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“Nothing Happens Until A Customer Decides To Change”

by David Brock on May 15th, 2015
Traffic Sign Time For Change

There’s the old saying, “Nothing happens in an organization until a sale is made!”  Usually, it’s sales people saying it, often trying to defend their positions in the organization.

While the statement is true, we really need to revise it to more closely reflect the reality of what it takes to generate revenue, and the emerging new role of the sales professional.

We really need to be focused on, “Nothing happens until a customer decides to change.”

If a customer is happy with what they are doing, if they believe they are operating effectively, that they have no problems, that they are not missing any opportunities, that there is no room for improvement—-then there is absolutely no reason to change!

To all of us sales and marketing people, it’s tragic news, because the customer has no need to buy!

Any efforts we make to create a grandiose vision of some great future state, with our products and solutions squarely at the center, are meaningless and wasted efforts.  They waste the customer’s time–even pissing them off to the point of not wanting to listen to us.  They waste our time, because we simply will produce no results.

But look at most sales strategies.  We focus on how great things will be for them, once they buy our products.

“I can reduce your costs…..  I can improve your productivity…..   I can improve your quality….  I can improve your customers’ experiences….  I can help you make more money!”

As true as those statements may be, they are meaningless until the customer has decided to change.  Until they acknowledge,  “We can no longer do things the way we always have, we must do something different,”  they will never enter a buying motion.

This presents a new challenge and a new reality for sales and marketing.  In fact, it turns our traditional view of the sequencing of marketing and sales activities on its head!

Marketing organizations invest a lot in creating meaningful content to help educate the customer as they navigate the buying cycle.  Content is now tuned to role, industry, problem, and where they are in their buying cycle.

But what’s going to cause prospects and customers to engage in educating themselves and looking at that content?  Unless they have some fleeting idea that things might not be right, that there might be something different they should be doing, that there might be a better way, they won’t bite–they won’t respond to our emails, our provocative tweets, our blog articles, our ads, our webcasts.

Since our marketing is driven by customer pull and nurturing that interest, how do we reach the disinterested?  How do we initiate the pull?  How do we get them to pay attention to all that great content?  How do we get them to even think about the possibility of changing?

There are certainly many customers getting to the point of changing on their own initiative.  It may be driven by their own personal learning and curiosity, a continuous improvement effort, or a problem smacking them square in the face.

The problem, from a sales point of view, is there usually aren’t enough of these customers to achieve our revenue goals.  There are simply not enough customers picking up the phone, downloading our content, engaging us in discussions about how to change, how to grow, how to more effectively achieve their goals.

We have to do something different!  We cannot wait for marketing to create and nurture that interest until the reach a certain maturity “score.”

Sales has to get out an light a fire in customer’s imaginations or under their asses.  Sales has to get the customer to think, to consider there might be a better way.   We have to get the customer kick-started down the path to get to the point of saying, “We must change!”

This is completely the opposite of how we have designed our engagement process, with marketing leading and passing the baton to sales.

Yes, nothing happens until the customer decides to change.  But we can’t wait for them to make that decision.  We can’t let them make that mistake for their own organizations.  We have to change our process, we must disrupt their thinking, we must get them going down the path of deciding to change.

While I’ll stop here, this creates a profound challenge for corporate, sales executives, and sales enablement.  It’s “How do we select, train, equip, and deploy our sales people to do this?”  I’ll address these issues in future posts.

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