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Jun 20 18

What’s With All These F#!@&*g Reviews!!! Stop Wasting My Time!

by David Brock

It seems managers are always asking for and conducting reviews.  Sales people complain, sometimes fairly, about managers “micromanaging,” and wasting time.  Some managers seem to take refuge in staring at reports and doing reviews.

A lot of managers, if they were honest, probably don’t know why they are conducting a review.  “It’s something we’ve always done, my boss is asking me to do them, ……”  Too often, managers seem to be simply “checking the box,” saying they have done it, but not creating great value for sales people, themselves, or their management.

A lot of time seems to be wasted with meetings that don’t accomplish anything.  So there’s some good argument to support, “The hell with them……”

Having said that, I happen to be a strong proponent of reviews–we just need to design and execute them much more effectively, making sure that both sales people and managers get value and learn from them.

Just for clarity, when I talk about reviews, they fall into lots of different categories, pipeline, forecast, deal, account, call, territory, prospecting, 1 on 1’s, QBRs and more.  Most managers are pretty sloppy about the cadence and execution of many of these, and don’t execute all that should be done.

Some thoughts to add impact, relevance, and improve the whole review process.

First let’s look at it from the sales person’s point of view  (most managers never even think of this).  A great review process should help:

  1.  Sharpen the sales person’s thinking about whatever it is that is being reviewed.  For example, “Do I have a healthy pipeline, will I make my numbers, what are things that I can do to improve the quality of the pipeline and be more certain about the attainment of my goals.
  2. Help in building better strategies, “How can I prospect more effectively, producing more from those leads I’m pursuing?  What are some of the things I can do to “unstall” this deal?  How do I more effectively deal with this competitive threat?  How do I compress my deal cycles?  How do I increase my win rates?  What are some of the things I can do to more effectively defend value and pricing?”
  3. To get help/support, “I need some help or resources to move this deal forward…. I need to get a specialist to work with me on this account… We are going to have do some customization or some special things…..”
  4. Coaching on how to be better as a sales person or to move into a higher level job.  “What can I be doing to improve my overall performance, skills and capabilities…..”
  5. You need to know what I’m doing, “I recognize, you need to be aware of what I’m doing and how I’m performing…..  Also, how can I improve my performance in this area……”

Of course for the sales person to get value out of the time spent in reviews, the manager has to recognize her responsibility to be coaching and developing the people.  Too many focus on their own needs forgetting the needs/help/support the sales person is expecting from the review process.

On the manager’s side, we need to think of reviews in two senses, the business management purpose, and the coaching purpose.

As managers we have a business management responsibility.  “Are our people likely to meet their goals?  How do I keep management and the rest of the company informed of what’s going on, what likely attainment will be?  Is my team meeting our expectations of performance, are there people in trouble?”

There’s a coaching/development responsibility.  “How do I help my people maximize their short and long term performance?”  You can see how closely intertwined the business management and coaching aspects of reviews are.  If you conduct the review process well, you can accomplish so much.

Unfortunately, too few managers think leveraging the review process in this way, as a result, they waste their time and their people’s.  Mostly it’s just a data collection exercise to provide information to managers–this is a waste, most would be better off just looking at CRM if this is all they want to accomplish.  Some think its an excuse to dictate what people should be doing.  Rather than be in listening/learning mode, the diminish the value for all  by being in tell mode.

Remember, the manager’s job is to maximize the performance of each person on the team.  The review process is a very powerful way of doing this through understanding what people are doing, helping them improve and produce better results, and helping keep the manager informed of how things are going.

There’s another aspect that makes reviews less effective than they should be.  Our objectives in the review are not clear, as a result we wander and don’t achieve what we can.  Or we mix different reviews into a single conversation.  For example, virtually every pipeline review I sit in, becomes a deal review.  The objectives of pipeline, forecast, deal, call, prospecting, account, territory and other reviews are different.  We and our people need to be very clear about what type of review we are doing and what we are trying to achieve.

For example, a pipeline review focuses on pipeline integrity/quality, volume, and velocity.  A deal review focuses on what it takes to win a specific deal.  A call review focuses on how we maximize the impact of a certain “meeting” we want to execute.

When we don’t have clarity on the type of review and objectives of each, usually we don’t achieve much of anything.

Finally, there is a structure to effective reviews, if you practice executing this structure, you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish in a very short period of time.  The formula is simple-it’s applied to each review type (remember each has a different objective/goal).  It’s Prepare, the “Review Conversation,” Agreeing on Next Step/Actions, and Follow Up.

We waste enormous amounts of time by being unprepared–both the manager and the sales person for what we are trying to achieve in a review.  We waste more time through lack of clarity in our goals in the conversation.  That conversation must be purposeful.  In any purposeful conversation there are agreements on actions and next steps.  Finally, if we don’t follow up, we lose discipline in the process.  While well intended, people get diverted by the next urgent things.  Follow up is critical if we are going to build the business, maximize the performance of our people, and build capability/capacity in the organization.

There’s a lot wrong with most reviews conducted by sales managers and sales people.  Effective reviews can achieve so much more-and it doesn’t take a whole lot to make that happen.

For a deep dive in leveraging the review process, look at section 3, chapters 20-27 of Sales Manager Survival Guide.


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Jun 19 18

Children Are Not Pawns!

by David Brock

Children are not pawns to be used to achieve a political agenda!  I am ashamed to see children held hostage in detention centers as means to force decisions on securing our nation’s boarders.

While the administration is leveraging the detention of infants and children to achieve “strategic goals, ” the end does not justify the means, it never has.

This is not a political issue, it is a humanitarian issue.

We, as individuals, citizens, and a nation must have higher standards.  We are better than this.

We cannot standby, taking no action, we must make our anger and voices heard.

I am compelled to take action, both through this blog and in writing my congressional/senate representatives.

I am compelled to march, not to support any political agenda but to support humanitarian action.

I hope you, too, will feel compelled to act.


Picture courtesy of


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Jun 18 18

Abandoning Excellence

by David Brock

Sometimes, I reflect on the “good old days.”  Things were certainly different, I do think at a macro level things are far better than whatever our image of the good old days were.

At the same time, I do see areas where we seem to be “settling” for levels of performance or excellence that are far lower than what we expected as standards of performance years.

By way of illustration, I’ve spent much of my career loosely involved with telecommunications, whether the operating companies, equipment, or services providers.

In the good old days of landlines, there was something that all the operators were obsessed with.  In the industry, it was referred to as QoS—Quality of Service.

QoS referred to the quality of the phone call.  Any levels of static, and decline in call quality, any inability to consistently and correctly connect calls was deemed as unacceptable.  The operating companies constantly strove to achieve levels of QoS that seemed absurdly high–typically above 98%.

Sometimes, I thought it seemed a little silly, they were doing things that, as a user, I couldn’t perceive, but they were important metrics and goals for the operators.

Fast forward to the telecom world of today and, “Can You Hear Me Now,” is no longer an advertising campaign, but the reality we live in every day.

We suffer through bad calls, dropped calls.  If it’s a cloudy day, the mobile signal at my desk is flaky, so to make calls I have to stand as close to one of the windows in my office as I can.  I make sure that I don’t move, if I even turn a little, I might lose the call.

Yet this is what we live with and accept today.  What’s worse, we don’t seem to question it, it’s just the way things are.  We accept lower levels of quality as “normal.”

We seem to do the same things in marketing and sales.  I remember reviewing campaigns, where 1% response rates meant we failed.  We would assess what we had done, continually seeking to improve–driving higher opens, higher response rates, better levels of results.

The same with selling, win rates, sales cycle, average transaction values were important.  We always looked to improve those, driving performance as high as possible.  Are we chasing the right customers?  Are we engaging them as effectively as possible?  Are we maximizing our ability to create value with them, differentiating our offerings from others?  Are we continually improving our capabilities as sales and marketing professionals, achieving the highest levels of organizational and individual performance possible.

Yet today, the focus is less on improving, getting better results from what we pursue and what we do.

We focus on volume and velocity.  A response rate of 1% is no longer questioned, in fact in many organizations, it’s viewed as exceptional.  If we didn’t get the right number of responses, we just sent another million emails or make another 1000 dials.

We accept what we get and the way we get more is to increase volume/velocity, rather than figuring out how do better.  We settle for mediocre performance, seeking to achieve our numbers by ramping up the volumes.

In too many organizations, the focus is on doing more, not doing things better or more effectively.

Ironically, doing more, higher volumes and velocity don’t seem to be working.  We can paper the world with millions of emails, we can make thousands of dials, we can double, and triple these.  The incremental cost of doing more is virtually zero.

But we aren’t doing better.  For the past 7 years, according to CSO Insights, sales people making quota has declined roughly 10% to the low 50’s.  Other research show similar issues in performance.

One would think we would begin to focus on doing better at what we do.  Improving how we engage and work with customers.  Improving our effectiveness, improving our impact.

There are sporadic initiatives to do this, but it’s tough work, too often we opt for easy.  I know I’m generalizing, there are many that constantly seek to improve and excel, yet in general, we seem to be becoming increasingly comfortable with mediocrity.


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Jun 17 18

Features And Benefits

by David Brock

Somehow, we think features and benefits are important.  Every beginning sales course talks about how we present Features And Benefits (When I first started, I learned how to present Features-Advantages-Benefits —-FABs).  Our product marketing and marketing teams load us up with content and presentations with endless lists of features and benefits.

Visit any web site, and one is inundated with features and benefits.  We see the comparative tables showing features and benefits on one axis and the comparison of our solution with various alternatives–and we know our solution always checks off all the boxes, the alternatives don’t.  Ironically, when you visit the websites of those alternative solutions, their comparisons always show them checking all their boxes and the alternatives–including us don’t.

These are all games we play in pitching our products. and focusing on features and benefits.

But the problem is, not all features benefit the customer.

This is the first place where Features and Benefits discussions fall apart.

Customers may not care that we have certain features, they are irrelevant and the benefit is irrelevant.  Let me take an extreme example, say we offer our product in four colors, while the competition only offers their product in black (Think back to Henry Ford–“We’ll give you a car in any color as long as it’s black.”)  The feature is 4 colors, the benefit is you can match your office decor, you have colors that are soothing and restful to your employees.

The customer responds, “I don’t care, all our employees are color blind so that’s meaningless to us.”

Features and benefits are meaningless if the customer doesn’t care about specific features or benefits.  Yet, too many sales people will rattle off all the features and benefits they offer, forgetting the ones they should be focusing on are the ones the customer cares about.  If they only care about one benefit, then the only features relevant to them are those that produce that benefit.

The second area Features and Benefits are meaningless is we have to translate them into specifics that are meaningful to the customer.  Just the fact that we enable the customer to reduce operational costs and improve profitability is meaningless to the customer.  (Plus the competition is saying the same thing).  How much will we reduce expense, how will profitability be improved, how long will it take, when will they see results. Without making the benefits specific to the customer and their situation, we aren’t articulating our value in ways that are impactful and relevant to customers.

Features only benefit the customer if they produce value the customer cares about.  When we’ve narrowed our focus to those relevant features, we must articulate benefits specific to what the customer should expect to achieve.

Absent this, we are not creating value with the customer.


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