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Jan 16 20

State Of Grace

by David Brock

Forgive my pure indulgence. This is primarily for me to help sort out some thoughts and deal with my profound grief.

In the past 18 months, two of the people most important to me have died slowly. The first was my youngest sister, Kathy, who passed away about 18 months ago. The second is my best friend, mentor/hero, and wife of 38 years, Kookie. Kookie passed away two days ago.

While I have a profound sense of loss and grief, I am blessed by their examples and what they taught me as they died, slowly. Their lessons in living were amazing.

It started as both were told they were going to die. Privately, at first they were afraid and didn’t know they if they had the courage to go through their remaining weeks/months. But what I realized is they quickly chose to focus not on dying, but on how they lived.

Someone asked me, “Is Kookie in denial.” I realized that all of us were in denial, and Kookie was the one facing reality. Kookie knew what she was facing, choosing instead to focus on how she lived, how she impacted people. Likewise, Kathy focused on her family, her friends and how thye would live.

Both Kathy and Kookie became inspirations not because how they were dealing with death, but how they were choosing to live.

As they faced their deaths, each knowing they had only days, everything changed and they changed me forever. Both had so much calm, grace, clarity, focus, dignity, and courage.

When one thinks of dying, I’ve mistakenly thought, all thoughts focus on ourselves and our lives.

With both Kookie and Kathy, my experience was profoundly different. While neither had much of a facade or pretense while they were healthy, all facades, all pretenses disappeared. The day to day things that had filled our lives were no longer important to them. They simply couldn’t be distracted.

Their only focus was on others, both the immediate family, friends, and the clinicians, nurses, and others helping them.

The conversations shifted to the profound, deeply caring, and hugely focused. To be honest, at times they were uncomfortably intense.

I was spending the night, in the hospital, with Kathy. At about 2:00 am, she wanted to talk. She asked me, “What are you going to do to change the world?” At first, I responded lightly, but she said, “Stop playing that game David!.”

She kept pushing, challenging, listening with a focus I had never experienced. Her bright blue eyes were unflinching as she stared at me, waiting for a response. I felt them piercing me and was forced to examine myself more deeply than ever before. I’m still trying to sort out and execute on that conversation.

It turns out, she was asking each of us, in the family, the same thing, we were each having late night conversations about what we would do to change the world. They weren’t surface conversations, Kathy probed, forcing us to think. She asked us to live up to our potential.

With Kookie, it was similar. She didn’t go to changing the world, she was much softer, focusing on how I wanted to spend my life. Her biggest worry in dying was not her death, but leaving me alone.

As it turns out, she was engaging everyone she encountered in similar ways. With Kookie, everyone was important, despite the pain she was experiencing. She talked to each of the nurses, the people who delivered meals, the person who cleaned her room. She talked to them about themselves, where they came from, their backgrounds, their families their dreams. She loved nothing more than laughing and having fun as she subtly reached into their hearts.

She was eager to learn about them, in doing so demonstrated how deeply she cared about each of them. In the hallways of the hospital, maintenance people, nutrition people, others would stop and ask me about Kookie, commenting about her thoughtfulness and kindness. Throughout the staff, she was “their special girl.”

As I think about both Kookie and Kathy, it was pure love. But their expression of it, not just to me, but to everyone they encountered was deep and, almost uncomfortably, intense.

Perhaps, they were always teaching these things and I was just too blind to recognize it. But as they were dying, it was, perhaps at it’s most profound and intense, not just for me, but for each person around them in those final days.

I am overwhelmed with grief.

But I have been blessed to experience such grace, clarity, focus, kindness, courage, and pure love. The intensity of the experience and their will, forever changes me.

Now, it’s my responsibility to live up to the possibilities they helped me discover and they person they both knew I could be. I do feel each of their presence and know they are watching with high expectations.

Each of us has and will experience profound loss in our lives. With my father, then Kathy, and now Kookie, they were each trying to teach and encourage everyone around them. Sometimes our eyes aren’t open to these lessons. But when we pay attention, they are life lessons that we must treasure.

And we shouldn’t waste our time–both in what we learn from others and how we help others to learn. Imagine if it wasn’t being around someone dying slowly that provokes this reflection, but if it is part of how we live our lives.

I will grieve, but I have been so moved and so privileged to learn from how Kathy and Kookie wanted me and everyone they touched to live.

Afterword: I have written about Kookie a couple of times in the past. To learn more: Being Mentored and Mentoring, My Best Mentor.

After-afterword: I know many of you will comment and express your condolences. I deeply appreciate your caring and thoughts. But forgive me if I don’t responed, I’m not sure I can deal with it. I know your thoughts are with us. For that I am deeply thankful.

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Jan 16 20

Sales And “Product Led Growth”

by David Brock

The world goes through constant cycles. Lately, there have been a lot of “Aha, we’ve discovered the secret” posts and eBooks on Product Led Growth and the role of sales people.

We can go back in history, as far as you choose, learning this hot new discovery is actually not very new. We have seen it in mobile devices, PCs, financial services, every segment of software, design tools, analytics, consumer products, food/food service, social platforms, and on and on and on.

Let’s face it, Hot Products Sell!!

There are certain products/brands, where the products just seem to leap off the shelves.

These people that think it is all about the product (and they aren’t totally wrong), identify a small number of big names as success stories. Current platforms on many “hit parades” include Slack, Zoom, Dropbox, Twilio, and so forth.

There’s no doubt, they have developed products that have captured the hearts and minds of buyers. Their growth is clearly product driven……

But then I remember Wang Labs, Sun Microsystems, Digital Equipment Corporation, Apollo Computers, the original Motorola phones (Remember the Startac), Nokia, Palm, Blackberry…..

There are hundreds of carcasses of truly outstanding product driven companies, which had the hottest products on the market, that no longer exist, or have shifted dramatically.

What most of the product led growth crowd don’t acknowledge is the mechanisms around market maturity and sustained growth. What they also don’t acknowledge is the 100’s to 1000’s of companies thinking they were developing the next hot product, but never gained traction.

The reality is Hot Products and the Product Led Growth benchmark companies are very rare.

Let’s dive in a little more deeply.

First, product driven growth is relatively short lived. Geoffrey Moore characterized much of this in his classic books line Crossing The Chasm.

Product Led Growth is probably a characteristic of customers who are “Early Adopters,” or in the leading stage of “Early Majority.” As time progresses, alternatives/copy cats arise, customer knowledge and maturity increases and the ability to sustain growth through a pure product focus becomes impossible.

Second, as you look at Product Led Growth companies as they mature, they shift their models, they recognize they can’t sustain their growth just on Hot Products. They start shifting to a richer and more diverse value proposition–one not focused exclusively on product innovation. Customer service, more complete offerings, different sales engagement models, rich partner networks, and other many other things become more important in sustaining growth.

Some of these Product Led Companies have created great mythologies around “We don’t have sales people.” But dig deep and research them. After a period of time, you find people acting as sales people–even though they might not have sales titles. You see these companies adopting the sales models that drive success, based on the maturity of the solutions, markets, customers. So they become less Product driven and more solution, engagement, value driven. Those that don’t become carcasses.

Third, developing Hot Products is tough. We always refer to the same handful of Product Led Growth companies. We revel in their success, we copy and emulate what they do. And there’s where the model breaks down. It’s hard to develop Hot Products by copying or emulating other Hot Products or hot product companies.

In the sales and marketing automation space alone, there are 1000’s of offerings, but how many break away, sustainable Product Led companies are there? How many end up failing, being acquired, or recognizing they aren’t Hot Products, but they are great solutions needing a different sales approach.

Fourth, one of the features of Product Led Growth companies is the ability to leverage users as advocates of products. But go back to Moore’s charts. That’s simply a characteristic of customers in the early adopter segment, but as the markets mature, as alternatives arise, as customers get smarter in the early majority, late majority, laggard stages. this advocacy changes or disappears. As a result, we have to change our strategies, we can no longer rely, primarily, on customer advocacy as a key driver to growth.

I could go on, but let’s stop here. Let’s shift to what this means from a sales point of view. Moore’s curves give us great clues about how our sales engagement models can never remain stagnant. As our customers change, as our markets, customers, solutions mature, we have to change our sales engagement models to more effectively engage customers.

The sales strategies and deployment models in each stage in Moore’s curves are very different. Sales strategies that worked with early adopters fail completely in later stages. Sales models that work in later stages are ineffective with early adopters.

The people, processes, programs, strategies, tools, channels critical to sustaining growth. The investments and resources we put in place. Aligning with how people buy will always change. It is incumbent on sales leaders to continually assess their customers, markets, product maturity, evolving the models that are most effective and efficient for the time.

No sales model, no business model is forever!

It’s easy to be distracted by the latest Unicorn, and Hot Product. It’s easy to think, “What if we did the same thing?” It’s easy, if you are one of these Product Led Companies, to be seduced by your success and failing to recognize your customers and markets have changed.

Sometimes, it’s useful to look back in history. Too often, we think we are new, innovative and different. We have a Hot Product.

Then we realize the 100’s of great brands, products, logos that have been long forgotten or become the fodder of case studies on bad strategy, loss of direction.

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Jan 12 20

When Doing Things Right Is The Wrong Thing

by David Brock

Processes, systems, frameworks are thing that help us do things right. That is, they provide us the ability to more consistently do the things that produce the right outcomes and results.

Our selling process helps us more effectively and efficiently align with the customer buying process, producing greater value with the customer. Our account/territory planning processes help us maximize our growth and the results within the accounts/territory.

Sales enablement, marketing, and others provide programs and tools that help us grow execute effectively. For example, sales enablement might provide onboarding programs that both reduce the ramp time to productivity, and the likelihood of success. Training programs help us learn new skills and capabilities to execute.

Absent these, we tend to do things randomly, inefficiently, and ineffectively. We tend to let things drive us, than executing purposefully. When we don’t have these things in place, when we don’t execute them effectively and efficiently, we fail.

But some times doing things right is the wrong thing. The issues we face may be different than those we have experienced in the past. The goals have changed, the customers and markets have changed. Or there are pragmatic constraints like time, funding, resources.

As much as we want to do things right, doing so would actually be wrong, we would not achieve what we need to achieve.

Sometimes, we fail to perform, because we are so locked into our structures, processes, procedures and rules. We become rigid, inflexible, unresponsive, and incapable of making the right decisions and taking the right actions. We fail to recognize that doing things right is wrong for these circumstances.

As a result, we have to adapt, we have to adjust, we have to modify those doing things the right way, to doing something that works in the specific circumstances.

We do this consciously and thoughtfully. We use what we know as the right way to do things as the context, by which we assess, “what can we make work in for the specific circumstance we face?”

We, also, recognize that as quickly as possible, we want to do things right–simply because it’s what produces results over the long term and it’s what makes us most effective and efficient.

This is completely different from those who take action, based on instinct, reacting/responding to what has happened. Too many fail to take the time, to do the analysis, to figure out how to do things right. Instead they take random action, never learning and leveraging past experience. They are busy, but never produce consistent performance or results.

As much as possible, we need to do things right. But when circumstances prevent us from doing so, we can’t be bound by those things, but we must adjust and change to fit the circumstances.

Afterword: Please do not confuse doing things the right way with doing the right thing. We must never compromise on doing the right thing. To do so, is to abandon our values and beliefs.

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Jan 9 20

Wearing A Blue Suit Drives Higher Win Rates

by David Brock

Periodically, we do deep research on what drives winning. A couple of years ago, I revealed some of the research in, “In Examining 27,357 Wins, 95% Of Sales People Did This One Thing.”

Those conclusions are still valid. But we’ve learned some new thing. One of the most remarkable observations is that wearing a Blue Suit drives win rates that are about 2+ times higher than any other color suit. Digging into the research, I always wear suits in calling on customers. (Yeah, I’m very old school.) I have 5 blue suits and two grey suits. I rotate them, so during a week, I might wear a blue suit about 3 or 4 times and a grey suit 1 or 2 times.

I win deals when I wear my blue suits. To be fair, I also win deals when I wear my grey suits. But after several years of studies, I found I win more deals when I wear a blue suit than when I wear a grey suit. Since I win more deals wearing a blue suit, I’m retiring my grey suits and will wear blue suits only. My winning should skyrocket!

Now, those of you that are paying attention might say, “But Dave, you are wearing blue suits 2.5 time more than you wear your grey suits. So you should be winning more in blue suits because you are wearing blue suits much more often.”

Others might pose the question, “Are they buying because you are wearing a blue suit? Is that the primary reason that drives their decision?” They would realize the reasons I win may be very different from what I have concluded.

It might have nothing to do with blue suits. It may be my charm and devilishly good looks. It might be because the solution I have proposed produces the best value for what the customer is trying to achieve. It might be some other things.

Unfortunately, the literature is rife with faux research and insights. Most no more valid than my analysis of what color suit I wear, but all accompanied by masses of data that may be correlated but have no causal relationships.

And worse, these “experts” suggest if you do this thing, it will drive your win rates, response rates, whatever it is you want to achieve; when the reality may be something completely unrelated.

These faux researchers don’t do the work, they don’t ask, “What caused you to buy?” They don’t test different premises, they don’t try to understand, “These are the things that cause these outcomes, not doing them causes negative outcomes.” They don’t assess, “Did they take this action for theses reasons or was it for other reasons.”

These researchers just want to fool you into thinking that correlation create outcomes, not looking at what really caused the outcomes.

Even worse are the people that read and believe this horse-shit. Many of you may run out and buy blue suits (if you do, look for a dark navy blue, Super 140-150 wool).

When we read research, it’s our job to think about it critically, not just blindly believe it. Is the research based on understanding what cause things to happen, or understanding the why. We owe it to ourselves, our companies, our customers to be skeptical.

But too often, thinking is hard. It’s easier to just do what we are told creates success without assessing can it create success for us. And when that doesn’t work, to look at another piece of faux research, or for some other miracle cure. Plus, these provide convenient excuses for failing to produce results.

All I can say is there is just too much crap and bullshit and too many people accepting it blindly. Just stop and think and do the work, it’s much more difficult, but produces better results–at least that’s what the research says.

Afterword: My favorite faux research company has just published a “thoughtful” piece of research concluding “swearing with the customer,” causes you to win more. They analyze shared swearing, swearing by the customer only, swearing by the sales person only and swearing at the customer. They come to the conclusion, like my blue suits, that swearing drives higher win rates. (The underlying mechanisms are very obvious and have nothing to do with swearing, but they can’t be bothered with understanding this. They maintain it’s all about swearing.) All I can think is WTF?

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