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Aug 18 15

How To Read A Sales Or Marketing Blog Post

by David Brock
Blogs

Actually, this might be applicable to virtually any professional article or book you might pick up.  But let me go into a bit of a back story before I go on.

Yesterday morning, I got an email from a client and close friend.  He was ranting about a blog post another friend had written.

Friend A said, “This is naïve, simplistic, completely off base for most B2B sales!  How can this guy (Friend B) write this stuff?  It’s irresponsible!”  Friend A has a huge amount of credibility with me, he’s been the top sales executive of some of the largest enterprise software companies in the world, he knows his stuff and has led sales organizations to produce Billions in revenues.  Now he’s CEO of one of the most exciting early stage companies I’ve encountered.

He was right, sort of, Friend B’s blog post was a little simplistic, and idealistic.  While he presented his ideas in a “Do this and you will succeed,” format, the real world doesn’t match the ideal scenario he described.  The world, customers, and the situations sales people face every day never fit the idealized scenarios we often write about.  The real world is messy, there are a lot of moving parts, things aren’t as clean as one would like, so simplistic approaches to very complex issues are seldom the “silver bullet,” people hope them to be.

But in fairness to Friend B, who’s a great blogger, and to all other bloggers (at least the good one’s), it’s impossible to get into the depth necessary to address very complex issues every sales person faces every day.

This is exacerbated by the increasing trend of attention spans reaching 140 characters.  How can you talk about a very tough issue in a relatively short blog post?  (Mine tend to be long and a barely scratch the surface.)

The reality is the situations each of us face at each moment in time are very different.  They are colored by, our past experiences, the company we work for, the products we sell, the customers we deal with, their past experiences, their own companies, markets, competition, the state of the industry/markets, the phase of the moon, our personal styles/comfort zones, and on and on.  And it changes for each of us moment by moment.

As bloggers, we write, based on our won experiences, which are different from everyone’s

No blog article of 400-1000 words can possibly address “your situation.”

No credible writer will claim, “Do these 5 things and you will always win!”  If you are reading someone who claims this, stop, cross that blog off your reading list, the author is a charlatan (even though they may have 1000’s of likes).

With that as a very long preamble, perhaps readers might benefit from some sort of instruction guide about how to read my blog and those of hundreds of other great writers.  Perhaps you can apply some of the same lessons to the professional books you read (with some adaptation).

  1. Make reading blogs part of your daily professional development routine.
  2. Read a variety of blogs.  Search for people that have very different points of view and perspective.  This exposes you to lots of different ideas.
  3. Read these blogs regularly, get comfortable with the author, learn how they think, learn their biases, so you can “calibrate” what they say.  I devour the editorial and opinion pages of the NY Times every day.  I’ve gotten to know the key contributors and their Points Of View.  There are some that, socially, I’m very aligned with, but economically, I’m more conservative.  But whether I agree or disagree, I have a framework to understand and learn from what they have to say.
  4. Don’t read a blog seeking answers!  None of us have the answers.  If one claims to, then abandon that writer immediately.  First, we are limited to our own experience base, while it may be very broad and sometimes deep, it’s different from yours.  We can’t possibly have the answers because, as I stated earlier, each of us faces a completely different situation and set of circumstances–and those change from moment to moment.  For those who have been reading this blog for some time, you know my favorite response to comments and questions from readers is, “It depends,” because it does!
  5. Read the blogs to think about the ideas.  How can you adapt the concepts to the situations you face everyday?  What would happen if you tried some of the things suggested by the writer?  How do you combine some of the ideas in this post with ideas you’ve read in others’ posts?
  6. Great blogs should stimulate you to thinking about the issues, they should provoke you to think, to learn, to consider new ideas and approaches.  Read them with this in mind.  Read them to think, learn, evaluate.
  7. I happen to be biased against “How To,” types of articles.  The Why, What, What If, Imagine This, Have You Considered…. types of articles tend to stimulate my own thinking and learning.  Sometimes, the “How To,” articles are great compliments, but a strict diet of “How To” articles seems to be empty calories to me. Beside, the How To’s for my particular situations always seem to be different.
  8. Read blogs that have sound research and good data.  But evaluate it carefully, because even “unbiased researchers” have an agenda and their results are tilted to that agenda.  Read counterbalancing research, arrive at your own opinions. Truth is always somewhere in the middle.
  9. Read the comments, engage the authors with comments and questions, challenge them for clarity.  In the case of my blog, 99% of the time, the commenters are far smarter and have far greater insight than I do.  (Here’s where I’m have a little different point of view from some very close friends and some very famous bloggers.  I actively seek blogs that allow comments and stimulate discussion at the blog site.  Every blog that I read that allows this has far better content than those that don’t–and that’s because of the reader engagement.)
  10. A good blogger should be learning from their audience.  That’s why comments are so important to me.  While you may be learning something from what I write, I always learn from you–whether the comments, emails, phone conversations.  It improves me, and hopefully, causes me to up my game in my own writing.  Other great bloggers I speak with share the same experience.
  11. Recognize we are trying to sell you something, so make sure you are holding onto your wallet.  In the very least we’re selling you ideas.  In the case of our blog, we want you to be provoked by our thinking, consider talking to us about your particular situation, and perhaps engage us in a consulting project.  Others are selling books, training, speaking engagements or something else.  What we are selling colors our writing and commentary, so be sure to have the appropriate filters when you read what we say.
  12. Be skeptical, think, and evaluate.  Regardless how deep our experience, how great a person’s reputation might be or how big their “social presence,” we make mistakes, we are wrong–sometimes completely off base.  But being right isn’t important, if you are reading to think and learn for yourself, you will be able to overcome our own limitations or errors.  If you blindly accept what we have to say, then you will fail.
  13. Consider sharing your own ideas in a blog.  Perhaps your own blog, perhaps a guest post in someone else’s blog, or a something like LinkedIn Pulse.  Others can learn from you, but more importantly, writing and expressing your own ideas helps you learn yourself.
  14. Make all of this habit, make continual learning, challenging yourself, challenging others part of your own journey to be a top performer.

Hopefully, this makes sense.  If you apply these ideas to your reading of this blog, you will get much more out of it and I will get more out of your experience!

 

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Aug 17 15

Perfect Prospecting

by David Brock
phone activity

Recently, I published a rant on LinkedIn, “Patient 0 Of Stupid Prospecting.”  This rant targeted a self appointed Sales Guru and Sales Trainer who had helped “thousands of sales people” over 15 years.

A couple of people commented, “What does perfect prospecting look like?”

I can’t tell you what perfect prospecting looks like, but I can tell you how to do it.

Simply put perfect prospecting means “doing the work.” actually, “doing the right work.”

Let me explain.

Sloppy prospecting is too easy.  Get an email list of a few thousand people, spend 15 minutes writing an email, push send.

Do that day after day.  Even stupid approaches hit every once in a while, maybe you get a few people responding, you rejoice that your prospecting program has struck “gold.”

Based on that wild success, you do it again and again, papering the world with 1000’s of meaningless emails, most of which end up in a spam filter, hoping you might get a handful of responses.

Proudly, you tell your manager you are prospecting like crazy.

There’s another version of that, get a list and some phone numbers.  Get some autodialing technology, dial and pitch, dial and pitch, dial and pitch.

Like the email program, after a few hundred calls, someone may be interested.

Rinse, repeat, proclaim prospecting victory to your managers.

I suppose that’s “prospecting,” it’s hardly effective prospecting, at least to my mind.  Yields are far too low.

Effective prospecting is about doing the work (doing most anything effectively is really about doing the work).

It starts with focusing on your sweet spot, those companies and individuals that are most likely to have the problems you solve.  In my rant on LinkedIn, this prospecting “expert” had repeatedly included me in his email programs.  My company and I are about as far outside his sweet spot as possible.  Think about your own prospecting, do you consider your competitor a prospect?  Why would you waste a moment on prospecting them.

That’s an extreme example, but you’ll get the highest response rates by being viciously focused on prospecting within your sweet spot.  Again, it’s a combination of the right industries and markets, the right companies within those industries, and the right people in the companies.

Second, know what you want to talk to them about.  Here’s where people make their biggest prospecting mistakes.  They want to talk about their latest greatest products, the promotion they have going on.  They want to talk about themselves, their products and their companies.

Customers don’t care!

When I pick up the phone and it’s someone from that big CRM vendor saying, “I’d like to talk to you about your interest in our products,”  my response is simple and direct, “I’m not interested in your products, so why should we spend the time on the phone?”

What do you talk to them about then?  Clearly, an issue that’s important to them now!

This is where you need to do your homework.  Is there something happening in their markets that could impact a large number of your potential customers?  Perhaps a new regulation, new technologies their customers are leveraging, shifts in market dynamics and structure, a major new competitor?  What is happening that they are likely to be concerned about or interested in?  What is happening that they may not be aware of?  It doesn’t have to be big or earthshaking, but it has to be something they are likely to be interested in.

Perhaps you and your company have a certain point of view about things that are happening in the industry, perhaps some interesting trends or data that is relevant to their success—we call that Insight.

Naturally, these issues have to be something that you can do something about.  If you sell financial management systems, it’s useless to talk to your customers about shifts in manufacturing technologies that are impacting them.  You can’t do anything about these–and probably you’ll have no credibility talking to them about it.

Now you are focusing on prospects within your sweet spot, you have something that should be interesting and relevant to them–not your products and services, you are halfway to being able to send that email or pick up the phone.

You have to sift through the customers in your sweet spot one more time.  Which of these customers is likely to be the most concerned and most ready to want to do something with what you are talking about?

Perhaps some of them have been struggling.  Their share prices are declining, their revenues or profits are in freefall, their market share is declining.  Perhaps they’ve had shipping or quality problems.  Maybe some customer sat problems.  Maybe there’s been a lot of turnover in the company.  Maybe they’ve missed on new product releases or launches, maybe they aren’t launching new products.

Look for the companies that have something happening to them that is relevant to the issues(s) you want to talk about.  Search for those “triggers” that are likely to make them very interested.

Now you’ve prioritized your prospecting list, focusing on those organizations and people that are most interested in what you will be talking to them about.

We’re almost there.

Now prepare your campaign.  It may be an email campaign, a outbound phone campaign, or a combination (I’m always biased toward the latter).  Write your message or your script.  If is says, “me,” “our company,” “our products,” go back to the drawing board.  If it doesn’t talk about them, go back to the drawing board.  It needs to be about them.

Don’t compose just one email, compose a series that you can send over a period of weeks.  Make sure they are different, build a story through the series of emails.  If it’s a call script, do the same thing, don’t just talk about the same thing or leave the same tired voicemail, build a story.

In the emails, make sure there’s a call to action.  It may be as simple as downloading a relevant white paper.

Now you are ready to prospect.

Send out your email campaign.  Look at who clicks on the white paper, they are highest on your hit parade for prospecting, the second are those that have opened and read the email.

Pick up the phone and call—but before you do, look that person up in LinkedIn or Facebook, look at the company’s website.  Spend 3 minutes scanning before you dial the number.

When you reach the customer, they are likely to be interested in talking to you, you know them, you know their company, you are prepared to talk about what they care about.

These are the elements of a high impact prospecting approach.  There are all sorts of variations, there are some tweaks that you can make based on your target customers, the solutions you provide, and the things that are happening to your customers right now!

There’s no way around it, you’ve got to do the work if you want to produce results.

Sounds like a lot of work and time–it is and it isn’t.  If you don’t do the work, you won’t produce the results.  But once you start doing this consistently and it becomes ingrained, you become remarkably efficient.  It takes less and less time to prepare.  Additionally, there are tons of great tools that help you do the work much more efficiently.

As a postscript, our company is no different than others.  We have to prospect.  Each of us has to have a certain number of “conversations” with new customers in our target markets each week.  We’ve refine our prospecting to the point that 100% of those calls are scheduled and there is always a customer expecting the call, looking forward to the conversation.  But of course, we’ve done the work.

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Aug 14 15

How You Make Your Number Is As Important As Making The Number!

by David Brock

As a young sales person, I must have really frustrated my managers.  I was disorganized, undisciplined–in short, all over the place.

In spite of that, I always made my number…..

Well, I’ve got to be honest, I had lots of ups and downs.  Some months I’d miss, another month, I’d blow away my number, but I always made my number for the year!  Usually  on December 31 at 23:45.

It drove my managers crazy.  While I always made my number, I couldn’t tell them how I was going to make it.  I worked hard, scrambled a lot, and had some great luck.  I never did the same thing twice.  But there was never any predictability. It never looked pretty, there were a lot of starts and stops, and I never knew until I knew–which led to sleepless nights.

Finally, one of my managers sat me down at a performance review.  He gave me what I considered to be a very poor review.  I protested, saying, “I always make my numbers, why am I getting such a poor review?”

It was then I learned that how I made my numbers was as important as making the number (in some cases, I’ll get to later, it may be a little more important.).

The lessons she gave me at the time have stuck with me through my career.  I learned the importance of the sales process, of a disciplined approach to managing myself, my time.  I learned the importance of putting together a plan, whether it was for my account, territory, or for the year.

The disciplined approach to making my numbers actually made it easier for me to make my numbers, because I knew what things produced more business. I knew the things I did today that would enable me to make my numbers tomorrow.  I could focus on doing more of those things and not those things that wasted my time.   So I stopped having to stay in the office until midnight on New Year’s Eve and could start going to parties.  Or rather than scraping through with crossed fingers and a few prayers, I could now aim for overachieving my numbers (that’s where the real money started kicking in.)

As individual sales people, it’s critical that we have a disciplined approach to how we make the number.  For example, having a strong pipeline management process enables each of us to look at our business, not only this month, but next and some months down the line.  If we see we are off on our numbers, we can identify it, take corrective action, and get ourselves back on target.  Rather than leaving things to chance, we can be proactive in managing the territory, creating greater confidence in our ability to meet our goals and making the numbers.

My managers loved the “new and improved Dave,” because now there was much less uncertainty, far fewer heroic efforts, fewer sighs of relief because they had better visibility of what I was doing and the business it would produce.  More importantly, for me, they could really help me, they could coach me, help me find systematic ways to improve my performance, ways to be more effective and more efficient.

Being focused how I made my numbers, as well as being driven to make my numbers provided both me and my managers a basis for learning, developing, and improving.  Since I now had a systematic and disciplined approach to making my numbers, it was easier to understand what worked and what didn’t   Growing my performance became a matter of stopping the things that didn’t work and doing more of the things that did.  It allowed me to move from scrambling to make my number to being one of the top performers.

At an organizational level, this is even more important.  Making the number is everyone’s primary objective-but from an organizational point of view we have to look beyond making this month’s, this quarter’s, this year’s numbers.  We have to have the strategies, capabilities, capacities in place to grow the business year after year.  We have to have the capabilities of making the number consistently year after year, to extend share, to grow profitability.  This means putting in place the right mix of leadership, strategies, business management, and people.

As stewards of the business, we have to make sure we are leveraging all the resources we have available to us, maximizing performance, productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency.  As leaders, we constantly must assess the investments we make in selling and the return we get out of those investments.  Absent a disciplined way of assessing performance, productivity and effectiveness, we can’t manage the business of selling to maximize the results each individual achieves and the organization, as a whole achieves.

The rest of the business is dependent on us.  Manufacturing builds inventory planning and production schedules base on us.  Finance looks at cash needs based on our revenue/profitability projections.  The rest of the business needs the ability to plan and execute, based on our ability to drive sales in a predictable manner.

As a consequence, the “how we make our number,” becomes critical to our ability to set a direction, to know who to hire, to know how to train and develop them, to know the right programs to invest in, to know when and how to take corrective action, to have a framework for fixing things when the Sh*t starts hitting the fan.

Finally, we owe it to our people to provide leadership, direction, and coaching to maximize their personal and organizational success.  We need to put in processes that enable them to maximize their win rates, reduce cycle time, drive deal profitability.  We need to provide systems and tools to help them be as efficient as possible.  We need to establish best practices for our own organizations and drive the consistent execution of those practices.  We need to coach and develop them, so they can achieve this year and to prepare them to achieve more next year and the following year, and…..

Consistently making the number, doing it effectively and efficiently is not a crapshoot.  How you make the number, how you do it consistently, how you continue to learn and grow is critical to making the number.

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