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Apr 14 19

Are You Selling What You Can Sell Or Selling What You Need To Sell?

by David Brock

Most sales people I meet are genuinely busy. They are trying to meet new customers, find new deals, qualify them, move them to closure.

It seems to be almost a badge of honor when I speak to sales people, to proclaim the long hours and hard work. Sometimes, they proudly proclaim, “I’m selling everything I can!”

And that’s a problem for me.

Typically, when someone proudly states they are “selling everything they can,” they aren’t selling what they need to be selling. Stated differently, they are trying hard, but their quotas and goals are not front and center.

As sales people, we are accountable, to ourselves and our companies, to achieve our goals. This isn’t the same as selling everything we can–it is precisely what I mean when I ask, “Are you selling what you need to be selling?”

Just being busy, just having days filled with activity, back to back meetings, being well intentioned, is insufficient to achieving our goals.

We need to be jealous of our time and purposeful in everything we do. We need to focus on the prospects, customers and critical activities that enable us to achieve our goals.

This isn’t about working hard and hoping. It’s about having a plan in place, and executing that plan every day. It’s about adjusting our plans and what we do, as things change.

To the casual observer, selling what we can and selling what we need to sell may look similar. Both are prospecting, both finding/qualifying opportunities, both meeting with customers, both wanting to close business.

But the people focused on achieving their goals are more focused. They don’t waste their time on prospects/opportunities outside their ICP. They know selling isn’t about pitching products, but helping the customers buy and solve their problems. They are vicious in chasing qualified opportunities and have no time for wishful thinking. They are prepared and create value in every exchange.

People who focus on selling what they need, will nearly always find a way to achieve their goals. People who sell what they can–well that’s all they do.

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Apr 10 19

“The Customer Is Incompetent!”

by David Brock

In the past week, I’ve participated in two reviews where the sales person has made the statement about some individual in the buying group, “So and so is incompetent…..”

One wanted to hammer home the fact by saying, “I spoke to a friend selling other products to the same company, he agrees….So and So is incompetent!” It was, apparently, validation for that sales person’s position.

Naturally, statements like these provoke the question, “What is it about that person’s behavior that causes you to draw that conclusion?”

Usually, there is a lot of hemming, hawing, and hand waving, followed by, “I can’t get to see them!” or “They won’t do what I need them to do!” or “They are biased toward the competitors!” or “They are too tough to deal with, they just don’t get it!”

And I am forced to ask, “How is that a demonstration of their competence?” (There is a hidden implication in that question, re-read it to make sure you get it.)

Whenever I hear this sales people making these statements, it makes my blood boil. Universally, it’s because we can’t get the customer to do what we want them to do, or more generally, we aren’t getting what we want.

It has nothing to do with their competence. Most of the time, they are simply doing their jobs!

Sometimes, I push the sales people on their assessments. We dive into the person’s background and behavior, trying to understand the sales person’s assessment. In one of the last situations, the “incompetent customer,” had held her job of a number of years. In fact her profile indicated a number of awards she had gotten from management. I posed the question to the sales person, “It appears this person is doing her job, actually it seems her management appreciates and recognizes the job she has done, so why is she incompetent?”

To my mind, incompetence is an excuse used by too many sales people. It’s laziness, selling error, mistakes, inability (or incompetence) on the sales person’s part. They haven’t taken the time to figure out how to engage the individual, they haven’t taken the time to learn about the individual, they haven’t taken the time to figure out why the individual should meet with them or do what the sales person wants them to do.

Thinking a person is incompetent is possibly not only inaccurate, but also dangerous. It colors how we think of them, engage them, even the tone in our voices. Inevitably, these are telegraphed to the “incompetent” customer.

As a personal example, increasingly, I find myself at the receiving end of people thinking I am incompetent. There are a number of things that I know I am incompetent on, but usually none of those are involved in these conversations.

Often, there are the words that are said, “But you are an old guy, things have changed, you don’t understand…..” Yes, I’m an old guy–it happens to all of us (we should hope that it happens to all of us, the alternative is unacceptable.) But I get that things have changed, in fact regular readers might say I am an instigator of much of that change. Stated differently, I’m not as dumb as I look.

Often, people don’t say those words, but you can hear it in their voices. For the other “old people” reading this, you know that patronizing tone.

While we may think we are hiding our opinions/assessments of people, it is impossible not to telegraph what we think of people to them. I sit in hundreds of meetings and these behaviors smack you in the face. Whether it’s body language, subtle facial expressions, the tone of how we speak to the person, whether we even listen to the person; our attitudes are telegraphed not only to that individual but to everyone else in the meeting.

And this limits us!

It keeps us from hearing, understanding. It keeps us from learning. It keeps us from accomplishing what we want to accomplish. It is the ultimate conceit and sign of disrespect.

We may agree or disagree with many people, including our customers. We may like or dislike many people we encounter. There may be differences in performance levels.

But claiming a person as incompetent only demonstrates our own ignorance, weaknesses, and inability to figure out how to connect with and engage the people we need to engage to get what we want to have happen.

When we make statements about people’s incompetence, we are more likely making observations about our own competence.

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Apr 10 19

Send In The “Bots”

by David Brock

AI, “Bots” and related technologies can do a lot to help improve our effectiveness and efficiency. The technology enables us to unload mundane tasks, both making us more effective and efficient.

And, of course, there are those that enable the users to do terrible things. We hear reports, almost daily, of concerted efforts to exploit social and other networks with these bots.

Recently, I’ve become a victim of the outreach of a company that provides this technology. My “mistake” was belonging to LinkedIn.

On a daily basis, I’ve been getting LinkedIn Invitations from different “people.” All have the same text, sometimes I will get several invitations from different people, at the same time.

At first I thought these were from a poorly executed marketing program. I ignored them. After several days of seeing the same invitations, recognizing this was the start of an endless pattern, I went to the company’s web site.

Turns out they are a bot company.

Curious, I spent some time wandering their website. They show a number of “helpful” examples on how to leverage bots. They have dozens of “helpful” services for sales and marketing. They don’t just automate mundane tasks to improve personal productivity. They automate the mundane tasks of harassing millions of people.

One of their “helpful” examples is automating LinkedIn Invitations. They show a video that enables you to send any number of invitations automatically.

Naturally, they show dozens of other examples of having bots completely take over sales and marketing functions.

This company is using it’s own technology to flood sites like LinkedIn, as well as our email inbox’s with crap. Inevitably, through their coaching, their customers will be doing the same thing. All these smart marketers and lazy sales people will leverage these technologies to extend their outreach. Their addiction to volume and velocity, rather than meaning, will be fed by the abilities of bots to take over their work.

Interestingly, the company doesn’t provide any caution on “best practice,” or “good use.” They seem proud of their ability to scale all activities to millions–of course the prices they charge are exorbitant, so the more people use their services, the greater their revenue.

Every day, we see horrible applications of automation. Bot technologies will accelerate the ability to destroy these channels and adversely impact all of us who attempt to use them legitimately.

Ironically, I think these companies will actually seed their own destruction. Ultimately, Face To Face will become our only “trusted” connection and engagement channel, at least for initial contacts.

Having co-founded an AI technology company, I have had a peek at the tremendous power of these technologies. Unfortunately, I suspect the bad and, perhaps, unethical applications of these technologies will abound–particularly in sales and marketing, where the temptation is too great.

It’s a sad statement about the state of our profession and our societies.

Afterword: I reported the issue to LinkedIn. I got into a very pleasant chat with “Marsha.” I suspect “Marsha” may be a bot……. Sigh…….

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Apr 7 19

“1250 Dials, 50 Conversations, 2 Meetings…..”

by David Brock

I was intrigued watching a LinkedIn video from a prospecting expert. He touted his great results, showed videos of him making prospecting calls. I suppose it was to promote his expertise in prospecting.

He was leveraging all the best predictive dialing and software technologies, exploiting his glibness/provocativeness on those conversations he had. His numbers, roughly 1250 dials, roughly 50 conversations, roughly 2 meetings. This was typical of his daily 8 hours of prospecting, a result which he was, apparently, very proud of.

Regular followers know I’m a “numbers person.” I focus on how we tilt the numbers in our favor, how we get the most out of the time we invest in our activities.

I immediately went to the numbers, for 1250 dials, he had a 4% conversation rate. For those conversations he had a 4% first meeting rate. Overall, 0.16% of his dials resulted in first meetings. With those results, it’s understandable why he has to make 1000’s of dials a day. One wonders when he had time to actually conduct the first meetings.

I reflected on my prospecting calls over the past couple of days, wondering if I was doing something wrong. I had 5 dials, 5 conversations (each about 30 minutes), resulting in 5 meetings, of which 4 were already highly qualified in the initial conversation.

I looked at my team’s performance over the past week. The numbers (at least the ratios) were similar, but in no case were any of the team making dozens of calls.

Granted, our business is not a high volume, high velocity business. Our average deal size is pretty big, our win rates are very high, and the size/nature of our business doesn’t demand 1000’s of dials, or conversations a day.

Prospecting is important to us. To achieve our goals, we don’t have to have a lot of calls, but we have to maximize our impact on each call. We are very focused, calling only on the companies/personas in our ICP. We research each, narrowing the targets to those who seem to have the problems we are the best in the world at solving. We prepare for each conversation, we make sure our targets are prepared, as well (usually our calls are preceded by a few email exchanges). We are hyper focused, we are hyper sensitive to how we use the prospects’ time, but perhaps more focused on how we use our time.

It hasn’t always been this way, but we’ve never been a high volume prospecting organization. We’ve learned from our experience, carefully tuning and refining our process to improve our productivity and impact on each call.

Everyone’s business is different. What we need to produce the qualified opportunities critical for our pipelines is different for each company. It is based on a number of criteria, the numbers we need for our pipelines, our target markets/customers, our engagement strategies, and so forth.

What I worry about is that we aren’t constantly re-engineering our engagement strategies, tuning them to tilt the numbers in our favor. Assessing, how to we maximize the probability of a response to each dial, a next step with each conversation, getting more done in each conversation.

The continued race for volume/velocity is not the answer. Just because technology enables us to do this, doesn’t mean it’s what we should be doing. Yet too often our focus in not how do we get better and improve our practice, but rather how we do more of what we are doing–even if it doesn’t produce results.

Everyone is different. This expert was proud of his results. I guess a meeting yield of 0.16% of his dials or 4% of his conversations is good for him. I’m not unhappy with my 5 dials, 5 meetings, 4 qualified opportunities. (I wonder what I could do if I were an expert.)

It is and isn’t about the numbers. We have to understand our numbers, making sure we hit our goals. But blindly scaling the numbers, just driving for volume doesn’t seem to be a great strategy. Instead, getting more out of the things you are doing seems a more productive first step.

Afterword: Our prospecting is not a great example for every organization. It is highly tuned and refined to our business. For example, virtually 100% of my calls are scheduled, that’s why 100% of my dials result in conversations. The process to achieve this, is actually pretty easy, but it’s done by design. What’s right for you may be different, but figure out how you design things to more effectively achieve your goals.

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