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Jun 21 17

Our Value Creation Starts Within Our Own Company

by David Brock

Recently, I wrote, “Sales People Don’t Have The Time To Create Value With Customers...”

Clearly, this is unacceptable if we are to drive business results.  If we aren’t taking the time to create value with customers, then customers have no reason to waste their time with us.

In the post, I suggested sales people don’t know how to create value in the time they are taking.  Even going so far to suggest sales people don’t know how to create value.

I’m sure many people read the post and started leaping for solutions.  I can imagine a flurry of activity in creating playbooks, content, training around how to create value.  Hopefully, managers will also start coaching it.  I suggested managers ask a couple of simple questions, in pre call planning, asking, “What value will you be creating for the customer in this call/meeting?”  In post call debrief, “What value did you create, how did the customer acknowledge that?”

These are all necessary, but not sufficient.

As I reflected on this theme, as I’m prone to do, I try to look at cause-effect.  What’s driving this behavior?

If our sales people aren’t taking the time to create value, perhaps it’s because leaders and managers aren’t taking the time to create value for them?  Setting examples, modeling the behaviors that drive excellence are critical in developing our people.

Perhaps because our people aren’t seeing value created for them, they don’t take the time or don’t know how to create value for the customer.

Unfortunately, the data seems to reinforce this premise.  High voluntary attrition, low engagement, low employee satisfaction, low loyalty, low trust —- all are indicators that we, as leaders, aren’t paying attention to the value we must create within our organizations.

We don’t take the time to coach, but we have endless meetings about performance problems.

We don’t understand/address the challenges our people face, yet we keep raising expectations.

We have a “people as replaceable commodities,” approach to recruiting and development, without recognizing the costs–real, opportunity, and reputational/brand to this philosophy.

No number of playbooks, training, content will ever enable our people to create value with our customers unless they see that they are valued and leaders are focused on how they create value within the organization.

Perhaps it’s a cultural thing–we know culture eats strategy, but a culture imbued in creating value for employees, customers, community, suppliers/partners, shareholders, consistently outperforms all others.  Top executives must build this into the DNA of the organization.

But each manager and leader can start independently.  Ask yourself, “What value am I creating for my people?”  Be honest, no one is going to test you on the results–you actually will already see this in the results your team is producing.

Consider:

  • What am I doing to help them grow, develop, and improve?  How am I leveraging coaching and feedback in doing this?
  • What barriers am I removing, enabling them to focus on doing their jobs as effectively and efficiently as possible?
  • What am I doing to help them get the support and resources they and their customers need?
  • How am I “promoting” them within the organization?

Are you taking the time to create value for your people?  If you aren’t, you can never expect them to take the time to create value for their customers.  Unfortunately, this becomes the ultimate lose-lose-lose.

 

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Jun 20 17

“Sales People Don’t Have Time To Create Value With Customers…..”

by David Brock

I read a comment in a post, “Sales people don’t have time to create value with their customers anymore.”  In fairness to the author, he was claiming sales is broken—it is.

My knee jerk reaction was, “This is complete BS!”  Upon reflecting I realized it’s true, and it’s probably an understatement.

Without a doubt, sales people are busier than ever.  They have too much on their plates, and keep getting more and more piled on.  Sales people, just as their customers are time poor.

At the same time, they are pressed by management for more volume.  They blindly send hundreds emails, followed by dozens to hundreds of calls.  All of this is aided by the “sales stack,” tools that are supposed to make them more efficient—though possibly not more effective.

When they eventually reach and engage their prospect, that prospect is equally busy and time poor. Too often, sales people are ill equipped for this initial conversation.  While they have the tools to research and prepare, they don’t take the time.  They’ve been trained on their products, but have had too little training on the customer, their businesses, and challenges.  They don’t know how to bridge the challenge their customer face and how their own solutions help the customer address those challenges.

Instead they pitch their products to a customer who may not be interested or engaged or care.

At this point of the argument, let’s pause and reflect.

Our sales people are clearly speaking with customers and engaging them.  They are having conversations with customers—albeit with great struggles.  But sit with any manager, look at any dashboard, and you will see all sorts of data on the number of calls, the minutes spent with customers, and so forth.  They are taking time with customers.

In those moments of time they are taking, they could and should be creating value.

Perhaps the real issue isn’t that they don’t have the time to create value, it’s they don’t know how to create value in the time they are taking.

In fairness to sales people, it may not be their fault!

Afterall, look at the scripts and training they have had.  It tends to be very product and internally focused.  Their prospecting programs are designed to maximize their efficiency, not necessarily to maximize customer engagement in talking about their business issues.

Or look at the coaching they get, if they get any, on their calls.  In the hundreds of reviews I’ve participated in during the past year, I have never heard a manager ask the simple question, “What value did you create in the call?”  In the pre-call planning sessions, I’ve never heard the question, “What value will you create?”  If we aren’t coaching them on how to create value in each interaction with the customer, why should we expect them to take the time to create value?

It must be unacceptable to accept that sales people don’t have the time to create value in their calls/meetings with customers.

That, after all, is their job, it’s what separates them from everyone else, it’s what engages the customer and makes them choose to buy.

The issue isn’t they don’t have the time to create value, it’s they don’t know how to create value in every interaction.

It’s the responsibility of management to change this.

Sales management must insist that people are trained in creating value–whether that training comes from sales enablement, marketing, product management, everything hast to be positioned in the context of how what we do creates value for the customer.

Sales management must coach sales people on creating value.  In every call review, make sure you ask, “What value did you create?”  In every pre-call planning meeting, ask, “What value will you create?”  If the sales person can’t answer, they aren’t ready for the call.

 

Afterword:  There has been a fascinating discussion on this in LinkedIn.  You can read it here.

 

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Jun 19 17

Getting Feedback Wrong

by David Brock

We know feedback is important to our own personal development.  It’s how we learn and grow, it’s how we improve.  All high performers (or aspiring high performers) are constantly looking for feedback.

Our people need feedback as well.  But too often we get feedback wrong!  Here are some major ways we miss the opportunity to help our people perform better.

  1. We don’t provide any feedback.  We’re too busy, we’re not involved, or we simply don’t care.  This is part of your job as a manager.  If you aren’t providing feedback, then you aren’t doing your job.
  2. We make it about the person.  We are focusing on behaviors, not judgments about the person.  It’s not our place to make judgments about whether a person is “good” or “bad.”  We are more effective focusing feedback on observable behaviors.
  3. We make it about inferences or interpretations, rather than what we have observed.  When we sit behind a desk, analyzing CRM, we don’t know exactly what has happened, as a result we can’t provide the most useful feedback.  We are far more effective when we can start our feedback with, “This is what I saw/heard…”
  4. We are judging or criticizing rather than describing.  We impose our own views of what we think might be right or wrong, rather than describing what we have observed and engaging the person in discussions of how they might improve.
  5. We focus on good/bad or either/or rather than more/less.  Focusing on good/bad or either/or discussions polarize the discussion and the ability of the person to learn.  What we are really looking for in feedback is getting them to do more of one thing or less of another.  This creates a continuum which allows them to constantly improve.
  6. We provide feedback that focuses on abstractions and not specific situations.  For example, “I don’t think your sales calls are as effective as they could be,” isn’t very helpful.  What is more useful is, “On this call I observed these things…..”  (Of course, this means we have to move out from behind our desks and actually be working with our people.)
  7. We are not timely in our feedback.  Feedback is most useful when it is closely related to when we observed a specific behavior.  The more time passes between the specific situation and when we provide feedback, the less impact it will have.  For example, which is better:  “Last month when we made a call, I observed……” or “In that call we just made, I observed…..”
  8. We try to provide advice rather than sharing ideas.  Advice is a little like criticism.  By giving advice, we take away the person’s freedom to make decisions on their own.  We are most effective when we focus them on thinking for themselves, learning how to make better choices based on evaluating different ideas.
  9. We provide answers or solutions rather than focus on an exploration of ideas.  Answers are always situational and contextual.  What we are really trying to do is help our people learn to come up with their own answers for each situation they encounter.  We want them to look at different ways of dealing with things they encounter, making their own decisions and acting on them.
  10. We “pile on,” or dump.  We may provide more than a person can use or is capable of handling at one time.  As a result, they get confused, they shut down, they don’t learn.  Focus your feedback on the one or two most critical issues they need to address.
  11. We make our feedback more about us and how we feel rather than the helping the person we are providing the feedback to.  Sometimes we are angry and want to dump or vent.  As great as that makes us feel, it does nothing to help the person learn and change their behaviors.  Feedback is intended to help the person we are providing the feedback to.  Find some other way to vent or release your anger (mine’s jumping on a bike or going for a run.)
  12. We provide feedback at the wrong time/place.  Sometimes our feedback is best done privately, at a time or place where a person is most receptive to feedback.  Too often, we provide negative feedback in a group, embarrassing them and losing the impact of the feedback we are providing.  Sometimes, we provide feedback when a person isn’t ready—they are preoccupied or focused on other things.  They aren’t going to learn or develop.
  13. We try to attribute motivations to why a person is saying something, rather than focusing on what it being said.  Again, this is dealing with inferences we may be making, rather than what is actually happening.  We can’t second guess why a person may have done a particular thing, we can only speak to what we have observed.
  14. We do not accept feedback on our own behaviors and actions.  Feedback is a two way street, we need to be open to receiving feedback as well as giving it.  If we are to grow ourselves, we need to actively seek feedback.

Feedback is all about helping our people (and ourselves) learn, grow, develop and perform.  It’s one of the most important skills we can develop as leaders.

 

Afterword:  This is adapted from lessons provided by a great friend, mentor, and colleague, Dr. George Lehner.

 

 

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Jun 18 17

Should We Be Coaching Only To Our People’s Strengths?

by David Brock

Many people focus on coaching to their people’s strengths.  The argument is that it’s far easier to get people to improve the things they are good at then to focus on reducing their weaknesses.

To some degree, I get the argument, people are possibly more engaged because we are working at what they are good at and probably what they enjoy doing.  Time to results is probably faster, because they are already strong in those areas and we are just improving it.

I’ve seen some examples like, “If they aren’t good at prospecting, then don’t waste your time…..”  This argues for whole organizational designs with people specialized on doing what they are strong at and not what they are weak at.  (There are some interesting Cost Of Selling and other issues with this.)

But I really struggle with this focus.  What if some of the things we are weak on are critical to our ability to do the job?

The problem with the focus on strengths argument seems, at least to me, to ignore the fact that we have to be capable of doing the whole job–not just the parts we like or are good at.  If we can’t do the whole job, we fail, we don’t achieve our goals, we become a performance problem.

Our jobs as leaders is maximizing the ability of each person to perform in their role.  That means we have to focus on both what they do well–seeking continuous improvement, but also on what they do poorly–getting them to improve.

It’s important to our people as well.  Not just from the point of view of their current performance, but for them to grow and develop in their careers.  As they seek higher level jobs and new challenges, they need a balanced set of skills.  The developmental and career paths of a person narrowly focused on what they do well is very limited.

It’s easy to coach strengths, but we aren’t doing our jobs or helping our people unless we look at the things they need to improve and help them with those.  We need to coach both strengths and weaknesses.

 

 

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