If you’re bringing something valuable to the market; something that will allow you to break away from your competition and sustain both growth and expanded marketing, then you need to realize that you’re in the change business.
This means that the primary focus of your sales and marketing efforts is to change the way your customers and prospects buy. At this point, a reasonable question to ask yourself is, “Why in the world would I want to change a customer’s approach to buying?” After all, it’s a tough, timely and complex thing to do.
There is only one reason to even think of taking on such an effort. That reason is that if the way your customers aren’t buying in a manner that drives your economic and business model, then you must embark on the effort. As marketing icon Geoffrey Moore once said, “To succeed with innovation, you must take your value proposition to such an extreme that competitors either cannot or will not follow.”
What you must understand is that changing your customer’s approach to buying takes time. You can’t expect to adequately influence your customers when your salespeople to show up near of the point that your customer is making a purchasing decision. While this is the default approach for businesses, it only results in increased operating and sales costs and increased pricing pressure.
You sales and marketing system must be designed for the long haul. In my experience, it takes a 12 – 18 month incubation period to effectively educate and influence target prospects. This is true regardless of what you perceive your typical sales cycle to be (and in reality, if you have a longer sales cycle, than the process takes even longer).
This incubation period is the primary reason the small and mid-market companies fail to implement effective sales and marketing systems. They fear that 12 – 18 months is simply too long to get a payoff. When I meet them, I always respond, “Well, sure it’s a long time. Where are you planning on being in a year or two?”
Companies that embrace the challenge, and develop the systems to support such a process enjoy disproportionate rewards. Will you be one of them?