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Looking In The Mirror

by David Brock on July 19th, 2015
the mirror that reveals the inside

As sales and marketing professionals, we are supposed to help our customers identify new opportunities, improve their operations, solve problems.

More and more, we are learning that our success with customers has less to do with what we sell, but more to do with how we engage them, how we help them identify new opportunities through providing insight, and how we help facilitate the buying process.  In short, it’s how we help them identify the need to change and drive change in their own organizations.

We constantly struggle in doing this, we invest millions in training, tools, programs, and so forth–honing our marketing content and messages, polishing the skills of our people in helping our customers identify and solve problems.

Unfortunately, too often, we fail, so we go through another cycle with new training, different tools, different programs, sometimes different sales/marketing execs, doing it all over again.  Maybe we produce some results, but we can’t sustain them or they never meet our goals.

This is a good news, bad news story.

The good news is that in driving these strategies, we are customer focused, we are trying to do the things we need to be doing to engage our customers and prospects.  We’re trying to create value less in what we sell, but in how we sell and engage the customer.  By all measures of “modern sales/marketing,” that’s the right thing to do.

Now to get to the bad news.

I suspect one of the reasons we fail so often in doing this with the customers, is that we are really bad at doing the same thing internally.

Stated differently, if we are really bad at identifying opportunities, solving problems, driving change in our own organizations, how can we ever expect to be good at doing that with our customers?

It turns out, what we do with our customers is likely to mirror how effectively we do those same things internally.

If we consistently have high failure rates, dysfunctional behaviors, bad communications, churn, disagreement, resistance to change within our own organizations, we will not likely understand what success looks like.

As a result, we have great difficulty credibly communicating and engaging customers in solving their own problems and driving change in their own organization.

The phrase, “Physician, heal thyself,” comes to mind.

Perhaps, rather than going through a new round of investments in training, tools, people, programs focused on how we engage our customers; we should start looking at our own organizations and our abilities to solve problems and drive change with ourselves and colleagues in the company.

We can never really help our customers fix their problems, until we have fixed our own.

Intuitively, this makes sense.  We think of challenges our customers have in working with us–lack of ease of doing business, bad support, poor customer experience, billing problems, bad quality, missed commitments, unmet expectations.  Our own problems impact our ability to maintain and grow business with our customers.  Our newly acquired customers may not know this yet, but we might soon inflict these issues on them.

Perhaps, the best way to improve our abilities to help our customers is to first improve our abilities–and results in helping ourselves.

Perhaps, if we are truly collaborative, internally, we can learn how to be more collaborative with our customers.

Perhaps, if we are more disciplined and successful with our own ability to improve our operations, we can learn how to be more effective in helping our customers do the same.

Perhaps, if we are more genuinely interested in the success of our peers, other in the company–investing in shared success, we can learn to be better aligned with with helping our customers invest in and achieve success.

Perhaps, if we are much more effective at getting things done internally, we can learn how to help our customers get things done more effectively.

Perhaps, if our managers and executives are better at problem solving and change management internally, they could more effectively coach sales people in how to do this with their customers.

Perhaps, if we are better, internally, at learning and continuous improvement, we would have the experience base and capabilities to offer our customers true leadership in their learning, improvement, change management journeys.

Maybe, before we invest in that next new sales training program, tool or initiative to help our customers solve their problems, we might first look in the mirror.

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