Continuing our series on the comparison between the American War of Independence and today’s world of sales and commerce, let’s now take a look at the key difference between the American Continental Army and the British Army of the time, and how that difference totally applies in today’s sales environment.
For a moment, let us once again return to 1775, to the amazingly drastic circumstances that confronted the rebels that were out to create their own country (or, originally, their own set of independent states).
The Clear Advantage
For the British, the conflict in the colonies should have been a walk in the park. They and had every advantage over the colonists. They were well-trained and drilled soldiers. They had modern arms, plenty of them, and knew how to use them. They were well-funded. They were well-fed. They certainly had the advantage in numbers. They should have easily won that war.
The colonists, on the other hand, sorely lacked just about everything that their enemy had in abundance. Their arms were few, and ammunition was precious. Their meager troops were not trained or drilled. They had virtually no money, and much of the time not enough food. They didn’t even have proper uniforms. Just given the odds, they really should have lost.
It certainly wasn’t a matter of thought-out strategy. For the Americans there wasn’t a planning stage that extended over several years, at the end of which someone formally announced, “We will now commence rebellion against the British Empire!” No, it all happened rather suddenly, when the Americans seized the moment and opportunity. This scenario could be compared to modern times, and the first Gulf War, which had years of careful planning and preparation.
But as history shows, the Americans certainly won. They have the most powerful nation on Earth to show for it. So what did the Americans have that the British lacked?
The answer: a cause.
Yes, the Americans had a total vision and purpose, to which every individual was dedicated. The British, on the other hand, basically just had their marching orders.
Moreover, back in Britain, the revolution was not taken at all seriously, at least at first. “Oh, those silly colonists!” Everyone expected the hostilities would be quelled within a few months.
Boy were they in for a surprise.
Lessons for Business: Bigger Isn’t Better
Probably the first lesson we can take away from this is that the bigger and more arrogant some organizations become (be it a country or a company) the more blind they become to real threats. Translated to today’s business world, it means that the big giant leaders of today are in reality quite vulnerable to a truly superior product or service from a competitor.
The big giants, for years, have operated with the “first mover advantage.” But leading entrepreneur and author Peter Thiel, in his book Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, completely destroys the argument for first mover advantage:
You’ve probably heard about “first mover advantage”: if you’re the first entrant into a market, you can capture significant market share while competitors scramble to get started. But moving first is a tactic, not a goal. What really matters is generating cash flows in the future, so being the first mover doesn’t do you any good if someone else comes along and unseats you. It’s much better to be the last mover–that is, to make the last great development in a specific market and enjoy years or even decades of monopoly efforts. The way to do that is to dominate a small niche and scale up from there, toward your ambitious long-term vision. In this one particular at least, business is like chess…”you must study the endgame before everything else.”
So as the British Empire showed us, being bigger certainly isn’t everything. Those ragged Americans, clinging dearly to their vision, whipped them soundly. And there are many examples in business throughout the years, too. For example, IBM was once the huge and unbeatable behemoth in the computer industry. Along came those upstart PC manufacturers, with another scrambling startup called Microsoft providing the operating system, and it’s a very different world today, isn’t it?
What we can learn from all this is that you really do need a cause. Does your product or service have a real cause behind it? A mission, a purpose, something that is deeper?
Not to blow my own horn too loudly, but its cause is the reason I truly believe our CRM solution stands out amongst others, even given the size of some of those giants out there. We really and truly have a vision and a purpose: to empower salespeople. We empower them by giving them back the freedom they should have had the whole time. For the truth is that the salespeople are the wealth creators and peace producers of the world.
So as we learn from the American Revolution and from many business examples: a mission and vision can trump financing and power many times over.