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Jul 17 19

Knowing “How To Win,” Makes You A Better Prospector!

by David Brock

Social media channels are dominated by top of the pipeline/funnel thinking. The answer to making your numbers is always more demand gen, lead gen and prospecting. There are battles between pundits on which approach is better. For example the traditional prospecting camp and the social selling camp. In reality, we need to do it all.

The message in at least 80% of the articles/books one reads focuses on lead gen, demand gen, and prospecting. Talk to any manager, most will say, “We need more in our pipelines.”

But in, How Do You Win, I suggested our thinking was backwards. Rather than stuffing more into the top of the pipelines, I suggested we are much better off learning how to win the opportunities we have already found, and maximizing the value of each deal.

I won’t rehash everything I wrote in that post, but I suggested we are squandering the opportunities we have, forcing us to prospect more than we really need to. Knowing how to win, enables us to make the most of every opportunity we qualify.

Don’t get me wrong, we need to continually be replenishing our pipelines, we do that by prospecting. But for a given goal, we have to prospect less if we drive our win rates or average deal sizes up.

But knowing how to win is critical for our prospecting results, as well. If we know how to win, we know how to engage our customers in high value creation means. We know what their problems are, what they worry about, how they buy, how they assess the alternatives, how we create value with the customer in their buying process.

The more we know how and why we win, the more we have the actual experience in engaging our customers in their problem solving and buying journeys, the better we can connect with them when we are prospecting.

Customers prefer to let their fingers do the walking through Google. It’s not that they won’t see a sales person, but the digital journey is much more efficient for them. They complain, “sales people don’t know my business or my problems, they don’t know their products and how their products help me address my problems……”

I bet you can see where I’m going………

The answer to the customer problems with sales people is to have sales people who know how to win deals! They’ve been through this cycle many times, they’ve engaged in the questions, they’ve heard the objections, they’ve dealt with competition, they’ve learned how to keep customers moving on their buying journey====and they know how to do that successfully!

The sales person that has a 50% win rate will be a far better prospector than the person with a 20% win rate. They know how to prospect and find the right deals faster, they don’t waste their time prospecting the wrong types of deals. Because of their experience—and success—they will engage the customer in prospecting conversations with far greater credibility.

As a result, just like they don’t squander qualified opportunities, they won’t squander leads or prospecting meetings.

Sales success is less about the volume of activities we do, but it is based on the consistent execution of those activities that cause us to win. And if we don’t know how, we will never be as successful as we should be.

In How Do You Win, I suggested first things first—before you focus on prospecting, make sure you know how to win, at the highest possible value, in the shortest possible time. Do that, and you find you have to prospect less to make your number.

But prospecting is critical! To maximize the results you get from prospecting, you have to first know how to win!

Funny how that works…….

Afterword: If you are an individual contributor or a manager coaching sales people in How To Win, and Prospecting, write me for our Sales Execution Framework (SEF), it’s a simple guide that helps you understand how to maximize your performance and where to focus your efforts to achieve your goals.

Customers who have used this are seeing double digit increases in win rates, double digit increases in average deal size, higher quality more robust pipelines, and higher forecast accuracy. It’s free, just email me at dabrock@excellenc.com.

After-Afterword: You might start thinking, “What are the implications of this on SDRs?” The SDR role is one of the most important, yet most difficult in the organization. Somehow, I think much of our thinking on this function and how we staff it is backwards. You might want to look at: My $500K SDRs

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Jul 17 19

“You’re A Pain In The Ass! Thank You”

by David Brock

We should all be fortunate enough to have a few people that are “pain’s in the asses” to us.

Last week, I posted something on LinkedIn. My friend, Mike Webster, disagreed with me, and it was over one word.

I had used the word “but” in part of my “pontificating.” Mike challenged me on that, I provided a sloppy response. As he usually does, Mike didn’t let me off the hook. He challenged me again, then added, “Or am I being obtuse in my comments by focusing on your use of ‘but’?”

I realized that I had been really sloppy in my thinking, that if I had changed one word–but–to and, it changed everything and made the discussion much more powerful.

Mike cares enough, and consistently so, to be a pain in the ass. He expects me to be better than I often am, challenges me to think differently. He helps me to learn and execute at a higher level than I might otherwise.

I’m fortunate to have a few people in my life that call me on my BS. People who care about me enough, to help me be better than I might otherwise be. People, who are relentless, despite my stubbornness and blindness.

Often, it is uncomfortable. Often, I want to push back strongly–sometimes i do,, and they don’t relent. Often, I don’t like what people say, but I need to hear it.

I know it’s not about me, but it’s about ideas, clarity, learning and growing.

Leaders have the responsibility and obligations to be “pains in the assses,” to their people and to their own managers. Leaders have the responsibility and must care enough to be relentless in helping their people and their own managers grow, learn, and improve. Leaders must be committed to knowing that everyone can be better than they are, and committed to helping their people achieve that.

Please don’t misunderstand, being a pain in the ass is very different than being an asshole. Too many are the latter and too few of the former.

Each of us can and must be better than we are. We need to find people–managers, colleagues, friends, spouses/families–who care enough to be pains in the ass.

I hope you know who your pains in the ass are, I hope you pay attention to them, they are to you.

I’m blessed with having many, Thank You!

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Jul 16 19

The Sales Person As “Contextualizer”

by David Brock

Context is everything!

Each of our customers is different, each company has different goals, strategies, priorities, challenges, cultures, values. Though they may compete head to head, or participate in the same industry, or the same markets, every company is very different.

People are different. We categorize them by their titles, CEO, VP of Sales, VP of Marketing, or by their persona, or by their behavioral style, or by their role in the buying process (remember economic buyers, technical buyers, influencers, decisionmakers.) But each person’s hopes, fears, dreams, and challenges is unique to them, the situation they face at a point in time.

Every buying journey is different. Though we may be able to “fit” them into very generalized steps, for example problem identification, needs identification, evaluation of alternatives, solution selection; how they navigate the buying process is different–both from other organizations and within their own organization–from decision to decision, and within a single buying journey. The Gartner “spaghetti” chart best describes the variability, wandering, starts/stops, that customers go through.

In spite of all this, we try to “fit” every company and every individual into the same “standard” approach. While we have tools that enable personalization (if we choose to personalize), we have the ability to segment by industry, application, problem, role, where they are in the buying process, we try to plug everyone into a common standard.

Our content addresses a broad audience, both in terms of customers and individuals.

Our sales process addresses a broad range of buying journeys.

We build on “one to many,” where what’s important to the customer is “one to me” (not one to one).

Some, naively, think, AI/ML saves us. The reality is it doesn’t. It refines our generalizations or categorizations, it can help us become more specific, but it lacks that capability to make human to human, contextually relevant conversation in real time.

And this is the role of great sales people. The become the “last mile/kilometer/inch/centimeter in connecting and contextualizing with the customer. The magic of great sales people is their ability to connect, to understand, to empathize, to teach, to engage the customer, individually or as a group. They can help the customer connect the dots between what they are trying to do, how they do it, and how our solutions help them do this. They do it in terms meaningful to the customer now….and now….and now, recognizing the context is different each time, even with the same individual.

Sadly, too much of what we try to do in the name of efficiency and sales productivity, is we move away from that. We script the conversation, based on what’s been successful in past conversations with thousands of customers each in very different situations. We take what can be a deeply personal and impactful conversation and generalize it.

Too many sales people are walking talking brochures/data sheets, not translating it to what’s meaningful to the customer. Even something as simple as “Pay attention to page 2 paragraph 5. This is what you are trying to do, this is what it means to you…..”

Context is everything. Context is fleeting, it changes with each person, each company over time.

The only way we can connect in contextually relevant ways it through sales people that have the capability of understanding and engaging the customer in ways that are meaningful, relevant, and create value with the customer.

For each sales person, how do you become the “contextualizer” or sensemaker for your customer?

For managers, how do we recruit, train, coach, develop, and enable our people to become contextualizers for our customers?

Afterword: Thanks to Hank Barnes for provoking my thinking on this topic.

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Jul 15 19

How Do You Win?

by David Brock

My good friend, Andy Paul, and I were talking about the state of selling today. We were commiserating about the absence of discussion about “How Do We Win?”

So much of the discussion about sales these days focuses on the top of the pipeline, that is, how do we find more opportunities. The reason people are worried about finding more opportunities is that we are struggling to make our numbers. The fashionable answer to making our numbers is doing more–finding more opportunities.

Alternatively, if we are making our numbers, and we are driven to grow, the fashionable answer is, find more opportunities.

It seems “the answer” to all sales attainment questions is simply doing more, in this case it’s finding more opportunities. The SaaS world gave us the metrics that seem to have been adopted by everyone in sales. “Want to grow 20%, you have to prospect and find 20% more opportunities. To double our business, “easy peasy,” just double the number of opportunities we find.” The math works, therefore the solution should be obvious.

As a result, our social medial conversations focus on doing more of all the things we do at the top of the pipeline, more prospecting (whatever your favorite version of prospecting is), more phone calls (if you believe in the phone), more email (if you believe in that), more “social selling” (if that’s what you believe).

More prospecting is the answer to every problem we have in achieving our numbers or to growing our business.

What is absent from the discussion is, “How do we win?” Or, more specifically, “How do we win more of those opportunities that we have found?” Too often, we take the win rate as a “given,” and as long was we take the win rate as a given, the only answer to sales performance is what I’ve discussed so far.

But the moment we start asking, “How do we win more of the deals that we have found,” we start opening whole new possibilities for growing.

Answering this questions forces us to think about entirely different issues. We are forced to confront:

  • What causes us to win the opportunities we find? How do we increase that, as a percentage of the total number of opportunities we pursue?
  • What causes us to lose, when we do lose? How do we decrease this?
  • What causes customers to abandon their buying process, resulting in no decision made? How do we reduce that number?
  • What is our average transaction value? How do we increase that?
  • How do we produce more from every deal we find and pursue?

Answering these questions helps us answer the original questions, how do we make our number, how do we grow our business? Yet the conversation in the sales community is remarkably light on these discussions, all the focus is on putting more in the top of the funnel to increase what’s coming out of the bottom.

At the risk of being redundant, many would say, to double our business, we have to double our prospecting, finding twice as many opportunities as we have, in the past. But once we start asking different questions or start looking for different answers we realize we can achieve the same goal by doubling our win rates or doubling our average transaction size.

As we think more deeply, we begin to think, “perhaps there is an order in which we might ask these questions, one that really optimizes our performance and drives much higher levels of growth?”

I believe there is an optimal order in posing/answering these questions to maximize our success and growth.

  1. We realize, the single most important thing we can do to drive performance is to stop squandering those opportunities we find. That is, how do we win more.
  2. Next we realize, we need to get the most out of each opportunity we possibly can, stated differently, can we find ways to increase our average deal value?
  3. Then we realize that once we’ve optimized this, what’s the next lever on driving sales performance? Some of you are thinking, “This is where the prospecting comes in….” Not so fast. Actually, the next thing you look at is “How do we win more, at higher average value, in less time (at least in terms of hours our sales people need).?” Here we are looking at how we reduce our customers’ buying cycles–or how do we reduce the amount of time we are required to invest during the customer buying cycle?
  4. Now we come to the point of “How do we do more?” But in doing this, we realize that w can do this because we have freed up time the time we need to do more. For example, in our own company, for our large deals we saw they involved, on average, a certain number of meetings or calls through the buying cycle. We re-engineered our process, leveraging design thinking. We started to design high impact customer meetings–making sure that, not only were we prepared and creating value in each meeting, but our customers were prepared and creating as much value as the possibly could. As a result, we reduced the average number of meetings to close by over 50%. Stated differently, this freed up about half our selling time, so that we now could spend time finding more opportunities and driving even further growth (The astute sales manager type will realize this simple change enabled us to virtually double our revenue at a constant cost of selling.)

Don’t get me wrong, prospecting is important, we have to continue to find opportunities to maintain our pipelines. But our job as sales people and managers is to maximize our performance and productivity. To do this, we have to first ask ourselves, “How do we produce the most from those opportunities we currently have.” To answer this, you have to be able to answer, “How do we win?”

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