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Aug 13 19

The “One Thing”

by David Brock

Sales people and managers struggle with achieving their goals. We have to do everything–prospect, work the deals in our pipelines, do increasing amounts of reporting, and on and on.

When we struggle to achieve our goals, the answers, perhaps disguised as coaching, are to “Do More!” Usually, that means do more of everything; prospecting working the deals in our pipelines, and more reporting.

Sometimes it’s “Do more of this one thing….” These days, it’s usually more prospecting, as if that’s the only answer to fixing a lean pipeline.

Now here’s where it starts to get confusing, hang in there.

We know we have to do the whole job. We have to constantly prospect, we have to work the deals in our pipelines, we even have to do the reporting (though we should minimize the time we spend doing that). We have to balance our activities across everything we need to do to produce results this month, this quarter, this year, as well as laying the groundwork for next year.

But what happens when we are struggling and our managers ask us to do more, realistically we can’t and shouldn’t do more of everything. We shouldn’t even do two or three things.

We have to focus on the “One Thing.” It’s the thing that has the greatest impact in getting us back on course.

But that “One Thing,” is different for each sales person. For one, it may be increasing win rates. For another, it may be increasing average deal size, for another it may be driving stronger account plans/execution, for another it may be more prospecting. (I do know the “One Thing,” is never more reporting, despite what your manager may tell you.)

The magic about choosing the right “One Thing,” is that it ripples through and impacts all the other things you have to do as a sales person. For example, increasing win rates reduces the number of qualified opportunities you need to have a healthy pipeline, which, in turn, reduces the amount of prospecting to maintain a healthy pipeline.

Think of the “One Thing” like the pins in a bowling alley. If you aim for one of the side pins in the back row, you will knock down a few, if you’re lucky (I always get gutter balls when I do that). Aim for the headpin, you have the possibility (probability) of knocking down all the pins.

As you look at closing the gap in your performance (or your people’s) take the time to figure out the “One Thing,” that provides the greatest performance leverage. Focus on that, everything else will come into alignment.

But…… (You know there had to be a but).

At some point the “One Thing” changes. You’ve done all you can with that one thing, you have to look to the next leverage point. For example, if you are focusing on improving your win rate, at some point it may be very difficult or time consuming to improve it much more (at least for the time being), then you look to the next leverage point. It could be increasing your average deal size, or maybe decreasing the sales cycle, or maybe better account planning/development, or more prospecting.

And these new “One Things,” impact each of the others.

High performance selling is really about identifying leverage points. We have to do the whole job, but as we look to improve, we need to identify the “One Thing,” that ripples through to everything else.

We’ve developed the Sales Execution Framework as a tool for managers and sales people to help identify their “One Things.” Email me for a copy!

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Aug 13 19

Partners In EXCELLENCE Blog

by David Brock

Those of you who get blog updates from me in your email or news consolidator may have noticed some very strange behavior from my blog today.

First, my apologies for any inconvenience.

Second, an explanation and some reflection:

This morning, part of my routine is to check the blog to make sure the latest post is published. I usually have them scheduled for publication about midnight PDT. When I looked at it this morning, all my posts had been wiped out! There are almost 2400 posts, spanning 10 years. All of them were gone.

Fortunately, I’m paranoid about things like this. I actually back up the site several times a day, so we could recover pretty easily.

The biggest reason it took some time is that we wanted to find out what caused the problem. If we didn’t fix that, we would be exposed to the same thing again.

We think we isolated it, it was a website referenced in a comment someone made about 8 years ago. That site had been abandoned and was hijacked by some hackers. Apparently, they found a way into the blog site and could delete all the content.

We’ve deleted that reference, my IT team has done some scans of the blog site and added even more security to prevent this, but I’m somewhat resigned to the unfortunate fact that this is a cost of business. We balance making the site accessible, particularly to commenters whose interaction is so valuable and protecting this asset.

For some of the regular commenters, you will find your comments may no longer be automatically accepted, but will require moderation. It may mean a delay of about 24 hours in getting your comment posted.

My team gave me some interesting data. Year to date, there have been about 10,000 malicious log-in attempts to the blog. There have been over 1 million spammed comments. And those are the one’s my team could detect.

We live in a world where no there are no guarantees of security. It seems hackers find ways to penetrate everything. Fortunately, we have backup and recovery strategies.

Some of you, through this recovery process, may have gotten several emails through your subscription to the site updates. My apologies for filling your inbox, hopefully, we are back to normal.

Many of you reached out expressing concern. Thanks so much, I appreciate both your concern and that you value the content.

Thanks to all of you for your patience and understanding!

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Aug 12 19

Do Your Salespeople Really Understand Their Numbers?

by David Brock

Every year, I meet with thousands of sales people and sales managers. Inevitably the conversations focus on sales performance and achieving their goals. We try to help them understand the leverage points in achieving their goals, and how that drives their focus and activities.

We start talking about the “numbers.” No, not quotas, but the leading numbers that indicate whether they are doing enough of the right things, with the right people, at the right time.

In the conversations, we end up talking a lot about pipeline, prospecting, and select activity metrics.

Most are very polite, as we talk about healthy pipeline metrics and key activities, they nod their heads, they acknowledge what I’m talking about. They say they know the importance of understanding the numbers, they will point to reports they get from their CRM systems, showing the “numbers.”

We talk about healthy pipelines, usually someone says, “Our managers say we have to have 3 times coverage (or whatever the manager has said.).”

Here’s where the trouble starts, I ask, “Why? How do you know 3 times coverage is right for you?”

Blank stares, even from the manager that declared 3 times coverage is right.

We dive deeper into the numbers, talking about win rates, average deal size, number of deals required for a healthy pipeline, sales cycle/deal velocity, number of new deals qualified, weekly prospecting activity and so forth.

During this time, people are either nodding their heads politely, but more often, there are a lot of blank stares.

Then I do some sort of exercise. I ask them to look at their own numbers and to identify the one thing that provides them the greatest leverage in achieving their goals. For example, should the focus on prospecting, increasing their win rates, increasing average deal size, decreasing sales cycle?

At that point, panic sets in, people don’t know what to do. They pretend to be busy figuring these things out. There is usually some manager saying “You have to do it all.!” (WRONG!)

All the conversations are the same, even with many managers, we talk the metrics/numbers that are the leading performance metrics, people nod their heads politely, making comments about the numbers. But they really don’t understand them, how they interact, and how/which to leverage to drive their performance.

I realized, that we provide all sorts of reporting about the “numbers” and people’s attainment against those goals. But they don’t really understand what they mean or how to leverage them to their advantage. They look at the monthly reports, if the numbers have gone up, they and their managers are happy, if the numbers have gone down, managers say, “Do more!”

What happens is we present the data, but they don’t really understand what it means, as a result, they don’t own the data/numbers, and struggle figuring out what they should do (this applies to 90+% of sales people and 80+% of sales managers.

Recently, I was talking to a coaching client about this issue. He had seen the same thing with his team. While they talked all the time about the numbers, they really didn’t understand them. His solution is brilliant!

For three months, he had each person on the team developing the numbers and reports for themselves. Prior to that, he gave them a systems generated report. But he realized they would never understand what drove the numbers until they started developing them for themselves.

They had to do the work to figure out their win rates, their average deal sizes, the sales cycles, the healthy pipeline metrics, the number of new opportunities they should qualify every month and so forth.

He coached them through the process, but they had to put together the reports themselves. In doing this, they started understanding what drove the numbers, and how they interacted. While intellectually, they had understood the importance of win rates, they suddenly saw that if they increased their win rates, the number of opportunities required to have a healthy pipeline would decrease, or the number of new opportunities they had to add to the pipeline would decrease, or the number of prospecting calls would decrease.

The magic in helping them understand the numbers was forcing them to figure them out themselves. This process helped them understand what they mean and where they could shift them.

If you think about it, he was leveraging some basic principles in learning. The way we build skills in elementary and secondary education is not by giving students the answers, but by giving them the tools/practice to figure out the answers themselves.

If we want our people to understand the numbers and how to leverage them to drive performance, they have to learn what they mean and how to put them together. We have to give them the skills to think about what they mean.

Some would argue, “that takes too much time, we can just automate the reports that give them the data/answers.”

I can understand that, but if they don’t really understand what the numbers mean and what to do about them, then the time we are saving by giving them the reports is meaningless. They are unable to figure out what to do when presented the numbers.

My own personal experience reinforces this idea. People are often amazed by what I “see” in looking at pipeline reports. They have been looking at the same reports for years, but I can look at virtually any report and begin seeing things they haven’t understood. It’s not because I have any particularly better insight, but it’s because so often, I’ve had to put together the numbers and reports myself. As a result, I intuitively understand how to develop the number, how they each interrelate, and where we can get leverage.

Our tools and reporting systems do a lot to save us time. However, if we don’t really understand what they mean, if we don’t understand how we develop “the numbers,” or how the related to each other, we will never be able to understand the key levers in driving performance.

Do you understand your numbers?

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Aug 11 19

The Lowest Form Of Sales Management

by David Brock

Sadly, too many managers seem to mindlessly echo the same meaningless mantra from some hopelessly outdated sales manager playbook. The answer to every performance issue seems to be simply, “Do more!”

The “more” that’s identified is usually more of something that has worked in the past, without assessing whether it is still the right course of action. As a result, we get mindless guidance like, “Just do more prospecting,” “Just get more opportunities in your pipeline,” “Win more,” “Spend more time [doing something],” and on and on.

And when those don’t work, we know the answer, “Just do more……..”

Inevitably, one runs into a limit people’s capacity to do more. Managers have the pat answer for that, as well, “We need more technology,” “We need more people,” “We need more funding/resources….”

Sadly, “more” is usually not the answer, or at least the best answer.

Too often, what we have always done is no longer effective, so doing more is wasted effort and resources.

A better starting point, seems to be “Do better.” Sadly, too often, managers don’t focus on this, because suggesting “Do better,” is tough. It means we have to drill down to really understand performance and what is impacting each individual on our team. We have to understand what “better” means, coaching and developing our people on how each can do better.

To advise, “Do better,” we have to diagnose. That requires thinking, analysis, and engagement with each person on the team. It’s tough work! The answers aren’t easy or obvious–if they were, we’d already be doing them.

But “Do better” has magic leverage. It helps us maximize the results and outcomes of everything we currently do. It makes us much more effective.

Inevitably by doing things better, we free up time to do more. But we accomplish more than if we just simply started with “Do more.” Stated differently, “Doing better,” followed by “Do more of what you are doing better,” has a huge multiplier effect.

As a result, we maximize the utilization and impact of all our resources. We focus on all the elements of performance, not just the quantity of activities.

As managers, our responsibility is to maximize the performance of our people, not maximizing the activities of our people. These are very different.

Are you fulfilling your responsibilities as a manager?

Afterword: Please don’t confuse this with “less is more.” I’m not certain “less is more,” is the same as what I am suggesting.

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