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Why Should We Expect Our Customers To Change?

by David Brock on February 14th, 2022

What sellers do is drive customers to change. Whether it’s a change effort they’ve initiated, or we are trying to incite them to change.

But why should we expect them to change, particularly when sellers have failed, so miserably, to change the things we do in creating value with our customers?

It strikes me as the height of irony–or perhaps arrogance–that we continue to do the things we have always done, perhaps with a new jargon or a veneer of technology, but fundamentally too few of us have changed how we sell.

We have hundreds to thousands of books, we have thousands of articles, we have research report after research report that, for decades, talked about the need to change how we work, how we engage our customers, how we create value with those customers.

Recently, a reader reached out to ask about one of my mentors, Mack Hanan. Mack wrote Consultative Selling in the late 70’s/early 80’s. His focus in that book and his others was around helping the customer identify and solve problems. Rather than focus on what we sell, he suggested we achieve our goals more effectively to putting the focus on the customer and what they need to achieve.

Mack wasn’t a lone voice, at the time. Even decades before Mack’s writing, people like Drucker, Deming, and others talked about the importance of understanding our customers and helping them grow, achieve, and succeed.

Likewise, for decades, we’ve known selling, indeed business, is about human relationships and interactions. We know the emotions that impact our customers’ abilities to change–yet we dehumanize our engagement processes. And within our own organizations, too often we dehumanize our process of engaging our own people in creating meaning for/with them.

Yet we persist, we continue to do the things that don’t work, that don’t create meaning–either for our customers or our people. We preach change to others, yet we don’t change ourselves.

Given this, why should we expect our customers to change?

Perhaps the starting point is by looking internally, changing what we do, how we work with each other, how we create meaning and value within our organizations. Then perhaps we change, genuinely, how we engage our customers, focusing on creating meaning for/with them.

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