In April of 2006, a former officer in the Australian Army and counterinsurgency expert, David Kilcullen wrote an email that was circulated among the Army and Marines in Iraq. Kilcullen was working as an adviser to the U.S. State Department in Iraq at the time. The email garnered a great deal of attention in the 4GW (Fourth Generation Warfare) crowd, and was eventually published in a number of places, including Military Review. Some friends of mine in the 4GW world suggested I read Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-level Counterinsurgency, and upon doing so, I couldn’t help but draw the parallels to sales and sales management. One of the primary analogies to counterinsurgency is that in sales and counterinsurgency, a large part of the battle is for hearts and minds; in sales we want the hearts and minds of our prospects and customers, in counterinsurgency the military seeks the hearts and minds of the people. In both cases there are lots of rival groups competing for the same; in sales we call them competitors, in warfare they call them insurgents, enemy combatants, or guerrillas.
I have always played the role of guerrilla, selling against and beating larger, better equipped, and better–funded rivals. As a consultant, I have helped my clients do the same. Kilcullen writes for the side with all of the money and resources, but who has still traditionally struggled in conflicts with their smaller, weaker rivals. But counterinsurgency is much more like guerrilla warfare, and that said, the elements of Kilcullen’s article lend themselves to our version of competition. The stakes are nowhere near as high as the audience Kilcullen writes for, but winning and losing matters a great deal.
Over the next 28 days, I am going to post my version of Kilcullen’s Articles for salespeople.
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