On Sunday night a computer glitch grounded all of United’s domestic flights. Thankfully, only 200 of 4500 flight were impacted by the glitch which lasted 2-3 hours. United’s computers weren’t sending the appropriate & necessary data to pilots on the weight and balance of their planes. Without the right information, it was too dangerous to take flight.

Our reliance on IT continues to grow, and for a good reason. Without the right information, it’s just too risky to rely on a fantastic pilot’s experience as “enough” to send 250 passengers hurling to 40,000 feet at 567 mph in a 750,000-pound airplane.

One of the big topics that often comes up when I work with my clients is how to incorporate technology into their existing processes, and the risks and benefits that come with that.

The pace of technological change makes it easier than ever for small players to compete since they can do things with the push of a button that used to take entire departments to do.

This is great news for the scrappy startups, but it should be scary as hell for companies who sit in the $200M – $5B range, as they’re typically just big enough to have ossified processes (or worse, a complete lack of process) and a stagnant learning culture, but not yet big enough to get away with dismissing their competitors on brand awareness alone.

This is especially true in sales departments. In almost every other area of business, the pressure to utilize modern methods and technologies have been too great to ignore, and there have been huge transformations in accounting, logistics, manufacturing, design, and marketing.

Here’s an interesting challenge: Ask the head of any department in your company, “Could you do your job if you were only able to use 1980’s technology?”

They’d laugh you out of the room – unless, that room was filled with salespeople.

Then, you’d hear that they could do just fine with 1960’s technology – “Give me a decent phone connection, a list, and my little black book, and I’ll sell whatever you put in front of me!” I’ve heard something along these lines from salespeople in $5M, $500M, and $5B company sales meetings.

It’s the only department that’s been allowed to get away with decades worth of stagnation, and that’s only because it’s hard to measure lost opportunity. A salesperson can always give you a story about why their numbers are off (it’s almost always that your “price” is too high) in effect; their job is to sell you on why they should keep collecting their salary, even though their performance wasn’t nearly what it should have been. So…….

If your company has a sales organization that lets its salespeople hoard their leads in their little black books;

If your senior management can’t see the activities performed by the team as a whole or individuals;

If you can’t run a report to identify the most promising past customers to approach based on purchase history & contact history;

If you don’t know the success rate of every one of your salespeople at each stage of your sales process;

If you haven’t bothered to codify your pre-sales, customer experience, retention and referral processes;

Well, it’s not too late to become competitive, but the clock is ticking.

Otherwise, you’re likely just stuck on the tarmac waiting to take off.