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Jun 24 17

Bits And Pieces — June 24, 2017

by David Brock

In my last Bits and Pieces article, I referred to a series of articles I’d written about applying manufacturing and lean techniques to sales and marketing.  It was quite a long series, but I’ve had a lot of interest in it.

I’ve consolidated the series into an eBook — What Can Sales Learn From Lean Manufacturing?  The first edition of this is a consolidation of the 5 articles and some additional commentary on the challenges of applying the principles from the Toyota Production System to sales and marketing.  I was also reminded, I wrote another eBook on Lean Sales And Marketing several years ago.  It goes into a lot of the principles and tools in TPS in greater detail.  Just email me at

There was a lot of feedback on the series of articles, as well as some great book suggestions.  I just ordered and started reading:  Lead With Lean, by Michael Balle.  I’m just a few chapters in, but for those of you interested in this, I think you will find it a good read.


As you also know from the last Bits and Pieces, one of my biggest themes over the coming months is understanding impact of complexity in our organizations.  Over the past several years, we’ve done a number of projects focusing on complexity.  One of the things we have started to measure is Time Available For Selling.  There have been several variations in how we define it (depending on clients), but basically we look at 1.  Time spent preparing for a call/meeting, 2.  Time spent in the call/meeting itself, 3. Time spent in direct follow-up from the meeting.

The results we are seeing are devastating.  Typically, it’s in the range of 15-22%, in one case we’ve seen it as low as 9%.  And this is with good, reasonably high performing organizations!

The problem is our businesses and organizations are getting much more complex (particularly large organizations).  Unwittingly, we create a huge seller burden just in getting things done within our own organizations.  Layer this onto our already diverse and complex product lines, our partner ecosystems, and the complexity of our customer organizations.  The impact of all these things, many of which are supposed to “support” our sales people, we are actually loving them to death.

There are two action items for you to look at with your organization in order to start to understand the impact of complexity on sales performance:

  1. Start to measure Time Available For Selling.  There are a number of simple ways to start gaining a rough understanding.  The simplest is to ask your people to complete a 60 second survey at the end of each day.  Collect the data for a month or two, you will start to get an indicator of how they are spending their time and some of the major time drains.
  2. Look at voluntary attrition–particularly for new people in their first 12 months.  Interview people that are leaving.  In our research, we find one of the major causes for voluntary attrition (people choosing to leave rather than being asked to leave) is they can’t figure out how to be successful.  This is another indicator of the impact of complexity in your organization.

These are pretty easy to assess, particularly the first.  They will give you a starting point to identify if there is an issue.

If you need some help in how to do this, just call.  I’m glad to give you some quick tips and pointers.

New CEB Data:

This week, I will be spending time with my friends at CEB.  Every year, they ask a small number of us to sit down, discussing the issues we see in sales and marketing.  Additionally, they share some of their latest research.  Nick Toman has previewed some of it with me, particularly research on Major Account/Account Based Selling programs.  The data is intriguing and suggest some big surprises about the effectiveness of these programs.

I’m really excited to meet with Brent Adamson, Nick Toman and others from CEB.  With their merger with Gartner, Hank Barnes will be participating as well.  Plus the people they have invited are some of the best thought leaders around.  There will be huge learning and I’ll be sharing much of it in the blog in the coming weeks.

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Jun 22 17

Have My Robot Talk To Yours!

by David Brock

Recently, I’ve become fascinated with Amazon’s “Alexa.”  I’m just playing with it, at this point, it’s really more of a novelty.  It’s actually easier to get up and turn a light on or off, or adjust the thermostat.  But I can see how Alexa and Apple, Google, Microsoft and other versions of it can become quite interesting.

I’ve started training Alexa….

“Alexa, please make a dozen prospecting calls for me….  Make sure you’ve researched well, be sure to engage them, ask them to text me if they are interested in a deeper discussion…..”

No, I’ve not gone off the deep end, though I wish I had.  That reality is at hand.

I’ve started getting robo-calls from well known B2B brands.  It’s a new experience for me–at least in B2B.  For years, I’ve gotten those crude robo calls at home, usually just as we are sitting down for dinner.  They’re from politicians asking for my vote, slimy mass marketing organizations, charities asking for my money.  The only useful ones are from our city government informing me of road construction/traffic delays, or our garbage collection company, informing us of a shift in the pick up schedule.  All others, I just hang up on.

The technology behind these B2B robo-calls is quite interesting.  They always start with , “Can I speak with Dave Brock?”  I respond, and the call begins.  The first few times, it took me a moment to realize I was speaking with a machine not a person.

Unfortunately, I feel this is probably the way of the future.  Sales managers seeking to maximize productivity, organizations looking to make 100s and 1000’s of calls a day will embrace this approach.  After all, dealing with SDRs is so messy.  Each is different, we have to coach and work with them.  Execution is inconsistent.  Just as they get good, they want a promotion or quit, going to another job.

Let’s face it, any time we put people in the equation, it just gets messy and time consuming.  Everyone’s different, there’s so much variability.  It’s so much better if we can mechanize this.

Ironically, the people doing this are probably people that say things like, “Sales is a people to people business….”  “We’ve got to get close to the customer…”

They and their marketing teams are probably doing worried about things like “engagement.”  “How do we get more engaged with our customers?”

Or perhaps not, perhaps they view the customer as the vehicle to get money and to do transactions.  They really don’t care about the customer, just getting the order.

The move to robo-calling is stunning to me. Much of the  data shows one of the biggest challenges sales organizations face is reaching, engaging, and getting prospects and customers to speak with them.  Sales people struggle to capture the time and attention of their prospects.

It is incomprehensible about why anyone would choose to try to engage a human being on the phone with a robot.

Unfortunately, people driven by new technology and focused on internal efficiency rather than high impact customer engagement will be leveraging robo-calling more.  And, in turn, it makes it difficult for those sales people who genuinely want to engage customers to reach them.

In my little way, I’m trying to address this issue.

“Alexa, please answer my phone calls from now on…….  You know what to do.”


Afterword:  There has been an interesting discussion of this in LinkedIn.  You can look at it here.


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Jun 21 17

Our Value Creation Starts Within Our Own Company

by David Brock

Recently, I wrote, “Sales People Don’t Have The Time To Create Value With Customers...”

Clearly, this is unacceptable if we are to drive business results.  If we aren’t taking the time to create value with customers, then customers have no reason to waste their time with us.

In the post, I suggested sales people don’t know how to create value in the time they are taking.  Even going so far to suggest sales people don’t know how to create value.

I’m sure many people read the post and started leaping for solutions.  I can imagine a flurry of activity in creating playbooks, content, training around how to create value.  Hopefully, managers will also start coaching it.  I suggested managers ask a couple of simple questions, in pre call planning, asking, “What value will you be creating for the customer in this call/meeting?”  In post call debrief, “What value did you create, how did the customer acknowledge that?”

These are all necessary, but not sufficient.

As I reflected on this theme, as I’m prone to do, I try to look at cause-effect.  What’s driving this behavior?

If our sales people aren’t taking the time to create value, perhaps it’s because leaders and managers aren’t taking the time to create value for them?  Setting examples, modeling the behaviors that drive excellence are critical in developing our people.

Perhaps because our people aren’t seeing value created for them, they don’t take the time or don’t know how to create value for the customer.

Unfortunately, the data seems to reinforce this premise.  High voluntary attrition, low engagement, low employee satisfaction, low loyalty, low trust —- all are indicators that we, as leaders, aren’t paying attention to the value we must create within our organizations.

We don’t take the time to coach, but we have endless meetings about performance problems.

We don’t understand/address the challenges our people face, yet we keep raising expectations.

We have a “people as replaceable commodities,” approach to recruiting and development, without recognizing the costs–real, opportunity, and reputational/brand to this philosophy.

No number of playbooks, training, content will ever enable our people to create value with our customers unless they see that they are valued and leaders are focused on how they create value within the organization.

Perhaps it’s a cultural thing–we know culture eats strategy, but a culture imbued in creating value for employees, customers, community, suppliers/partners, shareholders, consistently outperforms all others.  Top executives must build this into the DNA of the organization.

But each manager and leader can start independently.  Ask yourself, “What value am I creating for my people?”  Be honest, no one is going to test you on the results–you actually will already see this in the results your team is producing.


  • What am I doing to help them grow, develop, and improve?  How am I leveraging coaching and feedback in doing this?
  • What barriers am I removing, enabling them to focus on doing their jobs as effectively and efficiently as possible?
  • What am I doing to help them get the support and resources they and their customers need?
  • How am I “promoting” them within the organization?

Are you taking the time to create value for your people?  If you aren’t, you can never expect them to take the time to create value for their customers.  Unfortunately, this becomes the ultimate lose-lose-lose.


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Jun 20 17

“Sales People Don’t Have Time To Create Value With Customers…..”

by David Brock

I read a comment in a post, “Sales people don’t have time to create value with their customers anymore.”  In fairness to the author, he was claiming sales is broken—it is.

My knee jerk reaction was, “This is complete BS!”  Upon reflecting I realized it’s true, and it’s probably an understatement.

Without a doubt, sales people are busier than ever.  They have too much on their plates, and keep getting more and more piled on.  Sales people, just as their customers are time poor.

At the same time, they are pressed by management for more volume.  They blindly send hundreds emails, followed by dozens to hundreds of calls.  All of this is aided by the “sales stack,” tools that are supposed to make them more efficient—though possibly not more effective.

When they eventually reach and engage their prospect, that prospect is equally busy and time poor. Too often, sales people are ill equipped for this initial conversation.  While they have the tools to research and prepare, they don’t take the time.  They’ve been trained on their products, but have had too little training on the customer, their businesses, and challenges.  They don’t know how to bridge the challenge their customer face and how their own solutions help the customer address those challenges.

Instead they pitch their products to a customer who may not be interested or engaged or care.

At this point of the argument, let’s pause and reflect.

Our sales people are clearly speaking with customers and engaging them.  They are having conversations with customers—albeit with great struggles.  But sit with any manager, look at any dashboard, and you will see all sorts of data on the number of calls, the minutes spent with customers, and so forth.  They are taking time with customers.

In those moments of time they are taking, they could and should be creating value.

Perhaps the real issue isn’t that they don’t have the time to create value, it’s they don’t know how to create value in the time they are taking.

In fairness to sales people, it may not be their fault!

Afterall, look at the scripts and training they have had.  It tends to be very product and internally focused.  Their prospecting programs are designed to maximize their efficiency, not necessarily to maximize customer engagement in talking about their business issues.

Or look at the coaching they get, if they get any, on their calls.  In the hundreds of reviews I’ve participated in during the past year, I have never heard a manager ask the simple question, “What value did you create in the call?”  In the pre-call planning sessions, I’ve never heard the question, “What value will you create?”  If we aren’t coaching them on how to create value in each interaction with the customer, why should we expect them to take the time to create value?

It must be unacceptable to accept that sales people don’t have the time to create value in their calls/meetings with customers.

That, after all, is their job, it’s what separates them from everyone else, it’s what engages the customer and makes them choose to buy.

The issue isn’t they don’t have the time to create value, it’s they don’t know how to create value in every interaction.

It’s the responsibility of management to change this.

Sales management must insist that people are trained in creating value–whether that training comes from sales enablement, marketing, product management, everything hast to be positioned in the context of how what we do creates value for the customer.

Sales management must coach sales people on creating value.  In every call review, make sure you ask, “What value did you create?”  In every pre-call planning meeting, ask, “What value will you create?”  If the sales person can’t answer, they aren’t ready for the call.


Afterword:  There has been a fascinating discussion on this in LinkedIn.  You can read it here.


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