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Customer And Market Transitions Wait For No One

by David Brock on April 23rd, 2012

I was struck by this comment from John Chambers, Chairman and CEO of Cisco, ” We got knocked on our tail last year. Market transitions wait for no one. The ability to recognize and move on these is critical. If we don’t change, we won’t make it through these transitions and if you don’t change you won’t either. It’s happening at a faster pace in every industry.”

We all talk about how our customers are changing–what they do, how they buy, their expectations of suppliers is changing.  No business or individual can afford to stand still and survive.  Every organization is constantly string to innovate and improve.

This presents a special challenge for sales and marketing professionals.  Too often, we’re playing catch up–our customers are changing faster than we are.  We are still using our old techniques, approaches, and methods.  We’re marketing to them in the traditional ways.  Too often, we find our efforts are producing the results we need, our demand generation programs aren’t generating enough leads, we can’t get into customers to talk about their needs and requirements, our customers are leveraging the web and other sources to identify and narrow solution alternatives for their business.  We struggle to be relevant and create value for our customers.

But for many top sales and marketing professionals, this is a tremendous opportunity to provide leadership to our customers.   Imagine if we could help the customer recognize the transitions earlier–and help them take advantage of them.  What about helping customers create the transition?

“But Dave,” some of you might say, “the transitions Chambers speaks of are major structural changes in the world markets and economy, you can’t expect us to be driving those!”  In reality, they missed some major transitions as well as lots of smaller, more subtle transitions.  Cumulatively, they had a tremendous impact on Cisco, as they have had on many other organizations.

But I still maintain, “we” have the opportunity to help our customers anticipate and even drive transitions.  At an individual level, there are all sorts of things our customers may be blind to.  After all, too often, they are just caught up in the day to day.  They may not take the time to look around to see what’s happening to their customers, market, or with their competitors.  Or some of the things may just be beyond their experience base. 

We set ourselves apart by helping our customers recognize these transitions—by helping them understand what’s changing, how it might impact them, what they could achieve if they took advantage of the opportunity.

At a broader level, our companies should be providing leadership.  If the company is truly customer focused, we spend lots of time not just responding to our customers’ needs, but anticipating changes they may be facing and developing compelling solutions for them.  Product development people who look beyond our customers and their needs, to their customers and what they are doing. 

We and our customers can’t wait for the transitions and respond—we must anticipate, create and lead the transitions.  We must constantly be innovating.

When we see transitions happening around use–whether it’s to our customers or within our organizations, we can’t ignore them, we can’t resist them, we have to recognize them, embrace them and change.    There is no option, as Chambers says, “If we don’t change, we won’t make it through these transitions and if you don’t change you won’t either. It’s happening at a faster pace in every industry.”

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