In October I had the opportunity to attend andspeak at ASA’s Network2015 in Chicago. The energy, networking and business discussions throughout the entire conference were something special.
During my keynote to open the conference I started out looking to set the bar high. I challenged myself and the hundreds in attendance to make “these 60 minutes the most transformative 60 minutes of your entire year.” And from that opening statement we dove into the topic at hand: Sales and marketing relevance in the age of disruption.
There are two realities of business today that put the topic of relevance at the top of all leaders’ agendas. First, is the age of disruption we live in. The vast change we all feel in the form of a new generation of buyers, changing buying habits, disruptive technology, new forms of competition and more says that what made us relevant to yesterday’s customers will not necessarily make us relevant tomorrow.
The second reality we need to talk about more is if we are honest with ourselves, most distributors are stuck in a world of sameness. Our customers would be hard-pressed to be able to articulate what really sets us apart from the other alternatives. Internally, our own employees would have the same challenge being able to describe with confidence and conviction what really separates our business from the competitor. And in this environment we begin to lose relevance in the market. Going forward, this topic of how to break free from the sameness trap in this new age of disruption we find ourselves in must be at the top of every leader in the industry. Relevance is the new mandate. Here are some guide posts to begin your quest for tomorrow’s relevance.
Be bold: To break through, you must have a bold and dare I say brave point of view. Organizationally and individually what do you stand for? What do you believe in? What is your distinct view of the world? Wendy Clark a VP at Coca-Cola puts it this way: “When you see us at our best we have a brave point of view. And we’re willing to put that forward to create a dialog and conversation.”
Be deep: Several months ago I wrote about the Forrester report that tells us 22% of the 4.5 million B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to e-commerce by 2020. Who is at risk? It is those sales organizations and salespeople who refuse to embed themselves to fully understand their customers’ businesses. Too many have just a surface understanding of their customers’ goals, strategies, dangers and obstacles they face.
Be disruptive: When everyone says and does the same thing no one listens. Look at your website and all your marketing collateral. Now go out and listen to your sales team — inside and out — and find a way to compare all this to your competition. Again, there is a lot of sameness out there. We must disrupt the conversations taking place.
Be good: Tomorrow’s customers are going to demand more from us. There is a real movement where they expect us to contribute to society, the community, the environment and more. And while many within the industry are contributing in huge ways in these areas, we need more thought as to how these efforts can be built into our relevance going forward.
Get your team around the table and begin the conversation, and then the action to redefine your differentiating relevance.