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Jun 22 16

Jeb Blount On The Sales Manager Survival Guide

by David Brock

Thanks to Jeb Blount of Sales Gravy for this great explanation of Sales Manager Survival Guide.

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Jun 16 16

Speed Kills!

by David Brock
race car

No, I haven’t become the spokesperson for the National Highway Safety Commission, I’ve had more than my fair share of speeding tickets (and actually far fewer than I deserve.)

I just read a horrible piece of advice from a “guru.”  The advice was, “Efficiency Drives Effectiveness!”

How wrong can a supposed expert be?

Efficiency is all about speed, getting more done in less time.  We have to be concerned about efficiency, but only if we are doing the right things in the right way with the right people at the right time!

Executing bad selling skills very efficiently produces garbage really quickly.  It wastes our time, wasted the time of the people subjected to these efforts, destroys our credibility and brand reputation.

Doing something poorly, but doing it faster has nothing to do with our effectiveness except to destroy it.

As we become increasingly time poor, too much advice and too many tools focus on efficiency and velocity.

We have learned we have to respond to inquiries within seconds or minutes.  We can make more calls faster than we’ve ever done before.  We can send more email messages, faster–and we can recycle them forever.  We can leverage social channels to more quickly get our messages out to more people.

The time we save by being efficient in what we do enables us to crank up the volume of what we do.  Together, this high velocity and high volume approach overwhelms our customers (and us).  Our email boxes are overflowing, our voicemails (if we have it) are overflowing, the phone doesn’t stop ringing—all because we are focusing on efficiency.

Yet all the data shows results declining.  Quota performance, customer engagement, customer experience, customer loyalty should be improving if the answer is increasing efficiency, increased speed, increased volume.  But it isn’t!

Something must be missing or horribly wrong.

What we’ve missed in the quest for velocity and volume is whether we are doing the right things in the right way with the right people at the right time.

We’ve missed a critical element of high performance—effectiveness.

Effectiveness focuses us on having an impact, producing the right outcomes.  It doesn’t make sense to focus on efficiency or speed until we know we can produce the right results.  It’s only after we’ve become effective that efficiency makes sense.  Once we have learned how to engage our customers in effective, relevant, impactful conversations producing outcomes of value to both of us, then focusing on how we can do more in the same amount time makes sense.

A friend who shares my passion for high performance cars and fast driving went to a 3 day “Performance Driving” class.  He wanted the opportunity to drive hot cars very fast.  Not surprisingly, these instructors who have mastered speed spent the first couple of days going slowly.  They focused on the basics of car handling–braking, shifting, steering, accelerating, choosing the right line through a curve, handlng skids and other things critical to their performance on the track.  These were all done at low speeds.  It was only on the third day, after they had mastered doing things right—being effective—that they started going for speed.

Top performance is a combination of effectiveness and efficiency.  But we have to get the order right.  Effectiveness always precedes efficiency!

Focus first on mastering those things that produce results.  Learn how to do the right things in the right way, with the right people, at the right time.  Then look at how you do more in the same amount of time.

Anything else is wasted effort (which, ironically, is terribly inefficient).

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Jun 16 16

Your Coaching Discussions Always Have A Context

by David Brock

A few days ago, I had a great discussion with a reader who had just finished reading the Sales Manager Survival Guide.  He’s a senior sales executive who wanted to immediately start applying some of the lessons in coaching the managers reporting to him and to improve their abilities in coaching their people.

He had started with the development of a template of questions that he wanted to ask people.  It was a great template, he was artfully applying the non-directive questions I cover in Chapter 12 (How Do You Coach).

As we discussed the questions, we talked about the context that underlies each coaching discussion.  We always have a context on which our coaching is based and a history that links past discussions with the current one and future discussions.

In the case of the template he was developing, it provided a starting point for the conversation, but he realized he couldn’t start at the same point each week.  Each week the conversation would pick up and build on what had been discussed in previous sessions.

Without this continuity, you don’t have the maximum impact in coaching and developing your people.

Let’s look at what this means and how you leverage this in maximizing the impact of each coaching discussion.

At the foundation, coaching is about certain behaviors you have observed.  It may be a sales call you listened to.  It may be how to better qualify deals and opportunities.  It may be how to increase the results and relevance of first customer conversations.

Every time you have a conversation in which you are coaching your people, it must always be grounded in something specific that you have observed.  In the discussion, you may be reinforcing things they are doing well, so they continue to build on those strengths, or you are helping the sales person discover how they might improve on what they are doing.

As we look to building people’s capabilities, we must focus on one or two key areas at a time, we can’t be jumping to different things in each discussion.  People simply get confused and shut down.    Consequently, each discussion is linked by the area you and the sales person are trying to improve.  For example, if you are trying to improve a person’s ability to qualify, in your discussions about prospecting or as you coach early stage deals, you will want to focus on qualifying.

As managers, we need to keep reinforcing the things we are helping the sales person improve until they have mastered it.

This provides a consistent context for each of us to learn and develop.  Each of us has the past discussions to leverage, and each new discussion builds on those past discussions.

When we coach our people, we are always agreeing on action plans and next steps to apply what has been agreed upon.  Follow-up is critical in this reinforcement process.  Questions like, “How did it work?  Where did you have difficulties?  How might you improve even further?”  This follow up provides continuity, building on what we and the sales person are trying to achieve.

We get the greatest power out of our coaching when we have a context on which to build and reinforce what we are trying to achieve.  We build on past conversations, we link those discussions and the things that have happened in the interim into the discussions we have today.  Our future discussions build on those discussions we have this week.

Effective coaching is seldom a single conversation, but rather a series of conversations that build on what we have discussed in the past.

But you already know this–it’s like the conversations we have with our customers.  Each conversation helps move them through the buying process, helping them learn and take action.

If we build on the skills we have developed in working with our customers, applying them in a similar way to developing our people, we maximize the impact of our coaching and accelerate the ability of people to achieve our shared goals.


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Jun 14 16

What’s The Most Important Customer Question Sales People Probably Can’t Answer?

by David Brock
Questions and Answers signpost

We equip our sales teams with the ability to answer any question customers might have about our products and services.  Sales people, can go on forever about features, functions, feeds, and speeds for each of the products they sell.  They sometimes can present feature –  benefits, for example, “improved productivity, reduced cost,” and so forth.

But the capabilities of our products and how wonderful they are, are probably not the most important things in our customers minds.

We know this qualitatively and quantitatively by the disinterest customers have in our marketing and prospecting programs touting our products.  Open rates, click throughs are plummeting.  Customers are rapidly finding other sources of this information, presented in their terms on their schedules.  Product management and marketing continue to provide endless content proclaiming the wonders of each feature in every product (“The implementation of our name and address fields is far more innovative and intuitive……….”)

The most important question on the minds of customers is, “How can you help me solve my problems and achieve my goals?”

Yet they seldom pose this question in as straightforward a manner.  Instead, they may  present it in a number of ways:

  1. The customer might not recognize they have a problem or there may be a better way of doing things, sales people engaging customers with specific insights on their business can sharpen awareness and urgency around the issue.  Rather than the customer posing the issue, the sales person might say, “We’ve looked at what you are doing and believe there is an opportunity to reduce manufacturing cycle times by 12%, driving X reductions in inventory, Y reductions in manufacturing costs….”
  2. The customer might pose it as an opportunity, “We want to grow our customer retention and life time value by z%…. How can you help me achieve this?”
  3. The customer might pose it as sets of frustrations, “We’re just too busy to talk to you, we’re behind on our projects, we have more work than we can handle……”
  4. The customer might be oblivious, “We’re doing just fine, we don’t need to change anything…..”  (Yet their performance is trailing that of their competitors, they are losing customers, they aren’t growing.)
  5. ……you get the point.

It may not be the fault of the sales people that they can’t address this question.  After all, we focus our training on our products and what we think is important, seldom what the customer thinks is important.

To help sales people answer this question from their customers, we have to be very clear about the following:

  1. What problems are we the best in the world at solving?  This can’t be generic–improve productivity, reduce costs, grow revenue.  They have to be very specific issues in the terminology of the customer.
  2. Who has these problems?  If everyone in the world has these problems, then we’ve defined the issues incorrectly.  No company can address the productivity problems, or cost problems, or quality problems, or growth problems of every organization in the world.  There is a set of customers—markets/industries, enterprises, individuals; for which our products and solutions are optimized.  These represent our “sweet spot.”  We want sales people to focus their time within that sweet spot.  It’s where they will have the biggest impact and greatest success.
  3. How does the sales person find out if a customer within that sweet spot is experiencing that issue now?  Whether they recognize it or not, what is it the sales person should look for, how do they understand the magnitude of this issue for the customer?
  4. How does the sales person engage the customer in talking about this issue?  What do the conversations look like, how does the sales person drill down, understanding the impact, urgency and specific issues the customer is experiencing?  In most cases in complex B2B sales, we have to be engaging multiple customers in differing roles who care about this issue and want to do something about it.  We need to equip our sales people with the abilities to engage these people as individuals and as a group–helping guide them through their problem solving process.
  5. What do we do in helping the customer solve this problem or address this issue?  Not generically, but very specifically.  “We can help improve productivity by X%, we can reduce DSO by Y%, we can improve customer retention by Z%……  and here is the data and analysis upon which we base these claims……”
  6. Why us?  Usually the approach is our long laundry lists of features and functions, or our long lists of irrelevant references.  The why us is seldom about our products, but about the way we engage the customer in thinking about and addressing these problems.  While others are still pitching their products, the why us becomes, “we are the people that are helping you actually solve this problem!”  But we have to equip our sales people to demonstrate this in each customer interaction, from prospecting, through close.  Then we have to make sure our customers are realizing the value we have claimed in the process.

Our success and that of our customers skyrockets when we equip our sales people with the ability to engage the customer in exploring and answering the question most important to them.  Are you helping your sales teams do this?


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