I was listening to Michigan Radio, an NPR station, yesterday evening. There was a well-produced local piece about the Midwest economic recovery. The reporter, Dustin Dwyer, asked his listeners a thought-provoking question:
“What will happen to the transformation of the Midwest economy when we do finally recover from this horrendous recession? Will we go back to our old ways, or will we continue to change?”
Some question. And something my colleagues and I have also been discussing collaboratively since the beginning of the year.
Especially with regard to small and mid-sized businesses; you know, the ones with tight budgets and little revenue, let alone the luxury of human assets, to devote to CRM (Client Relationship Management) tools and large sales forces. The type of companies, often family-owned, where everyone wears multiple hats out of necessity and ability. This size of company forms the bulk of business enterprise in the US.
What does an economic recovery look like? Does it mean that manufacturing capacity, orders and revenue return to their post-recession levels? Does it mean that things look and feel exactly the way they did before? Will this phenomenon provide a sound base for further economic regional growth?
Dwyer interviewed several economists, including Grand Valley State Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics, Paul Isely, PhD,who described coming out of a recession as follows:
”The problem is, as you come out of a recession, you often have all your resources start to be used making the stuff you made before… And if you’re busy all the time, you don’t have time to think about, ‘How do I change all this?’”
How does securing the orders for consumables and durable goods “happen?” It just may involve a business development and sales strategy that can no longer be supported by a rear-view mirror, post-industrial mindset. Perhaps transformational, experiential economic recovery requires an exodus from a mindset where one state sees “neighbors as our competitors, when, in fact, we’re incredibly connected,” as University of Illinois economist Geoffrey Hewings describes. (He heads up the Regional Economic Applications Laboratory, http://www.real.illinois.edu/ ).
Rear-view mirror thinking is comfortable. Getting back to the way things were “before” can mean you think you don’t have to work as hard, because you are in an environment you are used to. Like an old sofa. It’s a recipe for complacency and assumptions.
Problem is, you have more competitors now, looking through the windshield, than you had before. Your competitors are global, not local or regional. These global competitors are not content to hunker down and be comfortable, ever. Because your competitors come from economies and countries where there is no room for complacency, and no security in the status quo.
Economic recovery requires customer acquisition. Those orders don’t just return on their own because someone flipped a switch and the green light came on for the economy.
Are you assuming that your former customers will automatically return to doing business with your company? Something might have happened in the interim.
Selling the same old way you did to get you to where you were in your rear-view mirror is not realistic. And it’s not safe to drive a car constantly looking through the rear view mirror, either.
Have you ever considered that your current and former customers have, indeed, changed the way they select their vendors? And perhaps re-acquiring and retaining them may involve business development strategies that are hardly status quo.
Going back to the way it was, won’t be the same. Prepare yourself for a business development environment that requires far more collaboration than “before” between and among former local and regional competitors. And this collaborative strategy will emphasize developing cross-functional capabilities in your technical and non-technical staff as well.
Windshield mindset. No rear view mirror, please.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. Download her newest White Paper at her Free Resources Page. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools.