Aiming High In A Market Downturn

No. 1 Fast Growth performer NWN has the right formula to win in tough times

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NWN, which has taken the top spot in CRN's Fast Growth solution provider list for two years running, isn't buying into the doom and gloom that many of us are eating up daily in newspapers, TV and the Internet. In fact, NWN is planning for aggressive growth this year.

NWN CEO Mont Phelps likes to use the analogy that just like "hypochondriacs" can talk themselves into being sick, so can a company and its employees talk themselves into a sales downturn. Not so with NWN, which held its sales conference from Feb. 5 to 8 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from NWN's relentless pursuit of excellence. Here are just a few.

Aim High: OK, it's a clich. But check out NWN's theme for this year's sales conference: AIM. It stands for Acquire new customers, Increase business with current customers, Maintain current business. Everyone in the organization has a simple, clear and direct call to action. Make no mistake about it. NWN has decided not to participate in the recession and is raising the bar for 2009. And it has backed up the theme with aggressive sales targets for its entire team.

Everyone Is In Sales: One of the defining moments of the NWN event came when NWN Executive Vice President Skip Tappen asked everyone in sales to stand up. Of course, there were a number of services and operations employees who didn't stand up, only to be reminded that, yes, everyone on the NWN team is in sales. That means looking out for opportunities and driving sales with everything you do, day in and day out. Another great moment: a series of sales role-playing scenarios with employees taking turns being a sales account executive, customer and an observer with detailed customer scenarios and objectives. Everyone in the NWN organization knows the company's solution mission and focus.

Partner With The Right Vendors: NWN has made a strategic decision to partner with the right vendors with the right technologies. It is one of a handful of nationally managed partners for HP, Cisco, Microsoft and EMC. It's no small matter that HP's vice president of the Solutions Partner Organization, Frank Rauch (who joked that Phelps has his cell phone number), and Cisco's manager of channel operations, Mario Forziati, were there to rally the NWN troops. It's because NWN is driving big sales gains for those vendors.

Go Where The Money Is: NWN is sharply focused on the midmarket and robust verticals like state and local government and education markets and, of course, hot emerging technologies like virtualization, blade servers and unified communications. Look for NWN to capture a healthy share of the government IT stimulus fund with its smart government solutions group.

Lead With Customer-Focused Solutions: NWN's services business is growing dramatically. It is winning in the market with solutions that are driving best-in-class customer satisfaction scores. Nothing matters more than satisfied customers.

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