All business organizations face the dynamic tensions of:
• too much change vs not enough
• the right change at the right time vs the wrong change at any time
• the tipping point at which key staff can see change as promoting lack of stability vs. key staff understand and embrace the need for change which may bring unfamiliar circumstances with it
BUYLOWBUILDHIGH, INC manufactured—and sold through field sales—tools for the construction of bridges and other vertically oriented infrastructure projects. The company was owner/founder-operated and was 35 years old.
As more and more competition—domestic and foreign—entered the marketplace, the return on the investment in individual sales people calling on individual contractor/customers was increasingly called into question.
The competition was selling online, through catalogues, and through tool dealers. The power/founder, who himself had been a field salesman, in the beginning, had built his company’s reputation on service. For him service = personal relationships and face to face contact. He would consider no other option.
- A closer review of competition showed how many different sales models they were following.
- A close review of BUYLOWBUILDHIGH’s own customers established that they no longer equated good service with ubiquitous face to face contact.
- An additional review of competition’s customers revealed an increasing preference for technologies that tended to keep the size of their staffs at a minimum.
- Is it possible that the face to face sales model is no longer dominant, although it may be necessary for certain, large and long term customers? What sales model might work the best for BUYLOWBUILDHIGH? It is not a question of change vs no change. It’s a question of the right change at the right time. The owner/founder, busy protecting his historic way of operating, had never thought of it that way.
- The consultant sponsored 6 different lunch meeting. The consultant attended along with owner/founder and a different customer at each lunch.
- The customers were selected by a combination of size of organization, revenue, company growth, use of technologies, their tenure of leadership, and types of products purchased from BUYLOWBUILDHIGH.
- The consultant and the owner/founder agreed in advance on a template of 6 key questions that would consistently be asked at each lunch. They further agreed that no conclusions would be drawn until after the 6 lunch conversations were completed.
- Upon review of the luncheon conversations, the owner/founder discovered he was sticking to the sales model he most preferred, not with the one preferred by his better customers. The consultant and the owner/founder were also able to quantify the costs of adhering to the old sales model vs. the yield from adopting a new or hybrid model.
- BUYLOWBUILDHIGH quickly developed a plan for a hybrid technology/face to face sales model in which an electronic catalogue was featured AND the owner/founder himself b became the face to face sales representative to those smaller, long time, probably-on-their-way-out customers, freeing the remaining sales staff to get off the road and concentrate more of their time on outbound and inbound marketing and sales.