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May 17 18

Structure Isn’t Strategy…..

by David Brock

In a recent conversation, a colleague made a very astute observation, “Structure isn’t strategy, structure it there to support the implementation/execution of strategy.”

It was so simple and obvious when he stated it, but too often, I think we forget this as we drive performance in our organizations.  We make our strategy about the “structures” we put in place–whether it’s the organizational structure, or the methodologies/tools/processes we use.  They become the ends, in themselves, rather than the means.

As things move forward, and we struggle to meet our goals, we focus on these structures, often loosing site of what we are trying to do and why.  We never revisit our strategies, focusing instead on the structures we have put in place.  Inevitably, all our work on structure doesn’t achieve the outcomes we want.  We have lost sight of the fact the issue may not be the structures, but the strategies themselves.

There’s also a tight linkage between the strategies and structures.  Sometimes, we focus all our efforts on the strategy, failing to put the right structures in place to implement/execute our strategies.  We try to move forward, but fail, because we haven’t put the right structures in place.

Ultimately, we learn that one doesn’t make sense without the other.  We need strategy, we need structures, we have to understand each, how they interlink, and how we optimize both to achieve our goals.

 

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May 14 18

Getting What You Get Or Getting What You Want?

by David Brock

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been sitting in a number of pipeline and deal reviews.  While the companies are in very different businesses, different solutions, different sales processes, different sales force maturities; I’ve noticed some patterns:

  1. Deal quality is not where it need be.
  2. Average deal sizes seem to be eroding.
  3. Average sales cycles are increasing.
  4. Win rates are declining.
  5. People are struggling, but working very hard.

They are closing deals, but things are very tough, and people are working very hard.  Somehow, they aren’t hitting their goals.

As we dive into their pipelines, I start seeing, the deals aren’t really the deals they want, they are the deals they are getting.

By this, I mean, as people start struggling with their numbers, they start relaxing their qualifying criteria.  They start chasing deals further outside their ICP or sweet spot.    As they struggle with these deals, they tend to cast wider and wider nets,   They win a few here and there, but they aren’t the best types of deals, and the work to get them was too difficult.

It takes tremendous courage to focus, exclusively, on the right deals–those fitting your ICP and right in the middle of your sweet spot.  These are the deals we really want!  Ironically, these are the deals that are “easier” to get, that is, they are the right deals, they are areas where we have proven success.

It would seem natural, particularly as times are tough, to focus viciously on these deals.

But our minds, and, perhaps, our managers, don’t work that way.  Rather than doubling down on deals in our sweet spot, we chase anything that responds, we confuse activity with purposefulness.

Over time, we find we have drifted further and further from our Ideal Customer.  The deal quality declines, the work to get each deal increases, our win rates decline, sales cycles lengthen.

We end up settling for deals that aren’t the best and working too hard for those.

What would happen, if we changed our perspectives, focusing viciously on what we want, rather than what we get.   If we focus on our sweet spot, we will get what we want–and our ability to generate quality business will sky rocket.

What kinds of deals are you getting?

 

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May 7 18

Metric Fixation

by David Brock

We are consumed by metrics.  We measure everything–Activity levels, call/meeting volumes, emails, customer “touches,” pipeline health/volume/velocity, forecast accuracy, quota performance, and on and on and on.

Metrics are important.  They are an indicator of our progress in achieving our goals, they help us understand if we are on target or drifting off target.  Without these indicators, it’s difficult to be focused, effective, efficient.

Without metrics it’s easy to lose our direction.  “If you don’t know where you are going, any path will get you there.”

But it’s important to understand what metrics can do and their limitations.

Too often, the metric becomes an end in itself, not just the means or an indicator about our abilities to achieve our end goals.

We become fixated on hitting a specific call volume, forgetting the purpose of the calls and what we are trying to achieve.  Presumably, in making calls, we are trying to find customers, engage them, find those that are interested in continuing the discussion.  But too often, we become fixated on the number–50, 100, whatever it is.  For many managers and SDRs, the focus becomes making that number, not on why we are making the calls in the first place–generating more interested customers.

Then as we see that what we are doing isn’t producing what it did in the past, rather than understanding why, we ratchet up the number of calls.  Of course, this is what the math behind the metrics tell us to do.

Rather than looking at what may be going wrong, or how we might improve results.  We just focus on the metric/goal.

We see this in virtually every metric we put in place.  Click throughs, opens, call volumes, meetings, appointments, proposals, pipeline coverage.

It gets worse, as the focus becomes achieving the metric/goal, people start to game the system.  They increase the dials, without caring whether they are calling the right people–all because some manager has told them they need to do this.

I was once listening to calls in a large call center.  I was interested in the individual that always blew away his call volume number.  I listened to his calls to see what he was doing differently.  He spent much of his day calling friends.  He knew if he talked to them for 2-3 minutes, he’d hit the goals his manager had established.

But he wasn’t producing the results, that is, while he was exceeding his call quota, he wasn’t producing the outcomes he should have.  Everyone had become so fixated on the number of calls, they forgot what they were really trying to achieve.

Most of you are probably thinking, “That’s really dull, it’s so obvious….”  It is, but too often we get so focused in the momentum of day to day activity, we don’t take the opportunity to step back to examine what’s really happening.

Metrics/goals are important.  They give us indicators whether things are on track.  But to understand and address what’s really going on, we have to get under the numbers, trying to understand what’s really happening.

 

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May 6 18

Are We Enabling Or Crippling Our Sales People?

by David Brock

Enablement is one of those $100 words as you read anything in the sales and marketing literature.  There’s lots of discussion around “Sales Enablement.”  In fact there’s even the Sales Enablement Society, which actually is doing some good work in discussing hot issues in enablement .

The concepts of enabling our sales people isn’t just limited to the sales enablement function.  Marketing, product management, sales management, and others play key roles in enabling sales people.

While all the work is well intended, I wonder if, too often, the unintended consequence of this work is actually “disabling” or crippling our sales people.

One dictionary definition for enablement is:  the process of making someone able to do something, or making something possible.

I often think of a parable when I think of enablement:  “Give a person a fish and that person will eat for a day, teach a person to fish, and that person will eat for their lifetime.”

It seems that so many of the things we do in the spirit of enabling has the same effect of “giving our people the fish, rather than teaching them to fish.”

Sometimes we do these things in the name of productivity.  For example, rather than teaching our people to research a customer or company, we have tools that do that for them, just giving them the answers.

Or instead of teaching our people how to engage customers in high impact conversations, we give them scripts.

Or rather than having our people think about and develop winning deal strategies, we give them playbooks which they must follow, step by step.

Or for managers, rather than doing the analysis, we make it easy by just giving them a report.

We invest millions in doing these things which should be “enabling” sales people, yet performance against goal continues to decline.

One wonders are we really “enabling” them.  Are we helping them to be able to sell or are we giving them all the answers that they just execute, without understanding.

Perhaps, that’s the missing element in our enablement programs, our sales people don’t understand how to do something.  We aren’t training them in how to think about and execute high impact conversations, or why the research is important and what it means–or how to research to find the answers themselves.

Or the manager has the data, but doesn’t know what the data means, and how to drill down into the data to develop deeper insights.

Think of account planning as an example.  The most valuable thing in account planning is not the plan itself.  It’s the thinking, the analysis, the research, the discussions we go through to develop the plan.  It’s in this process that we learn the most.  With the exception of the action plan part of the account plan, we would lose little by tearing it up and throwing it away–because we have done the tough part, the work to develop the plan.

But too often, we take away the planning piece of it, presenting a sterile document.  People see the information, but they struggle with what it really means and how to leverage it.

To many of our enablement efforts, while well intended, take the thinking, evaluation, creativity, analysis part of the process away from the sales person.  While they have the information, it’s relatively meaningless and they struggle with the application/execution.

Some will argue, “we are focused on making things efficient for our people.”  But in that efficiency, we actually are not helping our people be effective.  As a result of that lack of effectiveness, they have to do more–more calls, more time correcting mistakes, more of everything.  As a result, we aren’t being efficient or effective.

Enablement is all about making equipping our people to work effectively in moving our customers through the sales process.  It should be less about giving them the answers and more about helping them discover the answers.  In the end, they will be both more effective and efficient.

 

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