Why Transformation is Such a Dirty Word (and how to make it far less scary)

October 30, 2020 | Written by Jake Sorofman

I’ve often said that, when you’re selling something, it’s a whole lot easier to be differentiated than different. Why? Because differentiated fits neatly into an existing mental model and different requires the construction of a brand new model in order to comprehend. 

MetaCX is different–and unapologetically so. We bear this extra burden because the way B2B revenue organizations have attempted to take on the challenge of managing renewable revenue is, quite frankly, wrong. Simply differentiating on the as-is would be an insufficient half measure.

The good news is the vast majority of the revenue and customer leaders that we talk to agree wholeheartedly. But that’s not to say that each and every one of them feels the courage and conviction to step into the change.

Last month, I wrote that B2B customer value transformations are on the rise. Practically every day, we talk to companies that are moving aggressively toward transformations that connect value selling, value delivery and value realization as one steel thread that enables truly resilient renewable revenue streams by making customer outcomes measurable and predictable.

But these are the ten-percenters. In any discipline, you can generally expect roughly 90% of the population to resist change. This hewing toward convention comes from the natural human tendency to avoid risk, which probably has its genetic roots in the hardwired survival impulses of the reptilian brain and some atavistic fear of sabertooth tigers.

For roughly 10% of the population, the word transformation evokes opportunity, at the same time that it evokes white-knuckle terror for many others.

Recall the Innovation Adoption Lifecycle, first introduced by Everett Rogers in the 1960s as part of his Diffusion of Innovation theory, which helped make sense of how humans respond to change associated with new technologies.

This normal distribution has had a lasting impact on our understanding of buyer behavior in technology markets, becoming the foundation for Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm, which is perhaps the most notable book ever written on the subject. (Side note: Moore recently wrote a fascinating LinkedIn article on business value realization that I’ll discuss in a future post). 

According to the model, 16% of the population are innovators or early adopters, which roughly coheres with my ten-percenter theorem. These are the ones who are either eager or at least actively willing to lean into change. After this is Moore’s (dreaded or famed, depending on your perspective) chasm that must be bridged to tap into the riches of mainstream markets.

The reality is that nobody–irrespective of their particular risk profile–enters a transformation without a plan and a stepwise path that allows them to manage the risks associated with change. At MetaCX, we use two crucial frameworks: a maturity model that prescribes the graduated steps to full adoption of our platform; and the following companion framework which offers two alternate paths for progressing through this change:

Our tagline proudly tells you that MetaCX helps companies “Sell on value and renew on proof.” Think of the bottom half of the framework as “sell on value” and the top half as “renew on proof.”

Path A scales a deployment by moving from the starting point of value selling into proof of performance, but constraining the scope to a smaller number of higher value customers. When net revenue retention (NRR) is your goal, this is often the path you’ll want to take.

Path B scales deployment by expanding the initial use case of value selling across more customers. When your primary goal is improving win rate, this is often the favored path.

Ask yourself whether your win rates and NRR are where you want them to be. If the answer is “err, no” or something to that effect, you may want to consider stepping into the change.

Another way we often contain risk in these transformations is by helping our customers stand up a “digital twin” of their future-state inside of MetaCX alongside their current-state customer experience. This gives them a lab of sorts to actively design the future without disrupting the present. I’ve seen this approach work incredibly well at every imaginable scale. When I was a Gartner analyst, I spent many days visiting digital and CX transformation labs inside the largest enterprises that, while far more resource intensive and sophisticated than what I’m describing here, embodied the same purpose of designing the future alongside the present.

Change isn’t easy for even the hardiest of leaders. But remember that an inch over time yields miles. Change starts with one small step forward. Denying the need for change or delaying this first step is not a strategy. At best, it’s a missed opportunity for improvement. At worst, it’s the moment your competitor finds the courage where you didn’t.

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