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Nov 18 19

“Even Though I Hate Talking About Price……”

by David Brock

Someone has been prospecting me, trying to provoke me to respond and take a call. In reality, if he spent two minutes looking at our company and doing a little research, he would realize we are a terrible prospect for what he is selling.

But he hasn’t done that, and continues to blindly send emails to me, provoking a conversation.

The first two emails were product pitches. In the first email, he wanted to invite my whole team to a virtual lunch, giving us a demo about his product. Then he went on to talk about his product, without even trying to understand whether we even cared.

His second email was, “Did you receive my first email?” Sigh…..

His third email was, “One more thing to add….” Actually, he had several things to add. First he addressed the 100’s of systems we have to update in making people changes in our company (We only have one very simple system. I called a friend who runs a multi-billion company, they have 5 systems)

But then he went on: “I should mention–even though I hate talking about price–that all our customers report a cost savings with [our product]. I.e. you can get more work done, faster, without having to spend more than you do today….”

Perhaps, I’m being nit-picky, but this sales person is mixing three important concepts: price, cost, productivity. It’s clear, in those two sentences, that he doesn’t understand any of them.

The price, is what the customer pays for your product, whether it is the outright purchase price or the monthly subscription.

The cost includes all the costs in implementing the solution/change. The price of your product is part of that, but all the implementation costs, any staffing, operational costs, other software, equipment, and so forth are all parts of the cost. In the “old days,” we had a concept called Total Cost Of Ownership (TCO, if you like acronyms). The TCO looked at the total costs of the project, not just what we are charging. In many cases, our the price/cost of our product is the smallest part of the cost the customer incurs in implementing a project. Sometimes, even if the price/cost of our solution was $0, the TCO may be prohibitive, preventing us from moving forward.

The real issue, is the business value/case–for example the productivity improvements the customer achieves as a result of implementing the solution.

In this case, if the solution this guy is selling frees up so much time, that we can recapture that time in doing other things, we may have achieved a great productivity improvement. We might need fewer people, reducing TCO, we might be able to divert those people into customer service activities, that improve retention or growth. We might be able to divert those people into generating revenue, which creates a great ROI.

Price never equates to TCO. Price never addresses the business return, productivity improvements, or economic value we produce with the customer.

Somehow, we care about price, consequently making the decision about price. Our customers care about TCO, ROI, Productivity, Business Value. We are far better off talking about what our customers care about, rather than focusing on price.

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Nov 18 19

Committed To Stupidity

by David Brock

Sadly, every day I see more sales people committed to stupidity. It’s not making mistakes, misunderstanding situations, even some errors in judgement. As bad as those may be, it’s the commitment to being stupid that astounds me.

Stupidity is a choice, and I’m stunned by the number of people that are committed to stupidity.

  • Daily, I get invitations in LinkedIn, “Dave, I’ve looked at your profile….” Yet they never have looked at my profile.
  • Jack Malcolm shared an invitation he received, “Jack, I see in your profile you run and accounting firm. We work with firms like yours….” There is nothing in Jack’s profile that indicates he is or has ever been an accountant (It’s a scary thought to think of Jack as an accountant.)
  • Similar to Jack’s situation, I get a weekly email from someone wanting to be a guest blogger. This individual claims to write great content for accountants, controllers, and treasurers. They may provide stunning content, but they aren’t my target audience with this blog! And it’s very clear to anyone who reads just part of one post (though this person claims to be a big fan of my blog.)
  • I get similar emails and invitations, telling me I’m in an industry or market that we never have been in (though many of our clients may be in those markets/industries.)
  • There are the others thanking me for downloading something, participating in a meeting/webcast, or other things. They want to move to the next step. But I have never even visited the website, downloaded anything or participated in any of the events they claim I have participated in.
  • I got one presenting an analysis of our inventory control issues, suggesting we needed a new system (I was getting a little low on beer in the refrigerator, but I had that on my weekend “honey-do” list.)
  • Others suggesting they could help us more effectively staff with electronic design engineers. (I’m a little worried about even writing this in public, I know within days of publishing this post, I will get inundated with recruiting firms trying to help me find those engineers.”
  • Or the email I just got to improve our developer hiring—though we do nothing in house, which is obvious with a little research on our company.

There is no end to the stories you or I can share about this stupidity. At least 90% of the prospecting email I get, at least 90% of the prospecting calls I receive should never have been made. Forget their bad content or execution, but my company would never be a prospect for what they are calling about.

What makes them stupid?

They could have all been prevented, with minimal work. If a person took the 15 seconds necessary to scan my profile, they would not be caught in a lie. Likewise in Jack’s case, going to his LinkedIn profile (it was a LinkedIn message) or his company web site, or his outstanding blog site, one would quickly understand he isn’t an accountant. All the other examples could have been addressed with a minimal amount of work.

We have endless tools that help us better target and more effectively engage the right prospect–people/organizations within our ICP. We can leverage these tools to improve our ability to target the right person with the right message at the right time. Our companies may even be paying for those tools already, but we never seem to use them (Even the developers of these tools don’t seem to use their own tools in their prospecting.)

Stupidity can get worse. For example, the person calling me suggesting a good friend suggested he call. The problem is that good friend, a mentor of mine, passed away 10 years ago (there is an “In Memoriam” at our website, which, I suspect is how this person got the name). Or those that claim reference accounts, which are not references. Or claims about product capabilities that are simply not true, or….. or…..

We seem surrounded by stupidity and the associated sloppiness (in thinking and execution).

There are problems with stupidity. First, it’s, well……stupid.

Second, stupidity is actually hard work. By that, it requires little thought to be stupid, but being stupid make our work much harder.

For example, the yield we get from stupid prospecting conversations is far less than the yield from targeted/relevant prospecting conversations. So stupid/aimless prospecting requires us to do much more, much more frequently, to produce the same results as more limited smart/focused prospecting.

Since stupid sales people are poorly prepared and have poor understanding of their customers, for those few conversations they do have, the only thing they can talk about is themselves, their company, and their products. Customers don’t care about that. So to find an interested prospect, they have to have many more conversations.

Stupid sales execution is a losing strategy. You can’t make your numbers. You work long hours, you actually work very hard, but you don’t produce results. It’s a vicious cycles of spending more time doing more stupid things.

I suppose I may be too lazy to do stupid things (at least purposefully). It’s too much work for too little return.

It’s somewhat counter intuitive, but focused, purposeful activity works. Restricting our prospecting to people and organizations that have the problems we solve works. Engaging those people in well prepared discussions about their businesses and what they want to achieve creates great interest. Customers want to learn, they want to improve, they want help.

Smart execution is takes much less time for the results produced than stupid/mindless execution. So I don’t get why so many are committed to such hard work by doing so many stupid things.

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Nov 14 19

It’s Not About The Metrics! It’s What You Do About Them!

by David Brock

We seem to be metric crazy. Every organization I meet has a whole alphabet soup of metrics. Terms like ACV, MRR, ARR, TCV, LTV, CAC, Churn, Retention, Bookings, Revenue, Quota Attainment, SQL, MQL, Conversions, ATV, Win Rates, Velocity, Customer Growth, Product Growth, Share, Onboarding Time, % of people at quota, Voluntary/Involuntary Attrition, CRM Utilization, Pipeline Loading, Account Planning, Dials, Appointments, Proposals, Customer Meetings, Demos, Time spent per call, Number of questions per call, Types of questions per call, on and on and on. Vanity metrics like number of cups of coffee a day and time spent in the bathroom per day are the next to come into vogue-we must be able to find some connection to performance through those.

We measure everything we can. We track those measures over time, seeing whether they go up or down or remain unchanged.

Our computers are filled with dashboards, we post key numbers and charts on the walls of our conference rooms. We are all about the metrics and numbers!

But what do they mean? What’s behind the numbers? What happening that creates these numbers? And most importantly, what do we do about them?

I’m stunned by the number of organizations I work with that are “numbers/metrics” focused, but do nothing about them! Recently, I sat with a group of very talented sales leaders. They had been doing reasonably well, but they were trying to figure out how to drive growth.

We walked through a number of very elegant dashboards. One metric caught my eye, it was a very interesting pipeline quality metric. It showed they have a pretty significant pipeline quality issue. I asked if they could show me more about that. “Click, click, click,” a few keyboard strokes and I could see the three year history of that metric.

Surprisingly, it had been about the same, every month, for the past few years. I asked, “What are you doing about this? Why hasn’t it changed? It’s should be 15-20% of what you have been experiencing. This has a significant impact on the quality of your pipeline and the quality of the opportunities your people are chasing……”

They looked at each other, then at me. While they had been measuring everything, the metrics became ends to themselves. They had missed a critical link:

Metrics are only a means to identifying performance improvement opportunities. They aren’t the end, they are, in fact, just the beginning.

Most of the organizations I work with, unwittingly, have fallen into the same trap. New tools and technologies enable them to measure more than they have ever been able to measure in the past. The metrics enable them to gain deeper insights into performance issues, they provide managers the opportunity to identify performance leverage points.

But by themselves, they are meaningless. We have to get into the metrics to understand what they mean, what were the things that contributed to them being good or bad? What actions do we need to take to improve performance?

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Nov 13 19

Being Mentored And Mentoring

by David Brock

Mentoring takes all forms, some of the more unusual are the most helpful, particularly in my experience. Through my own career, I have had a number of “formal mentors.” Early in my career, in addition to great managers who coached my day to day performance, I was assigned to very senior executives in my company. We would have formal discussions, monthly, and every once in a while they would invite me to participate (most often as a fly on the wall) in key meetings they conducted. These experiences helped me learn and helped me gain broader perspectives about business. They helped me perform better in my job and helped me prepare to move to greater positions of responsibility.

Early in my career, many of my peers became great mentors, even though they may not have realized they were serving that role. Watching them, asking them questions, having them watch me, having them “set me straight” were hugely valuable, though sometimes, I wasn’t smart enough to “hear” what they were saying, or I was too stubborn to “hear” what they were saying. Fortunately, they persisted through my resistance.

Over time, mentors changed and how I was mentored changed. Changing mentors, or having several at one time has been helpful. Not that I don’t appreciate any single person, but I learn more through a great diversity of perspectives and experiences. I found myself looking for mentors in different places–definitely outside sales and selling, often outside of business.

Where we often look for mentors who are “seasoned” or “experienced,” I started seeking very young people, new to business or in very different “careers.” While most didn’t know they were mentoring me, they taught me a lot about how to think differently, they had different perspectives which forced me to think differently.

I’m blessed, being a “consultant,” I have many clients who are mentors, again informally. teaching me new things and through their diversity in experience, helping me consider different perspectives.

I am also blessed being in a community of “consultants” who selflessly share their ideas, perspectives, often taking the time to debate and explore many ideas.

But through my career–through my life– there have been a small group of consistent, unselfish mentors. They aren’t worried about my career, my growth in my career, my business success. They worry about me as a human being. They have been my family. I’ve written about my dad in the past. My sisters, sister in law, brothers in law, nieces/nephews are great sources in “setting me straight. My mother is a rock, totally dedicated to to our family.

But my greatest mentor continues to be my wife, Kookie. She “knows me,” knows what I’m capable of and how often I fall short, and continues to encourage me–often by calling out my BS.

I met Kookie at IBM. I was a new sales person, cocky and thought no one could teach me anything. She, at the time, was one of the top 10 sales people in IBM–though I never fully realized that. For some reason, she took an interest in me (or perhaps it was pity). She had a role where she could work with me, selling very complex solutions in my accounts. I learned a lot from her, and she wasn’t shy in “mentoring” me, often in the form of “Dave, stop being such an asshole!”

It was actually several years before our relationship blossomed into a “romantic relationship,” (She claims she just got tired of setting me up with all her friends, only to have me screw it up.)

But I was blessed to watch how she sold, how she engaged people–both customers and IBMers. She had a relaxed but focused manner in all her conversations. She was welcomed into the offices of some of the biggest names in business, both then and now. Whenever she called, she simply said, “It’s Kookie,” and she immediately got access to any executive.

It took me a while to figure it out, but then I realized, even though she was one of the top performers in the company, her success was driven by her “caring.” Her caring extended to all her customers, from the top execs to the operations people in data centers. It wasn’t unusual to get a call at 2:00 am from an operator saying, “Kookie, the systems are down.” She would nudge me, saying, “You have to drive me downtown,” or some place. I tried replying, “Take a cab,” once–but quickly learned. Even though she couldn’t repair them, she would always go to keep them company and make sure everything was working right.

Kookie and I moved into management roles at roughly the same time. I continued to learn from her about leadership. She had high expectations of everyone, but was very fair. I think it was her caring for her people and their success that made the difference. Even though she was one of the very best sales people around, she focused on making them successful. The other thing she did was protect her people from over zealous executives in the company. I remember a very heated discussion she had with the CEO of the company she was at another tech company. That CEO has become a Silicon Valley legend. He was trying to be “helpful,” and she told him that his help wasn’t helping. At one point she said, “John, back-off, let us do it, if we don’t fire us!” Needless to say, they got it done, it was the second biggest value deal the company had done to date.

Our dinner discussions were always interesting, deal reviews, pipeline reviews, talking about people problems, all sorts of things. She always helped me explore ideas and take different perspectives.

Somehow, Kookie always knows what’s better for me, or what I need to change far earlier than I do. I never would have become an entrepreneur without her challenging me to do something different.

One night, at dinner, I was going through my “whining.” I was COO at a company, I’d been hired to drive a turnaround, we were very successful, but I was getting frustrated with what was going on. She asked, “You’ve always dreamed of starting your own company, why not now?” I couldn’t believe it, I had always been a “big company” person, and here she was encouraging me to do something very different. We had a discussion that went for hours about all the risks, the finances, what if I failed. She was very blunt in the discussion, at the same time very encouraging. But at one point she said, “It’s time to shit or get off the pot, you can’t continue to whine and not do anything about it.”

Today, it’s the same. Over the weekend while we puttered around the house, we did an account review. I was reveling in the success a client was having, but she knows it’s at moments like this that I get overconfident. She started hammering me with questions about, “What more can you do?” “How can you help them achieve more?”

While she left the world of “big business/technology” a number of years ago and is now a professional chef, many of her former employees still call her for advice and coaching. Most have moved on, so it’s not deal or account reviews. Some are CEOs, others are VPs of Sales or Marketing. They like talking to her, using her as a sounding board. They know she will always ask the most important questions, that she will call them on their BS, but mostly that she cares. (For those of you that have Sales Manager Survival Guide, my favorite chapter is the last chapter. It’s about our legacy as managers, it’s really Kookie’s story.)

Mentors are important. Mentoring is important. But the best mentors often come from the most unusual places—and often they are right under our noses.

I’ve been blessed to have been mentored by dozens of people over my career. I continue to look for mentors in various areas. But the most impactful mentor and I are about to celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary.

Happy Anniversary Kookie! Thank you for helping me be better than I ever dreamed I could be. I love you!

Afterword: I wrote more about this some years ago in “My Best Mentor.”

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