It's Prediction Time!

It's that time of year when making predictions about the main challenges in sales, marketing, and customer service is popular. Various experts and "gurus" give their perspectives on the "big issues" that we face and the changes that are likely to occur in the next year.

Many are excellent, but others are meant to stir up controversy or promote the guru's wares.

When people ask for my predictions, I have conflicting emotions. Most of the time, I'm reminded of Bill Murray's character in Ground Hog Day. Every year it feels like we go through the same routine–perhaps updated with new buzzwords or a veneer of new technology, but the forecasts remain the same.

This has been going on for about 40 years. Yes, technology has progressed, but prophecies have always included some kind of technology that "changes" the world. We've gone through voicemail, computers, email, mobile phones, the web, CRM, search, social media, and AI/ML. All have been significant, but none have altered the underlying principles that drive efficiency and productivity.

Some of the other topics have centered on the most up-to-date approaches, with a lot of emphasis on discovering and getting new clients.

Year after year, they're all the same, but with different wording and emphasis.

These create a lot of talk for a few months, but we keep doing what we've always done: concentrating on our objectives, presenting our goods, and making the numbers.

With the projections, one would also hope that we would improve, that we would grow better. But it doesn't seem that we are.

Customers are discovering alternatives to dealing with salespeople and even utilising our content as quota performance continues to fall. Employee retention and engagement are on the decline. Indeed, the "death of sales" has been one of the most frequent forecasts of "gurus" over the previous 5 years.

It's tough to avoid being cynical about it all.

As a consequence, I've given up on making forecasts since they're useless.

Instead, I'd like to make three requests. Despite my pessimism in this piece, I'm really rather hopeful.

Wish #1: Put forth the effort! We appear to be on a never-ending quest for the "Easy Button." So many of the forecasts provide ways to avoid responsibility and completing the job.

What we do in sales, marketing, and customer service is difficult! People fear/resist change, and we are change agents. There are no cures or miracle formulae. While technology and approaches may assist us in connecting and engaging with more effect, we must still put in the effort.

We have this mentality that we want the job and the benefits that come with it, but we don't want to perform the labor. We just want to gather POs.

Wish #2: Pay attention to your customers! For decades, our consumers have informed us what they want and expect from us. They struggle with change, they struggle with purchasing, and they need assistance in making sense of their circumstances and moving ahead toward their objectives.

Customers tell us what we need to do to win their business every day; all we have to do is listen and interact in meaningful ways. Instead, we concentrate on our own objectives and what we need to accomplish, failing to see that we won't be able to reach our own until we assist the client achieve theirs. (Managers must also understand that their employees are their consumers.)

Wish #3: Take care of yourself–really take care of yourself! Take pride in what you accomplish as individuals and as a group. You should be concerned about your clients' success. You should be concerned about your peers and acquaintances.

Business has always been about people—sales, marketing, customer service—but we appear to have done all we can to eliminate the humanity from our relationships. In our interaction methods, customers are reduced to widgets.

In our companies, our people are scripted replaceable widgets. Ultimately, though, it is the personal connection that makes the difference. Engagement, change, confidence, and our common success are all fueled by it.

With these three desires, I'll call it a day. They've always been the cornerstones of all we do, yet we tend to forget about them. However, if we concentrate on these factors, we will achieve incredible results–for our customers, our employees, and ourselves.

As negative as my remarks may seem, I am very optimistic.

Working with organizations that accomplish these things is an honor for me. They are usually the undisputed leaders in their respective sectors and areas.

They build businesses that provide purpose and value to their consumers. They build businesses that are meaningful and valuable to their employees, shareholders, and communities. These companies act as role models for others, demonstrating that these three goals are essential for success.

I'm also optimistic because we're seeing certain forcing functions that push us to examine and fix these fundamental flaws. Customers are (and have always been) in charge. They're altering the way they shop, requiring us to adapt. They want assistance and praise those who provide it.

The "Great Resignation" is causing us to reconsider our workplaces and how we build meaningful organizations and work. It compels us to build companies that appreciate, respect, challenge, and allow individuals to flourish.

Predictions no longer intrigue me; we know what we need to accomplish, and we know what creates shared success and participation. It's past time for us to pay notice and take action.

Thanks to Dave Brock at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.

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