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Jan 11 19

On Civility

by David Brock

It seems everywhere one looks, one is confronted with incivility.

Virtually everything we see in the news–regardless where you live, what your political leanings, it seems our leaders cannot be civil with each other or even to the people they represent.

Social media is plagued with incivility. Whether hiding in anonymity, emboldened by not having to deal face to face, every day we experience unspeakable behaviors and actions.

In our day to day work, whether it is with colleagues, partners, customers, increasingly we see incivility.

The problem is incivility is so limiting. It stops us from learning, growing. We limit our own possibilities, those of our organizations, communities and nations through incivility.

Incivility is not just that which we see popularized in the news or in social media, those represent, perhaps the worst example.

We see it, even contributing to it in so many ways.

  • The inability to listen openly to a different point of view.
  • The quick assignment of blame, attributing rightness or wrongness to differing views or approaches.
  • Being distracted by our devices, rather than being totally focused and present in the conversation or meeting.
  • Forgetting to say please, or thank you. The inability to express and experience gratitude.
  • Caring more for yourself than others.

If we want to grow, as individuals, organizations, and societies, we need to change, and it’s so simple. We just have to change our mindset, we have to create new habits.

Becoming civil is simple, it’s empowering, it’s engaging, it’s fun.

Consider creating a habit of being more civil. Perhaps a simple start is to reach out to someone and thank them.

Perhaps, with each of us conducting one act of civility and graciousness each days could start a movement and change the world.

Interesting TED talk


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Jan 10 19

What’s The Customer Business Problem?

by David Brock

My friend, Tim Ohai, made an interesting statement, “Sadly many sales people have no idea how to identify when no customer problem exists.”

I think there is a lot of truth to the statement. Perhaps the reality is that too many sales people aren’t even identifying the customer problem–the customer is.

There’s some evidence to support this, increasingly, sales people are getting involved later in the customer buying process. Depending on the research you believe, the customer is anywhere between 57-90% through their buying process when they first engage sales people. The customer has already determined they have a problem, now they are looking for solutions.

Or what about the very high percentage of buying journeys that end in no decision made? While a lot of that is the customer inability to navigate their own buying process, some of it is the customer hasn’t been able to crystallize their own definition of the problem and impact. If sales people knew how to identify the problem, helping the customer understand it, and the impact on their business, wouldn’t the percentage of buying journeys ending in no decision made be reduced?

Think about the prospecting calls or emails you get, “Hi, I’m Susan from XYZ Cool Solutions. Our products help customers do this….. Are you interested in learning more about how we can help you?”

There are thousands of variations of this pitch, but it puts the onus on the customer to think, “Do I have the problem this company solves, should I talk to this person?” Unfortunately, they are doing that in real time, since they are busy and distracted, they probably don’t take the time to figure it out, instead they respond, “No, we don’t need that…” or “I’m too busy right now…”

Of course, some sales people ask a few simple discovery questions, trying to elicit a problem. Usually, these are very focused questions with the customer listening for a specific response, triggering a sales pitch.

It may go something like, “Are you finding enough qualified prospects to help your sales people fill their funnels?” If the customer responds, “No…,” this triggers the sales pitch, “Our solution eliminates this problem….”

Too often, the sales person fails to ask the right follow up questions, like, “Why aren’t they finding the right number of prospects” followed by “how many do they need to find/what’s the gap,” followed by “How are they doing it now,” followed by ” What’s the impact of this on their ability to achieve their goals,” followed by, “How is this impacting the overall ability of the organization to achieve their goals.” followed by……..

The reality, is too many sales people aren’t really determining if the customer has a problem, how important it is to them, and whether they want to do anything about it.

As a result they waste a lot of their time and the customers’ or they fail to create the value they could or should.

Before we even begin to present a solution, sales people need to determine:

Does the customer have a problem?

Do they believe they have a problem?

Do they understand how that problem impacts their ability to achieve their goals?

Do they care about solving the problem?

Do they have a sense of urgency about solving the problem?

Each of these present an opportunity to drill down, engaging the customer in thinking about their business, their priorities, and their abilities to achieve their own goals.

Each of these present an opportunity to create value with the customer, providing leadership in their problem solving and buying process.

Each of these present an opportunity to differentiate yourself as a problem identifier and problem solver, instead of putting the onus on the customer to be the problem solver.

Each of these present an opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition.

Perhaps our perspectives are incorrect. At best, we position ourselves as problem solvers. But that means the only people we can engage are people that are looking for solutions to problems.

What if we positioned ourselves as problem finders or problem identifiers? We would find a lot more opportunities because the majority of prospects may not even recognize they have a problem.

Before we can help the customer solve their problems, we have to, first, help them find and identify them.

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Jan 9 19

The New Value Proposition: Sense Making

by David Brock

As it should, the concept of the value proposition has changed dramatically over decades.

When I was taught the concept of a value proposition, back as people were just learning how to shape wheels from stones, it was basically an enhanced version of feature, advantage, benefit (FABs).

Over time, the value proposition became a financially justified business proposal, demonstrating the specific improvements the customer should expect from our solutions. These value propositions focused on revenue/profit increases, cost reduction. Some versions would look at quality, productivity, the experience our customer could create for their customer and so on.

These principles of these value propositions have existed for decades. Ironically, the majority of sales people don’t know how to create these and don’t incorporate them in their selling process.

In recent years, the concept of value proposition has expanded further, not only focusing on the value our solutions created when implemented, but the value sales people create with the customer in their buying process.

Lots of research shows customers don’t know how to buy, so the concept of creating value through helping the customer more effectively navigate their buying process has been critical as an element of the value proposition.

But the concept of the value proposition continued to expand. Challenger introduced the notion of insight (some of us think it is a re-introduction, but a much better articulation of ideas that have been around a long time). In this, we further enhance our value by helping the customer recognize a need to change; stated differently, inciting them to change.

To be honest, while these expanded concepts of value propositions have genuinely enhanced the value some sales people create, as a result setting them apart from everyone else; most of sales execution is still sitting in some enhanced version of FABs. There is a huge gap in execution and the state of what value propositions and value creation can and should be.

However, I believe there is a new value proposition. It builds on the legacy, so all those previous concepts are table stakes.

But the new value proposition focuses on sense making.

As we look at the worlds of our customers, indeed, our own companies, the word that best describes them is turbulence.

Everyone faces massive disruption, transformation, need for change. World economies are changing dramatically, markets and industries are disrupted, technology (AI/ML, bio-engineering, iOT, additive manufacturing, robotics, nano-micro-macro analytics) are in turmoil. The very nature of work is being turned upside down, particularly for knowledge workers.

Layer on top of that, what each of our customers–individuals and enterprises face–massive complexity, information overload, overwhelm, distraction, time compression, ambiguity, uncertainty, risk, fatigue/exhaustion.

And this will persist for the forseeable future.

In this turbulent world, in which all of us live, and in which all of us seek to grow and achieve, the new value proposition is sense making.

The greatest thing we can do for our customers is help them make sense of all that is happening to them, to figure things out, to cope, to learn, to move forward, grow and achieve. Those sales people and sale organizations that can help customers make sense of what they are doing will outdistance themselves from everyone else.

We can’t help the customer make sense of everything, just those challenges they face, for which we are the world’s best at addressing. But that’s more than enough—it’s far more than what is happening now and it’s just what our customers are in such desperate need.

Sense making requires very different skills and competencies from our sales people. Sense making requires very different content from our marketing organizations. Sense making requires a very different engagement process.

Within our own organizations, we face the same turbulence. The way managers create value for their people, their colleagues, and their organizations is sense making within their own organizations. (Isn’t it interesting–what we do in our organizations, what we learn from that, can be immediately deployed in helping our our customers with their own sense making.

We have the foundations of being able to do this now. The legacy of value propositions and value creation are the base. We are starting to understand issues around complexity and radical simplification. We have increasing experience in lean and agile methods. Great work is being done in problem solving, critical thinking. Some sales organizations have incorporate curiosity into their training. We are thinking much more in terms of teams and internal/external collaboration. These are all elements of skills and capabilities we will have to deploy in helping our customers.

What are you doing to learn and apply these?

How will you start helping your customers in sense making?


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Jan 8 19

Getting By Or Getting Ahead

by David Brock

Most mornings, I feel like Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day. I get up, look at my news feed reading blog posts on sales, sales management, marketing, business management. I spend a few minutes looking at conversations on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other sources.

Day after day, month after month, year after year, it’s the same thing.

I’ve been actively writing this blog since 2007. Go back to those older posts. You will find that I talked/ranted about the same issues in 2007 that I am currently ranting about.

I’m sometimes embarrassed, at the bottom of each of my posts, you will see a list of a number of related articles. When you click on them, I’m addressing the same issues time and time again.

My friends, Tim Ohai, Catherine Shalk, and I were recently in a conversation. Tim asked the question, “We know the right things to do, but why do we consistently fail to do them?”

You can apply that question to virtually anything we do in sales and sales management (perhaps even in business).

We know we are supposed to be customer focused, but we focus on our priorities.

We know we are supposed to be problem finders/solvers, yet we pitch our products, letting the customer figure out if they need them.

We know we are supposed to create value with our customers, but the customers don’t see us creating value.

We know we are supposed to focus our prospecting on our ICP, but, if we prospect we reach out to anyone we can reach.

We know we are supposed to develop and maintain high quality pipelines.

We know we are supposed to align our selling process with the buying process.

If we are managers:

We know we are supposed to coach and develop our people, yet managers spend fewer than 2 hours a week, total, coaching.

We know talent is critical, that we are supposed to hire, onboard, and develop our people to maximize performance, but we settle for what we get.

We know we are supposed to help remove barriers to our people’s performance, improving their ability to sell and increasing their time available for selling, but we put in place rules and procedures that take their time and get in their way.

We know we are supposed to develop “performance driven cultures,” yet the data shows year after year of declining sales performance.

Whether we are sales people or sales leaders, we know what we are supposed to do, yet most of the time we fail to do it. If we try, we give up too soon.

What keeps us from doing what we know we should be doing?

Sadly, despite all the things we say, I suspect rather than getting ahead, all we want to do is get buy.

There are some few organizations, leaders, and people that are different. They are what we call high performers. They aren’t really that different from the rest of us.

They know what they are supposed to do–just like all of us.

Where they are different, they do it, they learn from it, they improve.

And the rest just watch, knowing what they should be doing, but ……

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