What smart CEOs know: Want more sales? Focus on your Go-to-Market strategy first!

Posted by Andreas Schenck on Mar 22, 2016 10:40:00 AM
Andreas Schenck”



When sales are not where they should be, one common “solution” to dealing with lackluster or unprofitable growth is to replace members of the marketing and/or sales team. This often does not have the desired effect since the root cause for lower than possible revenue growth frequently lies in the company’s strategic approach. As the CEO, that’s your action item to address. In this blog, I want to share some simple and tested methods to build a go-to-market strategy that allows your Marketing, Sales and Account teams to rock!  


To begin, let’s analyze the purpose of an effective Go-to-Market (GtM) strategy. Besides influencing the mission and brand of your company, it needs to set up building the right marketing (lead development) and sales dynamics. For that to work effectively, your GtM strategy needs to align with the buyer’s journey of your target segments, i.e. it connects the steps the buyer takes in buying your solution (*1) with your response (*2).

(*1) Steps in the Buyer’s Journey






Buyer Status

Prospect “sees” the problem or opportunity

Initial buying initiative, assign lead

Researching the market and alternatives

Create a “short list” to make a decision

Use the product/service

(*2) Company’s Go-To-Market Initiatives

Align with industry needs; GtM Strategy

Connect with buyers

Teach, differentiate and qualify

Build trust, minimize buyer’s risk

Meet or exceed expectations in delivery

Organizational Ownership



Marketing/Sales Development


Delivery, Customer Success


For the rest of the blog, we will focus on the GtM strategy in the “Awareness Step”. It aligns your company with the market and is the foundation for all marketing and sales activities. To make it practical in achieving higher sales, we’ll set up the strategy in support of building the sales funnel as shown below.


Aligning your company correctly with the industry and buyers you service is THE foundational activity that enables sales success. To set up that foundation well, an effective GtM strategy is built around three pillars:

  • Brand and Positioning
  • Target Segmentation
  • Product/Service Management

Brand and Positioning. The “brand” is too often reduced to the look and feel of the company. When things get tough, a new website is a go-to task, which is then often delegated to Marketing. A convenient feature of looking at “brand” superficially is that it can’t be measured easily. No way to know if it’s wrong or right. However, by adding “positioning” to the equation, the game changes. Positioning deals with the “persona” of your company, what drives it and what differentiates it. It’s the core message which Marketing and Sales must build upon. It makes your company different and unique. This is key so that buyers can become motivated to select you. As the CEO, if you allow downstream teams (Marketing and Sales) to define your value proposition on their own, it will likely be fragmented and tactically focused. The best approach we have found is to invite the market facing group into a dialogue to share their front line experiences and help define the company’s positioning. We have had good success using a CEO led cross-discipline workshop using Simon Sinek’s “Start with the Why?” as a tool to crystalize your approach and value proposition.


As a result of this initiative, the CEO now confidently owns the core direction of the company which can be leveraged by the teams in all downstream activities. With this first critical step, we defined who “we” are. Next we need to establish who we can and want to do business with, our target clients and markets.

Target Segmentation. Who are your buyer personas? What markets do you serve? What distribution and alliance models matter? To communicate and engage successfully, it’s all about being crystal clear on who your buyers are and what they care about. It’s about matching your value proposition(s) and your offering (see Product/Service Management below) with the target buyers’ needs. The most important part of your market segmentation is to develop it thoroughly with all its relevant nuances. Be very explicit on all your revenue channels, understanding across each step of the buyer journey your prospects’ drivers, their buying approach, your competitive differentiation, and the ROI and fit of your solution. Consider the market size and your competitive strengths. To bring about growth most quickly, it pays to focus on the lowest hanging fruits, i.e. areas in which you excel. There also can be good reasons to model aspirational revenue channels if you have to move off an old product or want to enter a new market. When you analyze and document the details of each revenue channel, a prioritization will become evident. What a powerful insight it is to have clarity on the dynamics of each of your revenue channels and be able to prioritize go-to-market efforts! Marketing and Sales will be better focused. They will have clearer and strategically aligned priorities. To address this step, we recommend to conduct a cross-discipline session to build a “revenue compass” for your company. You can download our sample template to guide a revenue compass definition here. An important part of zeroing in on the right target segments is the efficacy of your solution in addressing your target customer needs. That is the third pillar of our GtM strategy.

Product/Service Management. The third leg of the GtM strategy is your product or service which needs to be built and delivered to provide measurable customer success across all target segments you defined. If you are in a high growth “crossing the chasm” mode, what “got you here might not get you there”, i.e. significant product investments might be required if you have a mid-market scaling strategy and need to now address the needs of F-2000 companies. Also, telling your Marketing and Sales leaders to “fake it ‘til you make it” is fraught with risk in today’s hyper-connected world where the news of underperformance spreads quickly. Therefore, actively managing the product or service you sell is a critical discipline in your going-to-market approach. Your model should be client-value centered and include components of “growth innovation” which covers new areas that support going after new markets and “sustaining innovation” which keeps your product or service fresh for your current target segments. You can download our product/service management model here. The key ingredient for evolving your offering is the understanding how your solution is used in your clients’ business. Collecting and analyzing user data and feedback in your product/service management process needs to be a strong discipline. Additionally, getting feedback from your client facing teams as they pitch and deliver your offering in the competitive space can bring further valuable insights that should be considered. Of the three GtM strategy pillars and especially if you are a product based company, the product management function likely experiences the highest change dynamics and needs to be organized accordingly, closely connected to the CEO.     

As we can now see, for optimum sales performance, the time it takes to build the three pillars of an effective GtM strategy is an important foundational investment. Having led this initiative, as the CEO you can now confidently engage your downstream teams and manage them rigorously toward successful execution. To close the loop, what’s left to do is to measure all steps along the sales funnel and use that data to iterate the GtM strategy. Rinse and repeat.

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Topics: Revenue Culture, Revenue Management

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