I know, it looks like I’m about to be cynical; but a guy has to have some fun once in a while (OK, maybe I’m always a bit cynical). Years of watching sales and marketing people have given me a jaded view of the world. Unless I was on some super unique journey, my guess is that while selling systems, sales coaches and marketing gurus are making tons of money selling you their ideas, your business is not making much money using their ideas. I’d like to propose that while many of these ideas are promoted as selling systems, they really aren’t systems at all; they are just procedures executed within a functional Sales silo (and you know what I think about that).
Probably the biggest problem in revenue generation is the fact that companies don’t view themselves as a system. As a result, processes within the organization tend to be disconnected and worse, they change each time a new personality comes on board. Take a look at how often sales and marketing leaders are turned over, for example. The latest report suggests the average tenure of a CMO has doubled to 45 months in recent years; from 23 months at or around the beginning of the recession. The suggestion is that the CMO has been more challenged and respected lately. Frankly, I see that as PR spin coming out of the marketing world when facts suggest the turnover has historically been due to their disappointing performance. The recession brought uncertainty, and companies likely held fast until they could figure it all out. CMO’s didn’t become twice as good in this period!
The role of a CSO/VP of Sales is another one that churns often; about every 2 to 2-1/2 years (opinions vary). Whether it is said out loud or not, the churn is not happening because we are awash with great sales managers who feel guilty that their expertise can’t be shared with the world. It’s because they are underperforming against their ability to sell themselves into a new job! To disrupt these cycles, we need to understand one thing…
If you believe that funnels have gone away and that companies and their customers are involved in a more circular journey together (see McKinsey’s Customer Decision Journey) you’ll see that no single functional area in an organization drives success. They all have to work together as a system so that not only are we designing the right solutions;
- We are messaging them properly at the right time and to the right people
- Sales executives can quickly align the value proposition to a customer’s set of needs and close the sales
- Fulfillment can ensure that a great experience is delivered
- Customers are convinced to return for more and to tell their friends about you.
Otherwise, the customer kicks-out of that nice little circle-cycle.
Starting backwards, many try to come up with as many ideas as possible: product ideas, procedure ideas, marketing ideas, etc. And while all of these ideas are percolating throughout their functional areas, and like-minded people are patting each other on the back for their great ideas, we are left wondering where the magic will come from that ties it all together for us. Some companies (few) have a leader who is able to pull it all together for extended periods of time. The system is centered on this person because of this unique capability. Others, well they simply fail.
In order to consider a business successful it needs to provide long-term, repeatable results. On the one hand, we have companies that hire personalities because they have charisma and therefore have great ideas and help us do something NOW! Light bulbs are always going off; because they have so many ideas. These are the Kings and Queens of your organization. If we input these great ideas in to our magical formula, a smattering of businesses will have long term results. But, even fewer will have repeatable results because there is no Steve Jobs to create and manage the long-term vision.
Other organizations begin maturing and over time realize that a migration has to be made from the personality culture, to the systems culture. At first there is a learning process and many of the processes run inside their functional silo. But, eventually interdependence is discovered and processes begin evolving within the context of the larger system. People begin working together in a continuous feedback loop of improvement. Instead of magic happening, systems happen.
Why do so many take the wrong path? Because ideas and magic is a two-step process; it just feels easier! It’s simply impossible to measure and improve a group of highly variable individuals; but it can be very simple to measure and improve a system. It just looks harder for some of us.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.