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May 24 15

Context, The Ultimate Sales Differentiator

by David Brock

Everyone is enthralled with content these day–Thankfully!

Content’s not new, just most of the content generated sucks.  We have data sheet after data sheet, millions spent in brochures.

Of course there’s always the standard corporate presentation, with the ever so important logo’s slide.  It’s usually the second or third slide and it really is a “brag slide,”  “here are all the wonderful customers that bought from us…”

Fortunately, leading marketing and sales enablement folks are moving content into a new realm.  They are “customerizing” it, perhaps even humanizing it.  It’s targeted to personas, it’s targeted to markets and industries, it focuses on where the customer is in their buying process, helping them navigate to the next steps.

New tools and technologies make content increasingly personalized.

For marketing, Content has become King!

It’s about time.

As sales people, we’re cheering to0. We need relevant content to leverage with our customers.  But there’s a danger in how we leverage it.

We create no value by just parroting the content.  That’s why so many customers prefer going to the web.  If all we are is talking data sheets, then the web is much more convenient.

The one thing our content can’t do is provide context.

This is where sales people create huge value for the customer.  It’s that connection between the content, regardless how personalized, and “this is what it means to you and your organization.”

Context is how we translate content to the customer specific situation, where they’ve been, where they are, where they want to go.  It’s how we can address, their specific strategies and priorities, their specific problems and challenges, what’s happening to their customers and market.  It’s how we provide insight.

It’s how we talk to Bob, the product design director, saying, “Bob, remember the problems you had [these problem] in the design of your Super Duper Widget.  Those problems caused in launching the product by [X months].  The company lost [Y revenue] because of the delay.  We’ll eliminate that problem by helping your engineers address [these specific issues] that caused the delays.  You should see design cycle time reduced by [this much].”

Bob, “Awesome!  Now I get it…..”

If we rely just on content, without providing context, we leave it to the customer to figure it out themselves.  They probably don’t know how to, they probably don’t know how to quantify the impact, but most importantly, they probably won’t take the time.

Our job as sales people is to connect with our customers–and to help them make the connections in addressing new opportunities, changing, learning new approaches, solving problems, and continuing to improve.

Beyond providing the ability to be specific to the customer’s situation (individuals and organizations), context enables the sales person to manage the changes over time.  The issues concerning the customer today are different than they were yesterday, and they will be different tomorrow.  So the context changes over time.  Content is relatively static, so sales provides the context to manage these shifts over time.

While content is important for sales people, providing context is critical, that’s where we connect and help our customers make the connection, today, and tomorrow, and the day after.

For the marketers reading this, sales needs your help!

Content is great!  Targeted to personas, markets, industries, and where the customer is in their buying cycle helps increase relevance and the ability to connect with customers.

But sales people need more.  Sales people need tools, playbooks, training in how to provide context.

  • What should they be looking for with customers?
  • What questions should sales be asking, what responses should sales be looking for?
  • How do sales people help customers decide to change?  How do they identify and quantify the impact of doing nothing?
  • How de sales people help identify the specific impact the solutions will have, both qualitatively and quantitatively?
  • How do sales people translate the content into customer specific issues now, how do sales people lead that conversation?

Content may be king for marketing, but context is where the rubber hits the road.  It’s how sales people create meaning and value for customers.

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May 22 15

“The Modern Buyer Is Digitally Driven, Socially Connected…..”

by David Brock
Social networking 01

There’s no doubt digital technologies and social media are changing the way we live, engage, and do business.  Their influence is huge and the growth rate continues to accelerate.

I read all the stuff that says everything’s moved to the web.  I don’t disagree, but I don’t agree.  Some would have you believe all we need to do is spend our time on the web, leveraging social sites and tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tinder (oops) and others.

We’re inundated with words liked Digitally Driven, Socially Connected….

Out of curiosity, I decided to try to figure out what that really meant and to put some numbers to it.  As usual, I navigated to one of my favorite sites, Google, and started doing some queries.

I found a series of posts:  125 Amazing LinkedIn Statistics by Craig Smith.  There’s some fascinating data–with the caveats that I don’t know Mr. Smith’s research methodology and some of the data is a little old.  I did do some research and was able to corroborate a fair number of the statistics on other sites, so the data is probably not bad.  I wouldn’t take any of this as gospel, but more as rough indicators,approximations, or just food for thought.

Also, while LinkedIn usage is not totally indicative of “Digitally Driven, Socially Connected…..,” it’s probably a fair surrogate to get some understanding of what it means to be socially connected.

Read Craig’s article, but here are a few pieces of data I found interesting:

  1. Total Number of LinkedIn users:  More than 350M as of 4/30/2015.
  2. Number of LinkedIn users in the US:  107 M as of 11/9/2014.
  3. Percentage of users that check LinkedIn daily:  40% as of 7/2/2013  (this is awfully old).
  4. Average time a user spends monthly on LinkedIn:  17 minutes as of 11/28/2012  (This is very old, but even if it’s gone up 10 times, it’s still a frightening small amount of time).
  5. Average number of LinkedIn connections CEO’s have:  930 as of 9/15/2014.
  6. Percentage of Americans that use LinkedIn during work hours:  8/33% as of 10/2/2013.
  7. Percentage of millenials (15-34 year olds) that use LinkedIn:  13% as of 9/27/2013  (This is very old, but if we want to connect with millenials, we probably need to be hanging out somewhere else.).
  8. Percentage of LinkedIn members who have never worked at a company with more than 200 employees:  59% as of 10/28/2013.
  9. Percentage of LinkedIn users that use it at least once a day 13%:  13% as of 12/30/2013  (This is a little confusing when compared to #3.  In the notes, apparently there is a difference between checking and using LinkedIn.  Checking in appears to be checking InMails, Notifications.  Using appears to be actually signing on and looking at profiles, engaging in groups, reading content. But I’m not really clear about this.)
  10. LinkedIn’s Percentage of Global Social Sharing/North American/European/Asian: 4%/5%/2%/1% as of 12/11/2013  (Clearly if we want to be socially connected, we need to look way beyond LinkedIn.)
  11. Percent of US internet users that shared blog posts they enjoyed to LinkedIn:  4/5 as of 5/12/2014.
  12. Number of ling formed posts that are generated weekly on LinkedIn:  50,000 as of 2/5/2015  (My reaction, How do you sort through it or find anything?)
  13. Average number of connections for LinkedIn users that have published at least one long-form article:  1049 connections as of 8/14/2014.
  14. Average number of followers for LinkedIn users that have published at least one long-form article:  42 followers  (My reaction, lot’s of stuff being published but the average publisher struggles to build an engaged community.)
  15. Percentage of LinkedIn users that do not have a Facebook account:  13% as of 7/10/2014.
  16. Percentage of LinkedIn users that don’t visit Twitter:  59% as of 7/10/2014.
  17. Percentage of all US adult LinkedIn users that use it daily:  13% as of 9/2014.  (More current, but consistent with #9.  Shockingly low, at least in my opinion.)
  18. Percentage of all US social media users that use LinkedIn:  29% as of 1/9/2015.

There’s another interesting report, 2014 Social CEO Report.  It has more intriguing data:

  1. 68% of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social media presence at all.
  2. Of those, 2/3 engage on only one platform.
  3. 74% of CEO’s who participate in a single network join LinkedIn first
  4. Only 15 of those Fortune 500 CEOs on LinkedIn have more than 5000 followers or are considered influencers.
  5. Of the CEO’s who are not influencers, 34% have 500+ connections.

You should read the reports and come to your own conclusions.  I may have been wrong about LinkedIn being a good surrogate for understanding “socially connected.”

But when we make the statement, “The modern buyer is digitally driven and socially connected,” I think it’s critical to drill down and understand what it really means.  More specifically, what it means for your customers, not someone else’s customers.

Above all, Hang out where your customers hang out!

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May 22 15

Moving Into Our “Discomfort Zones”

by David Brock
Frustration Ahead

As sales people, we get frustrated with customers that are slow, reluctant, resistant to change.  We want them to embrace change, moving forward; because moving forward presents us an opportunity to sell.

But turn the mirror on ourselves, and we are as reluctant as everyone else to change.

We cling to what we have always done, we resist, we stay rigidly entrenched in our comfort zones.

Even when nothing is working!

We may do what we have always done with greater intensity.  We may wrap a veneer of the latest technology around it, not enabling us to improve, but rather enabling us to fail much faster and too look cooler in the process.

We continue to do these things when the numbers come in, week after week, month after month.

If it’s us, as individuals, management fires us.

If it’s the organization, the organization becomes irrelevant, disappointing long time customers, shareholders, our communities, families, and employees.

Customers don’t stop buying, they just buy from someone else.  A more nimble or responsive competitor.  Someone new, completely disrupting the industry.

We know the organizational response to this, most often it starts with endless cycles of “right-sizing.”

We see the same patterns, both with individuals and organizations.

Individuals who don’t change their approach to selling wander from job to job, never quite meeting performance expectations of others.

Organizations that don’t change, join the ranks of most of the US steel industry, much of the automotive industry, dozens of high tech corporate carcasses, and countless other examples.  Or they are absorbed into other organizations who force the change.

I think this is a line from an old science fiction movie, but “Resistance Is Futile!”

If things aren’t working, we have to change!  The personal and organizational consequences are too grave!

I’m empathetic, but not sympathetic to the frustration.

In a recent conversation with a very good sales executive about a massive change in the organization, she made the comment, “They are certainly feeling the pressure.”  With another organization going through massive change–to survive, people started saying, “This is a hostile work place, we want to go back to the old ways.”

It is difficult, it is challenging, but the alternatives are even more hostile!

Thank goodness, the world doesn’t stand still.  The pace of change seems to be accelerating.

We cannot sit back and do nothing, we get left behind and fail.

We have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.  We have to continue to adapt, to learn, to re-invent ourselves as individuals and organizations, to change, to lead change and disruption.

Change for the very best is no easier, but they know it is a requirement for growth.  The very best, create greater discomfort with everyone else, all the competitors, and the industry.

We expect our customers to change, we can expect no less of ourselves.

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May 21 15

The Data On Sales Success Is In!

by David Brock

We’ve run across some startling data on sales performance:

  1. 99% of sales reps making quota pee at least once a day!
  2. 98% of sales reps who show up for work on a regular basis are more likely to makes quota than those who never show up for work!
  3. 96% of sales people making quota, brush their teeth at least once a week.

From these startling pieces of data, clearly the secret to sales success is peeing at least once a day, showing up for work, and brushing your teeth at least once a week (sorry we didn’t test daily brushing, so we don’t have that data).

Frankly, much of the data on sales success is just as silly as the data I’ve quoted.  But there are any number of people quoting statistics try to get you to believe that all you have to do is whatever they sell, and you will be successful.

  • All you have to do is use social selling and you will be successful.
  • Using CRM causes you to make quota.
  • All you have to do is have at least 5000 LinkedIn connections and you will be highly likely to make your quota.
  • People who take this sales training program are more likely to make their numbers.
  • 14 “touches” of a prospect is all we need to do to get them to respond to a marketing campaign.

I could go on and on, but you know the point.

Using numbers is very powerful.  Numbers tend to have authority, even if they are meaningless, we tend to believe something that has a number–particularly a % associated with it.

But we always have to drill down beneath any number to understand cause/effect relationships and what they really mean.  We have to understand specifically what drives success (and it’s never one thing) then sharpen our ability to do those things.

What we do know about success is top performers do more of the right things and don’t waste time on the wrong things.  And they do this day after day, relentlessly!

So top performers:

  • Use a sales process, always.
  • Leverage CRM and other tools to improve their efficiency.
  • Are constantly building relationships, and trust.
  • Are visciously protective of their time.
  • Plan and prepare rigorously.
  • Prospect.
  • Create value in every encounter with their customers.
  • Are constantly learning.
  • Are very disciplined.
  • Are interested in their customers success.
  • Collaborate well.
  • Actively seek coaching, feedback, and try to improve.
  • Leverage referrals effectively.
  • Have great product, market, customer, and business knowledge.
  • Are great problem solvers.
  • Are constantly networking, leveraging every tool possible.
  • Put in the hours.
  • Don’t give up.
  • Focus on the customer and what they are trying to achieve.
  • Are comfortable with ambiguity.
  • Are appropriately confrontive and challenging.
  • Are comfortable talking about money.
  • Seek to be accountable and responsible.
  • Are appropriately skeptical.
  • Are fact and data driven.
  • They use the telephone, email, social media, snail mail, face to face meetings and whatever works to connect and engage.

……. and I could go on.

What’s interesting is that bottom performers do lots of this stuff too!

So what’s the difference between top and bottom performers?

I think it’s really boils down to a few key issues:

Top performers do more of these things more consistently than bottom performers.  Bottom performers may try some of them, but not consistently, nor do the do as many of these things.

Top performers know why they do these things, where bottom performers are just going through the motions.

The quality of how they top performers to these things is far different than bottom performers.  Both may put together a deal strategy, but the quality of thinking and analysis from the top performer is far different than the bottom performers.

Finally, it’s how top performers put all these things together that separates them from everyone else.  They are obsessive and relentless in what they do!

I’ll stop here.  I have to run to the bathroom.  I don’t really need to go, but figure, if I pee 2 times today, perhaps my results will be twice as good.


Afterword:  Be sure to read:  How To Lie With Statistics by Daniel Huff and Irving Geis.  It’s a fascinating, fun read!

After-afterword:  To those of you who may be new, please don’t be offended by my examples, sometimes we have to just laugh at the ludicrousness of things.



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