Patton's Patterns - Execution Lessons for Driving Sales

Pattonmovieposterlarge General George Patton’s unparalleled ability to execute in WWII sometimes gets overshadowed by his colorful (and stupid) public relations.  Because of his quick strike abilities, the Axis leaders feared him more than any other Allied general.  What made him truly unique, and someone still studied in military academies throughout the world today, was his formula for success.  Patton had a voracious appetite for history and believed that humanity already had a master inventory of all of the strategies and tactics for winning a battle. All one had to do was apply that knowledge to a given situation.  His success can be summed up by his ability to model, map, and match.

He was able to model the various elements of a particular battle (from tactics, troop movements, level of aggression of his opponent, terrain, initiative, strengths, weather patterns, etc.) to recognize patterns from an engagement of antiquity.  Having identified patterns, he was able to associate (or map) the actions of the victorious general to his situation, giving him a powerful competitive advantage - the collective trial and error wisdom of thousands of successful and failed tactics and strategies of the other generals of the ages.  Armed with the best advisor (the collective wisdom of centuries of peers), Patton was able to match winning tactics from the successful generals of the past to his specific circumstances rapidly and effectively. 

The results? 

In the nine months between August 1, 1944, when the Third Army began operations in

France

and May 8, 1945, when hostilities ceased, they:

  • Liberated or captured 81,522 square miles of territory,including 12,000 cities, towns, and communities (27 of which had populations of more that 50,000),
  • Captured 1,280,688 prisoners,
  • Inflicted 1,811,388 casualties (1,280,688 captured, 144,500 killed, 386,200 wounded) against 139,646 of their own (26,809 MIA, 16,596 killed, 96,241 wounded),
  • Destroyed 1,640 enemy planes while losing only 582.
  • Destroyed the following targets: 3,833 tanks and armored cars, 4,337 locomotives, 3,664 factories, and 2,809 gun installations,
  • Transported 2.2 million tons of supplies a total of 141 million miles and laid a total of 2,092 miles of rail to supply the Army. 

Why is this relevant to today, and for sales and marketing? 

Commodization is driving competitive pressures to levels never before seen in the IT industry.  To make matters worse, technology sales are also becoming increasingly more complex.

Given the velocity of change in today’s business climate, messaging and sales training strategies based on a standard sales presentation and basic training are antiquated business tactics that must be replaced with more flexible and adaptive processes. For starters, the required positioning content is bound to change too rapidly to be updated, rendering the messaging platform moot.   

In addition, training programs about products are no longer suitable.  The degree of discernable difference from one product set to another within an industry is so small that buyers struggle to tell products apart. It is much more valuable to help buyers figure out:

1) What the world will look like once your products and services are installed;

2) How to build a reasonable and accurate business case (note, I did not say ROI) for the project;

3) How to scope and staff the project team;

4) How to help the customer move from where they currently are to a more desirable outcome.

The only way to provide and continuously update this information is to focus on modeling patterns in your customers, mapping those patterns to frameworks to organize the material, and matching those frameworks to overall solutions, not just your company’s products, just as Patten modeled, mapped and matched patterns in the tactical and strategic military situation he faced.  By doing this in a structured way, you will be able to distribute the maintenance of content to many different people who have that information, update bites of information as needed, and help sales people locate the right material, for the right person, at the right time.

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