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On Sales/Marketing Friction

by David Brock on June 5th, 2019

We misunderstand the concept of friction in sales and marketing. At least we look at it to narrowly.

Too often, we look think of friction in terms of conflict, disagreement, or difficulty. Those are aspects of friction and it’s understandable how we may want to minimize it (at least the difficulty part of it, conflict and disagreement are part of change–we just need to manage it appropriately).

But there’s another important aspect of friction that’s absolutely critical and essential to our shared success with our customers.

If we look at friction–or the absence of friction from a scientific sense, the frictionless world means that objects continue in motion, along the same path, forever. They neither speed up, nor slow down. They never change direction. It’s only when we introduce friction that we drive change in the behavior of a physical object. We shift it’s direction, we speed it up, we slow it down.

Scientists and engineers understand the importance of friction. They know they have to manage the friction on an object to be able to control it’s behavior and motion. If we want to “put the 8 ball in the side pocket,” we have to account for the friction and force with which use on the cue when we strike the cue ball, the speed and where it hits the 8 ball, the friction of the pool table surface on the speed of both balls, the friction created by the bumpers which enable us to direct the 8 ball into the corner pocket. Without friction, we literally could not accomplish this.

Scientists and engineers, also, understand the destructive aspects of friction. Too much friction can destroy the mechanism (As I discovered burning out a bearing on a drive shaft….)

The same thing applies in business, sales and marketing. Without friction, we never change. Without friction we never learn (there is no need to learn). Without understanding and managing friction, we are not in control of what we do, where we go, what we achieve. Friction is a necessary part of making progress and growing.

Selling and marketing cannot be frictionless. We create friction with each new idea or insight. We create friction in getting our customers to recognize the need to change–after all, if there were no friction, they would never change. The learning process is friction since it causes change, it helps the customer understand which direction they need to go, at what speed, and what force is needed to achieve their goals. The buying journey is filled with friction, created by the customer buying team with themselves and us, that we inject and that created by our competition/the alternatives.

Our customers face friction every day. Friction created by their customers, their internal processes, their markets, their suppliers. Much of the friction our customers face is friction that diverts them from where they need to be going. They need to find ways to change that direction to achieve their goals.

We live in a world of constant friction because we live in a world of constant change.

Friction is important, the trick is, are we creating the right friction?

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