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Jan 21 20

“You Are Doing Everything Wrong!”

by David Brock

I got one of “those” emails. It was from some self proclaimed expert citing research from “millions” of situations. They posed a number of sales scenarios in the form of, “Are you doing this……”

It turns out, our team normally does at least 50% of the things they posed.

They went on to say, “If you are doing any of these things, you are doing everything wrong, which is why you are failing!” They went on to suggest they could help eliminate those errors and tell me the few things that we needed to do to guarantee success.

The problem is, those things they say we are doing wrong, actually cause us to be very successful. We know this, because that’s our business. We study and refine everything we do to maximize our effectiveness, impact and efficiency. They enable us to differentiate what we do and how we do it. We have tested these extensively, and we both win more, but we create more value by doing these things.

I suppose it is human nature to try to simplify things, to categorize things; “This is right, and this is wrong….” “Do this, don’t do that….” “Black and white….”

These things may actually be true and valid–in our on contexts, situations, and experience. But they seldom apply, rigidly, outside of that.

At a few points in my career, I have acted on these premises. In the first turnaround I did, at first, blindly, I declared, “This is what we have to do, this is what we have to stop….” I made those judgments based on my past experience. The team complied, and we started to fail even more. We hit the pause button, after some quick study, I realized that what worked someplace else wouldn’t be effective in this organization.

As a consultant, while I try to avoid it, I sometimes fall into a similar trap. I say, “Do this, don’t to that….” Then they don’t work.

The world is complex, what our customers face is increasingly complex, what our own organizations face is complex. Simple answers, implemented blindly are successful only by chance–but seldom sustainable.

Instead, we have to have the ability to figure things out. To quickly understand and analyze what we face, where we need to go. To assess what from our past experience might work, what won’t, what has to be tweaked and adapted.

We now every complex buying process is unique. The customer never repeats the same process, because their situations, goals, people, etc, have changed. We know they don’t have a straight line buying process but one that looks more like a tangled mess of spaghetti.

We know the highest performing sales people start from mastery of basic principles, processes, and methods. But they adapt them to the customer, context, and situation. They are nimble and agile in their practice.

So everything we are doing is both right and wrong, at the same time, we have to focus on doing more right.

Afterword: If you are looking to vendors, trainers, consultants to help you, beware of those that “have the answers.” Instead, look at those that will help you discover your answers.

Afterword: Consider in your own customer engagement models a similar approach. It is less about providing answers/solutions to the customer, and more about helping the customer discover the answer best for them.

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Jan 16 20

State Of Grace

by David Brock

Forgive my pure indulgence. This is primarily for me to help sort out some thoughts and deal with my profound grief.

In the past 18 months, two of the people most important to me have died slowly. The first was my youngest sister, Kathy, who passed away about 18 months ago. The second is my best friend, mentor/hero, and wife of 38 years, Kookie. Kookie passed away two days ago.

While I have a profound sense of loss and grief, I am blessed by their examples and what they taught me as they died, slowly. Their lessons in living were amazing.

It started as both were told they were going to die. Privately, at first they were afraid and didn’t know they if they had the courage to go through their remaining weeks/months. But what I realized is they quickly chose to focus not on dying, but on how they lived.

Someone asked me, “Is Kookie in denial.” I realized that all of us were in denial, and Kookie was the one facing reality. Kookie knew what she was facing, choosing instead to focus on how she lived, how she impacted people. Likewise, Kathy focused on her family, her friends and how thye would live.

Both Kathy and Kookie became inspirations not because how they were dealing with death, but how they were choosing to live.

As they faced their deaths, each knowing they had only days, everything changed and they changed me forever. Both had so much calm, grace, clarity, focus, dignity, and courage.

When one thinks of dying, I’ve mistakenly thought, all thoughts focus on ourselves and our lives.

With both Kookie and Kathy, my experience was profoundly different. While neither had much of a facade or pretense while they were healthy, all facades, all pretenses disappeared. The day to day things that had filled our lives were no longer important to them. They simply couldn’t be distracted.

Their only focus was on others, both the immediate family, friends, and the clinicians, nurses, and others helping them.

The conversations shifted to the profound, deeply caring, and hugely focused. To be honest, at times they were uncomfortably intense.

I was spending the night, in the hospital, with Kathy. At about 2:00 am, she wanted to talk. She asked me, “What are you going to do to change the world?” At first, I responded lightly, but she said, “Stop playing that game David!.”

She kept pushing, challenging, listening with a focus I had never experienced. Her bright blue eyes were unflinching as she stared at me, waiting for a response. I felt them piercing me and was forced to examine myself more deeply than ever before. I’m still trying to sort out and execute on that conversation.

It turns out, she was asking each of us, in the family, the same thing, we were each having late night conversations about what we would do to change the world. They weren’t surface conversations, Kathy probed, forcing us to think. She asked us to live up to our potential.

With Kookie, it was similar. She didn’t go to changing the world, she was much softer, focusing on how I wanted to spend my life. Her biggest worry in dying was not her death, but leaving me alone.

As it turns out, she was engaging everyone she encountered in similar ways. With Kookie, everyone was important, despite the pain she was experiencing. She talked to each of the nurses, the people who delivered meals, the person who cleaned her room. She talked to them about themselves, where they came from, their backgrounds, their families their dreams. She loved nothing more than laughing and having fun as she subtly reached into their hearts.

She was eager to learn about them, in doing so demonstrated how deeply she cared about each of them. In the hallways of the hospital, maintenance people, nutrition people, others would stop and ask me about Kookie, commenting about her thoughtfulness and kindness. Throughout the staff, she was “their special girl.”

As I think about both Kookie and Kathy, it was pure love. But their expression of it, not just to me, but to everyone they encountered was deep and, almost uncomfortably, intense.

Perhaps, they were always teaching these things and I was just too blind to recognize it. But as they were dying, it was, perhaps at it’s most profound and intense, not just for me, but for each person around them in those final days.

I am overwhelmed with grief.

But I have been blessed to experience such grace, clarity, focus, kindness, courage, and pure love. The intensity of the experience and their will, forever changes me.

Now, it’s my responsibility to live up to the possibilities they helped me discover and they person they both knew I could be. I do feel each of their presence and know they are watching with high expectations.

Each of us has and will experience profound loss in our lives. With my father, then Kathy, and now Kookie, they were each trying to teach and encourage everyone around them. Sometimes our eyes aren’t open to these lessons. But when we pay attention, they are life lessons that we must treasure.

And we shouldn’t waste our time–both in what we learn from others and how we help others to learn. Imagine if it wasn’t being around someone dying slowly that provokes this reflection, but if it is part of how we live our lives.

I will grieve, but I have been so moved and so privileged to learn from how Kathy and Kookie wanted me and everyone they touched to live.

Afterword: I have written about Kookie a couple of times in the past. To learn more: Being Mentored and Mentoring, My Best Mentor.

After-afterword: I know many of you will comment and express your condolences. I deeply appreciate your caring and thoughts. But forgive me if I don’t responed, I’m not sure I can deal with it. I know your thoughts are with us. For that I am deeply thankful.

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Jan 16 20

Sales And “Product Led Growth”

by David Brock

The world goes through constant cycles. Lately, there have been a lot of “Aha, we’ve discovered the secret” posts and eBooks on Product Led Growth and the role of sales people.

We can go back in history, as far as you choose, learning this hot new discovery is actually not very new. We have seen it in mobile devices, PCs, financial services, every segment of software, design tools, analytics, consumer products, food/food service, social platforms, and on and on and on.

Let’s face it, Hot Products Sell!!

There are certain products/brands, where the products just seem to leap off the shelves.

These people that think it is all about the product (and they aren’t totally wrong), identify a small number of big names as success stories. Current platforms on many “hit parades” include Slack, Zoom, Dropbox, Twilio, and so forth.

There’s no doubt, they have developed products that have captured the hearts and minds of buyers. Their growth is clearly product driven……

But then I remember Wang Labs, Sun Microsystems, Digital Equipment Corporation, Apollo Computers, the original Motorola phones (Remember the Startac), Nokia, Palm, Blackberry…..

There are hundreds of carcasses of truly outstanding product driven companies, which had the hottest products on the market, that no longer exist, or have shifted dramatically.

What most of the product led growth crowd don’t acknowledge is the mechanisms around market maturity and sustained growth. What they also don’t acknowledge is the 100’s to 1000’s of companies thinking they were developing the next hot product, but never gained traction.

The reality is Hot Products and the Product Led Growth benchmark companies are very rare.

Let’s dive in a little more deeply.

First, product driven growth is relatively short lived. Geoffrey Moore characterized much of this in his classic books line Crossing The Chasm.

Product Led Growth is probably a characteristic of customers who are “Early Adopters,” or in the leading stage of “Early Majority.” As time progresses, alternatives/copy cats arise, customer knowledge and maturity increases and the ability to sustain growth through a pure product focus becomes impossible.

Second, as you look at Product Led Growth companies as they mature, they shift their models, they recognize they can’t sustain their growth just on Hot Products. They start shifting to a richer and more diverse value proposition–one not focused exclusively on product innovation. Customer service, more complete offerings, different sales engagement models, rich partner networks, and other many other things become more important in sustaining growth.

Some of these Product Led Companies have created great mythologies around “We don’t have sales people.” But dig deep and research them. After a period of time, you find people acting as sales people–even though they might not have sales titles. You see these companies adopting the sales models that drive success, based on the maturity of the solutions, markets, customers. So they become less Product driven and more solution, engagement, value driven. Those that don’t become carcasses.

Third, developing Hot Products is tough. We always refer to the same handful of Product Led Growth companies. We revel in their success, we copy and emulate what they do. And there’s where the model breaks down. It’s hard to develop Hot Products by copying or emulating other Hot Products or hot product companies.

In the sales and marketing automation space alone, there are 1000’s of offerings, but how many break away, sustainable Product Led companies are there? How many end up failing, being acquired, or recognizing they aren’t Hot Products, but they are great solutions needing a different sales approach.

Fourth, one of the features of Product Led Growth companies is the ability to leverage users as advocates of products. But go back to Moore’s charts. That’s simply a characteristic of customers in the early adopter segment, but as the markets mature, as alternatives arise, as customers get smarter in the early majority, late majority, laggard stages. this advocacy changes or disappears. As a result, we have to change our strategies, we can no longer rely, primarily, on customer advocacy as a key driver to growth.

I could go on, but let’s stop here. Let’s shift to what this means from a sales point of view. Moore’s curves give us great clues about how our sales engagement models can never remain stagnant. As our customers change, as our markets, customers, solutions mature, we have to change our sales engagement models to more effectively engage customers.

The sales strategies and deployment models in each stage in Moore’s curves are very different. Sales strategies that worked with early adopters fail completely in later stages. Sales models that work in later stages are ineffective with early adopters.

The people, processes, programs, strategies, tools, channels critical to sustaining growth. The investments and resources we put in place. Aligning with how people buy will always change. It is incumbent on sales leaders to continually assess their customers, markets, product maturity, evolving the models that are most effective and efficient for the time.

No sales model, no business model is forever!

It’s easy to be distracted by the latest Unicorn, and Hot Product. It’s easy to think, “What if we did the same thing?” It’s easy, if you are one of these Product Led Companies, to be seduced by your success and failing to recognize your customers and markets have changed.

Sometimes, it’s useful to look back in history. Too often, we think we are new, innovative and different. We have a Hot Product.

Then we realize the 100’s of great brands, products, logos that have been long forgotten or become the fodder of case studies on bad strategy, loss of direction.

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Jan 12 20

When Doing Things Right Is The Wrong Thing

by David Brock

Processes, systems, frameworks are thing that help us do things right. That is, they provide us the ability to more consistently do the things that produce the right outcomes and results.

Our selling process helps us more effectively and efficiently align with the customer buying process, producing greater value with the customer. Our account/territory planning processes help us maximize our growth and the results within the accounts/territory.

Sales enablement, marketing, and others provide programs and tools that help us grow execute effectively. For example, sales enablement might provide onboarding programs that both reduce the ramp time to productivity, and the likelihood of success. Training programs help us learn new skills and capabilities to execute.

Absent these, we tend to do things randomly, inefficiently, and ineffectively. We tend to let things drive us, than executing purposefully. When we don’t have these things in place, when we don’t execute them effectively and efficiently, we fail.

But some times doing things right is the wrong thing. The issues we face may be different than those we have experienced in the past. The goals have changed, the customers and markets have changed. Or there are pragmatic constraints like time, funding, resources.

As much as we want to do things right, doing so would actually be wrong, we would not achieve what we need to achieve.

Sometimes, we fail to perform, because we are so locked into our structures, processes, procedures and rules. We become rigid, inflexible, unresponsive, and incapable of making the right decisions and taking the right actions. We fail to recognize that doing things right is wrong for these circumstances.

As a result, we have to adapt, we have to adjust, we have to modify those doing things the right way, to doing something that works in the specific circumstances.

We do this consciously and thoughtfully. We use what we know as the right way to do things as the context, by which we assess, “what can we make work in for the specific circumstance we face?”

We, also, recognize that as quickly as possible, we want to do things right–simply because it’s what produces results over the long term and it’s what makes us most effective and efficient.

This is completely different from those who take action, based on instinct, reacting/responding to what has happened. Too many fail to take the time, to do the analysis, to figure out how to do things right. Instead they take random action, never learning and leveraging past experience. They are busy, but never produce consistent performance or results.

As much as possible, we need to do things right. But when circumstances prevent us from doing so, we can’t be bound by those things, but we must adjust and change to fit the circumstances.

Afterword: Please do not confuse doing things the right way with doing the right thing. We must never compromise on doing the right thing. To do so, is to abandon our values and beliefs.

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