A flywheel is a mechanical device used to smooth out energy in combustion engines. It's also a heavy wheel used to oppose and moderate the fluctuation of speed through its inertia. Jim Collins, the author of several books about how companies grow or decline, added a monograph called Turning the Flywheel to accompany his book Good to Great. The monograph explains why some companies build momentum and others don't.
Recently, I have seen sales organizations suggest they are replacing their sales funnel or sales pipeline with the sales flywheel. In Turning the Flywheel, Collins recounts a meeting with Jeff Bezos and his team. The Amazon team wanted a virtuous cycle, so they developed one that relies on the flywheel. Amazon's flywheel starts with "lower prices on more offerings," which "increases customer visits," which "attracts third-party sellers," which expands the store and extends distribution, which "grows revenue per fixed costs," at which point, it starts over, speeding up as leaders continue to act and make decisions.
Imagining a Sales Flywheel
Let's imagine a flywheel model for sales. It wouldn't look anything like a sales pipeline. Instead, it would be a way to reduce friction and grow the business. Here is a starting point for creating a B2B sales flywheel:
- Train the sales team to use sales strategies that create value in the sales conversation, which
- Provides decision-makers with a better sales experience, one that helps them learn what they need to do to improve their results, which
- Causes the stakeholders to prefer to engage with the salesperson, in a way that
- Creates a preference to buy from the salesperson and their company, at which time
- The client realizes the better results they were pursuing, creating an opportunity for the sales organization to create new value by cross-selling other offerings that help the client with even greater results, at which time, the flywheel starts another turn.
You can see that the sales flywheel is nothing close to a sales funnel or pipeline. It also has no resemblance to a B2B sales process. Instead, it's a strategy for increasing the company's revenue and delighting customers (a critical component of Amazon's flywheel).
It's rare that sales organizations start the process of revenue growth by providing sales training that helps their B2B sales teams create greater value in the sales conversation. Instead, most skip to the part where they close deals. It is difficult for sales leaders and sales managers to recognize that if the prospective client doesn't want to buy from their B2B salespeople, they will not buy their company's offering. The flywheel only works if it is logical, with each factor leading to the next outcome.
It's important to recognize that every decision you make may improve your flywheel, increasing the speed at which it turns. But the opposite is also true, as some decisions may slow the flywheel. The flywheel described above will not work if you go straight to the fourth step, creating a preference to buy from the salesperson, then try to cross sell (step 5). Without the momentum generated by the first three stages in the flywheel, you can’t complete steps 4 and 5.
A Revenue Growth Flywheel for Sales Leaders
Let's look at a revenue growth flywheel for sales leaders.
- Develop a vision that can activate the sales organization’s latent potential, which
- Allows sales leaders to communicate the new goals and targets that require new behaviors, that
- Require sales training and development to support the better results by executing the sales flywheel, resulting in
- Greater revenue growth because of activating the latent potential of the sales force by winning more opportunities, which,
- Brings the vision to life, starting the revenue growth flywheel on its second turn.
Every sales leader is responsible for revenue growth. Hitting your targets in one year means the sales leader is gifted an even larger goal. The first thing the sales leader needs to do is create a vision of the future that will activate the latent potential of their sales force. Because the sales force didn't already hit the new target in the price year, something must change. The flywheel’s momentum relies on unleashing its latent potential by driving new techniques and strategies. Without the new behaviors to improve sales results, you are not likely to reach your new goal. As a result, you will fail to bring your vision to life. You may need sales enablement to support the new competencies and behaviors.
The advice Collins offers in Flywheel is to shoot bullets before shooting cannonballs. The idea here is to be careful with your flywheel, avoiding a change that might break or slow its rotation. Explore small changes and ensure they improve your flywheel.
The Execution of a Flywheel
I have personal experience building a flywheel for a business. The challenge is that poor execution at one component can cause the flywheel to slow and eventually stop. It takes more energy to restart the flywheel once it stops. For example, you can have a situation where one part of a process is executed perfectly, while the following part is not being executed efficiently enough to keep the process going. This can lead to an overall decrease in productivity, as the process will not be as effective as it could be with all parts working together, propelling one another forward.
The success of a flywheel relies on the execution of each component and how all the parts interact with each other, so it’s best to address anything that might slow things down as soon as you identify a problem. A loss of momentum could be due to a lack of resources, training, or understanding of the process. Quickly identify the cause of the slowdown and try to correct the problem, so the overall process can run smoothly and efficiently. It is also essential to ensure that the sales team has the training and resources to execute their tasks efficiently. Doing so will help to ensure the success of the flywheel and the organization's revenue growth.