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Mar 23 19

It Isn’t About You, It Really Is About Me!

by David Brock

I got an interesting prospecting note recently. It came, as so many do, disguised as a LinkedIn invitation.

Honestly, I do try to look at these things to see if there is some value, something I can learn from the invitation, or from the individual if we connect. With this one, perhaps the biggest learning is how not to do things.

Anthony is right, no one needs another random LinkedIn connection. But apparently, Anthony is trying to do so. As I read the invitation, rather than making the connection about me (a possible prospect), or even our potential shared interests, he makes this whole thing about himself. (More in a moment).

“Based on your profile….” But how does he say this? LinkedIn tells me who has looked at my profile, it even tells me some characteristics about anonymous people looking at my profile. The problem is, Anthony has never looked at my profile–or at least in the past 2 weeks.

Apparently, Anthony did a search on the geographic area, and I suspect dozens of other people in my area with CEO titles got the same invitation.

So we know Anthony has no interest in who I am, what I do, what I might be interested in. But why should he, after all, this is only about him! After all, he immediately directs me to his profile, asking me to do the work of figuring out whether I should be interested.

If he had bothered to look at my profile, or even read some of my posts on LinkedIn (It’s so easy to do that), he might have said, “I see you are interested in this, I’d love to share some of my perspectives on that topic…”

He would have identified a shared interest and a reason we might want to have a conversation. But of course, since this is all about him, I have the task of figuring that out.

And then he adds an interesting postscript. He’s only interested in connecting with me if I’m not doing business with anyone in his group/company. I guess, the only value of the connection to him is if he can sell me something.

As an aside, this is an intriguing approach from someone like him. Presumably, in his capacity of advising CEOs on better leadership and better decisions, he leverages this kind of narcissism as best practice.

At least Anthony is giving me the option of choosing whether I want to consider doing business with him–I opted out.

Unfortunately, Anthony is not alone. Whether it’s LinkedIn or some other prospecting approach, too much of what we do is not about the customer, it is only about us.

We, endlessly, deluge prospects with stuff about us:

Our company—usually accompanied by the corporate glamor slides about how big we are, how many locations we have, and all the great customers we have.

  • Our products—we talk endlessly about our products. We can recite speeds, feets, features, functions, benefits. We point people to websites or ask them to download white papers, inflicting the task of figuring out whether what we sell might be of value to them.
  • And we make it about ourselves—what we want to talk about, what our objectives are.
  • And we make it about ourselves—what we want to talk about, what our objectives are.

And it isn’t working, but we keep doing this at ever increasing volumes.

Imagine how things might change if we made things about our customers/prospects. Imagine if we found what interested them, concerned them, or even might intrigue them.

What would happen if instead of making things about us, we put the prospect, customer at the center of what we do. Perhaps we might put a label on it. I don’t know, perhaps we might call it something like “customer centricity.” Just a wild thought (Tongue firmly planted in cheek)

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Mar 21 19

Changing The Questions

by David Brock

We know questions are critical to our success as sales people. Sadly, we ask too few, choosing instead to pitch our products and solutions, hoping the customer has some interest in considering them, though we often don’t know why.

Most modern selling programs talk about the importance of questions, but too often they focus on the wrong questions:

  • Do you have funding for this project?
  • Who’s involved in the decision making process?
  • How will it be made?
  • What alternatives are you considering?
  • When will you make a decision?
  • What are your needs and requirements?

We can go on endlessly, whether they are BANT or other questioning approaches, we ask those questions to help us sell–but these questions and the answers to these questions aren’t very helpful to the customer.

What if we started changing our questions? What if rather than focusing on questions that help us sell, we focused on questions that helped the customer buy? What if we focused on questions that helped the customer assess their own situation, helping them identify new opportunities, possibilities to improve, identify things they may not have thought about but should.

What if our questions started looking like:

  • Why do you do things this way?
  • What problems does this create for you?
  • Is there a more effective way of doing it?
  • What would the impact be if you could change what you are doing?
  • How might you start assessing change?
  • What would be involved in deciding to chane?
  • What would be involved in implementing the change?
  • What would the consequences be if you chose to do nothing?
  • What would happen if you changed?
  • What if…..

Again, here there is no end to questions we might ask, or that we might encourage our customers to ask of themselves.

What’s important is these questions are about the customer, what they want to do, why they might want to do it, how they might make it happen, what would happen if they did–or didn’t.

They are questions that help the customer think. They are questions the customer starts asking themselves and others.

The magic of this, is they start asking you questions:

  • What should we be thinking about, why?
  • What could we be doing differently?
  • How can you help us…….

Questions are very powerful, that is, the right questions are very powerful?

Are you asking and provoking the right questions? Are you helping the customer ask the right questions?

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Mar 20 19

Start With The End In Mind, The Tyranny Of More, Part 2

by David Brock

I wrote, “Tilting The Numbers In Our Favor, The Tyranny Of More.” In that, I suggested we might actually be more effective if we started thinking about how we accomplish our goals by doing less.

The basic premise is that to do less and still achieve our goals, we have to do much better. We have to increase our win rates, increase our average deal size, compress our sales cycles, improve our prospecting, improve how we engage our customers, create great value in every interaction.

I’d like to extend that discussion.

While I think focusing on “getting better,” has a stronger impact then focusing on doing “more,” both may be good starting points in driving results.

The trick to each is choosing where to start.

For example, we could choose to do more prospecting or even better prospecting. That would certainly fill our pipelines.

It could even help us make our numbers. But that doesn’t mean we are performing as we should–or, more correctly, as we could.

But we could still be underperforming the potential.

I believe our jobs aren’t just to meet our numbers. Our jobs is to maximize our success in the market–to maximize our share, our growth, our market penetration. In my formative years in selling, our company had a mindset that “It’s our God-given right to 100% share of customer and 100% share of market.” As sales people we learned it was our job to figure out how to do this in each of our territories.

Whether we choose “better” or “more,” it’s important to know where to start.

We might think, “Dugghhh Dave! We have to start at the beginning…..” That would seem to make huge sense. For example if we do either/both more prospecting or better prospecting, we would reduce our pipeline anemia.

But the problem is, if we are bad a selling, if we are bad at engaging our customers, helping them navigate their buying process, creating value at every step of the way, we squander many opportunities.

These are opportunities we could/should have won, but didn’t. It’s lost opportunity and represents an opportunity cost to us and our businesses. Let’s imagine, our average deal is $1M, we win 25% of our deals, but somehow we manage to win 5 and make our numbers at $5M. But what this really means is there were 15 other deals worth $15M that we could have won–or at least some larger portion.

This is a huge opportunity cost to our companies. (The opportunity loss is actually probably greater when you take into account future growth or referral value, etc.)

So even though doing more prospecting or better prospecting may solve our pipeline problems, it doesn’t enable us to maximize our business performance.

In 1989, Stephen Covey in Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, posed is second habit: “Start with the end in mind.”

What if we started looking at things differently? What if we don’t use “How do we fill our pipelines as the starting point,” instead started with our company’s end goals, perhaps, maximizing our growth and share in the market?

As we start solving for that problem it leads us to different thinking and starting points. For example, how do we win more of what we compete for? This would help us increase our share of market and growth. In answering that question, we would focus on our qualified deals, understanding why we win/lose, understand how we might more effectively engage our customers, understand how we create and communicate differentiated value, and so forth.

Then we might look at prospecting, knowing that we have much greater leverage–we produce much more from each prospect we qualify.

Other disciplines have learned this, somehow sales has missed this.

Great project managers always begin do their project planning starting with the outcome: What do we need to accomplish, by what date? They work backwards, identifying the critical activities and milestones needed to achieve that goal. As things slip, as they inevitably do, they keep their end goal constant, but re-jigger the project plan by working it backwards.

Product development does the same thing, they look at what they need to create and when they intend to launch it. They then develop their plan by working backwards.

And the foundation of the Toyota Production System (which is the precursor to modern manufacturing and all agile/lean principles) always starts with the end at the end, with the customer, then works backwards.

We need to do the whole job as sales professionals. We should be driven not only to meet our goals, but to maximize our share and penetration of the markets, driving greater growth.

We do these both by first doing better, then by doing more of that better stuff. We amplify it, maximizing our share and growth, by starting at the end, working backwards.

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Mar 19 19

Tilting The Numbers In Your Favor, The Tyranny Of “More”

by David Brock

I have tremendous empathy for sales people and what they face as they struggle to make their numbers. It seems the mantra is always “do more.” The solution to anemic pipelines is “do more prospecting” (that seems to be the magic solution to every sales problem).

Alternatively, it’s “do more emails,” do more cold calls,” “do more customer meetings,” or “do more research,” or “do more with your accounts,” or any other things that focus on volume.

We have an obsession with volume, specifically volume of activities. If the volume of activities we currently conduct aren’t producing what we need, then the answer is to double or triple or quadruple down on those activities.

As we struggle to keep up with ever increasing demands for volumes, inevitably we start taking short cuts. After all, we are already busy, so doing more means we have to figure out a way to get more done in a shorter period of time.

Managers and sales enablement people try to help this out, perhaps providing tools and processes that enable us to do more in a certain period of time. But, inevitably, we reach a point where we have to do even more.

So we take shortcuts. We start prospecting outside our ICP, we relax our qualification criteria, we prepare less for meetings, we conduct less discovery–moving into pitching, we rush to close.

Unfortunately, our numbers tumble. We are producing the same or less.

But we know the answer to that problem—do more! More prospecting, more qualifying, more deals, more meetings, more proposals, more closes, more, more, more.

But then we run into another problem. We run out of time for doing more. We haven’t, yet, figured out how to create more hours in the day. We only have 8760 hours in a year. Doing more breaks down when we look at the time it takes to do more.

“More” has been the mantra for years. But it doesn’t seem to be working, so why do we keep with the insanity of continually doing more.

What if we conducted a thought experiment, “How can I achieve my goals by actually doing less?”

We probably would start by looking at the deals we win and lose. We’d try to understand what generate each outcome. What is it about the customers and the problems the customers, the problems they face, their buying process, and so forth? What do we do that causes us to win, or that causes us to lose?

We would try to understand what creates success, consistently executing those things in each deal we qualify and how we engage the customer.

These actions would help us increase our win rates, they could help us increase our average transaction size, they might help us decrease our sales cycle.

We might think, “If I can increase my win rate by 50%, the number of qualified deals I have to have in my pipeline is reduced by 33%.” This then ripples through to our prospecting, since we have to have fewer qualified deals in our pipelines, we don’t have to prospect as much to find those qualified deals.

This then causes us to think about how we increase our win rate. Do we do a better job of disqualification, focusing only on the right opportunities? Do we change how we engage our customer in their buying process, becoming much more effective? What else can we do to increase our win rate for those qualified deals in our pipeline?

We might choose to look at average transaction value. “What if we could increase our average transaction value by 25%? This would mean we have to win fewer deals, which means we could qualify and compete for fewer deals, which means we don’t have to prospect as much.

We then start thinking about how we do this. Do we change our qualification criteria, do we change how we engage the customer in defining their problems, do we change how we articulate value……..?

Alternatively, we might look at our prospecting. Let’s imagine, for example, only 10% of our prospecting calls identify a qualified opportunity. Rather than doubling down on prospecting calls to fill our pipeline, what if we studied that 10% trying to figure out: How do we find more like them, how do we spend less time on the other 90%? What did we do with those 10% that created the outcome we wanted, how do we do that with every prospect call?

Doing more of anything or doing more of everything seems to be the knee jerk reaction of too many managers and too many “experts.” But doing more is mindless. Doing more doesn’t force us to do better. Doing more ultimately breaks down.

We would do ourselves and our customers a huge service if we stopped thinking about doing more, instead started thinking about doing less. Doing less forces us to think about being better, being more focused, being more purposeful, creating value in every interaction, and valuing our time.

In reality, if we figure out how to achieve our goals by doing less, we accomplish so much more.

(But there is more to this–stay tuned for part 2)

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