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What’s the Future That Has Already Happened In Your Business?


One of my favorite Peter Drucker ideas is the concept of the “future that has already happened.”

In thinking about driving revenue and market share for your organization, it is pretty much a necessity to spend some amount of time reflecting on what is really going on around you.

It is pretty evident that far too many organizations get caught up in the trap of complacency, even when their hair is on fire.

You don’t have to look too far to see this “Complacency Trap” at play with the way that ESPN has been listing from crisis to crisis over the last couple of years as their audience has shrunk and they have been cutting staff, shuffling through ideas, and basically looking like an organization with no true identity.

Another example of completely avoiding the world around you is at play in the collapse of retail now. For years, Amazon was breathing down everyone’s necks…driving prices down and making the friction between ordering and receiving pretty seamless.

On the other hand, the retail stores, with their large investment in people and real estate got into a price war with Amazon that they couldn’t possibly win.

The end game is the death of retail as we knew it and a crisis at play as once great companies like Macy’s, Sears, and others shutter stores, slash prices, and grip for any hope at all that they can right their businesses.

These are only 2 examples, but I’m sure that we could list any number of them.

Here’s the future that’s already here in a few other industries.

In Silicon Valley, we have seen too many startups come up with “me-too” ideas, not focus on profitability, and other impact factors.

What we’ve seen is a backlash against the “bro culture” of Silicon Valley. We’ve seen funding become much tougher to come by because of the backlash against some ideas that likely should have never been funded.

And, we’ve seen companies that didn’t have legit profitability ideas see their stocks not be embraced on Wall Street.

In Professional Services, we’ve seen greater and greater commoditization. In visiting with a lot of professional service providers like lawyers, accountants, and consultants, everyone is more willing than ever to compete on price, even when they hold a decided advantage in value.

We’ve seen an inability to really focus on how to differentiate themselves from their competition and even when we see organizations with strong brands, they are still willing to allow themselves to compete on price with lesser firms.

Couple this with the continued pressure on the billable hour and we are likely to see a lot of pain across the professional service industry in the next few years.

Number 1, we are going to see the professional services have more and more of the pressure pushing down on them that other industries have already dealt with. Unless an emphasis on results is used.

Number 2, we are going to see companies start merging or collapsing if they don’t differentiate and create Unique Selling Factors.

Number 3, we are going to see the billable hour collapse even further as pressure continues to mount. The firms that don’t embrace value based, all-in pricing are going to struggle more and more to get premium prices going forward.

In Sales, we’ve had huge jumps forward in sales technology. We also have seen that buyers are more reluctant to make decisions than ever before. We are also seeing that more and more salespeople don’t have the skills that they need to close modern deals.

Here’s the challenge in sales, too many organizations haven’t fully embraced sales technology.

Buyers are more reluctant and slower to make a buying decision for several reasons:

  1. Buyers lack trust because the sales process has become so paint by numbers that the buyers don’t believe in the value they will see.
  2. Buyers are more gun-shy than ever before because the fear involved in any decision seems to be greater than ever.
  3. Buyers don’t feel the urgency to act.

On the flip side, buyers reluctance is enhanced because too many salespeople don’t have the skills needed to close deals and create opportunities.

Going forward, salespeople are going to need the to focus on the following things to drive business:

  1. A greater emphasis on relationship building and business acumen. As the sales process becomes more commoditized, the need for relationships and acumen is greater than ever.
  2. They are going to need to be more strategic in their opportunity creation. Not every deal is a good deal. And, some deals are just bad. To advance in the future, salespeople are going to need to know the difference.
  3. The modern salesperson is going to have to be constantly pushing themselves to grow. Sales is going to be the most volatile industry because the way people buy is going to be under constant demand to change. That means that you are going to have to work more and more on differentiation, opportunity creation, and critical thinking.

In marketing, we have seen the rise and fall of the CMO. We have seen Big Data take control of far too many conversations even if almost no one knows what Big Data really can do for them. We have seen advertising become more and more inane and less and less impactful. We have see spam in every form become more and more a common practice because too many organizations haven’t developed enough of an understanding of their value, their buyers, and the ways to communicate with them to make a difference.

We are going to see CMOs that are strong enough to drive results, stand strong against the tide of “should” that drive too much marketing decision making, and can communicate the value of their roles in and outside of the organization will become kings.

Unfortunately, in industries that don’t have strong benches of CMOs, we are going to see the role stripped of a lot of power.

Like the economy as a whole, it will become more and more a process where there are haves and have nots.

Big Data is going to continue to be a big buzz word, but I am more excited about Small Data as talked about by Martin Lindstrom. What Martin’s concept means is data with context. The way that we are embracing data today, there is no context. We need context to be successful.

In 2017, advertising was said to be having a moment of reflection. I’m not sure if I saw that or not, but the truth is that the entire industry is under assault.

For a long time, digital was going to rescue the industry because things would be measurable. Then we find out that the measurements we are getting aren’t accurate.

Going forward, you are going to see more of an emphasis on storytelling and experiences. The gimmicky, award focused advertising that we see at the Super Bowl will still have a place because old habits die hard, but the bread and butter of advertising will not be about those things.

I don’t know that spam will ever go away. Its like flyers and other old forms of advertising that still stick around. But I do think that over the next few years as spending is under more pressure and less effective, you are going to see a return to an emphasis on the basics of strategy which means identifying a unique value, ID-ing your buyers, and figuring out the most effective way to reach those people.

Or, at least I hope.

Now that I have walked you through a few industries, what does the future that has already happened look like for you?