I heard a great story this week from a friend in insurance technology sales and he gave me his permission to retell it here. I’ll start with the story and end with the (questionable) lesson.
Back some years ago a man worked selling agency management systems and traveled down to Texas to pitch the system to a small agency. The agent in charge was an affable cowboy, fairly comfortable with his current process but willing to listen to a sales pitch. As they walked through the office, the agent introduced the salesman to an elderly woman (he called her “a lovely young lady” though she was at least 20 years his senior) who sat in front of an Underwood typewriter, her sole job to manually type up each insurance certificate by hand. The salesman, seeing an opportunity to discuss the values of the agency management software, explained that with their modern processing and document generation, all of the insurance certificates would be automatically created and printed without the need to type them up anymore.
The agent stopped him in his tracks and said, “That lady’s not going anywhere. She’s my momma.”
Needless to say, he didn’t get the sale. And surely there’s a sales lesson in there. Something about knowing your target before making a pitch. Of course, no matter how much research you’ve done there are likely to be some details you can’t discover in advance.
More interesting to me is how impediments to change can come from unexpected directions. Despite many rational and logical reasons to modernize core system technology, often companies put these decisions off for years or even decades. Sometimes it’s due to budget constraints, sometimes a company isn’t ready for the short term business disruption a big project entails, sometimes there’s a lack of understanding or belief in a modern system’s capabilities. And sometimes it’s because the person whose job will be displaced is the boss’s mother.