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Oct 14 18

Transforming What We Do Is Not Optional!

by David Brock

Last week, I was sitting in the Gartner Sales and Marketing Conference.  If you’ve never attended, it’s one you need to put on your future agenda.  Even if you aren’t a Challenger fan, it is probably one of the best learning experiences I can recommend.

One of the panelists, Myke Hawkins of Kelly Services, made a statement that struck me, “We don’t have the luxury of not transforming what we do….”

Suddenly I realized how unusual Myke’s perspective is.  Too often, the executives I encounter (sales, marketing, and senior execs) are:

  1. Fat, dumb, happy, with what’s currently going on.  Typically, they think, “If it ain’t broke……”
  2. Perhaps they want to grow, but their mantra is, “More!”  They simply believe the route to success is to do more of what they are already doing–regardless of whether is is working as well as it should be working.
  3. Perhaps they are so busy managing current problems/challenges, they fail to recognize how things are changing around them.

Yet every day, we are confronted with change.  Our customers are changing faster than our ability to respond.  Our competition is constantly changing.  Unanticipated competition/disruption occurs in our industry or our customers.  Global economic and regulatory changes impact everyone  (The number of organizations struggling with dealing with tariffs is overwhelming.  One executive of a multi-billion company, told me, “If we can’t figure this out, we may go out of business….”

Consider for a moment, after years of a very robust global economy, the majority of economists are predicting a fairly significant down-turn in the coming 3-5 years.  Yet most executives I speak with are doing nothing to address this, they are reveling in the current success, doing little to prepare for the downturn they agree will happen.  The time to change is when things are going well, yet too often, we wait until we are fighting for survival.

At personal levels, we see similar things, people lacking curiosity, people who aren’t continuously learning and developing.

We cannot turn a blind eye to the things that are happening around us.  Ignoring the rapid changes, increase in complexity, uncertainty, risk is a sure recipe for failure.  Changes in the fundamentals of many industries are being forced on us, we cannot ignore them.

“We do not have the luxury of not transforming!”

Whether organizationally or individually, we cannot ignore what is happening all around us–at least if we intend to be part of what’s going on in business, our communities, and the world.

We have to constantly be re-examining our customers and markets.  What’s forcing them to change?  Where/how do the struggle with these changes?  Where/how do we help them recognize and address these?

We need to constantly be re-examining what we do within our own companies/organizations.  How do we need to change to continue to be aligned with our customers and their changes?  What new opportunities do we have?  How do we intend to create value?  How do we create value with our customers through their buying process?  What skills, talent, processes, programs, tools, systems, structures, metrics, strategies do we need to support enable us to grow and change?

Individually, we need to look at the skills, capabilities, experiences we need to be competitive in the future–both to remain employed and to be valued within our companies and customers.

We need to constantly be re-inventing and transforming ourselves, our organizations, and helping our customers with their transformations.

Doing nothing is not an option!  Transformation is not a luxury.


Afterword:  While there is a lot of talk about Digital Transformation, recognize Digital Transformation is just one aspect of what we need to look at in our Transformation Journey.


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Oct 10 18

What Does “Insight” Mean In 2019 And Beyond?

by David Brock

The concept of providing our customers rich insight has become “standard” for complex B2B selling for at least the last 7 years.  Some of us have been doing that all our careers-without knowing that we are providing insight.

There are lots of definitions around what insight is, but most of them tend to be around concepts of “commercial insights.”  These are generally stories and data around things happening in our customer’s industries and markets that may impact them.

For example, improvements their competitors may be seeing through implementation of a solution or new approach to their businesses.  They may be shifts in competition or markets that may be threats or opportunities to our customers.

They may be more closely focused on our customers’ businesses–problems they are having, opportunities they may take advantage of, and so forth.

Generally, these insights focus on catching the customers’ attentions, helping them identify opportunities to change or improve, and helping incite them to change.  They focus on the business and potential outcomes.

Ideally, a commercial insight provokes the customer into saying, “I cannot afford not to change, my current state is unacceptable.”

But these commercial insights are no longer sufficient to help our customers move forward, and, presumably , do business with us.

Increasingly, I think we need to adopt a much broader view of insights.  We can no longer focus on just commercial insights, business outcomes and results.  We must expand our concept of insight to “buying insights.”

Research from Gartner and others show customer struggle to buy.  53%, or more, of buying initiatives end in “No Decision Made.”  Buyers struggle internally, aligning more people in the buying process, starting stopping, going back to the beginning, struggling.

The buying journey is no longer linear, if it ever has been.  It’s squishy and chaotic–consider the diagram below this post.

Buying insights become critical to helping the buyers navigate this through this chaos.  They help buyers make sense of what they are doing, how to move forward and what they want to achieve.

Without this help, the buyers will never get to the end–they will never achieve the outcomes our commercial insights had projected.

If we and our customers are to be successful, we and they must look at insight much more broadly.  We must master commercial insight, inciting them to change, but most importantly, we must master buying insights–enabling them to effectively, efficiently, and successfully navigate their buying process.


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Oct 8 18

Our Customers’ Stories

by David Brock

Storytelling is important.  None of us live in a world of data and logic, as much as we might pretend that we do.  Stories are important.

Stories provide contexts to teach our customers and help them learn.  They provide a basis for helping our customers understand how we might help them.  They help customer learn through understanding the stories of people and organizations who have faced similar issues.  Stories engage our customers hearts and minds.

Unfortunately, when we think of stories, too often, we think of our stories or those we want to tell.

But our customers have their own stories—stories relevant to their own companies, organizations, and functions.  These provide the frameworks that provide them meaning in their jobs.  Stories that are personal, these provide the context of who they are.  Inevitably, these stories are tightly intertwined.

Stories provide the framework and rationale to how we live, what we believe, what we value, how we dream, what we want to achieve.  They shape who we are–as individuals and as people working in organizations.

We focus so much on the stories we want to tell, too often we forget to understand our customers’ stories.

But that’s probably most important, until we can understand our customer stories, we have difficulty positioning ours.  Until we understand their stories, we don’t know how to help our customers expand their stories to include ours.

Storytelling is important.

Imagine if we took the time to let our customers tell us theirs.


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Oct 8 18

The Challenged Customer

by David Brock

Our customers (and us) live in worlds characterized by information overload, rapidly changing circumstances, increasing demands, rising management expectations, scarcer resources, increasing scale, disruption, distraction, and complexity.  It’s impossible to avoid feeling overwhelmed, unbalanced,  and distracted.

Getting things done, getting the support and resources to move forward is increasingly difficult.  They must coordinate efforts across more people, they must get approvals and engage more people across the organization–sometimes extending outside the organization to partners, suppliers, customers.

Increasingly, their days are driven by interruptions, they are always on–responding to emails or on calls 7/24.  Risk, uncertainty, shifting priorities are the norm.

They are no longer capable of being able to understand and manage all the things they need to understand to get things done within the organization–at all levels.

It would be an understatement to suggest both they and we are now living in the time of the “Challenged Customer.”

It’s important to think how human beings, facing these challenges deal with them.

For many, it’s natural to ignore them, to avoid them, to try to refute them.  Some find ways of insulating themselves, perhaps pretending they don’t exist.  These become protective mechanisms, things people do to deal with things that become too difficult/complex to understand.

For some, the only way to deal with these issues is to downsize them.  Rather than addressing the core issues, they address small parts of them.  Doing what they can, what they understand, what is within their abilities to do.

Others try to look for models of similar situations.  Either things they have experienced before (though that experience may no longer be relevant or appropriate), or how others are dealing with similar issues.

Whatever the approach, people struggle with making sense of the circumstances they face.

And here, I think, is the opportunity for sales people to help these people deal with overwhelm and complexity.

The opportunity is to help customers make sense of what they face, to help make sense of what they’d like to do, and to make sense about how to achieve it.  We have the opportunity to help customers how things fit together, to look at what’s important/not important/pure distraction.  To help them sort through the overwhelming amount of information, to help them sort through the disparate views, and navigate to a solution or course of action.

The challenge for sales people, is many of our current methods, processes, approaches prevent us from doing these things.  We think the buying process is structured, disciplined, rational.  We think, at some point, people of determined their goals, objectives, and prioritized their needs and requirements.  We think people know, at least broadly, what they are looking for in a solution.  We tend to think we make it easier for customers by simply providing more relevant information.

But the Challenged Customer isn’t there and is unlikely to get there without a lot of help.


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