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Sales is about hitting your numbers and the rapid fire adrenalin fuelled process of nailing monthly and annual sales targets comes with the territory but how many of your sales teams are aiming to hit targets two and three years out? Sales teams just aren't compensated that way. Future growth isn't about gut instinct or reading tea leaves to find the next big thing. The organisations that we work with systematically invest about ten percent of their time, effort and resources in trying to understand where the future trends will be and figuring out how but their organisation into the best position to take full advantage of them.

At the 311 Institute our vision is up to twenty years out and our Associates work diligently to identify not only marketplace trends but also future technologies that our customers could dovetail in to maximise their chances of success and first mover advantage.

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At the 311 Institute our experience continues to show us that there are three golden rules of Trend Hunting and you will have to forgive us if this one sounds obvious but in our experience we've found that organisations seldom monitor the most relevant insights. Trend analyses are often based on old assumptions - the way that a market behaved and dynamically interacted with everyone and everything that touched it in the past is not how it's going to behave in the future. One way to experience this for yourself is to look back three years and see if the insights you're monitoring now would have correctly predicted growth. If not then that might be a sign that you're looking at the wrong data. One critical way to identify the trends that matter to your organisation is to ask yourself how this could affect your customers and how your competition might react. These are basic questions but they're often overlooked when looking at long term trends.

Once you've narrowed down the trends that matter most to you it's still very easy for you to drown in complex models so our advice is to choose three or four trends that will drive 60 - 80% of your sales growth.

Too many companies fail to take effective action or manage performance based on the insights they uncover so if your organisation is getting increasingly caught in the cycle of transactional, quarterly selling then it's probable that you'll fail to realise your long term vision. We have found that the organisations that out perform their peers the most routinely invest about 5% of their sales costs on promising trends and then put the right metrics in place and track them closely adjusting them as necassary as they go.

Every organisation must embed forward planning into their culture and not just place it on the executives to do lists. Some companies establish formal relationships with venture capital firms while others embed forward looking analysis into their bi-annual capacity planning meetings.

While the challenge of spotting profitable trends even once may seem daunting, the organisations that endure, such as IBM are adept at doing it again and again because they have an institutionalised approach.

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