The Nightmare of “Ready Fire Aim”

The phrase “Ready, Fire, Aim” (as opposed to the traditional “Ready, Aim, Fire”) seems to be all the rage now. Do a Google search and there are over 29 million entries. A best-selling book (by Michael Masterson, a highly successful entrepreneur) carries the title. Aggressive start-up CEO’s seeking top performers weed out anyone with the old “Ready, Aim, Fire” mentality. Too Slow. Too Risk Averse. So Yesterday.

In his book Masterson says, “Nothing matters more than selling.” Naturally, we agree. He says there are three key steps to getting a new business off the ground: Step one: Get the product ready enough to sell, but don’t worry about perfecting it. Step two: Sell it. Step three: If it sells, make it better.

But we’ll bet you that even Masterson wouldn’t dare use a “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach when he actually goes and sells. If he did, he wouldn’t be nearly so successful. Because translating that approach into a sales strategy almost always ends up being expensive, or a failure, or both.

Taking the “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach when you’re in front of a prospect is tantamount to going into a meeting without investigating the prospect’s industry, or their company. It means not understanding how what you offer will make a meaningful difference in the business. Not knowing what the competitive set is and how your offering is different and better. You can throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks. But it’s messy and wasteful, and the cleanup isn’t fun.

We’ve seen all variations of this nightmare in our work with clients over the years.

We’ve confirmed repeatedly that it pays to take aim before you fire away in a sales process. Your resources — time, money, people — are constrained. Use them wisely. Doing the right amount of analysis upfront (quickly, mind you) allows you to focus on a smaller set of Hot Opportunity Prospects, iterate faster to a proven sales process, and yield more closed business and more revenue than taking the shotgun approach. You also end up with a more scalable way to generate predictable revenue going forward.

The flaw in the logic held by those that cling to “Ready, Fire, Aim” is believing that if their approach is “fast”, “Ready, Aim, Fire” is therefore plodding. That “Ready, Aim, Fire” will miss the market in the search for perfect understanding. That’s hogwash, based on the empirical results of our work with over 140 clients in the past 10 years. We’ve encountered the financial and organizational mess created by the “Ready Fire Aim” approach more than we care to remember.

Failing is way less cool than taking a “Ready, Aim, Fire” approach when your business is on the line.

Author: Rich Stillman, Partner

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