team to identify the best prospects in 30 days. The best prospects are determined by potential revenue.
  3. Tell them to launch research project.  The project should determine if the reps are calling on these future big spenders.  The project should also identify why these accounts are not spending with you today.  60 days start to finish.
  4. Have your team produce a tactical plan to pursue these prospects.
  5. If they cannot execute steps 1-4, contact us.  We can help.


You cannot afford to ignore this.  Board tolerance for an off quarter, or two, is very low. “You should have seen this coming” are words you should never hear. You know better.  Capturing the market view of prospects is time and cost effective.  It just requires you to act.


Will you?


Act now by leveraging SBI’s “How to Make Your Number in 2018” Workbook or you can access the Workbook’s interactive tool to self-assess your strategies against the emerging best practices of market leaders.


Sales Revenue Growth


Josh Horstmann

Brings a deep level of experience and insight in helping organizations develop and execute their corporate, sales and marketing strategies.

Josh specializes in helping clients solve demanding sales and marketing challenges through aligning functional strategies within an organization. He has worked with clients in manufacturing, ecommerce, software, financial services and technology sectors.


Recently he helped transform an international services company ‘go to market’ strategy, which included assessing talent, re-organizing the sales force, increasing team productivity, reducing the cost of sale and aligning the marketing and sales strategies.


Josh continues to provide thought leadership to his clients advising them on how to build inside sales teams, develop compensation programs, share best practices on social selling, transform sales organizations, drive demand generation programs and acquire and cultivate talent. Along with this he helps organizations align functional strategies.


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