Why (And How) To Continually Break And Adapt Your Company’s GTM Model As You Grow

Craig Hanson December 21, 2021

If you don’t break your GTM model, your growth will.

In their initial stage of growth, most CEOs, CROs and CMOs expect that if they can crack the code on their company’s go-to-market (GTM) model — product-market fit, ideal customer profile, differentiated value, market positioning, and sales model — then they can just focus on executing it. When that model succeeds in driving rapid growth early on, it gets validated and often solidified in the minds of company leadership as the enduring formula that will guide the company through multiple phases of growth. 

That almost never works. 

Why? Because especially in hyper-growth mode, everything around you is changing, fast. Customer needs and expectations evolve. Market receptivity breaks open in some areas and gets harder in others. Your product features expand and push into new capabilities. New competitors emerge and get tougher. And of course, the simple law of diminishing returns makes doing more of the same just less productive as you scale.

Sales and marketing leaders that recognize their GTM model is a dynamic, continually-imperfect concept can anticipate these changes and put systems in place to proactively adapt it over time. Leaders that hew to static plans don’t. At the very least, static plans lead to missed opportunities. At worst, they spell disaster. To keep pace with your own rapid growth, you have to break your own model before it breaks you.

Good companies build a strong GTM model. Great companies continually break and reinvent it.

A frequent example of a growth-stressed GTM model is when companies move upmarket in their sales focus. At best, this shift is driven by customer pull as product capabilities have expanded and matured, opening up new customer segments. Economics often also prompt this as companies need larger absolute deal sizes to keep racking up fast growth rates. 

This shift alone changes a surprisingly wide array of your model’s components:

  • Larger customers require additional, enterprise-grade product attributes that smaller customers don’t. 
  • Your sales cycle gets longer and more complex, and is multi-threaded among more buyer personas and additional groups weighing in that weren’t there before. As a result, how your team runs sales processes and manages the pipeline has to change.
  • With this added complexity, deal processes face more friction and it’s harder to figure out why. 
  • Your sales team needs to be coached to speak the language of these customers and handle new objections. 
  • Sales and customer success teams need to be trained on new skills and equipped with new levels of sales enablement resources. 
  • Marketing will have to listen closely to the desires and early feedback of these customers to craft the positioning, messaging, and sourcing that resonates with them. Then, importantly, somehow Sales and SalesOps need to figure out if reps are delivering that messaging and help them optimize it. 
  • Meanwhile, everyone is getting buried with the expanding overhead of following up, managing deals, updating the CRM and staying aligned with colleagues as they try to keep up with more and bigger deals.

As you grow quickly in each new phase, everyone on your team has to operate at a higher level of complexity and scale to fit the new GTM model required—meaning the processes, training, systems and strategy that worked before no longer do.

So, given these inevitable changes, how can you get ahead of the curve and run a GTM organization that continually detects, learns and adapts?

The key is to adjust your GTM model proactively, looking strategically ahead at where you want to go.

Adapting to change you’re already feeling is reactionary. Getting ahead of the change requires a dynamic organizational system to proactively adapt your GTM model.

Here’s how to run your organization on a dynamic system:

Continually test, measure, and learn.

Build in real-time visibility into the details and nuances of what your customers and their sales processes are telling you. Track metrics rigorously and do fine-grained segmentation to uncover nascent trends that might otherwise get buried in averages or total results. Above all, make sure the signals you’re getting are based on reality, and not subjective assessments or lagging indicators, across all of your deals.

Find your boundaries and push them.

At each stage of growth, your customer fit frontier reaches natural boundaries, past which you can’t sell as effectively, such as due to product needs, customer requirements or tougher competition. Continually push to the edge of your customer fit frontier so you know how far you can go, and then explore if there’s a way to break through. The large majority of your sales operation will be focused on your sweet spot, but allocate 10-20% of your resources to explore the edges where your model stops working and why. What features would it take for the product to push past? Why are sales processes hitting more friction as you expand into new markets? What are customers telling you about how to transform your message? You can learn a tremendous amount. And often, you find that barrier isn’t as impenetrable as you thought. 

Run your business with a real-time, autonomous platform built to handle an ever-changing reality.

To help your organization keep pace through fast growth and constant change, the main system driving your revenue organization and giving insights to all of your teams has to operate based on the reality of what’s really going on, and it has to do so autonomously, easily, in real-time and at massive scale. Plug into the richest source of reality-based data on what’s happening in your sales process and customer interactions — the customer conversation — and use that as the nucleus to power how the entire system learns and adapts. This is what we do for CROs and other GTM leaders at Gong, where I’m VP of Product Strategy.

Bottom line: As you grow, what works today won’t always work. And that’s a good thing. Running a GTM organization built to continually break and adapt its own model as you rapidly scale can become a tremendous competitive advantage.

WRITTEN BY
Craig Hanson

Vice President of Product Strategy @ Gong