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Habits of Hyper-Growth Sales #6: Be a Flywheel Builder

(This post originally appeared on LinkedIn here)

You cannot scale input exponentially, but you can build engines that exponentially grow for a long time. So sustained hyper-growth sales are not the immediate result of input, they are the outcome of building growth engines.

At Amazon we called them flywheels: They usually start small, but over time they generate more and more mass and, as a result, gravity. Some of the ones I built started with annual revenues in the 5-digits and grew into 8-digits within a few years.

Actually, my input was normally quite limited, in some cases just a small number of man-days. Once they started to spin, I moved on to build the next ones. Some plateaued, some died, but most continued to grow forever.

But what about the customer?

By now all large enterprises had their fair share of major fails with entering into very large engagements involving scores of internal and external resources, large commitments, and years to produce a result. Today they are all very receptive for proposals to start small, deliver value quickly, iterate, generate more value, iterate.

This is exactly where you position your flywheel.

Ideally the problem you solve is just about to be recognized. At a later stage either a competitor has already established a presence, or the customer decides to go for a formal buying process, e.g., an RfP.

You start with a Proof of Concept (PoC) and focus on the biggest issue that prevented a solution so far (commercial, technical, organizational, resourcing). You agree that, provided you can solve this issue, the PoC will be turned into a pilot, and the pilot will be released into production once the business case was proven.

Once in production you transfer ownership of the flywheel to a delivery manager inside your own organization or to a partner - and move on to building the next one.

Done right the flywheel will continue building mass up to a size it will attract scrutiny by controllers (because there was never a decision to spend that much on it) and generate the desire of competitors to take it away from you. This is when you will have to take ownership back to defend the flywheel.

There will be multiple attempts to take the flywheel away from you up until a point when it has gained enough mass and incremental costs are so low that there isn’t a business case for replacing you.

There is one downside, though: Your management will not see you building flywheels and might not have the patience to let you continue with it. They might ask you to speed up growth of the flywheel at any price or, worst case, prematurely go for a corporate decision by the customer to standardize on your flywheel opening the door for the competition to sneak in.

To prevent this, you need to describe all your flywheels in the account plan and how they will contribute to long-term growth towards your Think Big goal. And get your management to buy into this plan.

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