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Feb 22 15

How Strongly Do You Believe In Your People?

by David Brock

Do you believe in your people?  Do you believe in them, perhaps more strongly than they believe in themselves?

If you don’t believe more strongly than they do, you will never be able to maximize their performance or fulfill their potential.  At most, you’ll get some improvement, but probably not sustainable improvement.

Our jobs as leaders are to get our people to perform at the highest levels possible, fulfilling both their short and long term potential.

Sometimes, I think it’s this absence of belief that impacts our effectiveness as leaders and coaches.  If we are asking our people to change, to step up what they are doing, but if we don’t believe in their ability to do it, then they never will.  We’ve created a self fulfilling prophecy, and it’s not our people’s faults, it’s ours.  We become the weak link in driving performance improvement.

Coaching and developing our people is a “contact sport.”  (Figuratively, that is.)

It requires our full commitment and engagement in seeing our people succeed.

Improving performance, whether it’s taking someone who isn’t performing well and getting them to improve; or taking a strong performer and challenging them to stretch, is about change.  We are asking our people to change what they are doing.  Perhaps, they are doing something wrong.  Perhaps they can do something better.  Perhaps they need to do something different.  But to be effective, in getting our people to change and improve, we have to show them a clear path, we have to get them engaged both in understanding, but believing and owning the change.

To get them to see this, to give them the courage to step up to the change, we have to believe they can do it.  Otherwise we set them up for failure–wasting their time and ours.

This is particularly important with poor performers.  If we have given up on them, if we don’t believe they can fix their performance problems, then they never will.  And we may be cheating them because of our own beliefs.  If we can’t get our heads wrapped around believing they can improve, we might as well stop.  We are best having a heart to hear t with them, moving them into a role where both we and they believe they can achieve success.

Coaching and developing our people is the single highest leverage activity we can undertake as managers and leaders.  But regardless of how well we know how to coach.  Regardless of how skilled we might be in asking non-directive questions.  Regardless, how disciplined we are in investing the time in coaching.  Regardless of how well we execute the “mechanics” of coaching, we never achieve sustained success unless we believe in the ability and willingness of our people to do achieve the goals.

If we don’t believe in our people, if we don’t believe more strongly than they do, we will never help them change and achieve extraordinary goals.  We–our people and ourselves just end up going through the motions.  Our lack of belief holds them back from achieving what they could.

We can’t do this casually, we have to be fully engaged.  It’s not about cheerleading (though some amount of cheerleading helps), it’s about helping our people learn about themselves, helping them see a path to improving and growing.  It’s about getting them to believe in it, visualize, and take action.

Think back to the good managers and inspirational leaders you have had.  They probably had one thing in common, they believed in what you could do or what you could achieve more strongly than you believed it yourself.  They challenged you, inspired you.  They were disappointed when you didn’t challenge yourself to achieve your full potential.

As I reflect on my career, it’s been a number of key people–my parents, my wife, my family, some close friends, a few teachers, some inspirational managers, a few peers or colleagues.  All of these people knew I could achieve more.  They believed in me.  They challenged me — not to meet their expectations, but to fulfill my potential.  They are continuing to do this, because they know I can do more–because they believe that, I know I can do more.

Do you believe in your people?  Do you believe more strongly than they do?  Are you committed to their success?

If you are, both you and they will accomplish tremendous things.


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Feb 21 15

Product Sales Strategy In One Slide

by David Brock

For a quick weekend thought provoking piece, I thought you might be interested in this slide from Peter Thiel.  This one slide encompasses so much of what we need to know about product introduction strategies, general sales and growth strategies.  It’s particularly interesting when one hears so many discussions from SaaS companies that “No Sales People Are Needed!”

What do you think?


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Feb 19 15

Ditching The Performance Review

by David Brock
sales leader

I was astounded to read “Let’s Kill The Performance Review” by Liz Ryan.  I agree with many of the things she states.

  • The majority of performance review/performance management systems in companies are broken–or at least dysfunctional.
  • It consumes too much unproductive time, with unclear benefit.
  • It’s not a necessary process for compensation management (though I do like compensation tied to performance.)
  • Performance plans as a protection against legal action isn’t really a good defense.
  • And while she doesn’t say it, most managers are poorly trained at setting performance expectations, coaching to them and evaluating performance.

But a recommendation to kill performance reviews, seems to be playing to pop culture, rather than responsible leadership.  Killing them because the process is broken is the wrong thing, fix the process, solve the problem!

It’s our responsibility, as managers, to set performance expectations for our people.  They need and want to know what is expected of them.  We cheat them and our companies by not clearly setting performance expectations and holding them accountable for meeting them.

It’s our responsibility, as managers, to do maximize the performance of everyone on our teams.  We do this through clearly set performance expectations and ongoing coaching.

It’s our responsibility, as managers, to evaluate people’s performance against those expectations.  They expect it, they need to know how they stand and what they should be doing about it (part of coaching).  We need to understand it, as well.

The performance review process is critical, both for our people and for us to fulfill our own responsibilities to our own managers and companies.

But the performance review process in most companies is broken.  Abandoning it is not the answer, fixing it is the answer.  Ms. Ryan makes an economic argument about the time wasted in performance reviews, suggesting huge cost savings.  But if we aren’t reviewing performance in some way, how do we assure we achieve our goals.  So it seems the time invested in performance reviews is well worth the investment, if we focus on improving the review process.

She also suggests people wanting feedback will ask for it.  But what about those that don’t.  They are often those that most need feedback.  Besides, it’s totally irresponsible for managers to sit idly by, waiting for people to come to them for feedback.  It’s our job as managers to provide leadership, direction, coaching and feedback to everyone on our team.

She suggests compensation systems be tied to market data, providing competitive compensation to everyone.  It’s partly accurate, but naive.  Market data is always a part of any compensation planning, but when you are looking at allocating a pot of money for increases across a team of people, what’s the most fair way to allocate it?  I think it’s based on relative performance.  I want to recognize my very top performers with bigger increases than my very bottom performers.  I don’t know that I want to give my bottom performers an increase at all (Personally, i believe everyone in an organization should be on a leveraged compensation plan—but that’s another post.)

Abandoning performance reviews is the wrong solution.  Finding ways to make the process more relevant and impactful  creates huge wins for our people and our companies–and isn’t that our responsibility as managers?

Here are some thoughts:

1.  There is absolutely no reason that all performance reviews happen at the beginning or end of the fiscal year.  There’s also no reason they are held only annually.  Why not hold them annually or semi annually based on the “anniversary” of when they started in the job.  If a person starts in March, then annually, the review will be held every March.  A person starting in August would get the review in August.  Even though they are mid way through a fiscal year upon which goals like quota are set, it’s pretty easy to bridge this in the performance review.  Also, this spreads the reviews across the year, rather than having all bunched in one month.

2.  Make the employee part of developing the performance criteria.  Too often, the performance criteria are set with little or no input from the individual.  We know this is just bad practice, so increase ownership and engagement in the performance planning process.

3.  Even if the formal evaluation period is yearly, set interim checkpoint reviews.   Set people up to be successful and not “surprised” at the end of a performance period.  Do interim reviews, help them establish action plans to improve performance.  If they were part of developing the plan in the first place, they will have huge ownership in doing this.

4.  Recognize that coaching and the performance review are different–though tightly related.  In coaching we generally are focusing on a specific area of improvement.  For example we may be coaching how a person better qualifies a deal, how that individual might improve prospecting, or any number of other things.  The performance plan and review looks at total performance.  That’s why it is important to have interim performance reviews to look at total performance in the job.  Coaching and performance  reviews go hand in hand, but don’t confuse them.

5.  Ms. Ryan argues things should be more team focused.  There is absolutely no reason why a performance plan can’t include team or collaborative goals as part of the plan.  Every performance plan I have ever had has included team and collaborative elements.

6.  Change people’s attitudes about performance planning.  I don’t know why, and Ms. Ryan reinforces it, but everyone thinks of performance planning as “punitive” or “negative.”  Everyone in the organization is expected to perform at the highest possible level.  As leaders it’s our job to help our people achieve the highest levels of performance.  Continuing to improve performance is part of continuous improvement.  If we don’t measure our performance, if we don’t improve our performance, organizationally we will die.  If we really do our jobs right as managers, we will have outstanding performances and outstanding review meetings, and outstanding reviews.  The “negative” aspect of performance planning is really a result of bad implementation and bad execution by management.

7.  Train managers incessantly on performance management, performance planning, performance reviews.  Train them on coaching.  Develop their skills to they do this right.  Train people on personal performance management.  Give them the training and tools to help understand an maximize their own performance.

8.  Stop backing away from the tough people management issues.  Performance planning, performance management is about shared accountability.  A performance failure on the part of an individual is also a performance failure on the part of the manager.  (Actually, it may represent a bigger performance failure.).  There will be bad performances, possibly the right person in the wrong job, or any other reason.  We owe those people the respect to let them understand where they aren’t performing.  We owe them the chance to improve their performance—coaching and helping them as much as possible.  If they don’t make it, we further owe them the respect of letting them understand where the failures were so they might avoid those in the future.  Too often, management takes the cheap, easy way out.  Rather than terminating people for performance, they enact a RIF or Lay-Off.  RIF’s or Lay-Off’s are really a result of management errors (perhaps management non performance) not individual performance problems.  We owe it to all our people, even our poor performers to give them an accurate view of the performance.

9.  Put in place tools and systems to help managers and people set performance expectations, measure performance against them, and improve performance.

I’ll stop here.

Fortunately, performance management is too important an issue to be left in the hands or HR professionals  (with no disrespect to my friends in HR).  It’s our jobs as leaders to manage, measure, and help our people maximize their performance and contribution to our organizations.  If we stop the performance review process, we are forsaking our responsibilities as managers and leaders.

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Feb 17 15

Establishing Credibility

by David Brock
thumbs up

In prospecting, one of the most important and difficult things to do is establishing credibility.  But without this, moving forward, trying to get any type of engagement is impossible.

Too often, sales people are oblivious to this—this applies to the really bad sales people who don’t deserve to be selling.  Or they do a really poor job establishing credibility, this applies mostly to mediocre sales people.

The challenge is, how do we establish credibility-or at least enough to get the customer to respond?

The classic mistake sales people make in thinking about establishing credibility, is “We have to talk about ourselves, our company, and our product to establish credibility.”

As a result, we see prospecting emails or phone calls that are all about us–who I am.  “I’m a fantastic guy, you should really be interested in talking to me, I have years of experience, I’ve been assigned to your account…”

Probably this is closely followed by, “Our company is a world leader in, We are the best at, We are humongous with all these revenues……”

Probably closely followed by, “We make these really cool products, They are the best in the world, We are the known innovator, We received these awards.”

You probably recognize the formulaic approach.  A variation of this is in every prospecting email, every prospecting phone call.  Often, the company’s collateral follows at least the last two parts of this.  And, if by some chance, you invited them to propose a solution, the first 80% of the presentation focuses on these three issues.

All in the misguided view that to establish credibility, we have to prove ourselves, focusing on who we are, who our company is, and what we sell.

People who do this, leave it to the customer to connect the dots on whether it has any meaning to them.

Great sales people know that establishing credibility is completely different.  Simultaneously, it has virtually nothing to do about them, their company, their products, but at the same time it is all about them–but in a very different way.

Great sales people establish their credibility by demonstrating their knowledge of the customer–the enterprise and the individual, the issues they are facing or likely to be facing.  They engage by asking about the customer’s business, sharing relevant stories and data about critical business issues.  Their credibility is cemented when the customer thinks, “They really know their stuff, they know about us, they care.”

All this happens before a product is ever mentioned.

Great sales people also know the other things they must do to establish credibility.

They have a strong LinkedIn profile.  They know one of the first things a customer might do is look at their profile.

Likewise, they do their research on the customer–individuals and enterprises, before the initial contact.

They don’t rush the process, though they always have a high sense of urgency.  They recognize, that until the customer views them as credible, the customer won’t engage at the level they should.  They may talk to you, but they are wary or apprehensive.

Great sales people focus on their personal credibility and don’t rely on their organizational credibility.  They know this is important because people buy from people.

Mediocre sales people have to rely on the credibility of the company they work for, because their ability to establish personal credibility isn’t great.

Great sales people know they have to continue to reinforce and build their credibility with the customer, becoming trusted.  They know they never can violate that trust.

Mediocre sales people think the credibility lies in their company and their products.  This is why they continue to focus on pitching their company and products.

But mediocre sales people are forever disadvantaged by the sales person that has established great personal credibility and value to the customer.

What are you doing to establish and reinforce your credibility with every customer engagement?


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