Tiffani Bova is a global growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce, a role that is focused on customer success through innovative business models and technology. Formerly a VP, Distinguished Analyst and Research Fellow at Gartner specializing in sales strategies, Tiffani is also a Wall Street Journal bestselling author whose book, Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices that Will Make or Break Your Business, has been translated into eight languages.
Here, Tiffani discusses her book, growth tactics, and why existing customers are crying out for attention.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Tune in to the Breaking the Bias podcast to hear the conversation in full.
Where did the inspiration for your book Growth IQ come from?
“I grew up selling technology, almost 30 years ago, and then worked my way up the organizations through start-ups, as well as Fortune 500 companies. Then I spent a decade at Gartner advising some of the largest technology companies on sales transformation, the impact of digital, through to the way brands market and engage with customers. And then Salesforce asked me to come and join them. I had this unique perspective between the practitioner and the academic. I found when I was advising customers at Gartner, clients would say, ‘We’re seeing sales slow, and in some cases stall.’ They would then ask, ‘what do you think we should do in-quarter to course-correct?’ Client after client turned to the same three tactics to jumpstart their numbers.”
What were the tactics?
“One: hire more salespeople. You put a body in a seat or on a phone but, it’s gonna take you time to get them ramped up to the first sale. Not the quickest of options. The second was spend more marketing dollars. ‘If I could put more in the top of the funnel, it’ll help the sellers I already have get more leads and potentially close more business.’ But are they good leads or is there just a lot of leads?
And then the third lever is cut costs. And that usually ended up being the one, right, because that could really give you in-quarter profitability improvements. But that’s just short-lived. So I really dug into what is working and what’s not working across the landscape, and I came up with 10 paths to growth. And that was really the foundation for Growth IQ. But the most interesting thing about growth is it’s never one thing; it’s the combination of growth paths that make companies more successful. Without the right sequence – the order in which they did it – it would provide less than optimal results.
What is your best advice for companies looking to grow?
“As an analyst, I would have answered that question immediately. I learnt that I did the question a little bit of a disservice. What I should have said was, ‘what’s the context? What are your existing products? Who are your existing customers? Where are you winning? Where are you losing? What does your channel partner or indirect strategy look like? What does your distribution and support strategy look like?’ Get the answers to all of those questions so you can uncover where you’re starting from.
That aside, one of the paths in the book was customer base penetration. I think one thing many sales leaders ignore, unfortunately, is the customers they’ve already acquired. The existing base of customers is starving for you to pay more attention to them. That’s where you really can launch new products, because they’ve already decided to work with you, they’re more likely to try new products, and they’re more likely to forgive you if something goes wrong.”
Tiffani Bova, Global Growth and Innovation Evangelist
The existing base of customers is starving for you to pay more attention to them. That’s where you really can launch new products, because they’ve already decided to work with you, they’re more likely to try new products, and they’re more likely to forgive you if something goes wrong.
Why is it so important that you have context?
I’ll use the example of Blue Ocean Strategy. A fantastic book, it’s about going after where [other organizations] are not. But if you walk into your environment and say, ‘We’re going to innovate, we’re going to create these new products,’ and your culture is not an innovative culture, you will fail right out of the gate. Because your people don’t know how to be agile and iterate and have Scrum teams and do all these things. So I think that you have to understand what kind of culture and environment you have and what your people are willing to absorb and how much of that they’re willing to absorb.”
You mentioned existing customers are being neglected – tell us more about that.
“In my book, I have a chapter on churn, which is about losing the recurring revenue business, leaking things out the bottom of the bucket so you’ve got to put more into the top. I flipped it on its head and asked, why do win-back campaigns? Why get a red flag notice report that this customer is potentially at risk because they’re not logging in anymore, or they’re not returning calls? Instead, be offensive about it and really improve the key things – serving customers that are leaving, figuring out why they’re going and whether they’re going to another provider. You have to ask the questions, analyze the data, look for the signals and change behavior. You’re going to pre-emptively make sure they don’t want to consider someone else or leave. And that goes back to connection and customer service.”
What’s your best advice to marketers when it comes to customer-centricity?
“The first thing I always say to marketers is go on a sales call virtually over the phone, in person, get on a plane, train, automobile, whatever, especially to the top accounts. But I don’t want you going as a marketer. I want you to go as a new hire salesperson shadowing this top performer; you’re there to just listen and watch what happens. Many a time when I was in a room of marketers, I would ask this question: ‘how many of you have gone on a sales call in the last quarter?’ And in a room of 100 people, maybe three hands went up. Shame on you. You’re marketing all this stuff, but how do you even know what they want?”
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