While I never actually saw Dr Doolittle starring Rex Harrison from way back when, it stands out in my mind for two reasons: the song Talk to the animals and an animal known as a pushmi-pullyu (pronounced “push-me-pull-you”). The pushmi-pullyu was like a llama with two heads, one at each end (as I never saw the film, I’m not sure if the crucial issue of just how the unfortunate animal did its business was ever addressed).

Anyway, I’m reminded of the pushmi-pullyu by a story that appeared in MicroScope recently concerning customer buying behaviour . According to Gartner, customers are now much more in charge of their own buying cycles because they are armed with information and control over the timing of a purchasing decision.

As a result, Hank Barnes, research director at Gartner, argues things have changed from the old model where sales dictated the flow of information with “cold calling, sending out corporate marketing literature, meeting with prospective customers, conducting sales presentations and arranging high-level executive meetings in more of a push selling model”. Or, as I like to call it, a pushmi model.

Now, he claims, customers “are deciding when and where the sales engagement will actually begin as well as how and where that interaction will take place in more of a pull model”. Yes, that’s a pullyu he’s talking about.

Gartner suggests sales staff should become more in tune with the way customers are buying, which means more pullyu and less pushmi and vice president and distinguished analyst Tiffany Bova believes the sales force of the future will “need to translate technology into industry solutions and value propositions”.

As far as I can see, that isn’t really anything different from a lot of the stuff that’s been coming down from the vendors in recent times, although I can’t quite make up my mind whether they’re trying to push channel partners to adopt this approach or expecting customers to pull them towards it. Possibly, it will be a bit of both. It usually is. The only question is how much of one and of the other.

So you see, while the pushmi-pullyu was widely thought to be a fictional creature, it’s been alive and well in the IT industry for many years (although I have to confess, I still don’t know how it does its business).

This was first published in September 2013

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