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What Happens When You Reach Your Point of Fear

Who remembers the story of Blockbuster Video?

In 2000, Reed Hastings, the founder of a fledgling company called Netflix, flew to Dallas to propose a partnership to Blockbuster CEO John Antioco and his team. The idea was that Netflix would run Blockbuster’s brand online and Antioco’s firm would promote Netflix in its stores. Hastings got laughed out of the room.

We all know what happened next. Blockbuster went bankrupt in 2010 and Netflix is now a $28 billion dollar company, about ten times what Blockbuster was worth. Today, Hastings is widely hailed as a genius and Antioco is considered a fool. Yet that is far too facile an explanation.

-Greg Satell, Forbes Magazine

What happened to Blockbuster is not an uncommon occurrence with many businesses. Blockbuster was in love with its “late fee” model, which drove a healthy portion of its profits. When it came to a critical visionary point in its growth model, it chose to focus on its own operating reality rather than the evolving needs of its customers. The illustration below demonstrates the divergent paths taken by Blockbuster at its “Point of Fear”, and Netflix, which was 100% centered on the changing environment of the market and the needs of the consumer.

Leading sales organizations train their teams to truly focus on their customer’s business and help them elevate through the "Point of Fear".

What does that actually mean? The “Point of Fear” is that critical juncture when your organization has left behind the old ways of doing things and you are not quite comfortable or skilled at the new way of doing things. It is not the change that causes the fear, it’s actually the transition. It is trying to determine how to reinvent new growth through the application of new solutions.

This most often occurs with mature organizations showing flat or little growth. At the “Point of Fear”, you have to stop doing what you’ve always done as you don’t want to get what you’ve always gotten. This is a new strategic vision and requires great perseverance and execution to create new habits with both your people and market position. Companies that are successful pushing through these points of fear experience incredible new growth and innovation into new markets with new services. Organizations like GE and Amazon constantly bump up against this “Point of Fear” and continually evolve with the exponential speed with which markets are moving.

In Butler Street's Become the Only Choice - Sales Effectiveness training, we stress the importance of learning as much possible about the client’s true challenges and asking effective questions to uncover what is most important and impactful in delivering results for THEIR clients.

In a recent session, the question arose as to why, when a customer immediately wants to place an order, we should not just take it and move forward. For salespeople who can’t sit across the table from a potential customer and share expertise specific to that organization regarding productivity, labor optimization, throughput and total cost of ownership, the discussions lead to nothing but price, price, price.

The basic equation is Value = Benefits - Cost. If we provide no real value, then the lowest common denominator becomes price and that is how we will have to compete for the business. Now if we can take an order as an initial step in the process, then do so. This is not an either/or proposition; it’s and/both.

A study by SSS Consulting/Chally HR across 1000s of executives over several years detailed what they expected from business partners stack ranked in order. Below are the top 4 areas that impact their decision as to whom to partner:

  • Be responsive to OUR needs and fix OUR challenges

  • Have deep knowledge of your solutions and how they specifically apply to our desired outcomes

  • Innovative client advocacy and partnership development

  • Help us stay current with the ever-changing needs of our business

At Butler Street, we feel so strongly about the following that we have trademarked it:

“If we solve our customers’ problems... we’ll solve our own.®”

Is your team focused on solving problems or solely winning deals? Don’t be Blockbuster Video! At Butler Street, We help companies and their people grow.®

Satell, Greg. "A Look Back At Why Blockbuster Really Failed and Why It Didn't Have To," Forbes Magazine, September 5, 2014.

SSS Consulting/Chally HR . The client Selected World-Class Sales Excellence 10 Year Research Report, Executive Summary. (2006). Retrieved June 30, 2010 from

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