Are your sales antibodies killing your chances of survival?

A good friend of mine spent several years on “Death Row” as he called it, waiting for a kidney donor to save his life.

The night his beloved Eels wrapped up the NRL wooden spoon, Dave got a call he’ll never forget.  “I think we’ve got a match.”  A week later years of pain and haemodialysis ended with the surgery Dave prayed for but worried would never come.

Unfortunately, his battle wasn’t over.  Dave’s own immune system started attacking his new kidney – believing it to be an alien tumour.   Fired by the primordial autoimmune response, his own B and T cells were trying to kill his only chance of survival.

A few months ago we were engaged by the newly appointed CEO of a company, which while it had been a household name in its industry only 5-6 years ago, had lost its way and fallen on hard times.  In fact, it was a matter of weeks away from closing the doors.

Our brief was short and pointed.  “First stem the bleeding.  Then get us onto solid ground.  We’ll worry about the fancy stuff later.”

Two weeks later, having delivered an initial diagnostic assessment, which the CEO himself described as “simply brutal”, we started along the difficult path to repairing the first of their many broken marketing and sales elements.

That journey involves thinking about revenue creation in a whole new way, learning new things and “unlearning” quite a few old ones.  It’s challenging and often uncomfortable.

Some individuals in key roles are struggling to come to terms with the process.  After decades of marketing and sales experience in some the world’s biggest companies, a new paradigm is challenging a lot of what they knew – or thought they knew.   A new world of process, measurement and analytics means a level of visibility and accountability that people in marketing and sales simply aren’t accustomed to.

The CEO expresses a somewhat different view.

“Of course it’s upsetting for some people.  They know they have to change and they don’t like it,” he said. “This is the start of a process of removing the old ways of doing things and transplanting in the new ones.  The old ways nearly killed the company.”

His use of the word “transplanting” made me think of my friend Dave, and how changing the way marketing and sales work (or don’t work, as is more often the case) to create revenue in companies is so like changing vital organs in a human body.

Even though the whole organism consciously knows it needs to change, like antibodies, some people can’t help but try to stop the change from happening - even if it means the company’s death.

My friend Dave’s OK now.  Although his body will never completely accept his new kidney, the potentially fatal transplant rejection is treatable – and beatable.   He’ll live a full and hopefully long life.

Just like our client – once we can get them to accept their new organs!