I love both my sisters dearly. But one had the most annoying habit. When she visited, she took great joy in helping prepare meals. But every once in a while, she would see an ingredient, say a can of some type of food. She would check the can for the “Use by date.” If, for instance, it was late November–Thanksgiving — she saw a can of cranberry sauce with a use by date of October of that year, she would throw it out and go to the store to buy a new can.
And finding one thing that had expired would cause her to immediately start searching our cabinets, banishing anything that was past it’s used by date.
My normal reaction, when they would visit us, would be to be patient, knowing I would get even. When we visited her family, before we went to her place, I would go find everything I could that had a long expired use by date. I’d call neighbors asking them to check for expired items in their cabinets. I remember in 2017, taking great joy in bringing a can of something that said, “Use by 12/2004.” (And you can guess what she did with that “gift.”)
But as I look to much of what we do in business/sales/marketing/customer experience, so many of the things that we to are long past their “Use by dates.”
The world has changed! How our customers buy is changing faster than we are adapting to respond to them. Yet we insist on using the same old models, techniques, and approaches. Even putting a veneer of updating, whether leveraging technology, or now generating messaging through AI, they are the same tired approaches.
We, somehow, committed to using these, even though they don’t produce what they are no longer effective. What was very effective in the past, too often, is no longer effective, even packaged in a new way. It’s tantamount to my brushing the dust off that use by 12/2004 can and polishing it up. It needs to be discarded and replaced with approaches that are more impactful and relevant.
So much of our thinking and our approaches are just no longer as useful as they were, yet we persist in using them way past their “Use by” dates.
A few examples:
- We tend to think of marketing, sales, customer experience as separate functions. Marketing creates awareness, interest, and demand. Sales takes those opportunities moving them into orders. Customer experience takes those new orders and supports the customer in utilization. Those distinct models no longer represent the way customers buy and grow in the utilization of our products. The processes are intertwined and interleaved through the life cycle of our relationships with our customers. We need to look at, organizationally, processes, responsibilities/accountabilities very differently if we are to engage our customers in high impact ways.
- We look at sales roles and how we engage our customers in outmoded ways. Whether it’s specialization in how we move our customers through the “sales assembly line.” how we staff these roles, how we look at new and current customers. Most of our models are no longer working as effectively as they did, yet we remain firmly committed to doing more, of the same, focusing on efficiency rather than outcomes.
- We focus our skills development on product training and selling skills. Yet the ability to talk to our customers about their businesses is what our customers care about. Very few enablement organizations offer strong business/financial acumen skills. We know our customers struggle with complexity, critical thinking, aligning differences, even thinking about their businesses differently. Yet we don’t develop their capabilities in curiosity, critical thinking, problem solving and collaborative conversations. As we become less helpful to our customers, they push off, or eliminate engaging sellers until the very end of their process–where we offer the least differentiated value.
- We see year after year declines in employee engagement, satisfaction, and tenure. We see YoY declines in performance and quota attainment. We see declines in win rates, yet we persist in doing the same things.
- We know high impact coaching is the most critical thing to drive performance, yet the majority of managers spend less than a couple hours a week coaching–and many don’t coach at all. And now we delegate the responsibility of coaching to AI and related tools, that have no ability to connect to the human being, the context, and specific situation.
- AND, we persist in doing these things even though both our own results and research data show we are failing!
I’ll stop here, but you know I can go on.
So much of what we have done in the past was really great—THEN. But it no longer works, it’s no longer relevant. Yet we persist in using them long after their “Use by date.”
We need to start fresh, to rethink what and how we do things. We need to rethink who we do them with and who we make accountable for doing them. We need to respond to our customers based on where they are now, and how we create the greatest value.
How do we do this? I think going back to basic principles is the starting point. Principles are foundational and enduring. They don’t tell us what to do or how to do those things, they help us focus on the most fundamental elements our work with our people and customers. Leveraging those basic principles, we can figure out the best ways to execute them today.