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Feb 9 17

Automation: Are We Empowering Human Interaction Or Displacing It?

by David Brock

The sales and marketing technology along with the social networking/selling technologies represent a huge amount of the changes that are driving sales and marketing.

They relieve us of many of the tasks that used to take lots of time, enabling us to focus that time on engaging customers and colleagues.  They help us in better understanding our customers, markets, and what’s happening, so that we can engage customers with more relevant insights on more timely bases.  They enable us to extend our reach, beyond our local geographies to the global community.  They help us create greater value for our customers, our people, and our communities.  They help us create deeper relationships with our customers and colleagues, hopefully creating deeper meaning in each of our lives.

Or they don’t.

They help us displace human interaction and engagement.  We set up automated communications streams, that pummel customers with content based on various scoring algorithms.  We  automate interactions with customers, reducing our engagement time, leveraging technology to manage much of that interaction.  Increasingly we leverage technologies like AI, Chatbots, and others to simulate engagement with prospects and customers, that we might otherwise have.

We set up gigantic broadcast platforms, emailing 1000’s daily, even hourly, dialing 100’s to thousands daily, automatically “curating” and broadcasting massive volumes of content that we’ve never reviewed, but it increases our social presence.

The volume and velocity of social and automated interactions skyrocketed beyond our customers and our own abilities to deal with it.  Customers shut down, they don’t respond–simple solution, turn up the volume, broadcast more, more frequently.

We, ourselves, fall victim to overload/overwhelm and digital distraction.  While we should be more productive, we actually become less productive.  We may have all the “bodies” we need in a meeting, but we don’t have the minds and interaction because of the digital distractions we surrender ourselves to.

And we see it in the results.  Despite all the tools, all the technologies, all the ways we broadcast our content and presence, results are not improving.  Sales and marketing performance is flat or declining.  Customer engagement numbers are plummeting.

It’s probably not the fault of the tools we use, but how we use the tools, or how we hide behind sales/marketing/social automation.

Sales and marketing, indeed business, is intensely human.  It’s through people working together, creating, debating, innovating, that we solve problems, invent new things, grow in our world views and our abilities to achieve individually and organizationally.

Whether we are working within our own organizations, or engaging our customers, prospects, or working with our partners and suppliers, at it’s core we are engaged in deep human interactions.

We know our customers are eager to learn.  We know they are dealing with increasingly tough problems and skyrocketing complexity.  We know they feel overwhelmed, distracted and disengaged.

We know top performers are those that engage customers in deep conversations about their businesses, goals, and dreams.  They work closely with their customers in learning, growing, collaborating.  They help the customers figure out what they should do and how to buy.

Within our own organizations we know this about our own people, as well.

We know we get the best our of our people by engaging them, by listening, coaching, teaching and collaborating.

Perhaps it’s time to rethink our automation and social engagement strategies.  Perhaps we need to look at how we leverage these technologies to empower deeper interactions and conversations.

 

 

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Feb 7 17

Top Sales Enablement Priorities

by David Brock

Rightfully, sales enablement gets a lot of attention these days.  Dozens of articles and studies talk about the importance of sales enablement in developing the capabilities of sales people.  Organizations like the Sales Enablement Society is bringing the discussion and frameworks for sales enablement to the front and center of our collective attentions.

The priorities cover a lot of areas:

  • On boarding
  • Learning and development
  • Talent management
  • Content
  • Systems, tools, processes
  • ….and more

With the exception of articles by a small number of people including Mike Kunkle and Tamara Schenk, there is one critical area that’s notably absent.

What about Front Line Sales Management development/enablement?

Probably the single most influential person in developing sales people to reach their highest levels of performance is the Front Line Sales Manager.  These managers are involved in working with their teams on a daily basis, they understand the strengths and weaknesses of each individual.

However, as we look at the investments made in developing the capabilities of Front Line Sales Management, it’s appalling.  In the Sales Manager Survival Guide, I outline $4-6 billion spent annually in training sales people, over $20 billion spent annually in sales and marketing automation tools.  Billions are spent in Content Development.

Yet only a few $100 million is spent in Front Line Sales Manager development.

Increasingly, I read articles about dedicated “Sales Enablers,” working to coach and develop sales people.

Where is enabling the Front Line Sales Manager in these discussions?

It’s odd they are absent in these discussions when the job of the Front Line Sales Manager is maximizing the performance of each individual on their team.

Since that’s also the goal of sales enablement, why isn’t enabling Front Line Sales Managers at the top of the priorities for sales enablement.  It would seem if we are putting the right managers in place, enabling them to perform at the highest levels, we would drive huge performance increases with sales people.

All the other things we talk about as sales enablement priorities fail to achieve their full potential without the active engagement of Front Line Sales Managers.

Those billions spent in learning and development have no enduring impact without the ongoing coaching and reinforcement of the Front Line Sales Manager.  The billions spent in systems and tools achieve no impact unless Front Line Sales Managers are leveraging these tools and demonstrating their power to their people every day (then perhaps we can stop talking about CRM compliance).

We can never hope to have a sustainable impact in improving sales performance unless we put the Front Line Sales Manager at the front and center of sales enablement and until we start talking about how we enable them.

 

 

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Feb 5 17

We Are The Very Best Company To Do These Things ……..

by David Brock

Quickly, go to your email and look at the last 10 unsolicited prospecting emails you’ve received, I’ll wait until you come back…….

Back already?

Let me guess, every single one of those emails started with something similar to:

  • “We are a world leading provider of …….”
  • “We are the best supplier of….”
  • “Our products/services are use by these great companies….”
  • “People interested in these issues [fill in whatever you choose] are always interested in learning about our solutions…”
  • “Our products will enable you to [insert whatever you want, including world peace, world hunger, and losing weight]”
  • Alternatively, it may be an invitation to a white paper, webinar, or something else in which they brag about themselves.

I’ve done a semi-scientific study of all the prospecting emails I get (and I get hundreds every week).  99.99% of them are about some product or company.  They are all “giving me” the opportunity to talk to them, letting them brag more about themselves and their capabilities.

Too many of these are addressed to “Dear Occupant Or Current Resident,” they are really meaningless to me and our company, but it’s too much work to research, refine, and target the outreach when we can just endlessly send thousands of emails at the push of an Enter key.

The good news is that 0.1%–the well targeted, relevant, impactful emails really stand out!  They capture my attention and engagement.  Perhaps it’s not something critical now, but it’s something I’ll remember or something I’ll refer to someone else.  Studying them, one thing common leaps out.  They are all about me–at least my company, my industry, my customers/markets.  They are helpful because they are about issues I am facing or may be facing.  I learn something in these emails.  Yes, I know they are trying to engage me in learning more about their products and services.  But I’d be a fool not to!

In their engagement, they’ve demonstrated they’ve done their homework.  They know the issues I’m facing–even though I may not know them.  They are helping me learn, helping me improve and grow.  I’m glad to consider their products and solutions to help grow our business!

Out of curiosity, I talk to this 0.1%–not just about how they can help me, but about their prospecting process.  It’s remarkable, the stories are all the same.

They don’t sent out thousands of emails and messages.  In many cases, it’s dozens to handfuls.

They are viciously focused on targeting their efforts.  They know the profile of the prospect that’s most likely to respond.  In building their campaigns, they focus on only those people and organizations, not wasting time on those that aren’t in their sweet spot.

They know what to say and how to engage these prospects with relevant insights.  They’ve spent time talking to these people, they understand the businesses, markets, industries.  They may have even seen something specific about me or our organization they leverage in their outreach.  What they say feels intensely personalized and focused on me and my company.

They don’t talk about themselves.  They make me and my business the center of what they are trying to do.  They suggest they can help, tantalizing me with just enough to respond, “Tell me more.”

As we talk, I ask them about all the things we tend to measure about these programs, “What’s your bounce rate, what’s your open rate, what are your click-throughs, what’s your engagement rate, how many respond?”  The numbers are stunning, by comparison to the 99.9%, the results they produce are orders of magnitude better than the 99.9%.  Which is part of the reason they don’t need to focus on volumes.

Of course, their success is not surprising.  We know what best practice is.  We know we have to target the right customers if we are going to be impactful and engage prospects.  We know we have to have messages that are relevant to our audience.  We know we need to be customer focused–putting them at the center of what we do.

What continues to be stunningly surprising–and disturbing, the 99.9% know this, as well—or they should if they have any level of competence.  Yet they fail to do what they know is right, they fail to do what they know produces results.

Perhaps, as my friend Charles Green puts it, “I’m just shoveling sand at the beach.”

 

 

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