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Faux Transformations

by David Brock on November 26th, 2018

The word “transformation,” has become the buzzword for 2018.  Every consultant, guru, prognosticator talks about transformation.  Within organizations, executives proudly present their transformation strategies.  Yeah, I also use the word–possibly too much.

The problem is, when one looks at most of these “transformations,” nothing looks that different from before, certainly the outcomes don’t look any better-much of the research data would suggest sales/marketing performance is getting worse.

Too often, a new technology tool is viewed as transformative, but instead, organizations often end up doing the same things they always have, just assisted by expensive new technology.  In some cases, all the technology enables them to do is make the same mistakes with more people at a dramatically faster rate.

Or it’s the new transformative training program–which is training people in yesterday’s skills.  How can we tranform what our sales people are doing, when the bulk of our training focuses on training/refining the same old skills?  I can count, on one hand, the number of training initiatives I’ve seen that focus on critical thinking, curiosity, collaboration, project management, problem solving, financial acumen/value creation.  Instead most organizations are training on yesterday’s skills–questioning, objection handling, prospecting, qualifying, account management, deal management, closing, and so forth.  Granted, the skill levels in executing these traditional selling skills is not good, but these do little in preparing sales people to effectively engage customers in the coming years.

We don’t see changes in management behavior.  Managers are still not coaching–the majority spending less than 2 hours a week coaching all their people.  Talent is still a huge issue.  Too many are focused on tactical day to day execution, instead of establishing a clear vision, strategy and direction for the organization.  Usually the strategies are less around change and more around volume and velocity—do more of what we have always done, faster.

Instead, we find many “transformations” are really the current program du jour–an initiative management wants sales to focus on for the next few minutes/hours until they lose attention and we move on to the next initiative with fingers crossed, hoping it will produce miracles.  Alternatively, it’s intensely metrics focused, optimizing behavior around achieving certain goals, but not fundamentally changing how we sell.

Don’t get me wrong, some of these things may be helpful.  They may even be sustainable.  But they probably aren’t the things critical to “transformation.”

This begs the question, do we even need to transform?  Or is it just a lot of hype?

I’m not sure the word is that important, but sales and marketing organizations need to be constantly changing–learning, growing improving.  Continuing to do things the way they have always been done is a recipe for failure.

Perhaps, right now, the need to change is more urgent, that’s why the “t” word is so fashionable.

We have a convergence of a number of things at a point in time:  Dramatic changes in how customers buy; dramatic increases in the volume of information available to both customers, marketing, and sales; new technologies that enable us to engage customers differently; increasing pressures on time, increasing distractions–both for customers and sales/marketing…

The rate of change and distraction seems to be accelerating both on the customer side and with how we market/sell.

So transformation is important, but what does that mean?  But to be successful, it must be tied to the changes driving customers and markets.  Absent this, we will not be able to engage customers in the things important to them.

Our transformative efforts must be tied to making our customers more effective and efficient in their buying processes.  Focusing on our own effectiveness and efficiency is meaningless, without first looking at these issues from the customer point of view.

We must sustain these changes over time, by that, we must continuously refine what we do and how we do it, over time.

This is tough work, it requires commitment, courage, openness to learning/change. We will make mistakes in our transformations, but we need to learn and adapt.

The odd thing about transformation is it never ends–we can never say, “We have completed our transformation, it is in the past…”

Transformation is really about continuous obsessive learning and relentless execution.

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2 Comments
  1. Excellent article David. No doubt the word ‘transformation’ is thrown out with too much abandon. As an aggressive marketer I am probably sometimes guilty of this myself! Agree with your thought that to be successful, transformation must be tied to the changes driving customers and markets.

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