Are We Cannibalizing Our Customers?

John drove to the country to visit his friend Bill who fled the city to live the farming life. While taking the tour, John noticed Bill’s pet pig has only three legs and asks, “Bill, why does your pig have only three legs?”3 legged pig

Flustered, Bill whispered, “Don’t talk about his leg, you’ll hurt his feelings. He’s an amazing pig. When my wife was trapped in root cellar and suffocating, he dug under the door and saved her life. Please don’t talk about his leg.”

John’s curiosity got the best of him, so when the pig was not in sight he asked about the leg. Bill sharply replied, “Don’t talk about my pig’s leg John. He’s very sensitive and he’s incredible. After my tractor rolled over and pinned me to the ground, that pig dragged me out and brought help. Please don’t talk about his leg.”

After dinner, as they were saying goodbye, John pled one more time. “Bill, please tell me what happened to his leg.” John looked around to make sure the pig was out of sight and said, “John, when a pig is that good, you just can’t eat him all at once.”

After lunch with my dear friend Michael Erkel, we went to his office and had a conversation about the current state of the business culture. I quoted Steve Gershik of 28Marketing from a Focus Funnelholic interview by Craig Rosenberg, “Often, marketing and sales depict the funnel as gravity fed – leads go in the top like meat into a grinder and eventually all come out as hamburger at the bottom.”

Do we really want chopped meat for customers, or would we prefer fillet mignon?

Ethan, Michael’s son, added a story about his son that asked about a cow that he had never seen before, “Do they give good meat daddy?” Ethan joked, “Sure we just milk a few pounds whenever we need some!”

Are we cannibalizing customers without realizing it?

Here are some of my thoughts on state of “Sales Affairs.” I don’t have all the answers and I’m not sure that mine are right or the best ones, but I hope this seeds conversations that improves our profession.

Automation has increased sales opportunities at the expense of quality. More leads means less time to cultivate and nurture relationships.  Shoe leather is expensive, and, it’s easier and cheaper to send an email than make a phone call. Or is this a false perception?

 An old bull and young bull are looking over the herd of cows from a cliff. The young bull says, “Look at that cute one by the stream. Let’s run down and meet her.” The old bull says, “Let’s walk down and meet them all.”

Pipelines are filled with low probability opportunities, sales reps are missing quotas, and customer loyalty is dying. Phone calls, emails, text, or social networking exchanges during client meetings are unconscionable, but these interruptions are commonplace. Maybe we need to shift our focus from metrics to individuals.

One last joke. Man goes to the doctor and says, “It hurts when I lift my right arm.” Doctor says, “Don’t do that anymore.”

Maybe we need to change our behavior, because there isn’t going to be a digital magic wand that saves us.

Maybe during meetings, we should turn our phones and laptops off, take our watches off, roll our sleeves up, open a legal pad, listen to everything, and write down what the customer tells us.

What’s working for you and what isn’t?

What are your thoughts?



  1. Kelley, you make a good point that underscores the importance of quality through quantifying and segregating high-quality prospects from low-value leads. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  2. kelleyrobertson says:

    Quantity does not mean quality. With the automation systems that are available, I think too many sales people end up chasing too many low-value leads instead of focusing their time on high-quality prospects. Because of this, they end up racing through the sales cycle instead of thoroughly listening to people. Regardless of how busy I am, I have consistently found that when I take the time to REALLY listen to my prospects and customers, the rest of the sales process naturally falls into place.

    Good post, Gary.

  3. Thanks for the great insight Don. Automation inundating the buyer and convoluting the relationship is an overlooked byproduct of technology misuse. As far as going on the road, maybe next year!

  4. Hi Gary

    I think you should take this act on the road. :>

    Without question, sales is changing, but it's not just about automation on the seller side; the volume of info available to buyers, the quality of it and the interconnectedness we have with people today are also factors driving change.

    Whether we embrace technology or abandon it – in my opinion the key to success is not dependent on so much on externals like tools or process but on our internal focus toward customers. In other words, you can have all the best tools and latest process improvements and still disenchant your customers. Conversely, we keep hearing stories of those who are very successful in sales despite their lack of knowledge of “best practices” and the absence of all the best tools in their bags.

    No matter how much things change, some things always stay the same. As you point out, sales is a people business. However we do it, our success is dependent on our ability to interact and engage the right people at the right time with the right help to get them closer to their goals.

    Guy walks into a bar. Ouch.

    Don F Perkins


  1. says:

    Are We Cannibalizing Our Customers?…

    Automation has increased sales opportunities at the expense of quality. More leads means less time to cultivate and nurture relationships. Shoe leather is expensive, and, it’s easier and cheaper to send an email than make a phone call. Is customer expe…

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