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Mar 6 18

No (Wo)Man Is An Island

by David Brock

John Donne penned a famous poem, No Man Is An Island, as part of his Devotions on Emergent Occasions.  Even in 1624, apparently there were problems with silo’s, self centeredness, and what the behaviors/mentalities that result.

We tend to focus on ourselves, our jobs/goals/responsibilities. Whether we are a customer or whether we are in roles that serve customers, we tend to think of ourselves.  Yet none of us exist in isolation.  Our work is part of a continuum of work that enables our organizations to grow and achieve the overall objectives.

We depend on others in order to get our jobs done, likewise, others depend on us in order to get their jobs done.  Any failure at any point impacts the overall performance of the organization.

Yet too often, we behave as if we existed in isolation.

The product engineering team that misses it’s deadline by months–impacting the marketing teams preparing to launch, the sales teams who’ve committed to a sales volume, and the company forecasting a revenue impact to shareholders.

The marketing team developing leads and content, but not engaging sales people in understanding the right leads, the right content and how sales leverages it in producing revenue.

Sales people, worried only about their goals, not realizing they are making it more difficult for the rest of the organization to support them.

Managers focusing on themselves and their priorities, forgetting the only way they achieve their goals is through their people.  Only when their people succeed, can the manager succeed.

Every function in the organization is critical to the overall performance and growth of the organization.  Without each part performing at the highest level, everything fails.

Our customers have the same challenges, yet, we don’t often recognize these.  We focus on one individual, perhaps a friend or ally.  But that person is not alone in their buying process (at least in complex B2B).  Others are always involved, others are always impacted by whatever decision is made.

If we are to succeed, as individuals, we are dependent on others and they depend on us.  We have to continue to remind ourselves about this.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

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Mar 5 18

“Focus On Activity More Than Results”

by David Brock

It’s clear that activity drives results—or at least it should.

We all know that orders and revenue is a trailing metric.  The danger of focusing on end results is that by the time you can report them, it’s too late to do anything about it.  If you focus only on making the number, at the end of the month, quarter, year, you’ve missed it, there are no do overs.  You can only look to recovering in future periods–but then it’s too late, you’ve missed your goal.

As a result, we want to find the leading indicators/activities that produce the results we expect.  We start looking at things like pipeline metrics, meetings, proposals, prospecting calls, and so forth.

We identify these metrics by walking backwards in the buying/selling process.  What are the key activities that drive orders?  What are the activities that drive those prior activities, and so forth up to, how many people/organizations do we need to be engaging to produce our numbers.

It sounds logical, makes sense.  But somehow, too often, we lose the connection between activity, outcomes, results.  Soon we start looking at activity for activity sake–and there is no connection with the results they produce.

Some examples:

  1.  A client insists sales people have at least 3 times coverage on their pipeline.  I ask why he chose 3 times, he said, “That’s the way I’ve always done it.”  When I point out the average win rate across the organization is 22-25% and that he needs 4-5 times coverage to make his number, he blanches.  He’s chosen a good metric but the wrong goal.  Plus, he really needs to look at it individually.  A small number of his people have 40-45% win rates and only need 2-2.5 times coverage.  So he is detracting from their ability to perform, just because he wants to see more deals.  They are at risk of leaving.
  2. Another client says they need 7-9 times coverage, indicating a win rate of 11-14%.  This means the sales people have to maintain unreasonably large funnels and spend huge amounts of time prospecting.  In fact, what’s happening is their win rate is declining further.  I challenge the VP, “What are you doing to focus on improving pipeline quality, win rates, average deal sizes, to free up the time so they can actually manage the deals.
  3. Another client insists on 15 proposals per sales person per week.  I ask why, his response is “If they are doing a lot of proposals, they are likely to close more business.”  The problem is, the sales people are gaming the system, they are sending out unsolicited proposals to hit their number and to prospect.  It’s not improving his results and forces them to be in a pricing discussion, before they even know how they are positioned and what it takes to win.  As you might guess, the percent of proposals that close are very low–but his people are hitting the number.
  4. A different organization mandates 50 prospecting calls per week.  When I ask, “How do you know it’s enough?  How do you know they are calling on the right people?  How do you know they are accomplishing what they should be accomplishing in these calls?”  The problem is the focus became purely the number of calls, they had lost sight of how these calls linked to finding qualified deals, their abilities to close those deals and the ability to achieve their goals.  Over time, the number of weekly calls had been increasing, sales people were gaming the system, making their calls, but not producing the results needed.

I could go on, but you get the point.  Activities are only meaningful when they are done in the context of results that need to be created.  We constantly need to be examining the whole activity chain to see if the activities are producing what’s needed.  We can’t arbitrarily declare activity levels, without understanding their connectivity to the results.  We have to constantly be assessing and re-engineering the activity chain, not seeking more activity, but tilting the numbers in our favor so we are doing the right activities.


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Mar 1 18

Great Prospecting

by David Brock

I use this column, too often, to whine about the state of prospecting emails.  But every once in a while, I get a great prospecting note.  Despite the dozens of bad emails I get and delete without getting past the first line, there are some that capture my attention and stand out.  There are some that earn/demand a response because of the quality of the effort.

Recently I received just such an email:

Subject:  I’d like to guest write on Partners In EXCELLENCE

Hey there Dave!

My name is Diego Segura, I’m a 17 year old brand identity designer and entrepreneur from Leander, Texas. My father and I talk about your blog all the time as he is in sales and has spent many years as a sales manager, and I am trying to run a design business. We love what you’re doing, and I know that your articles like Old School Prospecting have influenced me tremendously.

I am currently trying to improve my writing ability and expand my skillset as a thinker and a leader of people, and I wanted to see if I could submit a post about sales and communication to your blog and have you take a look at it. I would like to complete a book that I have been working on within the next 6 months, and this would be a great way to gain experience as an author, even if you never end up publishing the post.

Let me know if there is a time that we could speak on the phone, even if you don’t allow people to guest post on your blog, I’d still love to get in touch with you and ask some questions about how you got started and how you’ve kept the blog up through the years.

Thanks so much Dave, hope to hear back from you soon!

When I read the title, I almost immediately deleted the email.  I get dozens of of requests from people wanting to place their posts on my site.  In the 8 plus years I’ve been writing, there have only been two guest posts (and they were many years ago).  Clearly, people who are asking this, haven’t done their homework.  And most of their prospecting letters don’t show any evidence of ever having read my blog–they propose ideas that are completely outside the scope of what I talk about or what the blog stands for.

But I read the first couple of lines in the email.  Something struck me as different about this request.  First, the novelty of a 17 year old entrepreneur.  Then the observation that he clearly has been reading (along with his father) my blog and understands what I am trying to achieve.

Some of you might say, “Well the letter is all about him and what he wants to achieve…”  It is…. but Diego broke the code of what really interests me  (It’s actually a very easy code to break if you take the time to do your research).

Diego knew I’m driven by people who want to learn, who want to continue to improve, who want to be the best in their profession.  He also knows that I appreciate people who do the work, who know that excellence is the result of putting in the hours, of trying to figure things out.  They aren’t looking for short cuts, silver bullets.

Diego knew enough about my blog to recognize that I don’t publish guest posts, but he wanted to try, possibly provoking me to think of alternatives or ways to expand the content I provide.  Or even if I wouldn’t publish a guest post, he might be able to achieve his objective with me, another way.

In this thoughtful note, Diego achieved his prospecting objective.  This afternoon, we have a call to discuss what he might do.  I’ve sent him a few questions and asked him to prepare, he’s responded he’s already thinking about the issues I’ve outlined.

We did have to look at scheduling, Diego is still in high school, so we had to schedule the call after school (though he did say he might get a teacher’s permission to do the call during school hours, if that was the only time for the call.)

I’m looking forward to the call.  I expect Diego will be as well prepared for this meeting as he was with his prospecting letter.  Great professionals are like that (regardless of age).  I also know that I will learn a lot in the conversation.

I’m also fairly certain, in the future you will see something, on this blog from Diego.  Neither he, nor I, know what form it might take–perhaps an article, perhaps a conversation, perhaps he will give me an idea for something I’ve never considered.

Great prospecting doesn’t have to be hard, it just has to be thoughtful.

Even though we are pummeled with bad prospecting emails, great prospecting can still stand out–so email can be an effective channel, if you do the work.

If you want to learn more about Diego, look at his LinkedIn Profile or check out his company  Third Breath (I have to figure out what that means)


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