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Jan 16 18

Leveraging Your Information Advantage

by David Brock

In the “good old days” of selling (if there ever were any), a lot of sales people reveled in their “information advantage.”  Prospects and customers relied on sales people to educate them on products and solutions.

Those days are long gone, customers are self educating on the web.  They no longer have to rely on sales people for that information.  Unfortunately, too many sales people are stuck in the past.  If all they can do is pitch products/solutions, they have lost their information advantage.  The customers are as knowledgeable (or more) than they.  These sales people have lost the ability to create value with their customers.

The highest performing sales people continue to leverage their information advantage–but it’s not about their products, their information advantage is about what their products/solutions enable the customer to do.

Today’s information advantage focuses on the customer–what’s happening in their markets, what’s happening with their competition, what the customer needs to do grow, perform, and achieve their goals.  It’s driven by a deep understanding of the customer goals and strategies.  It consists of identifying opportunities where the customer might improve, opportunities they might be missing, opportunities where they can continue to outdistance their competition.

Today’s information advantage is sales people having collaborative, opportunity solving discussions with their customers.  These discussions help customers think about their business differently.  These sales people help customers recognize the need to change and how they can help the customers in the process.

How are you leveraging your information advantage with your customers?


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Jan 15 18

2018 Sales Management Critical Issues, Part 2

by David Brock

The first post in this short series focused on Talent Management.  Without a strong base of the right people in each role, it’s impossible to develop and sustain high performance in the organization.

This post, and the next one, will focus on various issues of complexity.  Understanding the impact of complexity on each of us, our partners, and our customers; doing everything we can do to radically simplify the things we do are the next areas of management focus.

Complexity has a devastating impact on performance.  Two of the critical data points we watch include:  Time Available for Selling, and Voluntary Attrition.  These are indicators of something dysfunctional happening in the organization.  We typically see Time Available For Selling at 9-22%.  This isn’t the result of sales people being sloppy with what they are doing, it is the unwitting end result of the complexity built into too many of our organizations.

Simply the act of getting things done within our own organizations diverts huge amounts of time from selling activities.

The second, perhaps more insidious metric, is Voluntary Attrition.  Over the years, we have seen a steady increase in people voluntarily leaving an organization.  The worst case we’ve seen was 72% voluntary attrition in the first 12 months a sales person is on board.  While that’s extreme, it’s not uncommon to see Voluntary Attrition rates in the 20’s to 30’s % range.  Imagine that talent fleeing to other opportunities.  (Some of you will argue they are going to better opportunities, but our data doesn’t support this.)

By contrast, one of the highest performing organizations I know, has voluntary/involuntary attrition at 3%.  That’s because they focus first on Talent Management, getting the right people in the first place, then second, removing any barrier to their effectiveness as sales people (Training, coaching, strong processes, tools, systems, collaboration).

There are two aspects to complexity that are totally within our control, organizational and individual (distraction/overwhelm).  This post will look highlight a few issues around organizational complexity.

As our businesses grow, as we add more product lines to our portfolios and seek wider market coverage, our organizations become more complex.  In managing this, we start to add specialization within our organizations (e.g. SDRs, BDMs, AEs, specialists, Account Managers, etc.)  We add new functions and processes, our interfaces with other parts of the organization, for example marketing and customer service, all become richer.  Inevitably, within our organizations, simply getting things done becomes much more difficult.   Simply, the acts of each person doing their jobs drive complexity in the interrelationships in the organization.

As a result, sales people end up getting diverted from customer facing activities to internal activities.

As leaders, we are constantly balancing conflicting objectives.  We put these functions in place to help our front line sales people, but the unintended consequence is we make things more complex and slow.  We have to constantly look at simplifying workflows and clarifying roles/responsibilities.  We need to asses the impact of the things we do in the spirit of helping our people sell more.

Every time we look to adding something, we must look at what it means to the workflow and lives of the sales people.  Rather that adding layer upon layer of new programs, before adding something new, we should first seek to eliminate at least one or two current programs.

Managing the inherent complexity of large organizations in constant motion and change will be one of the biggest issues facing sales executives in 2018 and beyond.  What are you doing to measure the impact and simplify your organization and processes?


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Jan 12 18

Leadership, Vulnerability, And Being Human

by David Brock

For some reason, articles on “Leaders must show vulnerability,” have been flooding my in-box recently.  I get it, leaders must show vulnerability, but what does that mean?

As I think of these articles and dozens of others on other leadership qualities, I wonder if we make this far more complicated than it need be.

The authors of these articles are just describing behaviors they see in leaders, attaching multisyllabic words to them (because that’s what writers and consultants do.).

But at it’s core, one of the characteristics of great leaders is that they are human.  Somehow, leaders and followers seem to think leadership is different, that leaders are on a pedestal and are somehow different–perhaps more superhuman than we mere mortals.

But when I look at the great leaders I’ve known (and I’ve been blessed to have worked for some and been around a number of inspired leaders), what strikes me most is their humanity.

Like all of us:

  1. They have strengths and weaknesses.
  2. They aren’t super human or perfect.
  3. They have dreams.
  4. They have fears and uncertainties.
  5. They laugh and cry.
  6. They make mistakes.
  7. They get angry and impatient.
  8. They get frustrated.
  9. They get confused.
  10. They need help and want to be helpful.
  11. Sometimes they listen well, sometimes they don’t.
  12. Sometimes they take feedback, sometimes they don’t.
  13. They want to connect with others.
  14. They want to share experiences with others.
  15. They worry about trusting and being trusted.
  16. They sometimes say the right things and sometimes say the wrong things.
  17. They do tremendously inspired things, at times.
  18. They do tremendously stupid things, at times.
  19. They spill coffee on their shirts, burp, and have “bad hair” days.
  20. They appreciate good jokes and being able to relax.
  21. They worry about their jobs and whether they will keep them.
  22. They care about others and want others to care about them.

They are no different than any one of us, they are simply human.

Yet somehow, we tend to treat people in leadership roles as something different.  And too many in those roles want to think of themselves as different–perhaps better than others.

They are in their jobs, supposedly, because they have the skills, attitudes, behaviors. capabilities to be excellent in those roles.

But isn’t that what we expect of everyone in each job, whether they are leaders or not?

Rather than suggesting behaviors leaders must adopt, wouldn’t things be much simpler if we just expect leaders to be human?

Rather than setting leaders on pedestals, thinking of them as “different,” aren’t we better off thinking of them as human, trying to excel in their jobs–just like all of us?

Rather than leaders setting themselves apart from everyone else, what if they recognized they are just like everyone else and started acting and behaving as human beings working with other human beings?

Rather than ascribing characteristics of leaders, wouldn’t we be better served by ascribing characteristics of top performance in each role–then put people in those roles who have those characteristics/competencies?  Shouldn’t we be doing this for every role in the organization?

Somehow, this notion seems much more simple than all the other things, like demonstrating vulnerability, and so forth, that we talk about when we talk about leadership.

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Jan 11 18

Running To The Edge Of A Cliff At 200MPH!

by David Brock

Recently, I was talking to a group about prospecting.  I wanted to create a way they could visualize the importance of ALWAYS prospecting.

They had reasonably good pipelines, most were consumed on working those deals.  As you might guess, most were doing everything they could to avoid prospecting.  They were using their pipelines and the work they were doing to close those deals as excuses not to prospect.

Their sales cycle was roughly 6 months away.  Somehow, they kept rationalizing, “I’m busy now, I’ll worry about filling my pipeline in a few months.

I presented all sort of data around, the number of prospects they had to meet with to qualify a sufficient number of deals to add to their pipeline, the amount of time that would take, and so on.  While, intellectually, they “got” what I was saying, none of them were internalizing the urgency around needing to continually prospect, despite having healthy pipelines.

I shifted gears, I asked them to visualize their pipeline in front of them, at the end of the pipeline was a cliff.  I said, “Imagine you are running toward the edge of that cliff at 200 MPH.  What are you going to do to prevent you from running off the edge?”

When we are working our pipelines, we are running to a cliff.  We eventually reach the edge of the cliff and plummet into an abyss.  That cliff is always there.  Depending on our sales cycles, we run off the edge 90, 180, 360 days out.

We can’t  wait to backfill our pipelines.  There’s no magic, but we just run off the edge of the cliff if we aren’t prospecting.  If we have a 90 day sales cycle, and we wait 60 days to start prospecting.  Even if we are able to fill our pipelines in one day, we run off the edge of the cliff!

The trick is, how do we keep pushing out the edge of that cliff?

The only way is to integrate prospecting into your daily routines.  Regardless how healthy your pipeline is, the cliff is there.  Regardless how busy we are working deals in our pipeline, the cliff is there–and the edge gets closer every day.

But prospecting every day causes you to keep pushing the edge of the cliff out.

In our company, each of us vividly sees the edge of that cliff.  We’re busy every day selling and delivering.  But however busy we are, we see the edge of that cliff looming in front of us.  We know the only way we push the edge out is to prospect every day.  We don’t know which of the people we reach out to may have a need (though we are highly targeted), but we know if we don’t reach out, we run off the cliff.

Are you running of the edge of your cliff at 200 mph?


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