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Jul 28 15

Whose Job Are You Doing?

by David Brock
Leadership 02

Mike Weinberg wrote a terrific post in the series we are doing at Openview Labs site.  The post, Your #1 Priority As A Sales Manager (Plus 3 Things To Stop Doing) is brilliant.  One quote stands out:  “Your job as the sales leader is to ensure your sales team produces results, not do the work!”

Too often, I see sales managers who are actually doing the sales people’s jobs, not their jobs as sales manager.

Some of it is the result of misguided sales managers playing Super Salesperson.  You know those types of managers.  The one’s that feel no one can touch their abilities as sales person, so they sweep in to close deals, rescue deals that don’t need to be rescuing, or shoving the sales people to the side and taking over deals.  It’s not only demoralizing and disempowering to the sales people; it’s wrong for the people and the business because every minute a sales manager plays Super Salesperson is a minute spent not doing their jobs.

The sales person’s responsibility is to manage their territories, maximizing their share of business and growth in the territory, assuring they hit their goals.  As such, they have to prospect, qualify, and manage deals through the sales process.  They have to make sure they are working a sufficient number of deals to have a healthy pipeline.  They are responsible for putting in place the right deal, prospecting, pipeline management, and deal strategies.  They have the responsibility of engaging the resources necessary to achieve their goals in the territory.

Those things are the sales person’s job, not the sales manager’s job.  So if the sales manager is doing those things—it means at least two people aren’t doing their jobs.

By contrast, the sales manager’s job is quite different.  At it’s core, it’s to maximize the performance of each person on the team and of the team as a whole.  The things managers are responsible for, as a result, are quite different than what the sales person does.

The core elements of the sales manager’s job are about Leadership, Strategy, Business Management, People, Coaching.*  These are quite different than the sales person’s job.  The leadership/strategy pieces focus on culture, values, go to customer strategies, overall company positioning, deployment strategies and assuring the sales team are equipped and able to execute the company strategies with target customers.  The strategy/business management piece focuses on the right resources, processes, systems, tools, training, metrics, incentives, programs, and support are in place for the sales people to execute the company strategies.  The people element is focused on clearly defining roles, responsibilities, competencies, behaviors, attitudes critical for success in each sales role (field, inside, pre-sales, support, sales enablement, etc.), recruiting, hiring, onboarding and managing performance.  The coaching element of the manager’s job is working with each person, maximizing their ability to perform in the job and developing them to take on bigger responsibilities in the future.

For example, the sales manager cannot and should not develop and execute deal strategies.  However, the sales manager’s job is to make sure the sales person understands the elements of a winning deal strategy and that they are trained in how to develop and execute these strategies.  The sales manager has the responsibility for inspecting deal strategies, coaching the sales person in how to strengthen their strategy and better execute it.

The jobs and responsibilities of sales people and sales managers (and everyone else in the organization) are distinct and different.

Each person has to perform at the highest level in their own jobs—they don’t have the time or responsibility to do someone else’s job.

If manager’s try to step in and do the job their sales people are accountable for, then they aren’t doing their job as manager and they aren’t letting their people do their jobs.

If the organization is to perform, each person must be accountable for and performing at the highest levels in their respective jobs–not doing what they want to do or someone else’s job.

If, as a manager, your passion, where you want to spend your time, where you have the most fun is doing deals–then by all means do it–but as a sales person!

* Our free Sales Management Operating Framework outlines this at a much deeper level.  Email me at dabrock@excellenc.com for a free copy.  Please provide your full name, company, company email address.

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Jul 27 15

Making Our Customers’ Lives Better

by David Brock
Group of Business People Meeting About Teamwork

My article, How B2B Customers Make Decisions, sparked a lot of discussions in LinkedIn, Twitter, comments and emails.  John N. (a good friend and client) raised an interesting question, “How do we get those lower level questions about how to make our customers’ work lives better?”

It’s a great question!

Truly understanding what makes each buyer tick, what their hot buttons are, their dreams and passions, what keeps them awake at night (I still think that’s a powerful concept), and so forth is really at the core of every sale.  Customers tend to wrap business rationale around emotional/personal decisions.

Part of the challenge in discovering this is how we and the customers engage each other.  Once we find a customer who’s willing to talk, who has a business problem they want to address, who wants to learn more about how they might better address opportunities, both we and the customer become hyper focused.

The focus is on those issues, or the deal.  If we are selling consultatively, we go through a discovery process, we try to learn, to diagnose, then ultimately present our solution in a value based context.  If we are really good, we are creating value in every interaction with the customer.

Customers, naturally, engage at that level–it’s the way we’ve trained them.  It’s the way we challenge them, it’s the questions we ask that drive the responses and engagement.

Consequently, we both become focused on the problem or the deal.

Making our customers’ work lives better doesn’t start with the deal.  It starts with the people–independent of the deal, problems, or issues we are focused on.

To make our customers’ work lives better, we have to understand who they are, what their dreams, goals, aspirations are (It’s not to cut inventories 10%, or reduce DSO 20%, or improve win rates by 15%, or to reduce costs by 23%).  We have to understand what drives them, what they get excited about, what frustrates them, how they feel about their work, their company, and their accomplishments.  We have to understand how they are measured, how their individual performance is evaluated.    There’s what makes them feel good, how they want to grow and contribute.

To make our customers’ work lives better we have to understand them, as individuals.

None of this has anything to do with the “deal” or our business discussions with the customer.  Because of this, both we and the customer tend never to take the time to have those conversations.

As a result, we never learn how we can make their work lives better.  We never learn how to translate the discussions about the “deal” to the impact on making their lives better.

Our discussions leave us with a partial understanding–usually the concrete business issues like inventories are too high, DSO is killing us–but we never get to the root of dissatisfaction, fear, future promise.

By  not understanding our customers’  as individuals, we are missing a huge amount of discovery that impacts our ability to do the deal.

Our conversations can’t be just focused on the deal.  We have to learn about our customers–it doesn’t take a lot of time.  Often, it’s simply keen observation, maybe a few conversations about who they are.  If they are distracted, frustrated in meetings, understanding what that is can help us learn who they are.

People buy from people.  If we are to help them buy, we have to understand who they are as people, not just the business problem they want to solve.

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Jul 23 15

Smart Marketers Acting Stupidly

by David Brock
Stupidity

Before I go any further, I know there are some detractors out there who will claim, “Smart Marketers,” is an oxymoron–something like military intelligence or sales professional (I tossed that in out of a sense of fair play.).

But, for the most part, I meet a lot of very smart, well intended marketing people who, somehow do terribly stupid things.  As a result, they invest in huge marketing programs, that not only fail to achieve the desired results, but have a negative impact on the perception of the brand or company.

Right now, I’m looking at a series of emails, some landed in my Inbox, some received by others in the company, and some that have landed in our company Spam filter.  They are all the same mail, directed to different people.

They are from a Fortune 100 technology company, actually a client of ours.  I know the CMO and many of the marketing people.  They are thoughtful, smart people, focused on strong customer engagement and building the brand.  They have many marketing programs (both traditional and social) that are brilliantly executed.

But then you get one (actually a lot) of emails.  This email had at least 3 tragic flaws:

1.  Perhaps the most egregious:  They bought a bad quality list.  My apologies to the list vendors, but I’ve never seen a procured list worth 10% of it’s purchase price.  This email(s) list, clearly was purchased from one of those companies that scrapes the web for names, decodes a company’s email format, and constructs lists that are largely fictional.  Then they sell them to largely naïve, careless, or unsuspecting marketers.

It’s gotten somewhat comical.  At our websites, we have “team,” pages with various members of our team.  Each of us gets the same email.   There’s also an “In Memoriam” page for Dr. George Lehner–a former partner and cherished mentor.  George passed away years ago.  When George passed away, I had all emails addressed to him forwarded to me.  Within a few months, that issue was sorted out, but somehow, I’ve never stopped having emails addressed to him forwarded to me.

George still gets lots of email from enthusiastic marketers.  He got this one, as well,  Hmmmmm…….

We, also, have a lot of customers quotes and references at our websites.  List vendors have the ugly practice of harvesting their names, appending the @excellenc.com to them and put them on a list.  As a result, we get emails addressed to customer names, but at our company.

And then there are the dozens of fictitious names or variants of our people’s names that are also included in those lists.

Unsuspecting or naïve marketers spend ton’s of money buying lists that are pure crap.  The problem is they usually don’t know they are crap, they probably don’t bounce, they may go into a “community mailbox” or into a Spam filter.  But they end up paying for those names.

Moral of this story, “Buyer beware,” too many list providers intentionally or sloppily seem to provide more crap than real lists.  (Forget the whole concept of opt-in.)

2.  This second error is purely within the control of the marketing organization, but related to the previous point.  They seemed to have an email strategy focused on “papering” an organization.  I suppose the thought is, “Send enough emails to enough people in a company and someone will respond.”  This then leads to a strategy of papering the world.  Smart marketing is smart targeting.  It’s not about contacting everyone in the organization in the hopes that someone responds.  But it’s about targeted, relevant communications to specific personas.

Instead, these marketers, in their rush to communicate and engage, send the very same dull email to everyone, regardless of the relevance to the recipient.  Let’s look at the case of this specific email from my client, the Fortune 100 technology company.  We received over 50 of the same emails, one each–to the members of our team.  My dear friend and deceased, George, got his email, and there were another 20 addressed to clients who are quoted or referenced in one of our sites.

Why would each of us have exactly the same interest.  We have some officers in the company, some consulting/delivery partners, a marketing person, a small technology group.  Each has different interests, so well targeted emails would address the likely interests of the officers, consultants, marketing, and technology people.

3.  The third error was the message itself.  You already know it wasn’t targeted, but it wasn’t about us–any of us.  Instead, these were, “Buy my product emails.”   The absence of customer focus, the inability to speak to issues important and relevant to me (and the others in or “theoretically in,” our company was the third major error.  Instead of thinking what we were interested in, they focused on their interests—telling me about their wonderful products.

This email campaign was tragically conceived and poorly executed.  I can only guess this was inflicted on 10’s of thousands of real and imagined people.  I hope most of them went into a Spam filter of some sort-so the targets were oblivious to this terrible program and it would just be money and time wasted by the marketer.  For those that received it, the impression is more negative–impacting the perception of the brand and the company, making the target more difficult to engage in future campaigns.

4.  There’s a fourth error, pure sloppiness.  Actually, it was best demonstrated in an email–actually several (the list issue) from a senior executive at a well funded, fast growing start-up.  The person, sent a personalized letter, in the first paragraph stating, “Dave (or current resident), carefully researched your background and experience in LinkedIn, as well as your company website…….”  He went on to describe, the issues executives in our industry faced and how his company helped address those issues.  All in all, a well constructed letter.

I know you are waiting for the “But….”

Well his error, which totally discredited him and his “careful research,” was the industry and the problems he addressed had nothing to do with consulting or our business.  He was addressing important and relevant issues to a very distant professional services industry, but completely foreign to us.  I’m so pleased he did his homework and careful research.  It’s clearly had a positive impact on my perception of him, his professionalism, and his company. (Tongue planted firmly in cheek.)

The Bottom Line

I wish these types of communications and marketing programs were rarities or the exceptions.  I wish they were restricted to “schlocky” firms.  (excuse my NYC’ese.).

But they are done by smart people working for great companies.

Unfortunately, my mail box is filled, daily, with communications from too many people distracted with volume over quality/relevance.

I know, in the case of this company, they know better.  I know they would never want to be perceived in the manner in which this program came across.

But too often, whether it’s the pressure of time, needing to meet the numbers, lapses in clear thinking; we fail in execution.

Too often, there is the gap of Knowing Versus Doing.

Smart marketing, and smart people are better than this.  We need to hold ourselves to higher standards of performance.  We need not be seduced by taking shortcuts, instead viciously focusing on quality engagement, thoughtfulness and relevance.  It doesn’t take huge volume, but those efforts always stand out, always have an impact.

Lest some of the sales professionals reading this get a little smug, saying “Go get them Dave,” we suffer from the same lapses.  As a polite reminder, you may want to look to reread, Knowing Verus Doing, and the posts referenced at the bottom of the page.

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Jul 23 15

On Being Coachable

by David Brock
Stubborn

In my post, Does Everyone Need CoachingAnthony Iannarino made the comment, “If someone thinks they don’t need coaching, they probably need it the most!”

Anthony’s probably right, but it brings up what I think is probably one of the most critical issues we face in coaching:  Is The Person Coachable?

I’m pretty hard nosed about this topic.  There are people who simply aren’t coachable.  They won’t listen, they aren’t open to different ideas, they don’t appreciate or think about feedback, they won’t engage in discussions about what they are doing and how they might improve.

The problem with the uncoachable person is they have chosen not to learn, grow, improve.  The uncoachable person tends to isolate himself from any kind of feedback, guided by their own opinions and views of the world.

Some managers make a mistake, thinking low performers who aren’t responding or improving are uncoachable.  That may not be the case, there may be other issues (skills, aptitude, how they are being coached, etc.) that impact their performance.

I’ve seen top performers who aren’t coachable.

Again, managers make mistakes with these people, thinking they don’t need coaching, and just let them alone.  But watch the uncoachable top performer.  They won’t sustain that top performance very long.

Repeating myself, the uncoachable have made a decision to stop learning, growing, improving.  As a result, they get left behind–even the top performer.  As customers change, as our company/organizations change, as competition changes, we need to constantly be seeking to learn, change, improve, adapt.  Coaching is a critical part of that process.

Ultimately, with the uncoachable, we are faced with a decision:   It’s not “if,” but “when” we need to move them out of the business.  Since the uncoachable are ultimately left behind, they become low performers.  Since they refuse to be coached, there is no way their performance will improve.  They can become a drain on management time and on the organization’s effectiveness.

The high performing uncoachable person, can be even more difficult.  If he is an opinion leader in the organization, it makes it more difficult for the organization, as a whole, to grow, change, and improve.  Others look at them, thinking, “They’re successful, they aren’t changing, why should I?”  By the time their performance slips and people recognize it, there is an overall organizational performance issue.

Being uncoachable isn’t limited to individual contributors, managers and leaders at all levels can be uncoachable.  This is devastating to the organization–both it’s performance and morale.

So the decision with the uncoachable is not if, but when you exit them from the organization.

But we have to be cautious.  We have to make sure the person is uncoachable–not just difficult to coach, or struggling with performance.

As managers, we may have difficulties with certain types of people, and mistakenly think they are uncoachable, but they may respond very well to coaching from another person.  If we haven’t established a trusted relationship with the person we are coaching, and if we don’t trust them, we may mistakenly think they are uncoachable.

How then, do we recognize the uncoachable?

  • They’re bad listeners–with everyone.  They aren’t active, engaged listeners with customers, they don’t listen to peers in the organization, they don’t listen and engage with managers.
  • They aren’t open to feedback.  They tend to get defensive (all of us get somewhat defensive), they resist.  They may start making excuses or simply ignore the feedback, continuing to do the same things they’ve already done.
  • They present an image of “knowing it all.”  They may be very smart, but they resist learning, they resist trying new things.
  • They may tend to isolate themselves in the organization.  As the organization changes and they don’t, they may separate themselves.  “Lone wolf” sales people may be the uncoachable, at least in today’s world.
  • They are probably relatively self-centered.  Since they listen only to their own counsel, they tend not to be open to the views and ideas of others.  They tend not to be collaborative.  They may, in fact, tend to be very directive.  They know the answers and expect others to follow their direction.
  • They are very resistant to change and tend to change grudgingly, often slipping back into old habits.
  • They may “mask” their uncoachability with passive aggressiveness.  They may seem to agree with things, but then doing what they wanted to do in the first place.

Everyone may display some of these characteristics, some of the time.  For the uncoachable, this their behavior all of the time.

The uncoachable, particularly the high performing uncoachable, is one of the biggest challenges to personal and organizational effectiveness.  As leaders, we can’t ignore them, we have to take action.

One final note, as you look at the uncoachable, turn the mirror on yourself.  Make sure you are coachable–or you may be the problem.  (But of course, if you really were, you would probably not be reading this.)

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