If you are sick and needed a doctor’s advice, would you settle for someone telling you that I think this is what is wrong or I think this will make you better, or would you keep looking until you find a physician that would correctly diagnose your symptoms and then say this is the problem (diagnosis) and here is the remedy (solution) to fix the problem. As business leaders dealing with sales, productivity and personnel performance issues, this type of specificity in the diagnosis and solution being offered is critical to your success. Unfortunately, many accept ambiguous ‘solutions’ because it happens to be the popular trend at the moment. We rely on social proof by seeing what our colleagues or even the competition is doing without determining if that solution will actually work in our unique situation or not.
What’s interesting however is that another way to describe social proof is the herd mentality, where the follower follows the other followers because the herd has begun to move and they are afraid to be left behind. The justification that is often used for this type of approach is that if everybody is doing it, then it must be right. The fact is that we are all at some point in our lives guilty of this type of behavior; however, in business when we lack clarity regarding how the results that we depend upon to run our businesses are achieved, we are vulnerable. We become susceptible to the charlatans who offer their solutions to our under-defined needs even though they suspect or even know that their offerings will not solve the problem.
An example of this is the overly promoted use of social media marketing and SEO programs and their questionable ability to deliver an actual paying client to the dealer or business owner’s front door. Because of my in depth understanding of technology and how it applies to business and the sales process, I have been a participant in many debates with technologists and social media strategists regarding the viability of these programs to deliver actual paying customers that would justify their hefty & continued expense and have yet found one who could build a compelling argument to justify it. The point is that when you lose sight of the goal, it is easy for what’s hot or sexy at the moment to be a distraction, which in this case is getting and keeping clients. I often get asked how I came up with the title, My $500,000 Master’s Degree for my recent book. I would share that it was from all of the numerous mistakes I made from hiring people that had their own agenda, buying products promoted to be the solution to fix my then problems, and engaging in activities that, although sounded right at the time, was totally wrong for me and my business. I would tell them it was because I, the leader, did not have enough clarity about what the end result needed to look like before I engaged, so a price that even now I shudder to think of was paid.
Which brings me to the first point of this article; many companies that are struggling with slumping sales caused by ever changing market conditions and customer satisfaction issues are failing to make the connection these opportunities have with mediocre customer service strategies, processes, personnel and selling professionals. They are unknowingly taking a page out of the same playbook that I once did and are on track to acquiring their own personal master’s degree by not seeking to diagnose the problem correctly first, before pursuing the solutions that are being promoted to them.
The fact is that when you don’t know what it is you are looking for, it is easy for the so called ‘experts’ to tell you with conviction that their solution is what you need and with enough social proof as justification, you will believe them. An important point to stress here is that we are living in a time of transition where what used to work no longer applies and there are those who have a vested interest in keeping business owners in ignorance via the use of smoke and mirrors as a means of justifying their position. The fact is that the real reason that many businesses have been struggling has little to do with technology, the economy or other external factors, but because they are simply suffering from an overabundance of individuals who are ill-equipped to do their jobs, which is to get and keep customers. They struggle because the process required to produce the desired outcome for the activity has not been properly mapped to ascertain the required skills the individual will need to know to correctly complete each task. Additionally, even when the training needed to effect change is available, the timeline for it to be administered is usually in conflict with the day to day operations of the business. So like a victim suffering from a venomous snake bite that does not receive the required antidote (solution) in time, the training will have little, if any effect because it was not given at the right time to cause performance improvement to occur.
Which brings me to my second point, it’s not the bite that will kill you; it is the lack of an antidote (solution) and the way it is administered. If you are serious about improving your business and those that work in your business, administering the correct solutions that will cause you and your people to take flight cannot wait for the next program to come to town nor can you depend upon an off-the-shelf solution to fix the problem that is specific or unique to the business or the individual. Furthermore, you also cannot wait for managers to learn everything they will need to know so they can coach each and every person in every area they need to improve upon to succeed. There has to be an introduction of a training solution that will deliver the specific content that address the specific issues the individual is struggling with to cause performance improvement to occur. This approach would promote personal development by making it a process that is mapped throughout the day-to-day activities of the professional so that it becomes indistinguishable. Then, and only then, can managers and selling professional engage in proactive business development and customer relationship management strategies because the activities that they will engage in can be quantified, measured and the individual’s activities coached to promote constant and never ending improvement.