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“Clinging To The Familiar”

by David Brock on August 21st, 2013

Change is a struggle for everyone–individuals and organizations.  The business world is littered with the carcasses of once great organizations that clung to their products and business models, while the rest or the world (their customers and competitors) passed them by.

As individuals, too often, we cling to the false security of what has always worked in the past.  The marketing and sales strategies that served us well years ago.  The methods and processes we are comfortable with, though they don’t seem to be as effective as they used to be.

Perhaps we do them with greater intensity, making more phone dials, repeating the same old scripts.  Or upping the volume of emails, or being more outrageous in our product pitches.  We get so busy doing the same old things, that we don’t take the time to think of doing things differently.

Or perhaps we are lulled into complacency, smug in our current or past successes, blind to the fact that things are changing, or that we could do even better.

It’s human nature to cling to the familiar—past the point of failure.

It’s uncomfortable to change, particularly abrupt, disruptive changes.  The risk, resources, time all weigh heavily on our ability to be successful.  Sometimes, we’re just too late.

There’s another way to think of things–continuous improvement.  Small changes, constantly.  Always seeking to refine improve, and adapt.  Not being satisfied with today’s success, perhaps being a little paranoid — there are people out there who want to and will beat you, particularly if you don’t change.

So continuous improvement needs to be part of the fabric of our business, it needs to be embedded in our culture.  Continuous improvement starts with continuous learning and constant curiosity.  What’s happening in our markets?  What’s happening with our industry and competitors?  What about unanticipated competitors?  Most important, what’s happening with our customers, how do they want to be engaged?

Experimentation is another way to think of things.  A few people trying something new, with strong management sponsorship.  Testing new ideas, refining them, then introducing them to the rest of the organization.

There are all sorts of ways to look at continuous improvement and learning, but the most important thing is, individually and organizationally, embed it into what you do constantly.  Think of some new ideas or the danger signs:

  1. What are you learning or reading?  If you aren’t doing any of this, you’re well on the way to becoming obsolete.  If you are just reading “sales” stuff, you’re on the same path.
  2. Who are you talking to about new ideas?  Are you experimenting–not big things, but lots of small things?
  3. Do you have greater difficulty in “connecting” with your customers?
  4. Are you looking beyond what’s familiar–other industries, other sectors, artfully copying great practices from very different businesses (for example, there is so much in B2C that we can apply in B2B)?
  5. Audit what you are currently doing.  If you’ve been doing it the same way for more than a few years, it may no longer be the best practice.  If you’ve been doing things the same way for more than five years, you are probably living in the past?
  6. Are you working harder to produce the same results or less?  If you are, something’s wrong.
  7. Do you find yourself saying, “we’ve always done things this way?”  Or dismissing ideas, “we tried that before, it didn’t work.”
  8. Are you saying, “we’re meeting our goals, why change?”

Change is never easy, but if we become accustomed to continuous learning and improvement, we are more likely to be successful in recognizing the need to change and implementing it (small or big).

Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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  1. Dave: as ever, great points. One thing I’d add: the path to continuous improvement is paved with being comfortable outside comfort zones, especially when the pressure’s on. Put another way: [when performance pressures are on] = [the potential value of learning thru experimentation is heightened] + [yet it’s most comfortable to revert to the familiar and continue to do things as you always have]. Fast feedback, that makes the need for something better obvious for all to see, often helps. Trust this adds some value. – John

  2. “If you are just reading “sales” stuff,…..
    you’re well on the way to becoming obsolete.”

    Agree, agree, agree!

    When I am asked to recommend sales books, I recommend 2, both are evidence based. I then recommend about 100 other books, which give insights into life, love, business and purpose.

    One of my favourite answers to the question:
    “When will the customer buy?” is

    “When their imagination meets their thoughts at a cross-roads,
    make sure you are the only one standing there when they arrive!”

    Currently reading Dave Pelz’s “Short Game Bible” and getting really excited about the innovations awaiting Sales Training!

    • Brian: Would love to get more of your “reading list. Could you post it on your blog sometime (maybe a running list in the sidebar). I’d learn a lot from that. Read Pelz’s book a long time ago — my short game still is terrible, have to re-read from a sales point of view.

  3. Perry Denning permalink

    Too often Sales and Marketing believe continuous improvement is only applicable to manufacturing and operations. It is refreshing indeed to see it applied to these fields as well. It’s total quality!

    • Perry, thanks for the great observation. Continuous improvement and innovation are critical–both to individual performance and overall organizational excellence. You may be interested in looking at some of the posts on Lean Sales and Marketing at this site to see more of the discussion. Regards, Dave

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