This advice sucks

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28 September 2017 | 0

Billy MacInnesI have a confession to make: I never saw my grandmother suck an egg. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone’s granny suck an egg. And it’s not something that anyone has ever remarked upon in conversation. No one has ever said: “I called in to see my granny the other day and she was sucking an egg.”

Given the lack of corroboration from any source that grandmothers suck eggs, it’s a bit of a surprise that there is a saying in the English language exhorting people not to teach their granny to suck eggs – although why anyone would want to teach their grandmother to suck an egg in the first place has never really been explained.

People say that warning someone not to teach their granny to suck an egg isn’t literally about stopping them from telling grandma how to suck an egg. Instead, the saying means that you shouldn’t give advice to someone who has more experience than you. But how does that make sense? You’d still need your granny to know how to suck an egg for it to have any relevance. In fact, the implied meaning would be that your granny had sucked eggs on more than one occasion to become something of an expert in the field. To the best of my knowledge, egg sucking is not a skill that you see advertised in those courses for OAPs at your local community centre. Perhaps it’s a lost art, in which case, it might make sense to teach grandma and the rest of the family how to suck an egg again. Bring back egg sucking!

I was reminded of grandmas that sucked eggs by an announcement revealing the latest B2B Customer Experience report from Accenture Strategy. The survey found 97% of respondents thought indirect sales channels were critical to their business but only 21% had total control over their organisation’s sales partner networks. Additionally, 84% did not have visibility of sales partner opportunity pipelines.

Mark Gaylard, managing director of advanced customer strategy at Accenture Strategy, said channel partner disconnect was hindering the growth of many B2B businesses who were “distracted by building extensive partner networks to increase selling opportunities” and had “missed the critical balance of picking and managing partners who can leverage customer insight and use it to deliver better experience”. He suggested that they needed to view partners “as an extension of their business and empower them with customer insights, coaching and support”.

Accenture Strategy made several recommendations to improve the way B2B companies integrated and collaborated with partners. In addition to considering indirect partners “as extensions of their own business”, they should provide partners “with something they value”, such as leads, resources, customer events and sales coaching, to “encourage continuous customer information sharing”.

The reason why this made me think of my grandma who, to the best of my knowledge, never sucked an egg, was that the recommendations sounded familiar to the point of obviousness. The conflicting aims of recruiting lots of partners in a bid to target as many customers as possible against choosing a select few to reach the most relevant customers is something many vendors and suppliers have grappled with for years. Trying to get the balance in picking and managing the best partners for their requirements is nothing new although, to be fair, it sounds much harder than trying to teach granny to suck an egg.

Similarly, viewing indirect partners as extensions of a company’s business (or paying lip-service to the concept) is nothing new. Neither is motivating them with leads and resources. That said, there’s a big difference between saying something and doing it and that’s often where the relationship between supplier/vendor and partner comes under strain. Even if you teach grandma to suck an egg, that doesn’t mean she’ll do it. To put it another way, if you had a horse, you could lead it to water…


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