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Jul 31 14

The Most Important Improvement In Efficiency, Actually Talking To People

by Dave Brock
Business Woman Running on a Hampster Wheel

Everyone is time poor.  We have too much on our plates–more than we possibly can accomplish.  We’re inundated with emails, messages, phone calls, meetings.  The growth of our “To-Do” lists far outpaces out “Completed” lists.

In attempts to bring sanity and manageability into our lives, we leverage all sorts of tools and techniques to improve our efficiency.

Too often, over time, our quest for efficiency makes us very efficient–that is we get a lot of activities done–but has an adverse impact on our results.

We get caught up in endless emails streams–back and forth, back and forth, ping, pong…….., yet we never really identify or resolve the issues.  Or worse yet, more people than necessary get involved–using that ever so wasteful tool called, “reply all.”  Now what may have been a simple query snow balls into diverse opinions.

What should have been simple and easy snowballs into complexity—despite our efficiency leveraging the tools to improve our efficiency.

It happens through emails, messages, tweets, “updates,” “likes,” comments, voicemails.  It’s a 7/24 hour snowball of stuff, with little communication.

Then there’s the other side of our claim to efficiency in using the tools–we hide behind the tools.  We don’t actually want to talk to the customer because it means we have to pay attention and engage them in a meaningful conversation.  We don’t want to talk to the customer because we fear they might say no–better to avoid that with an endless barrage of messages, emails and other things that give a semblance of communicating.

So, too often, our efficiency has the result of running in circles and making no progress.

We have to remember high performance in today’s world is a combination of two things–efficiency, we do a lot of stuff with no wasted efforts.  But it’s useless without effectiveness–we are doing the right things, producing the right outcomes.

Sometime, both the most efficient and most effective thing we can to is to bypass all the tools, technology and excuses and actually talk to someone.  It’s amazing how much we can accomplish in a conversation.

Impactful, relevant conversations with people, not machines move things forward.  Voice to voice, face to face minimizes confusion and miscommunication–and if it occurs, it we can immediately see it and correct it.

And for those devoted to “reply all,” call a meeting—but please publish an agenda and stick to it  ;-)

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Jul 30 14

Learning To Teach

by Dave Brock

I’ve been writing about “teaching our customers” these days.  To often, what I see of teaching is a more advanced form of a pitch.

Rather than pitching our products, we are now pitching business issues the customer should be concerned about.  Perhaps they are trends in the industry, opportunities they may be missing, opportunities for them to improve their operations.

I suppose there is some merit to this, at least we are talking about the customers’ issues and not about our products.  But too often, they don’t translate to collaborative discussions, shared learning, and taking action with the customer.

It’s also curious, that we seem to be inventing teaching–at least in the context of selling–ourselves, rather than learning from the best practices of people who teach for a profession.

I was struck by a passage in Joe Nocera’s OpEd piece in the New York Times, Teaching Teaching.  He has the following quote about great teachers:

“You don’t need to be a genius,” Green told me recently. “You have to know how to manage a discussion. You have to know which problems are the ones most likely to get the lessons across. You have to understand how students make mistakes — how they think — so you can respond to that.”

It reveals so much of what we miss about teaching.  Teaching is not about telling, teaching is not about the pitch, it’s managing a discussion–whether with a child, our customers, or within our own organizations.  So the focus of teaching–and the focus of our skills development around teaching our customers has to be on how to manage the discussion.

The second piece is not so subtle, but often missed when we try to teach our customers.   We have to know the problems that are likely to get the lessons across.  Great teachers know how to manage the discussions, and the learning of the student to achieve the desired outcome. Translated into “sales speak,”  we have to know the problems we are the best in the world at solving, engage our customers in teaching discussions, managing the discussion to an outcome which gets the customer to take action.  Every lesson plan has specific outcomes and objectives.  (OK, I’m taking some liberties with my interpretation of that sentence, please grant me some literary license.)

Finally, we have to understand our customers, how they think, how they make mistakes, and have the ability to manage the discussion in ways that achieve the desired outcomes.  We have to be able to put ourselves in the customer’s position, understanding what drives/motivates them, what obstacles stand in the way of their ability to achieve their goals, how they get things done.  Without this, we can’t guide the discussion to achieve it’s objectives.

So as we design our training programs, it seems we need to focus less on the teaching pitch, but more on managing the discussion.

There are some that worry, can sales people actually learn to teach?  Nocera leaves us with great optimism on that:

Are these skills easier for some people than others? Of course they are. But they can be taught, even to people who don’t instinctively know how to do these things.


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Jul 29 14

Creating Crap At The Speed Of Light!

by Dave Brock

Everyone is talking about social selling!  We have new tools, techniques, and capabilities to engage more people, more differently than we ever have before.  Social selling dominates many conversations.

Many would have you think social selling (social media, social marketing, social business, or whatever you call it) is the silver bullet.  Just do thing socially, prospects will come out of the woodwork, they’ll engage, they’ll pull out PO’s–pre-empting your twitter stream, blog posts, LinkedIn outreach.

Often, it seems to be a Field of Dreams approach, “If we do it socially, they will come.”

Social engagement has changed our business profoundly.  We are reaching and engaging people we might never have reached using our traditional marketing, demand gen, and prospecting methods.  The number of people we can reach, the breadth–both in sector and geography–has expanded profoundly.  The ability to reach them quickly and cheaply has skyrocketed.  Rather than investing the time and expense in developing traditional materials–white papers, brochures, flyers, etc.–we can develop them far more quickly and inexpensively in electronic formats.  This has given way to another powerful capability, it’s allowed us to customize the communications and materials, personalizing many of them more specifically to the targeted customer/prospect.

We understand much more of what’s happening with our communications than we were able to do in the past.  In the “old days,” we might invest in a fairly expensive direct mail program, we’d wait–a week or two.  We’d get a small number of pieces returned to us.  We might get some phone calls, but we never had a clear picture of what was happening with the things we sent out.  Today, we are able to measure and connect the dots on everything.  Recently, we noticed a large number of people from a specific company hitting on the blog site and web site.  We noticed a lot of them requesting a certain white paper, many signing up for our newsletter  (For those of you who haven’t signed up for it—it’s that little blue box on the right hand column), others “connecting” through LinkedIn.  We were able to look at these activities, connect the dots, realizing there was a specific issue they were trying to address–they were curious about our approaches, so when I called the EVP of Sales, he said, “Dave, we haven’t met yet, but I really need to talk to you, I think you can help us.”

So all this social stuff is important to us.

BUT………. (You had to know that was coming)

The things too many don’t seem to get from these social channels  are:

  • You still have to know what you are talking about,
  • You still have to be able to engage the customer in relevant, insightful conversations about their business — not your products,
  • You still have to get the customer to think differently about things, creating a compelling need to change,
  • You still have to create value in every interaction,
  • You still have to execute with purposefulness and precision.

It’s no different than it has ever been in selling.  And it will never be different in the future.

I think this is what many people miss about the social tools.  They think use of the tools themselves will create success.  So they will tweet wildly and aimlessly, they will engage in discussions carelessly, they will be seduced by the ability to “paper the world” with messages with the push of the enter key, they will use the new tracking tools to call someone within 5 minutes of a query–but engage them in the standard product pitch, they will not research, analyze, and apply the wealth of information available to them, choosing “Dear Occupant,” because it requires no work.

What is missed—probably what they missed using traditional techniques—is that you still have to do the work.  You still have to do those five things I outlined above.  There are no short cuts to clear thinking, deep understanding, engagement, value, and execution.

For some whose results were garbage using the old techniques, the social engagement techniques have enabled them to create crap at the speed of light!

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Jul 29 14

Are You ‘Pissed Off’ Enough To Be A Top Performer?

by Dave Brock

I saw a brilliant video by Tom Peters, Innovation:  Angry People Make Change, be sure to watch it.

Being pissed off, angry, impatient is an important concept around success–particularly in sales.

Now before some of you jump all over me, these concepts represent a double edged sword.  We have to harness the positive, or constructive aspects of these characteristics if we are to be successful.  The negative, destructive aspects are a sure path to failure.

I think so much of what causes us–and our customers to fail to achieve our potential is that we aren’t pissed off.

Sure we may be annoyed, hassled, unhappy.  We may whine and complain about how things are, wishfully thinking about how great things would be if they were different from today.  Yet we do nothing, we live with the daily problems and challenges.  We accept the outcomes or results we get, perhaps blaming bad luck, or worse blaming someone else.  Or we confuse trying hard with results.  In sales and business, there are no “A’s for effort.”

Perhaps we try to change things, but we encounter resistance, we’re told, “We don’t do things that way.”  “We’ve tried that before.”  “Don’t rock the boat.”  “We better check with management.”  So we stop.

Maybe we try something, fail, then give up rather than figuring out what went wrong and fixing it.  After all, it wasn’t that big a deal.

As Tom points out, being pissed off is helpful.  It drives us to push through all the resistance we might encounter—the naysayers, the doubters, the oblivious.  It enables us to learn from failures or mistakes, but to continue moving forward.  It helps us overcome the inertia of what we do now, driving change that helps us achieve our goals, dreams and aspirations.

As sales people, we talk a lot about helping the customer find the “pain.”  Being pissed off is something like that.  Change won’t happen unless the current pain is far greater than the pain of change.  Whether it’s our customer needing to change and improve, or our organization that needs to change, or ourselves.  Until we are so upset with the current situation, it’s virtually impossible to sustain the effort that changes demands.  Being pissed off helps keep us going!

It’s important to understand what being pissed off is about–it’s so easy to go to the dark side of being pissed off.

Being pissed off at someone—a customer, a manager, a colleague doesn’t produce positive results–it’s really focused on assigning blame.

Being pissed off at someone–a customer, a manager, a colleague because they disagree is a disaster.  To move forward, it’s critical to understand their point of view, understand what they want to achieve, aligning what we do with their own vision.  Sometimes that means we have to change our point of view.

The more positive side of being pissed off is:

Being pissed off with the current situation–having a vision for changing and improving it can be powerful and constructive.  As long as we align everyone with what we are trying to do, with a shared vision and a shared dissatisfaction with the current situation.

Being upset when we fail to perform to our own personal standards or achieve our goals can be very powerful, as long as we don’t dwell on failure, but learn from it, focusing on how we do better next time.

Being pissed off means you care enough not to be satisfied with the way things are, that you are committed to seeing yourself and others achieve their potential.

Are you pissed off enough to push through the resistance you encounter?  Are you able to harness your impatience in a positive manner?

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