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Jan 17 19

When Non-Salespeople Sell

by David Brock

Saturday morning, I was waiting for my appointment to get my haircut. Regina (my hairdresser) had just finished with a lady. As she was paying, the lady asked for a bottle of shampoo.

As Regina got the bottle, she also pulled a bottle of something else. She told the customer, “You may want to also consider this…..” I don’t really know what it was, but the lady asked some questions. Regina replied, “It’s a little expensive, but it will help you with this problem you have with your hair.” They talked “hair stuff” for a few minutes, the customer bought the shampoo and the other bottle. Regina and the customer thanked each other, scheduled the next appointment, the customer left the shop.

As Regina and I walked back to her station, I said, “Great job of up-selling and objection handling!” Regina looked at me asking, “What do you mean?”

I played back what I’d seen, but using sales terminology around the upsell, objection handling and creating great value for customers. Regina listened patiently, saying, “I didn’t realize I was doing that. All I wanted to do was help her.”

She went on to say that her customers wanted to look good. Regina always wanted to help them, as a result, in addition to giving fantastic haircuts (I guess it’s styling for others), she makes recommendations for products that might be helpful. Over the years, she’s sent me home with a few things, each of which has been very good.

I asked her, “Why do you do this? Do you get a commission?” She replied, “I get a small commission, but I don’t sell the products for that. My relationships with my customers is too important to sell them something they don’t want. Primarily, I sell them products because I genuinely think it will help them. I don’t push them, I explain why I think they might like it, what it will do for them.”

She went on, “I like selling them products that help them. Also, it helps the shop. The revenue from the products helps the shop with some of its overhead, so I like to do that. It makes the salon a much better place to work and for our customers.”

Regina didn’t consider herself a sales person. All she wanted to do was make her customers feel happy about themselves and how they looked. She knew if she did that, they would both come back and refer others to her.

Regina still insists she isn’t a sales person. When I told her she was, she frowned, “I don’t want to be one of those……” But when I described she was doing what great sale people do, she smiled–“Dave, you still won’t convince me, I just want to help my clients.”

Great sales people are simply driven to help their customers. They know if they do, the revenue will follow.

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Jan 16 19

Are You Selling Your Experience Or Your Value?*

by David Brock

Too often, we confuse our experience with creating value. While they are linked, they are distinctly different.

Our experience focuses on us–perhaps reference customers that we have worked with in the past. “We’ve worked with Google, Microsoft, Siemens, General Motors……” These are supposed to demonstrate our customer base, implying we’ve done great things with them, and perhaps, to generate credibility as we speak with customers (if they are relevant references).

We may talk about our deep experience and expertise in certain industries or solving specific problems. These are important, they help our customer understand our capabilities and whether we might be helpful to them in addressing their challenges.

But we can’t confuse these experiences with our value.

Our value is always unique and specific to the customer. It’s based on what we can help them achieve, for example growing sales by 20%. Problems we can help them solve, for example, reducing customer attrition by 15% or reducing costs by 7%.

Our value may be the value we create in helping the customer in their buying process. The specific things we do to facilitate the customer in their buying journey. Or perhaps the things we do to help customers make sense of what’s happening around them.

Both experience and value are important to the customer. The experience may get the customer interested in considering us. Additionally, our experience contributes to our abilities to create value. But our value is squarely focused on them and, specifically, how we can help them.

It’s important to understand the distinction and to know, our success is ultimately based on the ability to create differentiated value with the customer.

*This title was inspired by an article by the same title in Forbes. While it is on improving your job search/interview skills, it’s an interesting article.

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Jan 15 19

Building Your Support System

by David Brock

This is one of those topics I never thought I would have to write about. It’s a subject I assumed was such common sense and common practice that there was no value I could add by writing about it.

Turns out, I’m probably a little naive. Right now, I’m involved in at least halve a dozen situations where very capable people are failing because they haven’t understood the importance of building and maintaining a support network.

Building and maintaining support systems is critical for everyone — period. But let me focus on business and selling.

The day of the lone wolf, the person that insisted, “Leave me alone, just let me sell,” is long gone (I’m not sure it ever really existed).

The complexity of our customers, our solutions, our businesses mean that we rely on a network of people to help us do our jobs and achieve our goals.

Stated differently, all our jobs are bigger than our ability to do them by ourselves. We simply cannot succeed unless we have a support system.

As sales people we rely on a lot of people to help us to do our jobs. It may be SDRs, product specialists, pre-sales support teams, our teammates, our managers, operations folks, product managers, implementation/delivery teams. It may be people in our partner organizations. And it certainly is a network of people within our target customers.

As managers, we need to build similar networks. It includes our people, our peers, our managers, our managers managers, functional leaders in other parts of the organization–sales enablement, marketing, product management, pricing/legal, HR, IT, finance and so forth. Without them and their support, we can’t do our jobs and we are ineffective in helping our people do their jobs.

Whatever our role, today’s businesses are too dynamic and too complex to do it alone, we need help and support.

But what does building a support system mean? It’s a two way street. To get support, we have to be supportable and give support.

Even though it may be someone’s job to help/support you, they won’t do it if you haven’t taken time to build a relationship with them, to understand who they are, what their goals are, how they can most effectively help you and how you can help them.

They don’t know how they can best support you if you haven’t taken the time to let them get to know you, understand what you are trying to achieve and how they can be most helpful/supportive to you.

Building a support system is about earning, building, maintaining trust. It is about being trustworthy and trusting.

The greater the responsibility we take in an organization, whether it is managing a group of very important accounts, or going up the management food chain, we become increasingly dependent on our support system. One observes great leaders building and leveraging their support networks across their company, customers, and industries.

I worry that too many business professionals are becoming too mechanistic in the way they work. Their interactions with others, increasingly, is through their devices, whether it is emails or internal “collaboration” systems, texting, even phone calls.

They lose sight that there is a person, a human being, at the other side of that interaction. They lose sight that they need that person’s support, not just because it may be that person’s job, but that the individual wants to help you and help you achieve success.

In the press of everything we have to do, to often, we take our support systems for granted. As a result, over time we lose support, without even knowing it.

Business, by definition, is about and run by people. Businesses exist to serve people. Because of this, building and maintaining our support systems, being supportable and supporting is critical to our shared success.

I’m embarrassed that I have to write this reminder, but apparently I do. Unfortunately, I am seeing too many individuals and organizations failing because of this one simple thing. As individuals, they are all capable. But the fail, because the don’t recognize that success is no longer based on what we do as individuals but rather by the strength of our support systems and how we nurture and mobilize them to achieve our shared goals.

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Jan 15 19

Starting With A Blank Sheet Of Paper

by David Brock

I’d like to go through a thought experiment. You can play along, take out a sheet of paper or open a blank document.

First, as an introduction, our mental models and experience are often great help in understanding our jobs, how we are successful, and how we perform. We all have mental models, our organizations have shared models, enabling us to align, communicate in shorthand, and make sure we are all doing the things important to achieving our goals.

But sometimes our mental models and our past experiences are limiting. If we are driven to transform or change radically, our current models may not get us from here to there–at least as effectively or efficiently as possible.

We have to abandon our old models, and create new ones.

With that a background. What if we were to rethink the process of driving revenue and revenue growth for our companies? What if we were to rethink the process of acquiring, retaining and growing customers for our company? You’ll notice I’m trying to avoid using sales or selling, because then you will think in old models. I’ll change the words to revenue generation and customer acquisition, instead. After all, that’s what sales is responsible for, so why don’t we start there?

How would we structure that function, what would the work be, what types of people would we need to do that work, how would we measure progress?

We might start with some things like, what are the problems we are the best in the world at solving? Those are the products and services our company provides. It is those that drive revenue. We would want to make sure those products and services were important and created value for our customers, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We would also identify things like, who has those problems? Those would be customers or prospective customers. We might call this group the total addressable market. We would profile and characterize them, so it would be easy for us to find and recognize them.

We might also ask, what happens that causes these customers to have those problems? What is the impact of the problems when they occur? How do customers recognize they have the problem? What causes them to choose to address a problem now, as opposed to living with it, ignoring it, or doing something completely different? What happens when they choose to let problems linger? When they have the problem, what do they do to solve those problems? Who’s involved, how do they work together, and so forth? We would learn things like, how do they find solutions to those problems? What are their expectations of those solutions, how do they evaluate the success of those solutions one implemented? How do they educate themselves about the solutions? How do they evaluate alternative solutions? How do they choose a preferred solution and a solution provider?

We might try to understand problems and challenges they face in the process of solving these problems. We might look at the tools and techniques they leverage in trying to find solutions and solving the problems. We might look at the terms and language they use in describing the problems and the work, as well as during the process of looking for solutions. We might look at how they handle group dynamics in the process, how they handle differences of opinions. We might look at failure modes–that is what causes them to fail in choosing a solution or implementing one.

We would try to develop models that best represent all of this stuff. Naturally the models are generalizations, because every situation is different, but we would develop the best pictures and representations that we possibly could.

Note, we haven’t even started to look at how we generate revenue. Instead, we are focusing on the people and organizations that produce the revenue we want to generate. We are trying to understand everything about them and when/how/why they might choose to change?

Now we look at some other things. We might ask ourselves, who are the people and enterprises that we can be most helpful to? We might look at each of the areas we have defined in the above characterization, asking ourselves, how can we be helpful to these people and company at this point—or with this issue–or on this challenge. We would describe those things in terms of information we might provide, work we could do, and so forth. We would pose those questions to ourselves for each aspect that we’ve modeled in the assessment above.

We might develop ideas or premises, and we might then go to typical customers asking them, “when you are doing this to address a problem, would these things be helpful?” We might drill down a little and ask why they are helpful or why they may not be helpful. We might ask if something else would be more helpful.

Eventually, we would develop models for each of the issues about how we could be most helpful to customers having those problems. We would have answers to the information, the work or things we do, for every step of the process the customers are going through.

Note, because we have started this with no preconceived notions of our revenue generation processes, we would not be limited by what we currently do and our mental models or experience. We would also be describing things in terms more familiar to the way customers talk rather than using some mysterious sales and marketing jargon that customers never use.

Once we started developing these models of how we best help (and we might look at several alternatives), we can then start thinking about things like: What are the skills we need to have to most effectively do these things, how do we organize our resources to be most helpful to the customer as they go through these steps, what are the tools and resources we need to help us and the customer at each step, how do we measure our and our customers’ progress.

In doing this, we would be building new mental models of working with customers that is completely aligned with what they do, how they talk, and how they work. We would be redefining the jobs we need to do, leveraging completely new mental models, language, and methods.

These would all be totally aligned with the things customers do and we would not be limited by our current mental models of what sellers do.

Try this exercise by yourself or with your team. Set a rule that you cannot use any of the words and terminology we currently use in Sales-speak, or the selling processes/tools/techniques.

It’s amazing, yesterday, a client and I developed a whole new model for their organization and how they generate revenue without ever using the words and models that traditionally limit us. It is game changing.

Once you develop these new mental models of where you need to be, look at your current models and look at what you need to change to move to the new models.

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