“Disrupt with honor. Pivot with style.” – Lisa Pool

disruptive technology disruptive innovation pivotDisruptive technology and disruptive innovation are two of the most used buzzwords. However, before I go any further, a quick definition: A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market or a new value in the network. In time, this disruption will displace an earlier technology.

Disruptive Innovation

Not all innovation is disruptive; some innovation is transformative. When automobiles first came on the market, it didn’t disrupt the horse-drawn vehicle market due to the price difference. Automobiles were out of reach of the average consumer. However, the Model T did disrupt the market by presenting a solution that was affordable to the masses, changing transportation as we knew it. Goodbye horse-drawn carriages and carts.

Sustaining Innovation

Not all innovation creates a new market. Some innovations are an evolution of an existing market that through improvement leads to transformation. It can be disruptive in that it changes how we do things. Thank you salesforce.com and Pardot.

For example, sales training has traditionally been done in a classroom setting. It takes sales people out of the field, dumps a lot of great knowledge on them (hopefully), does a few role plays (most people in sales will tell you these role playing exercises rarely match the reality of their day-to-day world), do a bit (sometimes hours) of homework, rinse repeat for two or three days, then sends them back into the field with a hope and a prayer sales will increase. Typically sales will see an increase for a limited time, but then those numbers will gradually decline over the next sixty days until things are back to normal.

The number one reason I stopped doing what I was doing to join AXIOM Sales Force Development, was because not only were they seeking to transform sales organizations, they were preparing to disrupt the entire sales training industry. This excited me! I HATED 90% of all the sales training events I had ever attended. They were TORTURE. And no offense to the new home sales trainers, I know your hearts are in a good place, but seriously, I know how to greet people, and all the other steps of the sales process. I got that down. What I can’t stand is creating urgency through flimsy-masked efforts to create demand. It doesn’t work. I reeks of hubris. How can I expect a buyer to accept me as a trusted advisor when I can’t be transparent in my dealings? How can I expect them to think I have their best interest above my own when I am adding up commissions in my head?

Off rant/soapbox

Changing seller behavior was going to take more, and how were we going to do that? Back to the drawing board. After a lot of brain-storming, planning, execution, testing, soft launches, more testing, more execution, more improvements, more client discussions and input, just before Dreamforce 2013, AXIOM pivoted from a sales training company to an enterprise ‘software as a service’ provider in the push of a button.

Pivoting with Style

In the year since, we have practiced our pivot. Some days it feels a little more like a hokey pokey, and other days it feels more like a really fun samba. A beautiful pivot requires innovating while keeping one foot in your vision, culture, history, values so that you can better serve your clients in new innovative ways. Pivoting gracefully requires practice, skill, and believe it or not, coaching.

A good pivot also requires an organization to ask a lot of hard questions there may not always be immediate answers. My favorite question is, “What has to happen for this to occur?” When we ask ourselves this question, it requires us to dig deeper. Just like when forecasting sales where you can’t simply say, “I feel good about this deal,” you have to be able to answer why. What has to happen before this sale can close [occur]? What has to happen for those things to happen? Keep taking this question backwards until you have as many variables in place in order to have a realistic view of all the steps to a successful pivot.

Remember two things:

  1. Disrupt with Honor
  2. Pivot with Style