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Oct 16 17

An Alternative To High Pressure Selling!

by David Brock

We’ve all been subjected to high pressure selling tactics.  We see various forms of these high pressure or manipulative tactics, whether it’s the high pressure sales person focused on pitching products,  the sales person that keeps moving the focus back to them and what they want to achieve, incentives to “buy now,” whether they are offered in forms of scarcity or a disappearing discount, and the list of tactics can go on and on.

As customers, we resent those techniques used on us.  Our customers resent it when they perceive pressure from sales people trying to convince them to buy.

We, also, know these tactics don’t work very well.  Yes, some customers respond–particularly to discounting, but they probably were going to buy anyway, so they are just taking advantage of our desperation by getting what they already wanted at a cheaper price.

Most customers protect themselves from these techniques simply by not responding, doing everything they can to avoid a sales person’s call.  They will seek every alternative to learn and educate themselves (often making serious mistakes in their buying), engaging sales people in the very last part of their buying journey.

It’s a terribly vicious circle.  Sales people get more aggressive and obnoxious in their tactics, customers do everything they can to avoid sales people, in frustration sales people ratchet up these terrible approaches….. and we continue to drive bigger wedges between us and the customer.

 

Suspending your judgement about these tactics, when you look at it, it’s really a lot of hard work.  It isn’t easy to continue to do these high pressure approaches at ever escalating volumes.  It takes huge amounts of time/effort and really thick skin for a pretty bad return on that effort.

As you think about it, these approaches don’t make much sense, particularly when there are easier approaches to accelerating the customer commitment and decision making process.  Approaches that, in fact, make customers wildly enthusiastic.

Since it seems to be fashionable to put labels to these things, rather than High Pressure Selling, what if we considered the idea of High Urgency Buying?

High Urgency Buying is simply working with the customer to create a high sense of urgency and commitment within the buying group to solve their problem as quickly as possible.

There are all sorts of things that create a compelling sense of urgency to buy.  Some of the obvious ones are Trigger Events.  Things like Y2K, or regulatory/compliance requirements create a date by which the customer must have a solution in place.  These are typically external and imposed on the customer.  But they don’t come around that often.  And I’m really not hanging around until Y3K.

There are other things that compel a customer to take action.  They may need to make choices about a new product or new manufacturing capability to produce products for the Christmas Shopping Season.  If they miss critical deadlines, they miss a year of selling/revenue.  These are often called “Windows Of Opportunity.”  Missing them is generally irrecoverable.

There are so many ways to create high urgency with the customer.  Identify opportunities they may be missing, opportunities to improve their own internal operations, opportunities to better serve their customers, opportunities to grow, things that may threaten their ability to grow or compete.

At the individual level, there are many opportunities to create high urgency with the customer.  Opportunities to succeed and get noticed, to get a promotion/raise/recognition, to free up time so they can focus on other things–maybe their families, to simplify and reduce overload/overwhelm.

High Urgency Buying is all about the customer.  If the customer feels any pressure at all, it’s self imposed by the desire to move forward as quickly as possible.  Once you and the customer have identified a compelling need to change, the process becomes much easier and the customer, rather than avoiding us, looks to us for leadership and help in addressing these opportunities.

It’s such an easy shift, one wonders why we continue to be so focused on high pressure approaches.

 

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Oct 9 17

The Flip Side Of AI/Machine Learning

by David Brock

Everyone in sales and marketing is jumping on the AI/Machine Learning bandwagon.  Mistakenly, too many think of these technologies as the silver bullet that will enable us magically to increase engagement, increase our ability to connect with customers, and fill the ever widening gaps in quota and revenue attainment.

Everyday, I see dozens, if not more articles on the power of AI/Machine Learning in sales and marketing.

What is ironic, even comical, is most of the thinking is only about sales and marketing.  I get the feeling these tools are the secret discovery of sales and marketing, that give us the edge on the customer.

It’s not surprising to see this.  After all, sales and marketing have a propensity to be very self centered and internally focused.  It’s always so difficult to put ourselves in the customers’ shoes or behind their desk to look at things from their point of view.

But just as we see great promise in leveraging AI/Machine Learning technologies to help us in engaging customers, doesn’t it stand to reason there is a great opportunity for our customers to apply and leverage AI/Machine Learning in their buying processes?

If I were a customer, one of the first applications would be to combat the overwhelming volume and outreach inflicted on us by sales and marketing.  Stated differently, my AI will block your AI.  Perhaps, I can “teach” the machine to only let in a select small number of communications that are meaningful and relevant to me.

Second, I would teach my AI to be insight developers–delivering unique insight about my business, my markets, my customers, my competitors, trends, issues in the markets that impact me.  It could marry our internal operational performance, our strategies, our priorities, with signals from the outside world.  Perhaps not giving solutions, but helping increase our awareness to opportunities and threats to our specific functions, and our business.

Third, I would simplify my web research, when I’m looking for answers.  I’d expect my machine to cull, filter, interrogate, consolidate the things most impactful to me, freeing me up to focus on the things most meaningful to me.

Fourth, I would find a way to leverage AI within our buying group, to help us more effectively align our diverse priorities, goals, agendas and manage our buying process to more successful outcomes.  I’d seek to extend this capability to drive greater success at internal problem solving/project success and internal effectiveness.

If I were an entrepreneur seeking to exploit the capabilities of AI/Machine Language, I wouldn’t waste my time with sales and marketing.  The market is already too crowded, too fragmented.  I’d focus on creating meaningful buying tools to help our customers be more successful in their own efforts?  Doesn’t seem that anyone cares about our customers ability to exploit AI/Machine Learning.

Any VC’s reading this, contact me….I’ve got a notion of a business plan/solution.

Any smart data geeks/entrepreneurs interested in attacking a greenfield space, contact me, could be an interesting ride.

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Oct 8 17

The Future Of Sales

by David Brock

I have been invited to participate in a discussion on the “Future of Sales,” with a small group of wickedly smart practitioners.  I can’t express how much I’m looking forward to the discussion and learning.

In many cases, predicting the future can sometimes be done with an artful projection of the past.  Not with sales/marketing–at least not in these transformative times.

For my part, I see a number of critical issues at the organizational and individual level.

At the individual level, I see a huge shift in required competencies.  The traditional skills/competencies we look for in sales professionals will be table stakes.  High performing sales people are going to have to be curious/creative thinkers.  They will have to have extremely strong critical thinking/problem solving skills.  They will have to to be nimble/agile/adaptable, and exceedingly comfortable with ambiguity.  They have to be masterful project managers, resource managers (both internally and with customers).  They have to be continuous learners and teachers.  They have to be masterful change managers.  They must be comfortable with complexity (knowing both complicated and complex). They have to help their customers and their own organizations manage/and simplify.  They must have deep understanding of people and empathy for the challenges individual and organizations face.  They have to have growth oriented mindsets.  They have to be business people who sell, not sales people.  (You might be thinking I’ve missed “Leaping over tall buildings with single bounds, and faster than a speeding bullet—that’s table stakes).

At an organizational level, many of the same skills/competencies are required.  As sales organizations, we have to set the example and drive the focus of the enterprise around customer-centricity.  Organizationally, we have to become systems thinkers, recognizing we don’t optimize performance by focusing on the pieces/parts, but we need to include holistic thinking about how these impact each other–not just within the sales function, but within our extended enterprises.  We have to develop “ecosystems” thinking both in looking at our own organizations, but also in looking at our customers and markets.

One of the biggest issues sales (and business) executives will have to address is complexity.  As our solution offerings become more complex, as we look at sales stacks, as we look at increased workloads/expectations of our people. as we look at just the challenge of getting things done within our own organizations–managing complexity, driving business simplification becomes one of the greatest performance issues for the organization.  Sales faces a triple whammy on complexity and business simplification.  In addition to organizational and product complexity, we have the complexity of managing/working with partners and the complexity of getting things done with our customers.

Related to the organizational complexity, leaders will have to be sensitive to the impact of all of these things on individuals, the overload and overwhelm factors (Read Your Help Is Killing Me).  More than anything empathy becomes critical in the leadership role.

At an organizational level, we have to be dealing with all these things that impact organizational excellence/performance in a rapidly changing world.  Transformation is being forced on us!  Changing business models, the digitization of business processes, changing markets all drive the need for nimbleness and agility at a leadership and an organizational levels.  We will have to learn how to change the course of “super tankers” at the same rate as we can quickly change the course of a ski boat (The boaters and water skiers will get this difference).

Key to building agility and nimbleness at an organizational level is creating learning organizations.

At an organizational level, our ability to understand, accept and manage risk/uncertainty will have to change in order to survive.

I’ll stop here.  The challenges and opportunities for the future are massive and exciting.  They are game changing for those who can navigate them effectively.

If you are sensing a “But………”

There’s a huge one.  The world is changing at a rapid pace.  We can’t ignore it, it’s happening in spite of what we do or don’t do.  The winners, individually and organizationally are those who successfully identify and tackle these issues.

But if you don’t have the basics of individual and organizational performance mastered, it will be impossible to address these challenges.

Sadly, too many organizations have not yet mastered these.  Too many are doing the same things they have always done, just at a more frenzied pace.  The data on quota and revenue performance is getting worse, not better.  Customer feedback on the ability of sales people to engage in meaningful, high impact ways is plummeting.

Rather than creating Challenger sales people we seem to create Challenged sales people (and organizations).  Rather than building smarter more capable sales people, we seem to be dumbing down sales people and organizations, wishfully thinking that technology, automation, and our ill-informed views of AI will save the world.

So what’s the future of selling?

There will be a certain amount of carnage as some organizations fall so far behind in individual and organizational capability, they will not survive.  Sales people, who can’t or refuse to adapt, will be displaced.

The vast middle, will muddle along, getting what they can, where they can.  Margins and share may be impacted.  There will be churn at all levels, at the top, as CEOs become dissatisfied with performance, this will cascade through the organization.  At all levels, they will grasp for straws, looking for the silver bullet that always eludes them–because it doesn’t exist.

Likewise, a certain number of sales people will muddle through.  They will be increasingly threatened in their roles or become transient sales people, with relatively weak earning power.

And the gap with those few high performing organizations will widen.  These organizations will create long term customer loyalty, huge share and margin growth, huge competitive differentiation.  Sales people at this highest level of performance will be highly sought after, by companies and customers.

Some of us will have the feeling of deja vu—the future of sales doesn’t look a whole lot different.

The good news (and there is hugely good news), all of this is simply a matter of choice and commitment to execution.  Top performing sales people and organizations have already made it and are reaping the results.

So where you are and where you can be is, relatively simple.  It’s a choice and a commitment to execution.  All the rest flows from that.

 

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Oct 7 17

“All Generalizations Are Wrong…..” Be Aware Of Expert Advice

by David Brock

1000’s of blogs from real and self-proclaimed experts appear every day.  Each asserts they have “the answers.”

Often, these answers are based on deep experience from the writer.  We can learn a lot in reading those.

We are hungry for answers.  Each of us faces challenges that are real and very difficult.  We are anxious to find answers, often leaping to “magic solutions” based on the experience of some pundit.

But there are no silver bullets.

These solutions are based on specific experiences these experts have had, but have been generalized to address and attract interest from a broad audience.

But each of our circumstances and situations are different.  While we can learn from generalized solutions or points of view, the really tough work is evaluating, combining multiple approaches, and adapting a solution to our specific circumstances.

As we look for solutions, it’s important not to blindly follow generalized advice or “guaranteed quick fixes.”  It’s important to think critically about what works and what won’t work for us.

That’s the heavy lifting each of us must constantly do in learning, executing, growing, and achieving.  If we aren’t committed to that heavy lifting, then we are committed to a life of following “bright shiny objects,” but will be unlikely to achieve our goals over the long term.

Read avidly, read widely, be skeptical, assess what works, what doesn’t work for your specific circumstances.  Develop the solution that works for you and your organization, don’t try to copy someone else’s generalized experience.

Above all, remember:

“All generalizations are false—-including this one”  Mark Twain

😉

 

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