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1959 Cadillac and Managing Obsolescence

CRM manages obsolescence better than anything else.

Ever ask yourself how we got here from index cards and a ballpoint pen? What made CRM the darling child and a must have? Let’s take a step back to 1959. Harley Earl, who for over 30 years as the Chief of Design and Styling for GM, may best be remembered for designing the classic Corvette. For sales and marketing professionals, more important was his design for the tail fins on the 1959 Cadillac.

First Key: Planned Obsolescence

This Caddy marked the epitome of planned obsolescence. By any measure, no one would confuse this masterpiece with any sort of a vehicle that would last a lifetime. Just the opposite was true:  this car was purely about style, a river of chrome, cool colors, and even cooler fins and what it said about the Customer. This is the First Key in what would forever mark the change in how we sell all goods: planned obsolescence changed our sales strategies to customer buying cycles.

Key Two: Ralph Nader added to the CRM chain

The Second Key would involve Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate who gained notoriety by killing the Corvair with his 1965 authorship of “Unsafe at Any Speed”. Few know that he actually got his first stab in this field with the ’59 Caddy. My guess is Nader felt it was unsafe at any speed because people might impale themselves on the tail fins. Nader ensured that consumer rights gained momentum and laws demanded auto manufacturers keep track of buyers (customers) for recall notices.

Key Three: Cheap and easy to use, PC’s was the breakthrough for CRM

Well, not all this Customer data was put to waste as simple mailing lists or be the privy of major corporations. Much has been said about the personal computer but what’s not evident is its role as the Third Key to the modern selling puzzle. The result of this data journey is every nuance, of everything you buy or want to buy, is available to anyone who cares to know. For miniscule cost, with equally miniscule computer or marketing skills, anyone can use this data.  

Key Four: The Internet changed buyer’s relationship habits

The Fourth Key is the Internet: Information is cheap and available to everyone. Customers are addicted to finding out what they want to buy on the net. This doesn’t eliminate the need for a sales relationship. For many organizations, just the opposite is true. Once the object of desire is found, consumers want to connect instantly in a ‘relationship’, no matter how short term they need it to be.

What this all means today is for a great many sales people, economic survival relies on the consumption of the constant turnover that obsolescence requires and how the customers prefers their client relationship.

Modern selling recognizes customers changed to a buying cycle process

Why they buy and what they expect to gain is often measured in terms of their short-term buying-cycles. Hence, we need CRM technology to stay tuned to our customer’s wavelength and gear our sales pitch to exactly what the consumer wants to buy at that very moment. Unfortunately, most CRM program designs are still back in the 1950’s mode: lots of data lists, extraneous info and doodads that do little to recognize or respond to buying cycle strategies. 

Here’s the rub: Buying and setting up a CRM is ridiculously simple….

  • But this bears no relation to what you need CRM to do: support a structured process that defines the buying cycle and the enterprise-wide activities essential relationship events that surround it. 
  • CRM to be of any sustainable value to an organization is a strategic process that should eliminate the clutter of extraneous data, activities and tools, the polar opposite of the soup to nuts offerings that are sold to CRM users.   

I am not here to debunk anything or upset the latest CRM guru’s solution. Rather, to illustrate that a lot of what we have learned or assumed about CRM role in sales automation starts on the wrong assumptions, neglect the relationship needs and the vast majority die quickly e.g. obsolete before they get started. That’s not entirely your fault: it’s just that many of the CRM programs and gurus fail to navigate a sustainable buying cycle relationship management strategy. Instead they see obsolescence (a river of technical chrome, doodads and bells and whistles) as a better reason to engage CRM.

MosaicCRM Experts Corner

The basic roots that make up CRM ‘work’ fall into this simple summary:

  • 1: Deploying a process that acknowledges the ‘Customer’s’ buying cycle as critical to whatever comes before or follows next in the sales relationship cycle.
  • 2: ‘Managing’ the customer’s short-term needs and bridging the attention gap is the ‘Relationship’ job of the sales person and must be in sync with the CRM process set up.
  • 3: CRM must manage the degree of automation required in the sales role e.g. the shortest route possible to the customer.


Written by
Bill Noonan, CEO MosaicCRM


Pre-CRM Planning Tips for SMB’s

I’ve put together this slide presentation that covers a number of key elements that can help in your CRM Plan or Re-Start program. Some of the topics include Beware of ‘Quick and Easy’ CRM promotions, The Human Factors, Competition Applications, Abilities, Resources and Sales Process Design, Budgeting and more.