ARE WE GOING BACK TO THE FUTURE?
I was browsing through some articles the other day and came across this quote which I like:
“If you don’t have a heart beat, you don’t have a life. If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. But do you really treat your customers like the vital organ they really are? Are all your decisions taken with the customers’ view in mind”?
Also in this article, there were sections on collaboration, speed of change and reaction to it, sales and marketing alignment and where you have the conversations that drive business transactions. This all seems pretty topical and I have heard about them all in the last six months. But the article, from the founder of Selling Power Magazine was produced in 2011. If the article had been written in the 1980’s, it would still be relevant today.
There is no doubt that there has been massive change over the last 35 and probably as much again over the last 5. A lot has been driven by pervasive technology i.e. the internet; by revolutions that caused anything proprietary to be seen as bad; by more demanding customers and more professional buyers; by legislation and regulation; disruptive market entrants and the list goes on and will continue to go on. It brings on that good old cliché “that the only thing that’s constant is change”. But is it?
Having been a sales person, manager and marketer in the 1980s let me comment on the content of the article. Back then we had the sales/marketing divide and recognised then that it was not good for business. The company in which I worked at the time introduced industry marketing to help bridge the gap between the product marketers and the sales people, and it worked. A good customer of ours once said that domain knowledge not products win business, and they were right. On the subject of collaboration, or co-creation as it is known today, it was an issue in the 1980s. But rather than just talking about it we did something and built an industry software portfolio though customer and partner collaboration. I have to say that on the subject of conversations we were very limited as to where we had them, but we did have them where our customers wanted them. We didn’t have social media or even email, but we did have pubs and understood market and customer issues. As for the pace of change and managing it, I am not sure the words engagement and empowerment were known then; but we did have a very motivated and creative sales force which was key to helping us manage through some turbulent times. The final thing to cover is the opening quote; this is all about customer centricity or intimacy. We understood it then and managed it through having good account teams and sales people who championed the customer’s cause.
The issues raised in this article are all basic, so my question is why are we still having the same discussions today as we had 35 years ago?
I have my views, but they are not important. Yours are and I would be grateful to hear them. I will though give you a summary of my 1980’s experience. The company that I, and most of my Koru colleagues worked with had great foresight and leadership. It created massive market share because it faced and managed the issues that this newsletter identified at the start. We had no Customer Relationship Management system, we had people who managed customer relationships; we had no expensive sales methodologies like SPIN or Miller Heiman, just well managed competent, engaged and entrepreneurial sales people; we had no sales or marketing automation tools, no customer experience software or any of the many so called productivity tools available today. But maybe that is part of the reason. It was simple and we could spend the maximum time with customers and not be tied to computer systems that add work but little value. We lived for and with our customers.