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Ideas in the Wild: How Karen Hayward is Helping Mid-Market CEOs Create a Clear Path to Sustainable Growth

Many mid-market companies in today’s digital era lack a comprehensive growth plan. They launch sales initiatives that are reactive and ineffective, not supported by solid marketing plans, lack KPIs, and are frustrated by the lack of ROI on monies spent. Without a systematic roadmap, they fail to take their business where it needs to go.

Karen Hayward worked in the trenches with Fortune 1000 companies for twenty years. As a consultant, she’s used the knowledge gained through experience to help mid-market CEOs see the bigger picture and develop in-house marketing and sales strategies based on the voice of the customer and real market insight. She wrote Stop Random Acts of Marketing: Deliberate & Practical Growth Strategies for Mid-Market CEOs to provide readers with the necessary tools for prioritizing, optimizing, and initiating a clear plan for sustainable growth.

I recently caught up with Karen to see what moment inspired her to write the book, her favorite idea that she shares with readers, and how she’s applied that idea to her own work.

What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?

I decided to write the book when I became a Vistage and TEC speaker, speaking to mid-market CEOs about accelerating the growth of their businesses. I was getting feedback on how practical and cost-effective the best practices and tactics were that I was sharing and thought: “Why not document my learnings over the years and share more broadly?” I love working with CEOs and their teams to accelerate growth and felt the book would be a great tool in helping me convey some key strategies and tactics to unlock growth.

What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?

That’s a tough question, but if I have to narrow it down to one action that can really drive positive change, it is about getting an external resource to conduct Win Loss analysis at least on an annual basis. There is an over reliance on thinking price is the big determinant — in fact, price accounts for a win less than 25% of the time. The biggest reason is likely something that did or did not happen in the sales process. Another reason is so many executive leaders rely on feedback solely from their salesforce, and as I point out in the book, that can be dangerous.

It is an easy exercise that can usually be completed in less than 30 days, and one that really helps you better understand and identify your buyer’s journey, decision making process, who else was involved in the buying process, other competitors, and ultimately, what criteria drove the decision. Better understanding how your prospect evaluates and buys your product or service can be invaluable in increasing your win-rate and adjusting your messaging, lead generation, proposals, and sales enablement tools to be more effective. Using an outsider resource and assuring the interviewee confidentiality allows for an open and full conversation.

What’s a story of how you’ve applied this lesson in your own life? What has this lesson done for you?

I was working with a cyber security company whose win-rate dropped significantly due to a new market entrant who was $15,000 less expensive, and when the team debriefed with the sales force, the feedback was that it would be necessary to price match.

I suggested we conduct an independant win-loss analysis and within 45 days we learned the root cause of our increased loss rate was due to our lack of a product road map. We were being “out sold” by a competitor who offered fewer features, but could create doubt about our ability to keep up with the evolving security threats. In a category where there is a high perceived switching cost, there is a huge weight placed on service development and evolution to keep up with the industry. Imagine, if the CEO had taken the advice on reducing price, we’d have given up margin and would not have increased the proposal win rate. The invaluable lesson is the importance of following the voice of your customer — they will define your path to a win!

For more advice on creating a path to sustainable growth, you can find Stop Random Acts of Marketing: Deliberate & Practical Growth Strategies for Mid-Market CEOs on Amazon.



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Zach Obront

Zach Obront


Co-Founder of Scribe, Bestselling Author of The Scribe Method