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Apr 22 18

The “Last Mile” In Selling

by David Brock

In the old days of telecom, the days when telecom was dominated by landlines, one of the most important strategies had to do with the “last mile.”  (Actually, much of the conversation around net-neutrality is today’s version of the last mile.)

The “last mile” was more figurative than literal, but it focused on who controlled the access to the home or business.  Whatever service provider that owned that “last mile” relationship really controlled the majority of the revenue opportunity from the customer.

There’s a similar concept in selling.  As we look at many of our sale enablement strategies, it seems the goal is to provide all the answers to the the sales person, for every situation they are in.  We script them, we are very prescriptive in exactly what they do in each situation.

But increasingly, our people are struggling in their conversations with customers, that last mile, where each individual, each organization, each situation is unique.

We can’t possibly give our people all the answers to deal with every situation they face engaging customers.  We can get them most of the way with training, tools, content, scripts, but there will always be that last mile.

Ironically, this is the most critical part of the customer engagement process.  It’s the ability to engage each individual, in each organization, for each situation, in meaningful, impactful and differentiated ways.  It’s in these unique encounters that we create our greatest value and differentiation.

It’s how we engage these customer, helping them navigate through their being process, but each process is unique, so we have to be nimble enough to adapt what we do, how we engage to align with the customer and their buying group.

These are the last mile moments that happen every day for every sales person.

But what are we doing to equip our people to deal with these last mile moments.  We can’t script them, we can provide the content that “magically” enables the sales person to deliver just what they need.

Equipping our people with the ability to figure out what to do, how to deal with each of these unique situations is critical to growing our people and enabling their success.  Curiosity, problem solving, active listening, critical thinking are all skills that contribute to the sales person’s ability to successfully navigate that last mile.

What are your sales enablement organizations and managers doing to equip sales people to win the last mile?


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Apr 15 18

Our Customers Are Doing Their Homework

by David Brock

Every three years, I go through the same cycle.  My car lease comes to an end.  Every three years, the same thing happens; about 6 months before the lease end, the dealer(s) start to contact me.  It’s always with an offer, “We can let you out of the lease early and get you into the latest model of your current car…..”

I’ve just gotten into that 6 month window.  I’ve gotten two outreaches, the first from the dealer I bought the car from, the second from a deal where I happened to have the car serviced once.  Both had the same offer, I could get into the new car at the same payment that I made for the previous car.

Curious, I went to both dealership web sites, I stumbled on their “Current Deals.”  Each of them had deals on the same care they were offering me at a significantly lower price.  When I emailed them back, I asked, “Why are you offering me, a loyal customer, a price that is much higher than what you are offering anyone who happens to look at your web site?”  Each appeared to be stunned, neither took the opportunity to ask, “Well would you be interested at that price?”

This post isn’t beating up on car sales people, it’s just a convenient example of stupid assumptions too many sales people make about customers.

Customers do their homework!  Before they contact sales people they are doing research.  If for some reason, they haven’t, after you contact them, they do their research.

There are two points to the rest of this post.  First, we have to know customers are self educating and have some levels of knowledge about our companies and products.  Second, if our customers are taking the time to research, why don’t we?

Let’s dive into the first.  Survey after survey tells us customers are self educating.  The latest CSO Insights research show that sales people are the 9th priority on the list of customer preferences to learn about products and solutions.  Industry experts, SMEs, past experience, vendor websites, conferences/trade shows, peers/colleagues, online forums, publications and web searches take precedence over learning from sales people.

CEB research goes further, their research indicates customer leverage many of these channels through their entire buying process.

Yet, too often, sales people ignore this.  Sales people talk about the same things customers are learning through other sources–offering no additional value or insight on that data.  Sales people regurgitate data sheets, product specs or the same information that the customer has already found on line.  Or worse, as in the case of these dealers, they offer information that is in conflict with what the customer has found on line, creating confusion with the customer.

If all we do is provide the same information the customer can find through other sources, we aren’t creating value for them or a reason for them to want to engage us.

To be effective, we have to go beyond what they can learn from other sources.  We have to assume they have done their homework and engage them in the things they can’t learn or easily understand though other sources.

Second, if customers are doing their homework on our products and companies, doesn’t it make sense that we do our homework on them and their companies?

I’ve written about this many times, so I won’t belabor the point, but very few people prospecting me know anything about me, our company, or what we do.  I can tell from the conversations, they are neither on my LinkedIn page or at our company websites.  They, clearly, haven’t done their homework.

Just as there are rich resources for customer to research and educate themselves about our offerings and capabilities, there are many resources for us to learn about them and their companies.  These resources enable us to be well prepared.  They enable us to identify the potential issues that may be important to them, or how to more effectively engage them.

Our customers have moved on in how they buy and how they learn about our products/solutions.  They do their homework.

Isn’t it about time that we did ours?


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Apr 13 18

Drowning In Information, But Where’s The Knowledge Or Insight

by David Brock

Those of you who know or follow me know I’m an information junkie.  My Evernote file contains 15000 notes, all coded and tagged so I can put my fingers on any piece of information I want.  Daily, I get feeds from all sorts of services, several provide me information and news on people and companies I’m following.  Service like LinkedIn keep me updated with activity of people I’m following on LinkedIn, I have my special Twitter groups.  I have a couple of services that provide me briefings on the people I’m meeting with through the day.

This morning, it was helpful as I spoke to a client/friend, I knew his company had just closed on an acquisition–something he’d been deeply involved in.  I got extra credit points in the call by congratulating him on the acquisition.

On top of all these tools I leverage, I have a number of Google Alerts set up to keep me updated with key things happening with industries, markets, or with people I’m tracking.

I don’t suffer from any lack of information or news about things that I’m tracking.

But the issue comes up, what do I do with all of this information?

Well, I already have part of the answer, I use the information to help me identify potential opportunities for me to help my clients.

Something happening with a client’s competitor or in their markets gives me an opportunity to call to discuss the impact on them and how I might help them leverage it to their advantage.  Or a poor quarterly report may indicates revenue challenges–I immediately raise my hand, thinking that I can help.  Or a job change, a restructuring, any number of things give me clues of areas where clients and prospects may be struggling, that I can help.

Many of you might say, “Wow that’s fantastic, it must really be helpful…..”

It is, it helps differentiate what we do and how we engage.  We are able to intercept opportunities much earlier, even incite our clients to do something different.  It’s a process we carefully curate and refine over time—-but we figure it out ourselves.  We’ve become so attuned to looking at information in a certain way to spot the clues and figure things out ourselves.

That’s the good news and the bad news.  We are tremendously advantaged in our ability to scan lots of information to find potential opportunities, but we have to do the work ourselves.  We get the information automatically, but nothing tells me, “Dave, here’s a prospect having a problem that you solve, and here’s an analysis of the impact you can have on that problem….”

It’s ironic, with all the capabilities of analytics, all the promise of AI, while I get lots of information, I’m not getting the knowledge and insight that says, “Here is a potential opportunity, here’s their problem, here’s how you’ve helped others in addressing it, here’s a rough magnitude of the impact you can have on their results.

At least until now.

I just got my first “SMART Company Brief” from DecisionLink.

It’s an awesome document–I get these for our major accounts.  It provides an in depth analysis of the company, including things like:

  • Fast facts on them and their performance.
  • Key industry indicators, challenges, and trends.
  • Recent headlines/news about them
  • A peer competitive analysis, showing how they perform relative to their competition and how they are positioned versus  best of class, average and worst of class.  The competitive analysis goes further, looking at share trends with their competition.
  • It gives me their top executive names and titles.

But most importantly, there are a couple of pages that tell me, “Here is a potential opportunity, here’s their problem, here’s how you’ve helped others address it, here’s the potential impact you might have.”

For example, one of the areas we have great impact is improving close rates.  My SMART Company Brief tells me, “Based on your work with similar companies on similar issues, you should be able to improve their close rates by X% and if you do, you can improve their revenue by Y%.

I’m provided the complete analysis and an analysis of the impact we might have over 3 or so years.

For the companies we are tracking through DecisionLink’s SMART Company Brief, I not only get the information I used to collect from various sites, it’s assembled into a single package and it tells me how I can leverage it in my first prospecting call.

It enables me to provide deep insight in the very first conversation. I can say:

  • Here’s how you have performed relative to your competitors.
  • Here are the issues and challenges you and they may be facing.
  • We believe we can help you address them, potentially improving your win rates by X% producing Y in incremental revenues over the next 3 years.

This is the first tool I’ve seen that just doesn’t dump a lot of information on me, leaving me to figure out what it means.  It provides me suggestions and analysis on the impact we might have.

The interesting thing is our clients love it.  Most of the time when I call someone walking through this analysis, their immediate response is “Tell me how you came up with those insights……”  We’ve started a conversation and DecisionLink provides me the tools to engage the customer, modifying the analysis as we get better insight into their strategies, problems, priorities.

If you are looking for a way to sort through the information overwhelm, if you are looking for a way to engage your customer in insight specific to them, take a look at DecisionLink and their SMART Company Briefs.


Afterword:  Truth in advertising, I’m on DecisionLink’s Board of Advisors, so I’m biased.  But they aren’t paying me anything for this and I would be an enthusiastic user of their tools even if I were not on their Board.  I just believe in what they are doing and can’t imagine any seller of complex solutions not leveraging this tool to help the bring more value to their customers.


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Apr 11 18

Does How You Sell(Market) Represent Your Company Well?

by David Brock

Customer experience is increasingly a key differentiator in acquiring and retaining customers.  But, too often, we look at customer experience in a very narrow way, we think of it as their experience in using our products, after they have purchased them.

The customer experience begins begins long before the first purchase a customer makes.  Of course we know the reputation of our company, products, and solutions is important and influences them.

But our marketing and sales prospecting approaches create are the very first direct impressions our prospects get of their potential experience with the company.

For example, just today, I got a prospecting email:

Hi Dave,

We work with companies like CenturyLink, RingCentral, Vonage, Iron Mountain etc and have shown an average sales conversion increase of 21%.

Our data is highly accurate and actionable – leads custom targeted and uploaded directly to your CRM.

Do you have some time for a discovery call this week?

It’s a terrible prospecting letter for a number of reasons, but the thing that caught my eye was the references to CenturyLink, RingCentral and the other companies.  I thought, “Those are impressive references, but why are the relevant to me?  Our business and target customers are very different.  Our engagement strategies are very different…….”

Presumably, the sales person was trying to increase his credibility with the impressive customer list, but the sales person wasn’t creating a compelling or relevant experience for me.

Out of curiosity, I visited the web site, most people would have trashed the email, but since sales effectiveness is my business, I often dive into bad prospecting efforts to understand them.

Opening the web site, I’m greeted by the banner, “Stop Discovering, Start Selling….”  They go on to describe, that they do all the heavy lifting in doing the research on leads, so all the sales person has to do is to start closing “warm B2B leads.”

Hmmm, I think, if that’s what they do, why aren’t they doing it in their own prospecting approaches?

Scroll down a little, I’m hit with the following headlines:

Make account-based marketing easy

Know first when your target is ready to buy

Don’t get sabotaged by stale data

Declare and end to endless research

All great and very important things to any organization that want to do high impact prospecting within their Ideal Customer Profile.

But I reflect, if they do those things and claim they produce huge impact on the effectiveness of the marketing and prospecting programs for their customers, is their prospecting approach to me representative of what their solutions do when their customers are using them.

Nothing in the prospecting letter seemed to support any of the claims they make in their prospecting approaches.

Curious, I explored more of their web site.  I discovered their sweet spot: Telecom/Unified Communications, Cloud/IT, Cybersecurity, Commercial Real Estate.  I, also learned among other things, they were experts in determining buyer signals, providing targeted and quality leads.


At this point I’m perplexed.  If that’s their sweet spot, and their solution is focused on targeting the right customers, producing high quality leads the sales person only has to close, then why am I getting a prospecting email?  Our company is about as far from those industries as one can imagine.  Yes, many of our customers are in those segments, but we are a boutique professional services company.  That’s not in what they say is their sweet spot?

Everything they were doing, at least in their prospecting approach to me, was totally inconsistent with their positioning and claims at the web site.  Consequently, my experience was probably the opposite of what they intended.  Rather than creating interest and provoking me to get more deeply engaged, the more I looked at it the more my experience was completely the opposite of what they were trying to achieve.

Stated differently, everything they did in prospecting to me was exactly the opposite of what the value the claimed I would get if I subscribed to their service to help my prospecting.

This isn’t an isolated example.  I’ve written before that sales and marketing automation/tools companies are among the worst prospecting companies I’ve experienced.

But going beyond this, I’m sure this sales person, as do too many, didn’t realize that everything he did created a impressions of the company and product.  For those to be meaningful, they have to be consistent with the experience we are trying to create, the positioning and the value we want customers to perceive.  Any inconsistency, actually creates the opposite effect and makes it much more difficult to engage the customer.

Customer experience encompasses the totality of our experience with a company.  It’s their reputation, it’s how they present themselves, it’s how engage us in marketing, at their web sites, selling, and when we use their products.  Anything inconsistent creates confusion and uncertainty in the minds of customers and prospects.


Afterword:  I’m not blaming the sales person in this example.  Unfortunately, he’s just executing on a program and list that marketing has given him, and that his manager is telling him to do.  It’s too bad they are giving him the things that make him look bad.


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