Certain things are supposed to last forever — memories, diamonds, honey's shelf-life, The Spice Girls' friendship. Frankly, that list is pretty short, and I assume most people saw it and thought, "Wait a minute. I don't see love or sales strategies on that list. There's no way this is accurate!"

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I understand that it's presumptuous and probably off-base to guess that's what you were thinking. But for the sake of this introduction, I'm just going to assume that's the case and lay out two facts of life.

First, love is fleeting. Second, a sales strategy's success can be, too.

There's no guarantee that your sales strategy will always deliver the results your business needs. And there's a good chance that your sales team might have to adjust the way it approaches prospects and customers. Pivoting your sales strategy is a significant, difficult decision, but if your business needs new life, it might be the way to go.

Here is how some companies shook up their sales strategies and some insight into what those changes meant for their business.

1. Nike

In 2017, Nike's sales growth hit a standstill. By Q3, its year over year growth had effectively stalled, and its profits had dropped a whopping 24%. Up to that point, the company had invested mostly in its brick and mortar retail outlets, but that model had clearly run its course. Those dismal numbers prompted Nike to reevaluate its sales strategy, and ultimately, inspired a pivot.

The brand shifted its focus toward ecommerce and a direct to consumer sales strategy, connecting more immediately with customers online. More recently, the company has looked to streamline its ecommerce efforts by cutting out third-parties. In 2019, the company stopped distributing its products directly on Amazon in an effort to draw consumers to its own site.

The company also significantly stripped back its retail efforts. In 2017, the company did business with roughly 30,000 retailers. Around the same time it cut ties with Amazon, the company announced that they would be prioritizing about 40 partners — mostly brands willing to give Nike a separate space in their stores.

The results? Nike's stock price hit a two-year high in 2018 — a bump that experts largely attributed to the company's direct to consumer shift. It was also estimated that Nike’s DTC business' gross margins were 62 percent in 2018, compared to 38 percent in its wholesale business that year.

Nike noticed a changing tide in retail. It realized that staying the course with its brick and mortar-heavy strategy wasn't going to cut it. The company looked to where consumers were and adjusted accordingly. It pivoted its sales efforts to keep pace with digital transformation and saw the results it needed.

2. Porsche

In the 2010s, Porsche made a conscious effort to put customer experience at the center of its sales strategy, paying more attention to its buyers' individual needs and expectations.

The auto manufacturer wanted to turn the process of buying one of its cars into a more unique, personal experience for drivers — to make every phase of Porsche purchasing and ownership as seamless and satisfying as possible.

In order to suit those priorities, the company had to pivot its sales strategy. It needed to adjust how it understood and interacted with customers, and it found the resources for that adjustment with an investment in new technology. Porsche shook up its sales efforts by leveraging its own CRM.

The company took a holistic approach to improve its customer experience with the platform. It consolidated customer, vehicle, relationship, and transactional data from customers' pre-purchase, purchase, ownership, and re-purchase phases.

That information provided insights that enabled the creation one of Porsche's most valuable sales assets — its "predictive customer segmentation" function to inform more efficient sales efforts.

The investment paid off. In 2019, the manufacturer moved a company record 61,568 vehicles in US retail — a gain of 7.6 percent from 2018 to mark its tenth consecutive year of annual growth. Porsche also ranked first in two key J.D. Power Studies in the same year: the 2019 Customer Service Index and 2019 Sales Satisfaction Index.

Porsche pivoted when it noticed the shifting preferences of the modern luxury car buyer and the rising tide of digital transformation. In order to best accommodate both of those factors, it leveraged powerful new technology with its customers' needs at heart.

Nike and Porsche are two valuable reference points to consider if you're looking into pivoting your sales strategy. Their success shows that shaking up your sales efforts is often a necessary, sensible course of action.

A sales strategy pivot can be any shift in how your sales efforts are carried out — from leveraging new technology to switching up your sales process or methodology to adjusting how you train your salespeople.

It's any stride you take to make your sales strategy different and ideally more effective. It's not the easiest decision to make or implement, but if you're sensible, careful, and committed when you make it, you'll put yourself in the best place to see success with it.

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Originally published Mar 31, 2020 8:00:00 AM, updated March 31 2020

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Selling to Different Buyer Personas