It’s been a while since I’ve published this random collection of thoughts. Here are a few things that I think are worth checking out:
Developing models and frameworks is critical for all sales and business professionals. As the complexity of our work, our organizations, and our customers skyrockets, we need models and frameworks to help us understand things, to help us evaluate how to most effectively achieve our goals, to help others understand what we are trying to achieve.
Unfortunately, too many people struggle with this. The courses on model thinking and design thinking are very simple courses to help us understand how to build models–as well as the limitation of models.
Some additional readings:
Virtually any of Russell Ackoff’s books are inspiring sources to better understand problem solving, critical thinking, developing models and frameworks. While most of these were published in the 60-s-80’s, they remain highly relevant classics.
Likewise, C.West Churchman’s books on Systems Thinking and Decisionmaking are classics and foundations to much of what others have written since.
The great thing about both Ackoff’s and Churchman’s books is that while they deal with very complex issues, they are very readable.
More currently Business Model Generation and it’s Business Model Canvas have introduced very powerful tools to help develop models and frameworks.
Perhaps to wet your appetites, I’m about 40% through writing the Sales Executive Survival Guide. Since this book will focus on how sales executives and leaders maximize overall organizational performance (both the sales function and the enterprise), developing models and frameworks to understand how all the pieces/parts of what we do in sales is critical. A good part of the book focuses on how to develop these and leverage them to drive performance. To help you in the interim, please look at any or the resources I’ve outlined.
I recently completed Steven Pressfield’s Nobody Wants To Read Your Sh*t. It’s a fast read and an awesome book. While he is ostensibly writing for writers, his words have deep meaning for anyone trying to communicate with engage, or persuade others. In addition to learning a huge amount, his writing is hugely fun to read. For that matter, you should read anything he’s written.
Sales Manager Survival Guide:
I’m overwhelmed and very grateful for the feedback I’m getting on Sales Manager Survival Guide. The reviews in Amazon are humbling. Thank you to those who have contributed to the reviews. I’d love to get feedback and reviews from those of you who haven’t had that opportunity yet.
On a daily basis, I get emails and questions from others. Thanks so much for those, I really love the opportunity to discuss how to apply some of the ideas I present in the book.
One of the things, I’m having huge fun with is pictures people are sending me of the book–in their office, pictures of them reading the book, and so forth. In the next few weeks, I’m going to add these pictures to the website. So please send me your pictures! Ideally with you in it 😉
Here a few I’ve gotten recently:
Just send your pictures to me at email@example.com
Thanks, enjoy your weekends!
Gary Peyrot asked a great question recently, He had read, “What Would Happen If We Saw Things The Way Our Customers Saw them?“
He ask, “How to you approach the solution from the customer’s point of view, ……do you need to purposefully put aside your own agenda?”
It’s a question that actually hits to the root of the challenge every sales person faces. We’re driven by our goals and objectives. We have the responsibility for generating revenues for our company–selling products and solutions. But I think many sales people are conflicted when we talk about not focusing on your products and what you sell, but rather on the customer and what they are trying to achieve.
Deep inside each of us is the question, “If I only focus on the customer, how am I going to achieve my goals?” Of in Gary’s question, how do we put aside our own agenda—when that’s the most important thing to us?!?
If we are doing things right, with the right customers, at the right time, there is actually no conflict in our agenda, which is to sell something, and the customer’s agenda which is to solve a problem or address an opportunity.
If we are doing things right, with the right customers, at the right time, our goals are actually aligned.
The problem is the majority of the time we aren’t doing this, we’re not aligned with the customer, consequently there is a conflict between our goals and the customer’s. We’re perceived as just pushing our products, wasting the customer’s time, or not concerned with the things they face.
There is no doubt, as sales professionals our highest priority has to be in achieving our goals–hitting our numbers. We have not business being charitable in “helping our customers fix their problems and address their opportuniities.”
But how do we do this, how do we align the customer’s agenda and priorities with ours? How do we address the customer’s agenda without putting aside our own?
I ‘ve taledk about this quite a bit in the bast, but here goes.
First, we have to be very clear about the problems we are the best in the world at solving. It’s easily said, but not often done.We are typically trained and talk about our products and solutions in terms of what they do, not the customer problems they solve. We don’t have a deep understanding of those problems, so we don’t know how to engage customers and prospects in discussions about them and the impacts on their businesses. We tend to “drink the Kool Aid” on our own products, not understanding specifically how we solve the problem and where we are the best in solving that problem. We tend to engage in some level of wishful thinking about how well we address the problem–partially because we haven’t defined the problem well. There is always a set of problems that we are the best at–we just don’t take the time to understand and define this space.
You’re probably questioning this a little, perhaps thinking, “there are other solutions that are just as good or better.” Let’s look at an analogy. Some years ago, gigantic industrial products company company had the stated goal of, “We will be number 1 in each market we participate in. If we are not, we will divest those business units.” You can imagine the concerns of in the business units within the company. Let’s imagine they offered solutions to financial services industries. It’s very difficult to be number 1 in the financial services industries–it’s so broad, with so many diverse requirements. As a result, the business unit leaders started breaking things down–commercial banking, retail banking, investment banking, wealth management, insurance in all its flavors, equities trading, bond trading, other financial instruments,….. and I could go on. Business unit leaders started saying, “What part of this industry are we/can we be the best in.” It could have been as narrow as “We are number 1 in high risk, high velocity hedge funds operating in Europe.”
This actually bring us to the second critical issue in aligning our agendas with the customers’. We have to define, “Who has those problems?” This is ruthlessly focused on understanding the specific characteristics of the markets, enterprises, and personas within those enterprises. Nor organization in the world can address all the problems of everyone. Even within a certain market, industry segment there are differing characteristics of the “enterprise.” In some areas, we may be great an global or very large firms, but terrible at SMB’s in the same industry. And within this, there are certain functions/personas that have those problems or care about them.
All this really focuses on defining our sweet spot (s).
The third critical issue within that sweet spot is the customer has to want to solve that problem now! Even within our sweet spots–we know these customers are highly likely do have the problems that we solve–we have to fund the customers where this is a burning issue that they have to address now. They may not have the problem, they may have bigger problems, for whatever reason they may not care. Until the customer recognizes, “We can no longer operate this way, we have to change,” the customer has no need to buy. As a result it’s impossible to align our agenda with the customer’s agenda. We piss them off trying to talk about how great our solutions are–even if we talk about it in the context of the customer’s problems if they don’t care.
This raises another critical issue, sometimes–because we are the best in the world at solving these problems for these customers, we can see things they don’t. We can see they may not know they could or should be performing better than they are. They may not know they are missing opportunities. They may not know the competition may be outperforming them. They are consumed in the day to day activity of running their businesses.
If we talk to them about how great our solutions are, they simply don’t care because they don’t know they should care.
This is where insight and teaching our customers is so important. We have to disrupt our customers’ thinking, we have to disrupt the status quo. The customer has to say, “We must change now!”
We’ve reached the point where both agenda’s our aligned. The customer has a problem that we are the best in the world at solving, and they want to solve the problem now!
Where we waste time–ours and customers is we are selling to the wrong people at the wrong time. We haven’t done our homework to understand what problems we really solve and the sweet spot. We haven’t created the sense of urgency to solve that problem now.
As a result we struggle. We have our goals, our objectives, our agendas–but we are calling on people and organizations where we can never align our agendas.
We have to be very purposeful in driving our agendas and achieving our goals. We can’t be diverted from them.
But the way we achieve this is focusing only on customers and prospects where our agendas are aligned.
Somehow I get involved in lots of conversations about micromanaging.
These conversations always have the same pattern. It’s an individual contributor talking about their manager, or a manager talking about a more senior manager—it goes all the way up the food chain, I recently heard of a CEO of a multi-billion organization approving every request for travel and expenditures over $100.
The people are complaining—“It takes so much of my time; I can’t do anything without needing to ask them about it first; I have to report everything I do to them……”
The diatribes usually end in some variant of, “Why doesn’t my manager trust me?”
There is probably some element of distrust involved with micromanagement.
But if you reflect a moment, isn’t it really the micromanager not trusting themselves, their decisions, and their abilities.
After all, that same manager is the person that hired every person in their organization or believes the people in the organization are the right people.
That manager has led in the establishment of the goals, priorities, and the things critical to driving performance.
That manager has put in place the systems, processes, tools, and training to make sure people are working as effectively and efficiently as possible.
That manager has put in place the control and reporting systems to make sure they are getting the information the need to know things are going correctly or to be alerted when things go off target.
If that manager has done their job in doing these things, then they should know they have the right things in place to achieve their goals. Yes, they have to pay attention to what’s going on. They have to pay attention to details.
But this attention to details in great leaders involves questioning, probing, learning and understanding. It is always focused on coaching and developing the capabilities of people and the organization. It’s based on confidence in the ability of the people they placed in each job, the strategies and priorities they’ve established in the organization. All their actions, are focused on growing the ability to perform and achieve.
But micromanagers are different. While they may not appear to trust their people, their distrust is really rooted in themselves. Somehow, they lack confidence in what they have done. They don’t believe they have the right people, they are unsure of the strategies priorities, they don’t know how to deal with the complexities and shifts of everyday business. They use micromanagement to constantly reaffirm the decisions they have made, not what their people are doing.
Micromanagers will never recognize this or admit it. They never recognize their own shortcomings and doubts, it’s always externalized to someone else because blame has to be assigned. Until they trust themselves, they will never trust their people and the strategies that have been put in place.
What’s the solution? It’s not easy, but it has to come from the micromanager’s manager. Coaching and development, helping them to understand their micromanagement is based in their own lack of confidence, their inability to be comfortable and trust their own decisions, consequently trust the people they have put in place to execute. If the micromanager can’t do this, that person will fail. The scale and the numbers simply go against them. The higher they are in the organization, the more the organization is put at risk.
Work for a micromanager, you have my sympathy. If it’s any solace, it’s less about them trusting you and all about them trusting themselves.
If you are a recovering micromanager, recognize it is really about you and your own lack of confidence in your decisions. Seek other opinions, question, probe, learn. Leverage your people, peers, and your management to collectively make decisions, set priorities, establish goals. Their collective engagement should give you greater confidence and trust in what you are doing.
If you are a micromanager, you either aren’t reading this or are clueless that you are a micromanager—so I won’t waste my time.