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The Training Resource Group, Inc. | Philadelphia, PA

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Avoid the 6 Types of Quicksand that Doom Business Growth

In our respective work with client companies, we have observed six specific types of challenges that can trap, mire, and sink companies. We refer to them as quicksand because they may not be readily apparent on the surface—especially to those focusing elsewhere. We have seen these challenges confronting companies at multiple stages in their lifecycle: start-up, investment-seeking and growth-plateaued.

If you are tasked with leading, managing, selling, or marketing in any of these phases, we recommend sharing this article with your leadership. The discussions will save time, money, and stress...and the actions you take will protect you from these types of quicksand:


Narcissism here means a hyper-focus on one’s own perspective, and believing it to be entirely correct, despite ignoring the environment.

Environmental and Competitive Assessments are essential for understanding the market TODAY. These assessments describe trends, actors, influencers, rising and ebbing forces that impact purchasing decisions and opportunities to leverage—or create—interest. The best way to avoid this quicksand it to ensure someone, if not the CEO, regularly asks:

  • How does our product/service satisfy these new changes in market demands?
  • Can our leadership team answer clearly, concretely, and concisely when prospective clients and investors ask the questions “Why” and “Why now?”



Operating without a current, written plan that addresses hazard in the customer and competitor environment, company leaders may as well be navigating in the dark. It is crucial to draw up a plan that illuminates a path forward for everyone on the team. From raising capital in start-up or expansion phases, to planning new products, engaging buyers, and achieving sales goals, a complete and current Go-To-Market Strategy (GTMS) is essential.

Obscura quicksand surrounds you if there is no fully- documented description of your product/service, market opportunity, market plan, and selling strategy. The GTMS represents your team’s best thinking in anticipation of quicksand and enabling success in each business phase. The answers to these questions are key to shining a light on areas that otherwise represent potentially deadly quicksand:

  • Do we have written benchmarks for production, financing, sales pipeline, sales training, marketing, and promotion?
  • Have we completed quarterly reviews of our performance against these benchmarks, and updated how we need to alter our effort to accomplish those goals we’ve missed?



We’ve met dozens of businesses that put so much time into perfecting their product or service, before completing Environmental or Competitive Assessments, that they ran out of cash before they could activate a GTMS. They spent so much time “getting ready to get ready” that the market moved on to new ideas before they arrived to sell.

Eric Ries’ Lean Startup approach has important lessons for both start-ups and mature companies seeking success with new offerings. Pursuing perfection without customer reaction and input puts you at risk for misallocating precious resources and missing excellent opportunities.

To avoid this quicksand, ensure that product plans and production are running in parallel with market research and promotion planning. The answers to these questions will provide a real edge for your team, your investors, and personnel recruiters:

  • Are we creating a product/service or developing a business?
  • Have we obtained credible input directly from our current AND prospective customers in the last six months?
  • Can we link (and promote) specific features and benefits of our product/service to customer input? 
  • Who do we need to hire to complement our strengths and remedy our weaknesses to help the business grow?

Focusing on obtaining, and responding to, fresh insights about market needs and reaction enables confidence in the production of a marketable product/service that can earn essential income—and prevent competitors from beating you to market. That’s perfection!



Products and services lacking distinguishing features are relegated to becoming “Brand X” in comparison with market leaders. When planning your product or service, it is essential to identify whether—and exactly how— your product or service responds to a need or void in the chosen market. Think about the value proposition from your clients’ perspective:

  • How, exactly, will purchasing your product/service deliver value in ways I will experience, perceive, or measure?
  • Will the benefit be worth the money to acquire it?

Companies sometimes wait to address client-centric concerns—and decision drivers—in their sales and marketing plans until after they have fully formed products and that is too late.



Experienced and insightful beats earnest and confident ... EVERY TIME. Hiring people who are inexperienced and under-trained (“greenhorns”), is a particularly painful and expensive type of quicksand. This is especially true when it involves job-hopper recruits from staffing agencies, business associates’ children, former roommates, or neighbors and friends who just happen to be handy—and interested.

No matter how good-natured and motivated someone is, everyone benefits from professional training. This is especially true when the organization requires experienced and skilled staff AND wants to build a strong culture. Client-First Culture, for example, evolves and adapts to new technology preferences and social norms, so it is imperative that staff training be done in a professional and thorough manner—by experienced pros.

Ask yourself, from a new employee’s perspective:

  • Do we have a written set of objectives and norms that define and describe Client-First Culture as it’s done here?
  • How would our clients and staff describe our success in creating and projecting a Client-First Culture within our organization?
  • Are our customer-facing staff (who answer the phone, respond to website inquiries, tweets, social media posts, and email), projecting the image that we want for our company? Are they motivated to project this image consistently and energetically?
  • Does each and EVERY employee understand the impact that they have on our company’s success?



Even after avoiding all the other types of quicksand, good products and teams fail when their sales effort starts off—or falls into being—slack. Slack means undisciplined and executed poorly due to a lack of consistent care and effort. There are two drivers of sales success that, when adhered to, tighten up operations and reduce the risk of slacking sales performance:

  • A sales cookbook defines the process used to qualify sales opportunities. It lays out the sales activities essential to consistent and dedicated effort.
  • The sales playbook describes the process that will be used to close sales opportunities.

For a sales cookbook to deliver consistent results it must answers these questions:

  • What is your revenue goal?
  • What is an average client worth to your business over the course of a year?
  • How many opportunities do you need to be in front of to accomplish your goals?

As essential as a Sales Plan is, it is not a GTMS. Sending a sales team out without a GTMS is like sending a Search and Rescue team out without a map. In our experience, sending salespeople out without a good marketing strategy requires triple the effort to hit their numbers because it increases the challenge to open doors. A Marketing Plan without a Sales Cookbook or Sales Playbook, results in wasting many qualified opportunities (or time chasing unqualified opportunities) because the people doing lead follow-up will be unprepared to succeed.

Knowing your quicksand risk will enable you to allocate precious time and resources wisely. How prepared is your company is to avoid these types of quicksand? We invite you to click on the link below to complete a free 5-minute Quicksand Risk Assessment.

You will receive a meaningful assessment profile that you can share with your team, and have the opportunity to receive a free phone consultation to walk you through your results. Keep your business on track—and on a firm footing. Mind the quicksand.



Evan Polin is President of The Training Resource Group which coaches executives and sales teams on how to create and capitalize on new sales opportunities. Evan has helped hundreds of businesses develop their sales teams and implement sales cultures that enable them to double sales, increase their profit margins, and capture market share. He is a certified Sandler Trainer and co-author of the book, “Selling Professional Services the Sandler Way: Nobody Ever Told Me I’d Have to Sell.”

Matt Roberts is an award-winning Marketing Strategist who has worked on staff at Fortune 100 and sector leading companies as well as marketing agencies that serve them. An experienced leader of successful cross- functional sales and marketing teams, he delivers measurably-effective roadmaps, strategies and tactical campaigns that achieve objectives, expand market share, and exceed revenue targets. He is a Past-President of the American Marketing Association’s Philadelphia chapter.

Complete a free 5-minute Quicksand Risk Assessment