The main problem each and every one of your customers is trying to solve at any point in time and especially in our DIGITAL Economy is to keep transforming fast enough.

Whether you were in the horse industry in 1907 when a guy called Henry Ford took you and million other people out of the saddle business, or out of the stagecoach business, or out of the horse-led fire engine business (in 1927),.with his Ford T, neither you nor I saw it coming!!!

It hasn’t changed today – whatever business we are in, our customers need to lead change by innovating constantly to create new solutions and new markets while disrupting their competitors from adapting fast enough to the changes they are leading in their markets.

Our customers also need to manage the change that their own markets are bringing to them (or that their competitors are LEADING faster than them…) and which forces them to transform constantly their operations, people and processes in order to cope with new paradigms whether they created them or not (see next point).

One might think that the more you “lead change proactively,” the less you need to “manage it reactively,” but this is not so obvious as even when being in a leading change position, you still need to manage the change that bringing new disruptive solutions to market brings about to your whole organization and in particular with the one organization that touches your end customers: your sales organization.

The reason sales exist and will continue to exist forever is because sales is at the forefront of change by communicating effectively the VALUE that their new solutions bring to existing and new customers in such a way that existing and new customers eventually decide to buy the new solution “in a reasonable time frame” (if your new sale cycle takes 5 times longer than the previous one, you may be out of business before anybody buys anything…).

Now, the best definition I know of value comes from my friend Mike Wilkinson the “Value Selling Expert”– value is a mystery!

It is a mystery that we need to discover for each and every one of our unique customers and that is what we direct our sales people to discover (which is why they need to ask questions first about the problem (see previous post) before they start talking about solutions).

Now, let me break it to us engineers the sad truth: No matter how great our new solution is, no matter how disruptive it can be, no matter how well it can solve the world’s oldest problem, it so happens that each and every one of our customers already lives in a system that was created to fulfill their specific company’s objectives, and this system is already – give or take- currently working and making everybody happy.

As Tom Northy puts it “All organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they are now getting!” Any attempt at breaking too fast the existing system with the change your new solution will bring into it, will be met with utmost resistance and will absolutely derail your sale.

That is why we need (good) sales people, and that is where (good) sales people play best: to show their prospects that not only will they be able to lead change in their own markets thanks to our new solution, but that they will also be able to manage the change that you are about to bring to the way they were used to doing business. Now, that is unique value which is unique to each prospect and needs to be discovered together with the prospect (you can’t understand their system alone and they can’t understand your solution on their own either without studying the impact it will bring to their status quo that they may not even be fully aware of…).

Yes! Selling is a very tough job!

Average sales people who can only be technical experts of their solution end up bringing delayed value to prospects and to the company they sell for. At worst they can explain what their product or solution does (so what, and who cares if I don’t want to change or if my organization is not yet ready to change and absorb your impact on me?)

At best they will explain which generic problems your solution solves for most customers, hoping that one of these issues will resonate with a painful enough issue that the unique prospect they are talking to at that moment is experiencing.

Great sales people understand that the unique prospect they are talking to at one moment has one and only one issue they need to solve before they consider integrating your solution – no matter how amazing it can be- in their existing  system and that issue is called change, and that change issue is unique to the specifics of their system (that we can’t understand alone as Sharon Drew Morgen puts it very well), and unless we are able as sales people to address the unique transformation this unique prospect will go through were he to buy our solution, he will never buy it, no matter how great the promises to him for leading change he may get “cold feet” about managing change…

In a nutshell: Sales is about getting your customers excited about the change they will be able to lead (that is unique to them and to their business at this point in time) thanks to your unique solution, while reassuring them on the change (that is unique to them and to their people at this point in time) that they will have to manage successfully integrating your new solution in their existing System (their current status quo) without breaking it…

It is not one without the other, we must constantly be selling leading the change (that is unique to them and to their markets) and also selling managing the change (that is unique to them and to their people and processes as is-to be journey with your solution).

If I have not lost you completely already… bear with me next time for a systems engineering perspective about change.

Philippe is the Worldwide Sales Leader for CATIA, the leading Brand of DASSAULT SYTEMES.  Prior to joining 3DS, Philippe held various consulting, sales and sales management positions at  FRAMATOME, DASSAULT ELECTRONIQUE, SOPRA, DIGITAL, COMPAQ and EMC2. His past experience has helped him transform businesses across various business units, languages and cultural boundaries.  

Philippe is the author of “1+1+1=4 !® : the Art & Science of getting 100% of your Reps @ GOAL”. He is the creator of the Lion Tamer Sales Manager® System. Philippe is a graduate of engineering from Ecole Centrale-France, and holds a Master of Science degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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